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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Schwarzenegger is Back and Better Than Ever in "The Last Stand"

Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in the action-packed film, "The Last Stand"

Arriving on Blu-ray Disc, DVD, Video on Demand and Pay-Per-View May 21 with an Early Digital Window Beginning April 30 From Lionsgate Home Entertainment

When the leader of a drug cartel escapes from the FBI and attempts to make his way to Mexico, it's up to Arnold Schwarzenegger to stop him in his tracks in The Last Stand arriving on Blu-ray Disc (plus Digital Copy and Ultraviolet), DVD (plus Digital Copy and Ultraviolet), Video on Demand and Pay-Per-View on May 21from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. The Last Stand will also be available for Digital Download on April 30, three weeks prior to the Blu-ray, DVD and Video on Demand release.

In addition to Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Last Stand features an all-star cast including Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), Johnny Knoxville (Jackass: The Movie), Rodrigo Santoro (What To Expect When You're Expecting), Jaimie Alexander (Thor), Luis Guzmán (Arthur), Eduardo Noriega (Vantage Point), Peter Stormare (TV's "Prison Break"), Zach Gilford (TV's "Friday Night Lights") and Genesis Rodriguez (Man on a Ledge).

After leaving his LAPD narcotics post following a bungled operation that left him wracked with remorse and regret, Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) moved out of Los Angeles and settled into a life fighting what little crime takes place in sleepy border town Sommerton Junction. But that peaceful existence is shattered when Gabriel Cortez (Noriega), the most notorious, wanted drug kingpin in the western hemisphere, makes a deadly yet spectacular escape from an FBI prisoner convoy.

With the help of a fierce band of lawless mercenaries led by the icy Burrell (Stormare), Cortez begins racing towards the US-Mexico border at 250 mph in a specially-outfitted Corvette ZR1 with a hostage in tow.  Cortez' path: straight through Summerton Junction, where the whole of the U.S. law enforcement, including Agent John Bannister (Whitaker) will have their final opportunity to intercept him before the violent fugitive slips across the border forever. At first reluctant to become involved, and then counted out because of the perceived ineptitude of his small town force, Owens ultimately rallies his team and takes the matter into his own hands, setting the stage for a classic showdown.

The Blu-ray Disc and DVD are filled with action-packed bonus materials including, deleted/extended and alternate scenes, a "making of" featurette which follows the movie from story development to action-film realization, a look at the director's innovative stunts, car scenes and techniques as well as Arnold's camaraderie with his cast and crew.  The Last Stand Blu-ray Disc and DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $39.99 and $29.95, respectively.


    * "Not In My Town: Making The Last Stand"featurette
    * "Cornfield Chaos" featurette
    * "The Dinkum Firearm and Historic Weaponry Museum" featurette
    * "Actor-Cam Anarchy: with Johnny Knoxville and Jaimie Alexander" featurette
    * Deleted/Extended & Alternate Scenes

*Subject to change

Year of Production: 2012
Title Copyright: The Last Stand, Artwork & Supplementary Materials © 2013 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved
Type: Theatrical Release
Rating: R for strong bloody violence throughout and language
Genre: Action
Blu-ray Closed Captioned: English SDH
DVD Closed Captioned: English
Subtitles: English and Spanish
Feature Running Time:107minutes
Blu-ray Format: 1080p High Definition 16x9 Widescreen (2.40:1)
DVD Format: 16x9 Widescreen (2.40:1)
Blu-ray Audio Status:7.1 DTS HD Master Audio and 5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital
DVD Audio Status: English and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Acorn TV Streams Helen Mirren’s Complete "Prime Suspect" and the Complete "Upstairs, Downstairs"

Acorn Media, chief curators of the best Brit TV" - TIME Magazine

With a free 30-day trial, anyone can watch the Prime Suspect Marathon with all seven series of the universally acclaimed police drama called, "Superlative" (EW), "A masterpiece" (USA Today), "Brilliant" (Los Angeles Times), and "Perhaps the greatest role and performance of a female police detective, ever" (San Francisco Chronicle) for free.
Tenacious, driven, and deeply flawed, Detective Jane Tennison rises through the ranks of Britain’s Metropolitan Police, solving horrific crimes while battling office sexism and her own demons. The series won more than 20 major international awards, including seven Emmys® ("Outstanding Miniseries" and "Outstanding Actress"), eight BAFTAs, and a Peabody.

Additionally, the Upstairs, Downstairs Marathon is still streaming and features the complete 67-episode series of the most popular British drama series in TV history.

Acorn TV also has the U.S. premiere of Dirk Gently, a fun detective series starring Stephen Mangan (co-starring alongside Matt LeBlanc in Episodes); the complete Chance in a Million series starring Simon Callow and Brenda Blethyn (Vera, Pride & Prejudice); A Bit of a Do Complete Collection with David Jason; and Vexed, Series 1 starring Lucy Punch (Ben and Kate) and Toby Stephens (Jane Eyre); among many others.

Acorn TV features a free 30-day trial for complete access to the 18 different series, plus multi-episode marathons, with an average of 202 hours of weekly content and more than 210 episodes in February. Thereafter, a subscription is just $2.99/mth or $29.99/yr. Each week three new seasons are added and three are removed.

Please consider trying out Acorn TV, available at and through Roku, iPhones, iPads, Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Tablet, Apple TV, Google TV, among others.

Coming up on Acorn TV

February 18: The Syndicate (Series 1, now being adapted for U.S. TV by ABC), The Commander (Set 2), and Slings & Arrows (Season 3)

February 25: The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Catherine Cookson Collection, and Edward Woodward in Callan


Acorn Media/Athena DVD Release Calendar:

Jan. 29: Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime: The Tommy & Tuppence Mysteries, Agatha Christie’s Poirot & Marple Fan Favorites Collection, and Wodehouse Playhouse Complete

Feb. 5: Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers: 25th Anniversary Edition (Athena), Above Suspicion Set 2 (U.S. debut), Testimony of Two Men (DVD Debut), and She-Wolves: England’s Early Queens (DVD debut, Athena)

Feb. 19: Missions That Changed the War: The Doolittle Raid (DVD Debut, Athena)

Feb. 26: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (DVD Debut), Garrow’s Law: The Complete Collection, and Maigret Complete Collection

Mar. 5: Murdoch Mysteries Collection (Seasons 1-4), Murdoch Mysteries Season 5 (DVD/Blu-ray)

An RLJ Entertainment, Inc. brand (NASDAQ: RLJE), Acorn specializes in the best of British television on DVD and Blu-ray. 2013 releases include: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Dirk Gently, Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime: The Tommy & Tuppence Mysteries, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Maigret, Doc Martin Special Collection, Jack Taylor, and more episodes from Foyle’s War, Case Histories, New Tricks, Murdoch Mysteries, Midsomer Murders, Above Suspicion, George Gently, Vexed and Vera.

Acorn’s and Athena’s DVD sets are available from select retailers, catalog companies, and direct from Acorn Media at (888) 870-8047 or and  Select series are streaming at Acorn TV, the first British TV-focused streaming service, at

Sunday, February 24, 2013


While other fictional detectives dazzle us with amazing deductions and flashy brainwork--often in order to gratify their own egos--Chief Inspector Jules Maigret is just an everyday cop solving mysteries for a living. 

In Acorn Media's 4-disc DVD set MAIGRET: COMPLETE COLLECTION, which contains all twelve novel adaptations from the 1992-93 British TV series, author Georges Simenon's low-key but doggedly determined detective leaves the theatrics to the other guys while getting the job done his way.

Michael Gambon (THE KING'S SPEECH, the Harry Potter films) is an ideal choice to play the big, casual, neat but slightly rumpled Maigret (pronounced "may-gray") of the Parisian police force, even though he and his co-stars are about as French as an eel pie.  Indeed, if it weren't for the Budapest locations doubling for Paris and all the other French trappings, this could just as easily be a show about Scotland Yard. 

No matter, though, as Gambon is irresistible in the part, going about his job in a firm but easygoing manner while displaying an appealing air of gentleness and empathy for others (which he sometimes extends to the perpetrators as well as the victims).  These qualities define his character rather than the usual eccentricities or quirks--the closest he comes to these are his fondness for pipe-smoking and a healthy appetite for good food and drink. 

Modesty is another unusual attribute, with one running gag being his reluctant notoriety due to numerous appearances in the newspaper.  Maigret's main interest besides doing a good job as a detective is to go home and enjoy quality time with his wife (Ciaran Madden in series one, Barbara Flynn in series two), who serves as his confidant and sounding board while offering much-needed moral support.  It's refreshing to watch a character of this type who's neither noirishly brooding nor a font of unending whimsy.

The stories themselves rarely rely on a fast pace or dollops of action and violence, offering instead the sort of engrossing and at times downright relaxing entertainment that one can curl up with like a good book.  The plots are interesting enough without getting too complex, leaving plenty of room for character moments and scenes that are unexpectedly poignant or hard-hitting.

We get to know Maigret's team, including seasoned veteran Sgt. Lucas (Geoffrey Hutchings, who could easily carry a series himself), younger but experienced Inspector Janvier (Jack Galloway), and amusingly callow Inspector LaPointe (James Larkin).  John Moffatt plays Comeliau, Maigret's archly officious, political-minded boss.

"The Patience of Maigret" features the murder of a retired gangster with whom Maigret was on friendly terms, triggering an investigation of the victim's fellow apartment building tenants that brings Maigret into contact with a variety of interesting characters.  Here, we first see his "people skills" at work and the gentle, non-confrontational style he brings to his police work.  It's only when a suspect is ripe for the plucking that Maigret's predatory side starts to emerge.

