Wednesday, January 17, 2018

X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes - 1963

There are good Roger Corman movies.  I started his flick from 1970 Gas. Self aware, yes and perhaps even before it was "cool," but what a bad intro to a movie.  I literally turned it off, being in the mood for an older black and white horror movie instead.  I clicked on X here, unaware until beginning credits that it was another Corman movie.  No wonder Amazon recommended it.

As the movie begins, we follow a character type I miss in movies, the older scientist who is calm and cool, mature and sophisticated.  Ray Milland as the main doctor James Xavier brings a distinct no-nonsense calculating scientist to the table,but a man who is still human, with a sense of scientific interest which only takes one line of dialogue to explain it.  I'd write it here,but IMDb doesn't have it. Something about how he lives to discover and to do more.

Anyways, he's a character type we don't get anymore, and pretty soon his ambition leads him to test a eye enhancer on himself.  The enhancer supposedly will led him see more of the light spectrum.  It works, and lets him see through things soon enough. He begins to try and use the vision in his work as a doctor, and soon enough runs into trouble as he keeps upping his dosage and as people catch on there's something different about him.

I really liked this movie, and I have to say it may take the crown of best Corman movie I've seen, aside from the great Attack of the Crab Monsters. Although that's a classically bad monster flick, and this movie is the great mix of thriller and drama which was prolific in the 50's and 60's.  It's a classic in every way, and I deeply liked it.  The situations are relate-able, the characters make sense, and the movie makes sense.  There's only a few plot points which are "dumb" or don't make sense.  They had to eventually give Dr. Xavier a reason to be on the run, so they randomly and without explanation have him accidentally kill his friend and co-doctor.  Weak, yes, but just go with it.

I wasn't sure how it'd end, and the last 10 minutes are solid.  We know he can't go back, and we know everything has to come to a conclusion, and I liked what they did with it.  I will give this I'm considering 5 stars.  Huh.  I may just do that.  I drank pilsner as I watched it.  Which was nice.  Yes.  5 stars.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Proud and Damned - 1972

Movie number two of new boxset and already we're wondering what the hell happened in this movie.  It's a western, it is perhaps one of the few westerns I have reviewed on here, and it's extremely small-scale and bland.  I'm not gonna have a lot to say here.

Will Hansen and his friends are a bunch of gun-trained, experienced, and imposing cowboys hanging out when a local conflict gets brought to a boil.  They become the targets fora quick way either side could win, by recruiting them to their side.  Same plot as Yojimbo?  Check.

It's not terrible but it is pretty bland.  Not a lot of action, tension, or interest.  Sure the actors were okay and the whole thing was done competently enough, but it's got that banal mix of average-ness and nonaction which really makes one wonder what the fuck they're watching and why.  I didn't remember a thing about it right after I finished it, let alone a few days later.

A better title than movie, and a gleaming example of a "Meh" movie.  1 star.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Don't Go Near the Park - 1979

Yet another Don't masterpiece.  I'm not bothering with every link, so see this review here of