In "Maigret and the Burglar's Wife", a two-bit burglar breaks into a house only to discover the body of a murdered woman, thus becoming an unwilling part of the crime scene!  The man's ex-prostitute wife, an old friend of Maigret, seeks his help in the matter while her husband remains in hiding.  Maigret tries to pry the truth out of the victim's husband, a surly dentist, and his domineering mother in this engaging mystery.

"Maigret Goes to School" concerns a schoolteacher wrongly accused of murder with several witnesses against him.  There's lots of smalltown intrigue in this puzzler that once again lets us see Maigret's sensitive side as he not only solves the murder but tries to help mend the damage surrounding it.

"Maigret and the Mad Woman" is about a cute little old lady who shows up in Maigret's office one day claiming that someone has been breaking into her apartment and rearranging things.  No one takes her seriously until she's found murdered the next day.  Suspicion points to those closest to her, while Maigret blames himself for not acting sooner. 

"Maigret on Home Ground" finds the Chief Inspector back in his hometown after receiving a letter announcing an upcoming murder which will take place there.  "Maigret Sets a Trap" wraps up series one with a serial killer tale that's a real corker, with Maigret easily deducing the killer's identity but finding it extremely difficult to prove.

Minnie Driver guests as a stripper who's murdered in her apartment in "Maigret and the Night Club Dancer", which also features Brenda Blethyn.  This episode allows James Larkin's character of Inspector LaPointe to shine when the novice detective becomes personally involved in the case in an unexpected way.  A woman's body is discovered in the basement of an upperclass hotel in "Maigret and the Hotel Majestic", which finds the detective getting physical with an irate prostitute (Toyah Willcox) and receiving some nasty scratches across one side of his face. 

In "Maigret on the Defensive", the concerned detective rushes to the aid of a young woman in the wee hours of the morning, only to find himself accused of "inappropriate conduct" and the subject of an impending scandal.  "Maigret's Boyhood Friend" features an outstanding performance by Edward Petherbridge as an old but not very fond acquaintance of Maigret who seeks his help after finding himself in the middle of a murder case involving a woman with five different lovers, including himself. 

Perhaps the least interesting episode in the collection, "Maigret and the Minister", starts with the dramatic news of a building collapse in which several children are killed, but soon bogs down in a melange of uninteresting political intrigue that's a bit hard to follow.  Much more entertaining is the series' finale, "Maigret and the Maid", a seriocomic murder mystery which benefits from another superb guest performance from Susie Lindeman, whose delightfully odd character brings out the playful side of both Maigret and actor Michael Gambon.

The 4-disc DVD collection from Acorn Media is in 4:3 full screen with Dolby Digital sound and subtitles in English.  The sole extra is a 7-page booklet entitled "Notes on the Author, the Character, and the TV Series."

While many fictional detectives go out of their way to be bigger, quirkier oddballs than their competitors, it's nice when one turns out to be just a regular guy--who happens to be sort of brilliant.  MAIGRET: COMPLETE COLLECTION is our chance to spend some quality time with this very likable character. 

Buy it at

Thursday, February 21, 2013

BORDER RUN -- Blu-Ray review by porfle

Sharon Stone as a conservative, "fair and balanced" TV reporter who's against illegal immigration?  Well, I just knew that sounded too un-Hollywood to be true, and sure enough, before BORDER RUN (2012) is over, her character has an epiphany that revs her overacting dial up to eleven and beyond.

Sharon plays "hard-nosed right-wing journalist" Sophie Talbert, who, with a black fright wig emphasizing her pale skin, hardly looks like someone who lives right on the Arizona-Mexico border.  Like Jane Fonda's initially conservative TV newswoman in THE CHINA SYNDROME, she's on the wrong side of the issue at hand (by Tinseltown standards, that is) until shown the error of her ways--in this case, when her own relief-worker brother Aaron (Billy Zane) disappears in Mexico and she must enter the world of the illegal immigrant herself in order to find him. 

After Sophie arrives in Mexico, Aaron's co-worker Rafael (Rosemberg Salgado) offers to take her in his pickup to a meeting with someone named Javier who may be able to help her.  On the way there, they form an instant romantic bond that has them stopping off at a roadside bar to get drunk and dance while precious minutes in the missing Aaron's life tick away.  This odd passage indicates how awkward some of the tone shifts and scene transitions will be for the rest of the film.

Before we know it, Sophie and Rafael get separated and she meets up with Javier (Miguel Rodarte), joining a group of migrants whom he's smuggling across the border.  Naturally, Sophie's rigid attitude toward the whole thing begins to change when she discovers that some of the migrants are nice people with heartwarming personal stories (imagine that!), and that the process tends to be both dangerous and uncomfortable. 

Just how dangerous becomes clear when the tanker truck they're stashed inside gets diverted to a remote farmhouse well short of the border, where Sophie meets the film's main villain, Juanita (Giovanna Zacarías), a real piece of work who could easily be the poster girl for PMS.  We've already seen this mega-bitch-on-wheels repeatedly beating up the bound Aaron, who's also being held there, and now we get to see her kicking a pregnant woman in the stomach while one of her fat, sweaty henchmen has his way with the bound Sophie. 

This decidedly unpleasant rape scene gives Sharon Stone yet another chance to do some full-tilt emoting and it will be far from her last.  I won't go into everything that occurs next but after an escape, a chase, and the proverbial run for the border, Sophie ends up in a border station where her newly-found righteous indignation against U.S. immigration policy is given full vent.  Here, Sharon lets loose with a "big acting" moment by throwing a fit that is borderline (excuse the phrase) hilarious.

You might think that the film, having made its point, will fade out on Sophie's return to the USA to crusade against immigration reform, but this is when BORDER RUN pulls a plot twist on us that's worthy of a horror movie, with Sophie suddenly ending up in more grave peril than ever.  With this added sequence, the film finally lurches all the way into "so bad it's good" territory and makes me wish I'd been watching it as a wacky exploitation flick instead of a misguided message pic all along.

As mentioned before, Sharon Stone's performance here is wonderfully bad, especially since director Gabriela Tagliavini seems intent on photographing her as unflatteringly as possible from start to finish.  Billy Zane, who plays Aaron, demonstrates once again that if a project doesn't make him feel like turning on the old "Billy Zane" magic, he's Stiff City.  And as the monstrous Juanita, Giovanna Zacarías almost makes Al Pacino look like a study in subtlety.

The Blu-Ray disc from Anchor Bay is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  No extras.

BORDER RUN is ridiculously melodramatic where it means to be hard-hitting, and goes for big emotional moments that it hasn't really earned.  A weird combination of social relevance and pure exploitation, it fails as a "good" movie but succeeds, to some extent anyway, as a perversely entertaining train wreck. 

Buy it at


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

LILLIE -- DVD review by porfle

When we first got cable TV back in the late 70s, one of my newfound delights was getting to watch British telly on PBS.  In addition to "Monty Python", "Fawlty Towers", and all the other usual stuff, this included a 13-episode "Masterpiece Theatre" serial about Lillie Langtry which, for some reason, had me glued to the screen for its entire run. 

Why was I hooked on what amounted to a lavishly-mounted, delightfully decadent soap opera that consisted of little more than the interpersonal relationships and illicit affairs of a bunch of idle upperclass twits?   I'm not quite sure, but watching Acorn Media's 4-disc DVD set LILLIE (1978) has given me a chance to relive the whole thing and get addicted to this nineteenth-century version of "The Rich and the Restless" all over again.

Lillie Langtry, as we all know (or not), started life as poor Jersey island girl Emilie Le Breton, a tomboy with six brothers who escaped her rural life by marrying the leisure-class yachtsman and trout fisherman Edward Langtry.  After moving to London, Lillie discovered that her new husband was near destitute and dependant on a small allowance from his family.  Fortunately, her great beauty and social confidence quickly earned her a place as the most sought-after woman in British society.

Francesca Annis (AGATHA CHRISTIE'S PARTNERS IN CRIME: THE TOMMY & TUPPENCE MYSTERIES, DUNE) is not only radiantly beautiful in the title role, but gives a bravura performance that captures every nuance of Lillie's personality from her most brazen and rebellious to her most insecure.  She inhabits the role just as convincingly as a naive fifteen-year-old first attracting the attention of the opposite sex (her first suitor is shocked to learn her true age while requesting her hand in marriage) as she will be in Lillie's wistful twilight years (despite some rather iffy old-age makeup). 

Lillie's loveless relationship with the dullard Edward gives the series its most gripping moments, with Anton Rodgers superb as the increasingly pathetic and irrelevant husband who detests Lillie's way of life but must dutifully play along or risk both his family's displeasure and withdrawal of financial support.  It's to the credit of both Rodgers and main scriptwriter David Butler that the character isn't entirely vilified but shown in an almost sympathetic light as he spirals ever downward into alcoholism and finally madness.

Despite the fact that Edward will continually deny Lillie the divorce she badly wants, this will do nothing to deter her from engaging in numerous torrid affairs with everyone from the Prince of Wales (Denis Lill as a robust "Bertie") to rich American tycoons, with even Wild West frontiersman Judge Roy Bean seeking her attention.  There's a certain vicarious thrill to watching her scramble up the social ladder while challenging the stiff conformity of her new peers at every turn, even though her life amounts to little more than one meaningless party or empty love affair after another. 

When financial ruin forces her to seek employment as an actress, this only leads to greater success and fame that will extend to America as well.  The series follows her exploits on both continents as her various theatrical tours cut a swath of notoriety wherever she goes, each scandal seemingly making her more popular than before. 

All the while, her entourage of fervent admirers grows to include famous artists such as James Whistler (Don Fellows) and her lifelong friend and confidant Oscar Wilde (the excellent Peter Egan), whose sharp-witted presence gives LILLIE a scintillating sparkle.  Jennie Linden is likable as Lillie's relatively down-to-earth high society pal Patsy Cornwallis-West.  Joanna David plays her illegitimate daughter Jeanne Marie, who, in some of the series most heartfelt moments, ultimately rejects her mother after discovering the true identity of her father.  (Look quick for 007's Desmond "Q" Llewelyn as Lord Dudley.)

Following the usual practice of the era, the show's exteriors are filmed while the interiors are shot on videotape.  Thanks mainly to some skillful lighting, however, the effect is less jarring than in many British TV shows of the time.  Overall, the production is solid on both sides of the camera--the sort of compelling period drama, done with taste and subtlety, that only British television seems capable of rendering to such a fine turn. 

The 4-disc DVD set from Acorn Media is in 4:3 full screen with Dolby Digital sound.  No subtitles, but closed-captioning is available.  Extras consist of cast filmographies and an insert featuring an essay on Lillie Langtry's lasting impact on pop culture.

While many will undoubtedly regard it as rather pointless and boring, I find LILLIE both nostalgic and compelling, and, for those who enjoy this sort of thing, first-class stuff all the way.  It's soap opera of the most sophisticated and decadently delicious kind--like a box of extremely rich chocolates, it almost feels fattening to watch.

Buy it at

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

JAIL BAIT (1954) -- movie review by Squashpants


Tonight's movie is

JAIL BAIT (1954)

Yes, folks, it's another Ed Wood movie, this one earlier in his career and a bit less Wood-like than those that followed, but still lots of fun!

It is the story of Don Gregor (Clancy Malone), the son of eminent plastic surgeon, Dr. Boris Gregor, and his fateful involvement with petty gangster Vic Brady (played marvelously by Timothy Farrell). The titular jail bait is not an underage girl, but the gun which Don uses in the robbery of a theater chain payroll. They are discovered in the process of acquiring the loot by Miss Willis (Mona McKinnon--yes!, of PLAN 9 fame) and Don ends up shooting the night watchman.

They make a run for it, shooting Mona--I mean Miss Willis--in the shoulder, and are able to shake the cops that come after them. They go to Vic's girl friend's apartment to lay low. While Loretta (Theodora Thurmond) and Vic bicker, Don gets a case of conscience and decides to turn himself in. So his partner in crime puts a fatal bullet in him.
They stash his body in the pantry(!) and try to decide what to do. And Vic comes up with a doozy of an idea. He calls up Don's plastic surgeon father and demands that he come and change his face so that he won't be identified by the surviving Miss Willis.

In the meantime, the police, played by Lyle Talbot, another future player in PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, and Steve Reeves are on the case. Yes, you read that right. The future star of the picture that started the peplum craze of the 60s, HERCULES, plays a cop. They try to get Don's sister, Marilyn, played by, oh God, yes, Dolores Fuller, Ed Wood's live-in girlfriend, to cooperate with them, but she is not helpful at all.

Marilyn goes along with Dr. Gregor as his nurse, and they go to Loretta's apartment where they are ordered to get to work on Vic's face. When Dr. Gregor goes to the kitchen to get some water, he discovers his son's body. He doesn't let on and comes back to the living room with a plan. They have to talk Brady into taking ether as anesthetic before the procedure ("I'm on to your tricks!"). They proceed with Loretta holding a gun on them, and finish weary but confident that they did a good job. The good doctor reminds Vic's squeeze the if she shoots them, there could be complications from lack of after care.

So, a few weeks pass, and time comes for the bandages to be removed and for Vic Brady to see his new face. I think that anyone with half a brain can figure out what is coming, so I am not going to tell you what happens when they reveal his face. Let's just say that the cops that show up just as they are uncovering Brady's new face are not impressed.

Make no mistake, this is an Ed Wood movie. The proof is in the dialog. Check this bit from the scene where Dr. Gregor is resting and having a drink with his daughter the evening that the robbery will take place. Referring to a phone call from Lyle Talbot's character:

"This afternoon, we had a long telephone conversation earlier in the day."  The sort of malapropism that Wood was a wizard at.

Another aspect of the production that is nearly always commented upon in reviews is the music on the soundtrack. It is the Hoyt Curtin piano and guitar flamenco instrumental that graced the equally incompetently made MESA OF THE LOST WOMEN. If you are of a sensitive nature, the droning of this sequence of pouncing piano accents and flamenco guitar flourishes will have you in seizures by the end of the movie.

Here are some other points of interest in the film:

- Ed wasn't one to waste the physique of a Steve Reeves. He has a scene that starts off with Steve shirtless. This had to have thrilled more than a few female theatergoers.

- The desk in the small office of Dr. Gregor is so big that it nearly fills the entire room. It is hilarious to see people trying to navigate around it.

- You like Nash automobiles? You get all you could possibly want in this pic.

- Herbert Rawlinson, who plays Dr. Gregor, did a nice job of acting considering he was dying of lung cancer--on the set. The morning after he completed his scenes, he was found dead in his apartment.

- Setting up for the theater robbery, the narrative gives us a look at what the show was at the theater that night. Originally, it was a minstrel show! Oh, my God, yes, and every bit as racist and tasteless as you might imagine. I was very happy that the VHS cassette I have substitutes a burlesque striptease.

I think this little POS is quite engaging, and is actually unusually competent for an Ed Wood movie. You could do a whole lot worse. I give the pic a Movies For Weirdos rating of 3 1/4 stars out of 4.

Buy it at


Monday, February 18, 2013

MURDER AT THE VANITIES (1934) -- movie review by Squashpants


Tonight's movie is


This is the first so-called "pre-Code" movie we have looked at here, and the first musical. It was made in the last year before the Hayes Board brought the censorship boom down on filmmakers in the US and ushered in the drabness of Forties cinema.

So, not unexpectedly, this one really pushes the envelope on naughtiness, and it is my favorite pre-coder for that reason.

The basic story is well telegraphed by the title. It is about a night at the world famous Earl Carroll's Vanities stage show, and the murder of a minor character, which brings in tough detective Bill Murdock (played wonderfully by Victor McLaglen) who has already been stiffed for a ticket to the night's performance by his pal Jack Ellery (Jack Oakie mugging it up), the stage manager.

At the same time, the male and female leads in the show, Carl Brisson as Eric Lander and Kitty Carlisle(!) as Ann Ware, are trying to get through one last night before they go off to marry. Mix in Eric's mother as wardrobe mistress and the main suspect for the murder, a songstress jealous of Ann and Eric's love, and her mistreated maid, and you have a great cast. Oh, but let's not forget Charles Middleton (FLASH GORDON's Ming the Merciless), Toby Wing, and Duke Ellington and orchestra.

You get some great production numbers, including the Sweet Marijuana(!) number and the Duke Ellington breakout of a faux classical lead-up (more about this later). And while they are not of the scope and ambitiousness of a Busby Berkley production, they are well done and well photographed. And the music is wonderful.

You are led to believe that the wardrobe mistress is the murderess, but you will not believe who actually is the culprit. Well, you probably will because you are smarter than me. The banter between Jack Oakie and Victor McLaglen is great fun, the best part of the whole comedic side of the pic. And Toby Wing as Nancy is an absolute doll in her bit part as a flirty chorus girl.

Now, the thing that really recommends this movie (to me, at least), besides the overall quality of it, is the amount of skin on display in it. I was shocked to discover as a teen that movies made before 1935 and the advent of the tough Hayes Production Code were actually sexier and more adult that a lot of the films I was seeing from the 1940s and 1950s.

Sexual innuendos dotted the dialog and slinky lingerie-like gowns were the order of the day. Murder at the Vanities takes this one step further by having a production number with topless chorines as cactus flowers and basically using their hands as bras. Pretty risque for the day, yes, but the most unbelievable bit of revealing costuming is that of the black dancers on the Duke Ellington number.

Dressed up like maids(!), it is not altogether apparent during the number that the bodices are sheer netting basically, but when the number is over, and the camera is on the dancers milling about (as people begin to realize that yet another person has been murdered), you can plainly, if briefly, see the breasts and the nipples of the dancers.

Talk about a shock. It is no wonder that this one didn't show up on TV when I was a kid.

Musicals may not be your cup of tea, but I have found that pre-Code musicals are really quite entertaining and the music, though dated, is catchy and enjoyable. The comedy is not as corny as you might expect, and the musical stars of those days really did deserve to be stars.

This is a good one to start with if you are interested in getting into the genre. I give it a Weirdo rating of 3.75 out of 4 stars!

Buy it at

Sunday, February 17, 2013

WILD ONES ON WHEELS (1962) -- movie review by Squashpants


Little did I know that this film was another entry on auteur Ray Dennis Steckler's resume. But there he is, doing the cinematography and enjoying a co-starring role.

This one has a lot packed into it: sports cars, gangsters, psychotic punks, handicapped persons, undercover cops, desert locations, and Francine York (hubba hubba).

Basically it is the story of Duke Walker, a gangster who is being released from his 12-year incarceration, and is expected by everyone concerned to retrieve the stolen $240,000 (a pretty decent chunk of change in those days) he has hidden somewhere in the Mojave Desert. Another ex-con whom he had served with, hilariously named "King" Tutt, wants to take the stash away from the middle-aged Duke.

So King gets his little gang together, including Preacher (Steckler), a beatnik petty criminal with a crazy patois and a sports car he calls "Baby". Pompy and his girl friend, the sociopathic Jick, and Tutt's wife round out the double-crossing heel's crew.

Except for their fearless leader, all of them drive some sort of sports car. King favors a jeep. As a matter of fact, as the movie goes on, everybody ends up in a jeep(?).

Oh, and then there's Bill James, who was spying on Hazel (Francine York) for Tutt. Hazel is Duke's girl friend(!), and Bill has the hots for her. The whole group ends up traipsing all over the desert before finding the loot at an abandoned tungsten mill, and the final fight over the dough takes place.

There is at least one big surprise at the end, and a couple of deaths. The soundtrack sounds like an original scoring, and is actually not bad. The cinematography is quite good, too, for a low-budget production.

However, I don't know whether to blame Steckler or the editor for actually producing a print that includes the day-for-night lens being put on the camera for a night scene. That was really startling.

Another thing I note is that this may have been an "Adults Only" distribution, because when we first see Francine York she is topless with her back to the camera, but you can see the side of her breast as she is putting on her bra. The lady is "gifted". And she is not a bad actress by any stretch.

Most everybody in the production is competent in their acting skills. Steckler, actually billed with his real name rather than the more colorful "Cash Flagg", basically plays his beatnik self, and again gives the impression that he would be big fun to hang out with.

The user reviews at IMDb are not complimentary for the most part. I did not like the snobbery of these armchair critics. I enjoyed the pic and would have surely liked it as a Boomer Kid. You could do worse.

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Saturday, February 16, 2013


If you managed to slog your way through the sappy love story long enough to get to the good parts of Michael Bay's 2001 war epic PEARL HARBOR, you probably thrilled to its truncated recounting of the Doolittle Raid.  This unprecedented military mission was the United States' daring response to the infamous Japanese surprise attack of December 7, 1941 on the American naval fleet in Honolulu, Hawaii, which dragged a formerly isolationist United States into World War II.

The film's colorful but fictionalized depiction gives an inkling of what was involved, but for the full story--and all the excitement, suspense, and real human drama that went along with it--you can probably do no better than Athena's 2-disc, 4-episode DVD set MISSIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAR: THE DOOLITTLE RAID, which originally aired on the Military Channel.

The documentary begins at the annual reunion of Doolittle Raid survivors, of which only five are now left out of the original 80.  These survivors share with us their invaluable memories in interview footage that's skillfully woven into a kinetic montage of vintage and recent footage, reenactments, and visually appealing computer graphics.  Thus, the story never becomes simply a succession of talking heads.

Part one, "The Call to War", recalls the opening days of America's involvement in WWII as the military scramble to respond to the Pearl Harbor attack in a way that will boost homeland morale even as Japanese forces continue marching to victory throughout the South Pacific.  A daring plan is hatched as seen in part two, "Special Aviation Project Number One", in which B-25 bombers under the command of aviation legend James Doolittle will be launched from an aircraft carrier within 400 miles of Tokyo. 

We learn how Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle and his brave volunteers were trained to take off in stripped-down B-25s with only a third of the normal runway distance, the men being unaware of the full details of their mission until they and their planes were aboard the USS Hornet itself.  In part three, "The Target of This Task Force is Tokyo", the suspense intensifies when the carrier is prematurely spotted by Japanese ships, forcing the pilots to take off much farther from their target than anticipated.  (Amazing actual film footage of the B-25s taking off from the carrier's flight deck is included.)

This sudden change in plan meant that the planes wouldn't have enough fuel to reach safe haven after the Tokyo bombing raid.  Narrator Gary Sinise (FORREST GUMP, APOLLO 13), who is fast becoming one of our foremost voiceover artists, and the Doolittle survivors give vivid accounts of the fates of these pilots and their crews subsequent to the bombing raid.
Some bailed out as their planes ran out of fuel, while others made hazardous water landings.  Some were rescued by brave Chinese who risked their own lives to help.  Some endured torture and brutal conditions as prisoners of the Japanese.  Three were executed. 

Part four, "The Legacy", tells the full story of the raid's aftermath, including Doolittle's belief that the mission was a failure and that he would be court-martialed.  (History would prove him wrong on both counts.)  Most importantly, we learn that the Doolittle raid became a decisive turning point in America's war with Japan by proving that the Japanese home islands weren't invulnerable to attack as their citizens had been led to believe by an overconfident leadership.
The 2-disc DVD set from Athena is in 16:9 widescreen with Dolby Digital sound and English subtitles.  Along with an enclosed booklet, extras consist of a timeline of James Doolittle's life and an extended (21 minutes) interview with survivor Edward Saylor, engineer gunner of crew #15. 

As military documentaries go, the impeccably mounted MISSIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAR: THE DOOLITTLE RAID is both exhaustively informative and thoroughly involving from beginning to end.  The "Cliff Notes" version of the event as seen in the film PEARL HARBOR is merely an appetizer for this main course, which history fans should find a most satisfying indulgence.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

RAT PFINK A BOO BOO (1966) -- movie review by Squashpants


Tonight's movie is


Among lovers of so-called Psychotronic Cinema, the name Ray Dennis Steckler is legend. Ray made, or photographed, many of the independent features of the 60s, including his most famous title, THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES!!?. RAT PFINK was made after that classic, and was really supposed to be titled RAT PFINK AND BOO BOO, but due to a misunderstanding, the title sequence ended up with the name we see here, which led some to believe that "a boo boo" was a variation on "a go go".

This is a black and white feature that sways back and forth from serious to goofy, starting with a cinema verite sequence of a parade with the titular superheros in the lead car, shouting "Fight Crime" at every opportunity. Then we go into Realism mode with a look at three thugs looking for something nasty to do.

They randomly pick Cee Bee Beaumont (what a great name) from the phone book and promptly visit said Cee Bee at a late hour. They taunt the scantily clad Carol Brandt (get it? BTW, she's Ray's wife at this point) through her picture window but leave without doing anything more.

The creeps decide that this is one hot chick (and she is) and decide to stalk her. In the meantime, we see her boyfriend, Lonnie Lord (played by musician Ron Haydock, billed as Vin Saxon(!), at a party. He plays one of his "hit" songs, "(You Is A) Rat Pfink" down at poolside. And what a freaking great song it is, even if you don't think so! In a quiet moment, the phone rings and it is one of our hoodlums telling Lonnie that they have kidnapped Cee Bee.

The musician is beside himself about what to do, and talks it over with his buddies. Finally, he announces that there is only one thing to do. He and his gardener(!), played by Titus Moede, go into the closet and come out as Rat Pfink and his sidekick, Boo Boo. And talk about ridiculous costuming. No use trying to describe it. You have to see it to believe it.

From here on, the story is played strictly for campy laughs. There is a lot of faux fighting that looks totally as phony as it is. Everybody runs around in various forms of transportation.  And finally Kogar the Swinging Ape (Bob Burns) shows up to menace the swimsuit babes that crawl out of the woodwork. Finally, Cee Bee is rescued and everyone is happy, even Kogar. I think there is a final song from Lonnie and then that's it.

The reason that I am not more descriptive of what amounts to the second half of the film is that I am not certain I have made it all the way through to the end of the thing. To be perfectly frank, the campy antics are kinda hard to stay with. We're not talking Benny Hill quality here, folks.

But the film definitely has its charms. It has a bang-up twangy guitar opening theme. The black and white photography is very moody in the film's serious sections, and seems to be sepia-toned in the campy sections. Carolyn Brandt is very sexy in this, certainly moreso than she was in TISCWSLABMUZ, and we get to see, ahem, more of her. The songs by Ron Haydock are 60s-sensitive rockabilly and swing nicely. Like many of Ray's pictures, there is a sense of time capsule here, and it is a real nostalgia-infused pleasure to see his record of locations (California) here.

I wouldn't mind seeing this again and trying to make it to the end. Not an unalloyed asset, this one, but okay for what it has to offer. I give the pic a "Movies For Weirdos" rating of 3 out of 4 stars.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

THE MASTER -- Blu-Ray/DVD review by porfle

It wasn't until I looked up the lyrics to the song "Slow Boat to China" that I really started to get what Paul Thomas Anderson's THE MASTER (2012) is about.  When I understood that, the ending suddenly took on the emotional significance that I'd missed first time around. 

But that happens now and then with a movie as enigmatic as this one.  You think that little of any real depth is happening for over two hours until you can stop and look back at it all.  Anderson isn't methodically connecting the dots to reveal a big plot here.  He's interested mainly in telling us about some intriguing people and what they mean to each other.

Joaquin Phoenix plays troubled WWII veteran and drifter Freddie Quell, a man whose crudely manic obsession with sex is intertwined with a need for closeness and acceptance.  Struggling to find his way after leaving the Navy, he ends up with a burgeoning cult called The Cause, which is led by the eccentric, charismatic genius Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman, JACK GOES BOATING). 

Despite the disapproval of Dodd's domineering wife Peggy (Amy Adams) and other members of the group, Dodd finds the impulsive, unpredictable, and sometimes violent Freddie both a challenge and an inspiration, eventually making him a valued confidant and symbol of the movement's beneficial effect.  "If we cannot help him," he tells a dubious Peggy, "then it is we who have failed."

This is first demonstrated when Dodd, as payment for some wonderful homemade hooch that Freddie is known for, gives him an informal "processing" session meant to help him relive a past event and alter it for the better.  Dodd is later accused of being a simple hypnotist but we're never really sure whether or not he's a complete charlatan, especially since his wife seems so fiercely devoted to The Cause.  But he clearly thinks he can help Freddie for real, or at least turn him into everything he himself wants to be if he only had the freedom ("You will be my guinea pig and protege", he tells him) which seems to invigorate him with a genuine sense of purpose.

Dodd's strange methods both anger and fascinate Freddie until he begins to actively seek his spiritual counselling.  We find out enough about Freddie during these sessions to make him even more of a sympathetic character, while in the two men we see the beginnings of a deep platonic love that will come to dominate both their lives.  Most of the rest of THE MASTER is an exploration of this strange symbiotic relationship that brings out the best and worst in both men while disrupting those around them.

In a brilliant, endlessly inventive performance by Joaquim Phoenix, Freddie Quell is wiry, twitchy, and heartrendingly needy despite an air of self-assurance.  His confusion and uncertainty are underscored by Paul Thomas Anderson's disorienting and often dreamlike images which, augmented by some stream-of-consciousness editing and a dizzying musical score, keep the viewer off-balance much of the time.  Still, Anderson's direction is utterly surehanded and glows with a keen visual sense.

Hoffman's role is less showy but, as Lancaster Dodd, he radiates an off-kilter genius similar to that of Orson Welles while letting a childlike glee show through during certain unguarded moments with Freddie.  Amy Adams, who was so wonderfully appealing in SUNSHINE CLEANING, is no less impressive here as what may be the true power behind The Cause.  The rest of the cast are fine, including Laura Dern as a fervent follower and BAD SEED Patty McCormack as a wealthy dowager who first sponsors and then takes legal action against Dodd.

The Blu-Ray/DVD combo from Image Entertainment is in 1.85:1 letterbox with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras consist of 20 minutes of outtakes and additional scenes  (very nicely edited together and scored), an 8-minute short "Unguided Message", teasers and trailers, and (Blu-Ray only) John Huston's 1946 documentary about WWII veterans, "Let There Be Light."  The keepcase contains a postcard of Philip Seymour Hoffman to send to some unsuspecting person on your mailing list.

Paul Thomas Anderson seems to be inviting viewers to watch his enigmatic character study more than once and figure things out for themselves.  It's not a movie that lays everything out neatly for us to fully assimilate first time around.  If you want, you can explore it, mine it for nuggets, and interpret it freely.  THE MASTER ends with a whispered, acapella rendition of "Slow Boat to China", in a lovely platonic love scene that's about as disarming as anything I've seen in quite awhile.

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Blu-Ray/DVD Combo


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

NIGHT OF THE GHOULS (1959) -- movie review by Squashpants


Tonight's movie is


Until some time in the 1990s this was considered a lost film. However, the print was found at the laboratory whose bill director Edward J. Wood, Jr. could not pay. The enterprising Wade Williams paid that bill and took possession of the print. Soon, the title was released on VHS and available to an anxious public. And the rest is history.

This is one of Ed's black and white "Kelton the Cop" movies that he produced in the 50s. The other two films in the set are BRIDE OF THE MONSTER and the infamous PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. There is hardly a person living that doesn't register the latter title thanks to Tim Burton's homage to the World's Worst Director, a title bestowed by the Medved Brothers in their publication "The Golden Turkey Awards."

If you have seen ED WOOD, you know the backstory on P9FOS, and you know why Eddie Wood is so fondly regarded by bad movie fans like myself. His films are bad, incompetently made, that is, in many ways, but they are also entertaining as hell. It is the mistakes that Eddie made that make for his hilariously goofy film products.

NIGHT OF THE GHOULS is thought to be a lesser Woodian creation, but I think it holds its own against his BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, possibly surpasses it. The story is one of phony mediums and their comeuppance by real spirits. It stars folks from the Wood stable, and some new faces we haven't seen before.

Duke Moore, who we saw in PLAN 9 is back as police Lt. Bradford, as is Paul Marco playing prissy Officer Kelton. Kenne Duncan (THE ASTOUNDING SHE MONSTER) plays phony medium Dr. Acula (get it? Oh, brother) and a fresh face, Valda Hansen (hubba hubba), as his assistant-in-crime. She plays the White Ghost in a spectacular gothic dress and looks very nice indeed. Also along for the ride is Tor Johnson as Lobo. Yes, the same Lobo from BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, this time with one hell of a scar makeup job. As a matter of fact, this movie is kind of a sequel to BRIDE. And we also have the attractive Jeannie Stevens as the real Black Ghost, and John Carpenter (no, not THAT John Carpenter) as the police captain.

And so it goes, Lt. Bradford is diverted from an evening at the opera to investigate spooks at the old house on Willow's Lake. It seems that an old couple saw the White Ghost ("those FINGernails" wails Martha) at the house when they got lost. Margaret Mason and Harvey B. Dunn hilariously overact as the old couple. So Captain Robbins orders Bradford to investigate, with the help(!) of Officer Kelton who complains of all the weird shit he has to deal with, while giving his butt a good wiggle or two.

As the police are arriving at the house, Dr. Acula (I love Kenne Duncan in this role) and his crew are getting ready for a seance. The con man catches Bradford nosing about and the lieutenant makes as if he was looking to use whatever services Acula was about giving. So he gets to sit in on the seance, and this part of the film is laugh out loud ridiculous. You have to see it to believe how funny it is.

After the seance, Bradford slips away and we see footage from a TV pilot that Ed Wood had produced a few years before, and that, of course, went nowhere. Since it involved Duke Moore exploring a spooky house in opera formal attire, it is pretty well seamless. And there is a rather effectively creepy scene with the Black Ghost in a closet of props(!).

The cute cute cute Valda Hansen complains to her boss of what she thinks are real ghosts on the grounds. Dr. Acula tells her she's losing it. He tells her to do her job and after that night they will take the particularly large check from one of their pigeons and leave town. Bradford finds Kelton and they plan to bust the racket. They end up putting a half dozen slugs into Lobo's chest at close range and it fails to kill the brute right off, but it does throw him off.

The cavalry is on the way, and they are closing in on Dr. Acula, but the old fraud has a shock waiting for him. Some of the corpses he has had lying around(!) have come back to life temporarily and grab the doctor and inter him in a handy coffin Then they shamble off bearing his pall. The cops arrive and find no Dr. Acula. Just a floor littered with skeletons and loose bones.

This movie, I think is a treat for Ed Wood fans. It has people we have come to love in other Wood films (no Bela, though) and it even has a clip filmed years before with Ed himself in a fight (to illustrate the problems that police have to deal with). All the awkward dialog and amateur acting that we expect from Eddie are here in spades.

I loved it. I give this picture a Weirdo Rating of 3 1/4 out of 4 stars.

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NOBODY GETS OUT ALIVE -- DVD review by porfle

I just watched NOBODY GETS OUT ALIVE, aka "Down the Road" (2013) for the first time, but it felt as though I'd already seen it a hundred times.  Why?  Because it's an "homage" to cheesy 80s slasher flicks, meaning that every scene is a rehash of a hundred other scenes that were already starting to get old thirty years ago. 

Which is fine, if the homage brings something new to the table or replays the old stuff in a different way.  But after a somewhat promising start in which a teenaged girl named Jenn (Jen Dance) is released after a long hospital stay and encouraged to get back into the swing of things (with Clint Howard making a brief cameo appearance as her doctor), this one becomes almost brazenly predictable.

The main titles sequence is a flashback of some drunken teens running over a little girl while her father looks on in horror.  Fast forward several years, and now the aggrieved dad is said to haunt the woods killing any teenaged party animals he can find.  The recuperating Jenn, meanwhile, is invited to go on a camping trip with her rowdy, oversexed friends, and their destination is--you guessed it--the very forest where Psycho Dad is said to wield his tool belt of death.

Thus, this utterly generic tale lurches into a tour of the hoariest cliches in slasherdom.  Our main characters include two boy-girl couples who can't wait to get drunk and have sex, a sensitive boy to serve as timid Jenn's potential love interest, and a comedy-relief pothead.  After the standard googly-eyed local yokel warns them to stay out of the woods--which they blithely disregard--they set up camp and tell scary stories around the campfire, including the one about old Hunter Isth, alias Psycho Dad. 

To absolutely no one's surprise, Hunter dutifully shows up as soon as the couples have paired off to have some "in tents" sex, and starts killing people in familiar, semi-gory ways while they run around the woods screaming.  At this point, the acting, direction, and camerawork--which have been passable during the slower scenes--really start to go downhill fast.

The rest of the film consists of several drawn-out stalking sequences climaxed by cursory gore effects, in addition to a scene in the killer's cabin in which actor Brian Gallagher goes for an Oscar while recounting Hunter's sad story to a cowering captive.  This scene is so lengthy and overwrought that it's a sure contender for "most fast-forwarded-through sequence of the year." 

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 surround sound.  No subtitles or closed-captions.  Extras consist of a commentary with writer-director Jason Christopher, outtakes, and a "making of" featurette.

After wandering around aimlessly in the woods for awhile, NOBODY GETS OUT ALIVE finally draws to just the kind of ending you expect it to, with a surprise final twist that's comfortingly uninspired.  If you can't control your curiosity and do decide to buy or rent this resolutely artless endeavor, don't be surprised if you show it to a group of friends some night and nobody gets out awake.

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

THE FLESH EATERS (1962) -- movie review by Squashpants


Tonight's movie is


Our title this outing is an independent studio production of a scary and wonderful drive-in movie. It is basically a monster movie but it is also sort of a soap opera crossed with Gilligan's Island.

It starts out with an aging alcoholic actress and her private secretary hiring a plane piloted by the hunky Byron Sanders. Grant Murdoch needs the money, and he is willing to fly into a hurricane for the money that Miss Jan Letterman (Barbara Wilkin) is promising him if he takes the job. So the three of them pile into his little seaplane and off they go.

They only get so far (in reality to Long Island, but for us it's a small island off the New York coast) and have to land and wait out the imminent weather. They are startled by the emergence of a frogman, who turns out to be Professor Peter Bartell (Martin Kosleck) who is doing some kind of research on the island and seems okay with sharing his small tent with the three extra people.

Two things happen next to further the story along: 1) Laura Winters, our dipsomaniac thespian, apparently in a blackout, lets the seaplane drift out to sea; 2) the hurricane passes and they find the titular flesh eating microorganisms glowing on a pile of fish skeletons.

Now, we know that Bartell knows what these things are. And we soon find out that he is the source of the things. In the light of the next day, they see large collections of the eaters hugging a jetty connected to the island. Naturally, Laura goes out on the jetty then freaks out, and Grant has to rescue her. In the process, he get some of the flesh eaters on him. And we get to see the ingenious special effect when his pant leg is stripped off so they can try to treat him.

Said to be scratches made with a pin in the film emulsion, they look more like something more involved, and are quite effective. Bartell makes a point of taking a sample of the things in a cigarette pack. To show how aggressive they are, the things eat their way through to attack the professor's flesh.

Then, enters Omar, a beatnik on a raft who floats into the surf and nearly gets eaten by the flesh eaters. He is 1) rather Gilligan-like, and 2) oblivious to most of what goes on around him, and his beat patter is a real gone, Man. Bartell suggests that they do a survey of the shoreline of the small island to see where there might be less of the damn bugs.

So Grant and Jan go one way, and Omar and Bartell go another. The latter two end up back at the tent, where Bartell serves up a cocktail laced with flesh eaters to the unsuspecting bohemian. Seeing the bugs eat through his stomach and his stomach bleed out is pretty creepy and gory for a movie made in 1964.

In the meantime, the other couple have found a huge cube. lined with solar energy disks. that apparently belongs to the professor. They stop and Grant tells Jan the story of his life, and they begin to fall in love. All of a sudden they hear Bartell shouting from the shoreline, and they rush to him to see Omar, or what is left of him, floating out to sea and screaming bloody murder as he apparently is being killed by the flesh eaters. Of course he is already dead, and the screaming is from a tape recording made by the professor while Omar was dying(!).

When everybody gets back to the tent, the professor says he has an idea. He takes a sample of the eaters and using the electricity from the solar cell cube, he electrocutes them and that seems to kill them. They then decide to introduce electricity into the surf and kill off a portion of the bugs and escape. The only problem is, the bugs aren't dead, just stunned, and they form a colony that looks like a oogly-boogly monster, which is discovered by Jan.

By now they have figured out that Bartell is a stinker and that he has brought the things to the island. So Bartell now is holding them at gunpoint while they put together the wiring necessary to electrocute the things offshore. Bartell obliges Grant with the story of how the flesh eaters came to be. A Nazi military research project, the flesh eaters were to be a weapon. But the end of the war brought the project to an end but not the flesh eaters that had been made. He has intercepted the migration of the things and plans to sell them to the highest bidder.

The flesh eater monster has followed Jan back to the shore and everybody is trying to figure out how to kill the thing, and suddenly Laura (remember her?) stumbles from her would-be grave, having been stabbed and left to die earlier by Bartell, and ends up expiring on top of the monster. Miracle of miracles, her blood is fatal to the thing.

Jan and Grant are unable to talk Bartell out of electrifying the surf even when they have seen what happens when one does that to the flesh eaters. He does it, and there is quiet. In the interim, Grant and Bartell struggle and the latter ends up stumbling into the surf which still has some active eaters. He dies a horrible death with some wonderfully gnarly effects.

No sooner is Bartell dead than the Mother of All Flesh Eater Monsters erupts from the surf. Huge, as big as a small blimp--you shake your head at the audacity of the producers. But they are ready, and with blood donated earlier by Bartell and the two of them, Grant takes his over-sized hypodermic and wades out to the creature. An accommodating tentacle lifts him up and he plunges the hypodermic into the things "eye". Bye bye Flesh Eater Gargantuan. Happy ending.

A few points about the production:

- As has been noted in other reviews, the production team for THE FLESH EATERS were used to making pornographic movies. There is a bit of a feel of this in the tone of the film, and the editor is none other than Radley Metzger, a well known name in the trade

- This was probably an Adults Only distrib because in the uncut version of this is a scene with some nudity, supposedly made and edited in by the distributor. It involves human experiments at the Nazi research facility and plays over Bartell's exposition about the origin of the bugs. The nudity is not overly graphic but there are naked ladies

- The black and white photography is very nicely done

- Special effects are very ambitious and are middling effective

- I was surprised by the inclusion of a solar cell apparatus "The grandaddy of all solar batteries"

- Byron Sanders (Grant Murdock) had such a nice corpus that he sat for Salvador Dali on several projects

- Rita Morley (star of several TV soaps) exhibits her rather gelatinous cleavage to great effect in several scenes

- Martin Kosleck, a character actor who played Nazis consistently through the 40s, is terrific as the conniving Professor Bartell. In the scene where he is calling out to Jan and Grant to see Omar floating away, he waves his arms and gestures in a way that screams "gay", and as it turns out, Mr. Kosleck (no disrespect to the gentleman) was apparently bisexual and had an affair with one of the male cast members, one I have not mentioned in this review.

I really liked this movie, but for obvious reasons, this one never turned up on any of the local broadcast TV stations when I was a teenager. If it had, it would have been a very good night for me, in more ways that one.

I give this title a Movies for Weirdos rating of 3 1/2 stars out of 4.

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Saturday, February 9, 2013

MIMESIS -- DVD review by porfle

The promos for Anchor Bay's DVD release of MIMESIS (2011) sorta make it sound as though it has some kind of cool William Castle-like gimmick that virtually puts us inside a horror movie.  The actual premise, however, is that a group of horror fans at a post-convention party in a remote farmhouse are drugged and wake up inside a recreation of "Night of the Living Dead" dressed as the main characters. 

It's a potentially fun idea, but the execution fluctuates between mildly diverting and dull.  References to George Romero's 1968 original film begin when we meet three of the main characters at the horror convention--nerdy fanboy Russell (Taylor Piedmonte), his reluctant "cool" pal Duane (Allen Maldonado), and Goth girl Judith (Lauren Mae Shafer), who invites them to the "exclusive" afterparty. 

Most of you will have noticed that their first names match those of NOTLD actors, as will those of the people whom Duane (representing the original film's black protagonist) will discover hiding in the cellar of the farmhouse which will be their shelter against the attacking zombies after the mysterious "re-enactment" has begun. 

There are some curious exceptions to this, however--Judith O'Dea's "Barbra" character is represented here by someone named Karen (Jana Thompson), while the original film's "Karen" was the young daughter of cellar-dwelling couple Karl and Marilyn.  (Did I get that right?) At any rate, it's confusing enough that I just decided not to pay attention to any of that, and I would suggest you do the same. 

So anyway, Russell and Karen (whose name should be "Barbra") wake up in a cemetery dressed as "Johnny" and "Barbra" from NOTLD and, as you'd expect, get attacked by a zombie.  Karen escapes and joins Duane at the farmhouse, where they discover the people hiding in the cellar after they woke up there dressed as their characters.  Keith (David G.B. Brown), sort of a David Morse type, actually turns out to be more of a leader than Duane, and the two of them eventually clash over what course of action to take during the zombie siege. 

The zombies themselves are an anemic bunch--in fact, it seems to be the same three or four ghouls wandering around outside the whole time.  The makeup's pretty good although a bit too airbrushy, and gore effects are standard for this sort of flick.  Genre fans will notice some odd behavior from these creatures that deviates greatly from the norm, although the reason for this will be revealed later.   

Speaking of which--after a long stretch of familiar suspense-type scenes involving the living trying to escape from the living dead, there's a rather big "reveal" that some viewers may regard as a deal-breaker.  This jarring twist turns MIMESIS into an entirely different film, one that I really didn't care as much about until it sorta grabbed me again in the final minutes.  You, on the other hand, may find it as delightful and imaginative as many film festival attendees apparently have according to the press release. 

For me, the most atmospheric part of the film is the pre-titles sequence with Courtney Gains (CHILDREN OF THE CORN) as a farmer being stalked by the undead.  Later, genre stalwart and Rob Zombie mainstay Sid Haig puts in a couple of brief appearances as a Romero-like film director.  The acting among the main cast runs from fair to slightly below average. 

Director Douglas Schulze does a workmanlike job although his lackluster staging and meandering camera, along with a ponderous musical score, sometimes drain the suspense from the film rather than building or maintaining it.  These elements do begin to improve during the second half, however, and, despite what some might consider a seriously off-putting twist, MIMESIS does manage a certain amount of suspense and the occasional jump-scare.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  The sole extra is a commentary track with Schulze and co-writer Joshua Wagner.

MIMESIS is an interesting idea--in fact, sequels are planned involving other classic horror films--but the concept just didn't take off for me the way the filmmakers intended it to.  Still, it's an admirable effort that obviously had some care put into it, and is way above much of the assembly-line dreck churned out in the name of "horror" these days.

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Friday, February 8, 2013


Like so many TV series of its time, the gritty cop drama "Naked City" (ABC-TV, 1958-63) now stands as a showcase not only for established stars working in television, but for the up-and-coming actors trying to break into movies (or at least bigger success on the small screen).  Spotting all these familiar faces is what makes Image Entertainment's 5-disc DVD set NAKED CITY: 20 STAR-FILLED EPISODES especially interesting to watch.

Sometimes upbeat, sometimes noirish and bleak, "Naked City" is a semi-documentary-style drama (filmed in black and white on real New York locations) that thoughtfully explores human foibles and social issues of the day between occasional bursts of violence such as a blazing shootout or tire-screeching car chase.  Not all of the stories are that interesting--in fact, they sometimes tend to drag or veer toward the maudlin--but at its best, the show can be scintillating and highly involving entertainment.

The first hour-long episode, "Sweet Prince of Delancy Street" (1961), features Robert Morse (HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING) in a manic performance as Richie, a schlub trying to keep his dad (James Dunn) from being arrested for vandalizing the factory he was just fired from and killing a security guard.  In addition to Jan "Madge the Manicurist" Miner and Arny Freeman of THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE, a young Dustin Hoffman also appears in a smaller but ultimately pivotal role as Richie's friend Lester.

This episode (later ranked #93 on TV Guide’s list of "100 Greatest Episodes of All Time") introduces us to series regulars Paul Burke ("Twelve O'Clock High") as idealistic young police detective Adam Flint, Horace McMahon (ABBOTT AND COSTELLO GO TO MARS) as his world-weary boss Lt. Mike Parker, Harry Bellaver as his easygoing older partner Det. Frank Arcaro, and Nancy Malone as his faithful fiance' Libby Kingston.  The show's main emphasis, however, is usually on the guest characters and their problems, occasionally giving "Naked City" the feel of an anthology show. 

A brief glance at the episode titles such as "Robin Hood and Clarence Darrow, They Went Out With the Bow and Arrow" (with Eddie Albert) reveals how pretentious the series tends to be at times, as does a sample of the opening narration: "In the naked city, a man can search 10,000 side streets all 22,000 days of his life...and never come face-to-face with the stranger within himself." 

It's clearly intended as a showcase for writers and actors to allow free rein to their creativity and either shamelessly give in to excess or--in the case of old pros such as Albert, David Wayne ("The Multiplicity of Herbert Konish"), Claude Rains ("To Walk in Silence"), and Sylvia Sidney ("A Hole in the City")--do exceedingly impressive work.  

Some of the other future stars making early appearances include a wildly overacting William Shatner ("Portrait of a Painter"), Peter Fonda and Martin Sheen ("The Night the Saints Lost Their Halos"), Robert Duvall ("The One Marked Hot Gives Cold", "Hole in the City"), an emotional Dennis Hopper ("Shoes For Vinnie Winford"), Robert Redford ("Tombstone for a Derelict"), Jon Voight ("Alive and Still a Second Lieutenant"), "Jimmy" Caan and Bruce Dern ("Bullets Cost Too Much"), a willowy young Diane Ladd ("Line of Duty"), and Suzanne Pleshette ("The Pedigree Sheet").  Co-starring with Eddie Albert in "Robin Hood and Clarence Darrow, They Went Out With the Bow and Arrow" is a shockingly young-looking "Ronnie" (Christopher) Walken.

Already-familiar faces (at the time) from movies and television include Theodore Bikel, Barry Morse, Jo Van Fleet, Edward Andrews, Telly Savalas, Leslie Nielsen, Nehemiah Persoff, Paul Hartman, Jean Stapleton, Dick York, Johnny Seven, Betty Field, Peter Falk, Myron McCormick, Jack Klugman, Jan Sterling, Richard Conte, Nancy Marchand, Murray Hamilton, Roger C. Carmel, Jack Warden, and Carroll O'Connor.  Two 1958 episodes, "Lady Bug, Lady Bug" and "Line of Duty", take us back to the show's initial half-hour format with original stars John McIntyre and James Franciscus. 

Sharp-eyed viewers will spot the occasional lowly bit player who would later go on to bigger and better things, such as Richard Castellano (THE GODFATHER), Sorrell Booke ("The Dukes of Hazzard"), Joe Silver ("You Light Up My Life"), Sylvia Miles (MIDNIGHT COWBOY), and Doris Roberts ("Everybody Loves Raymond").

The 5-disc DVD set from Image Entertainment is in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital mono sound.  No subtitles or extras. 

Spotting the then-and-future stars in an older show like this is kind of like birdwatching, only (to me) a lot more fun.  It helps if the show itself is worth watching, which the sometimes gritty, sometimes overly weepy "Naked City" manages to be more often than not.  And as a wallow in old-school classic TV, NAKED CITY: 20 STAR-FILLED EPISODES is pure, unadulterated nostalgia.

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

KRONOS (1957) -- movie review by Squashpants


Tonight's movie is:

KRONOS (1957)

The Fifties were big on alien invaders and most of them were biological entities arriving in flying saucers of one sort or another. Here we have an alien invader which was not biological, but rather a sort of giant robot.

Jeff Morrow (THIS ISLAND EARTH) plays Dr. Les Gaskell working at a high tech research laboratory near the standard California desert. He is monitoring near Earth for asteroids one night and discovers a very unusual space rock. In fact, it looks on his telescope monitor exactly like a huge Flying Saucer. It is absolutely hilarious that he doesn't recognize it as the technological device that it obviously is.

Dr. Les isn't alone at this outpost. He has computer expert Dr. Arnold Culver, played by George Jetson's voice, George O'Hanlon, and his apparent girl friend and the lab photographic technician, Vera Hunter (Barbara Lawrence). And finally, rounding out the crew is project head Dr. Hubbell Elliot, played by John Emery and his massive eye bags.

Well, Dr. Les sees the asteroid/UFO crash into the Gulf of Mexico, and not an hour later an disembodied entity of some sort makes its way from the spaceship to our friends' research lab and into the body of Dr. Elliot. And under the control of the entity, the good doctor will provide the guidance required for the alien invader to pursue its mission.

And what is that mission? To use an "accumulator", a huge, semi-intelligen­t robot, to absorb energy from any available generating source or distribution network, and once at capacity, assumedly, the colossus will be reloaded into the spaceship and the aliens will steal away home with their stolen electricity.

Most of what happens in the movie revolves around the seemingly unstoppable Kronos, and how our clever scientists finally find a way to make the thing destroy itself.

The big selling point for this movie is the special effect of the accumulator device. Big (my guess is over 100 feet tall, apparenty), solid chrome, with a dome and antenna-like structures on top, and thick cylinder legs that pound up and down and somehow propel the thing forwards(?). The first time we see the structure, it is sitting on a Mexican beach, imposing and stately, and very high tech looking, even considering the 1950s design elements. And when a jet is sent to nuclear bomb the machine, it does something pretty damn cool. It retracts all its external structures and sinks into a massive cube. And when the A-bomb explodes, it absorbs all the bomb's released energy. Unharmed, it de-compacts itself and moves on. All done very convincingly.

The way that the scientists decide they can defeat Kronos is slightly cryptic but, to me at least, plausible. And when they deploy the strategem, the effects of the self-demolition­ of the giant machine are damn effective, even exciting.

There is no doubt that this was a fun picture to see at the theater, and it doesn't play badly on the small screen either. I am sure I saw this at least once as a little weirdo, on TV, and loved it.

One of the other fun things about KRONOS is the characters' relationships. Poor Vera really digs Dr. Les, but you would think the man has no sex organs. He is more concerned about work than going to a movie and necking with his girl friend. Arnie doesn't have a girl friend and doesn't need one because he has S.U.S.I.E. the computer. Don't ask me what the silly acronym means. It's explained in the movie. And then there's Dr. Elliot, our possessed alien agent, who just happens to have an small electrical generating plant in his office with a cyclone fence around it(!).

A truly fun pic with great effects and nice characterizatio­ns. You could definitely do worse for an afternoon's entertainment. I give this pic a Weirdo Rating of 3 out of 4 stars.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Image Entertainment Wakes The Dead in "FRANKENSTEIN THEORY" On DVD March 26th


From the makers of "The Last Exorcism"

VOD and theatrical engagements begin March 1st; DVD arises March 26th

CHATSWORTH, CA – Before Robert DeNiro, before Christopher Lee or even Boris Karloff, there was the original novel: Frankenstein. Published in 1818 and written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, it is universally recognized as one of the greatest works of horror fiction in the English language. But what if it wasn’t conjecture? What if the story of how one man dared to steal the secret of creation was true?

Image Entertainment will challenge all that you know, or think you know, with The Frankenstein Theory. Directed by Andrew Weiner, The Frankenstein Theory premieres on VOD and select theatrical engagements on March 1st, with the DVD release set for March 26th.  The DVD pre-book date is February 26th and is available for an SRP of $27.97.

What if the most chilling novel of all time was actually based on a true account of a horrific experiment gone awry? When he is suspended from his university job for his outlandish ideas, Professor John Venkenheim leads a documentary film crew to the rim of the Arctic Circle in a desperate effort to vindicate his academic reputation. The object of his ridicule? His obscure theory that Shelley's literary classic is, in fact, a work of non-fiction disguised as fantasy. In the vast, frozen wilderness, Venkenheim and his team search for the legendary monster, a creature nearly three hundred years old and still cloaked in mystery. What they find is an unspeakable truth more terrifying than any fiction…

Frankenstein Theory DVD
Genre:                         Horror, Thriller, Feature Film
Street date:                  March 26, 2013
Year:                           2012
Catalog #:                    AFG8392DVD
UPC:                           014381839227
Run time:                     87 Minutes
Rating:                         Not Rated
SRP:                            $27.97
Format:                       Widescreen, Enhanced for 16x9 TVs
Audio:                         Digital Dolby 5.1

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

TERROR FROM THE YEAR 5000 -- movie review by Squashpants


This is a true crappy movie of the sort that was sure to show up on the local monster movie program back in the Sixties. It is one of the many pics that were made for the burgeoning drive-in theater and broadcast TV markets of the time.

And it is a lot of fun, IMHO.

It is basically about a time machine of sorts. However, Dr. Erling's time machine does not take him to other times. It brings objects to him from other times. Like THE YEAR 5000 (yes, you have to shout it with full reverb effects). The excitement(?) starts when the over-sized water heater brings back a living mutant woman from THE YEAR 5000.

And, yes, this was MST3Kized, and it was really quite a funny MST3K, as they go.

But even so, the movie stands on its own as a monument to how entertaining a low-budget science fiction movie can be. The players are pretty decent for what script they have to work with. Ward Costello playing the skeptical Dr. Hedges, Joyce Holden playing the housewife-sexy Claire Erling, daughter of the already-mentioned Dr. Erling (Frederich Downs). Playing the mutant babe is a young Salome Jens, looking pretty sweet after she steals the face of a nurse she waylays. John Stratton is there for plot tension and nefarious doings of various sorts, playing Victor, the jealous fiance of Joyce Holden's character.

Some of the things that stand out in TFTY5K are the four-eyed mutant cat that Dr. Hedges dredges up from the lagoon; Jen's sparkly, hypnotic fingernails; the peeping tom handyman who reminds one of Jimmy Carter; a radioactive statue from the future that ends up being dumped in a bucket of water ("Watch out. That thing's hotter than hell!"); the mutant lady's face, when she is not otherwise disguised, which is scary enough to give a tweener the willies.

But the most noteworthy thing, I think, about this movie is the unexpectedly steamy clinch between Costello's character and Holden's. Talk about a convincing job of portraying a hormone ramp-up. You can almost hear the "sploosh". It's no wonder that, after that, Dr. Hedges is seen skipping jauntily while cartoon music plays on the soundtrack.

This movie has charm to burn, and is unintentionally funny to beat the band. I am sure that as a Monster Kid, I was probably delighted and intrigued by the movie when I saw it on the old black and white console (and I am certain that I saw it when I was a teen).

Yessiree, not a bad way to waste some time. Some time FROM THE YEAR 5000!

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Monday, February 4, 2013

POISON IVY (1953) -- movie review by Squashpants


This is the first ever Lemmy Caution thriller, starring trademark tough guy actor Eddie Constantine (he of the craggy face). FBI agent Lemmy is tasked with foiling a plot to steal $2 million (gasp) of Uncle Sam's gold and revolving around goings-on in the exotic port of Casablanca. He goes up against Howard Vernon (THE AWFUL DOCTOR ORLOF) playing the evil and resourceful Rudy Saltierra, and plays lusty cat-and-mouse with Dominique Wilms channeling Veronica Lake as the lovely Carlotta de la Rue ("of the streets"?) whose nickname provides the movie's title.

Constantine's performance establishes Lemmy's character for the run of its career, all the way to the New Wavish ALPHAVILLE and beyond). He is tough, knows how to use his fists, drinks hard, flirts egregiously, and never loses his sense of humor. He gives the distinct impression of a fellow who gave fear of death the air years ago, and he enjoys a good fight as much as the next thug. He is impossible not to like. Even his enemies express a grudging fondness for him.

Constantine settles into the character like he just got home and he makes the story worth seeing. Otherwise, it would be a bit boring, tell the truth.

I think it is worth 80-something minutes of your time, especially if you are acquainted with Eddie's other films already. Apparently POISON IVY was a big hit in France, and it led to other offerings featuring Mr. Constantine.

Lucky for us tough guy story fans.

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Saturday, February 2, 2013

THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER -- movie review by Squashpants

Mid 20th-Century was a great time for low-budget filmmaking, and some of the "best" of these products ended up flickering on the screens of black and white TVs worshipfully watched by teenage boys like me.

One of these jewels was Ronnie Ashcroft's 1957 sci-fi movie, THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER.

This was a sure fire choice for the late night horror/sci-fi movie programming of the 1960s. It's cheap. It's shot on black and white stock. And it's scary, if you are about 12 years old. But it is also chock full of unintentional hilarity.

It is the story of a geologist and his trusty dog, a spoiled rich girl, er, woman, and two gangsters and their moll. They all end up in a cabin in the California woods fighting off a mute female humanoid alien. When it is all over and the good guys are the only ones left alive, you get a twist, a doozy of one that is just unbelievably hokey.

The most recognizable face in this mess is Robert Clarke (THE MAN FROM PLANET X) who was inspired by the money that TASM made enough to produce his own little slice of dung (THE HIDEOUS SUN DEMON, 1957). Ed Wood fans will recognize former cowboy picture fixture Kenne Duncan playing the head gangster.

Two different narrators provide mostly unneeded exposition for a third of the movie. The music blares at you insistently and inanely (although the damn soundtrack actually grows on you after awhile). The classic cars used in the production are simply wonderful. The special effects are anywhere from pathetic to unexpectedly effective.

But the greatest part of this little coprolite is the dialog. To give you just an example, the gun moll, a real lush played serviceably by Marilyn Harvey, is pleased to find that she will be able to get as drunk as she wants while she, her mates, and the heiress they kidnapped hide out at Clarke's cabin. Duncan's character tells her "You can get fried for all I care."

To which she grinds her hips a little and replies: "How would you like me? Pan fried or french-fried?" The way she delivers the line is hilarious. Trust me.

Beyond dialog, there are a number of set pieces that seem to have wandered off a David Lynch production. A scene towards the wrap-up where a bear is irradiated lethally by the alien lady is unbelievably weird, ludicrous, and suggestive.

This is only a few of the treasures that this movie contains. There is much, much more to marvel at if you dare to sit through the short (62 minutes) feature.

If you are a fan of movies that are "so bad, they're good", then THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER is made to order for you.

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Friday, February 1, 2013

CHERRY TREE LANE -- DVD review by porfle

An upper middle-class English couple is plunged into their worst nightmare in the harrowing thriller CHERRY TREE LANE (2010), a film that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do with admirable economy and skill. 

The opening shot of a cookpot on the verge of boiling over serves as a none-too-subtle metaphor for what we're about to see.  Michael (Tom Butcher) and Christine (Rachael Blake) share a tense, joyless dinner together, trading tight-lipped recriminations about marital issues that will become meaningless the second their home is invaded by a gang of ruthless teens out for revenge against their son Sebastian for ratting out one of their own to the police.

Before they know it, Michael and Christine are bound with tape and beaten into submission by two black youths, cousins Rian (Jumayn Hunter) and Asad (Ashley Chin), and their white friend Teddy (Sonny Muslim), who then make themselves at home as they wait for "Sebby" to return.  Plotwise, that's pretty much it--all the suspense and tension of a film like THE DESPERATE HOURS (or the last ten minutes of THE PROPOSITION) is distilled down to a basic straightforward nightmare tale that reminds me in a strange way of such "predicament" thrillers as OPEN WATER and FROZEN, which place innocent people into an ordeal in which they, and we, must endure each painful moment with no relief or rescue in sight.

In this way, CHERRY TREE LANE is also somewhat similar (though not nearly as profoundly disturbing) to the ultimate tale of disaffected British brats terrorizing their elders, EDEN LAKE.  But Jumayn Hunter merely played a blind follower in that film's vicious gang--here, he's the volatile, sociopathic ringleader whose occasionally calm demeanor can explode into violence and outrage without warning.  We're never quite sure what Rian's going to do as he toys with the bound Christine on the couch, speaking in reasonable tones one moment and then savagely threatening her with a knife the next.

Rian's cousin Asad, who nurses a faintly glowing smidgen of humanity, is slightly more reticent to commit certain acts--rape, for example, goes against his monogamous feelings for his girlfriend--and he rolls his eyes when Rian punches out one of the ditzy chav girls who show up later to get in on the fun.  Some of the film's most interesting passages involve Asad casually chatting it up with the brutally beaten Michael, who's sprawled on the floor at his feet, in a weirdly matter-of-fact way that shows how utterly uncomprehending he is of the horror surrounding them. 

While all of the performances here are top-notch, both Hunter and Chin display a knack for natural acting that lends their scenes an almost documentary feel.  As Christine, Rachael Blake's conveys quiet desperation and shivering dread, not only for herself and Michael but for their son's impending fate, while Tom Butcher ably embodies our rage and frustration at being powerless to stop the brutalization of his family.  

Writer-director Paul Andrew Williams' visual style is consistently impressive throughout, yet never draws undue attention to itself.  (Of particular interest is how he cuts away from the worst acts of violence at every turn, with muffled screams and chaotic background noises forcing us to share the protagonists' helpless concern for each other.) 
While keeping things interesting to look at--often using extreme close-ups so that the viewer remains involved to an uncomfortable degree--Williams maintains a lean, straightforward narrative that speeds inexorably from one heartpounding situation to the next until the shattering conclusion. 

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 surround sound.  Closed captions, but no subtitles or extras.

This is the sort of story which, done poorly, can be nothing more than a pointless exercise in graphic violence, brutality, and general unpleasantness for their own exploitative sake.  But when done as impeccably as in CHERRY TREE LANE, it becomes a viewing experience of exhilarating immediacy and nerve-wracking, almost disorienting suspense.

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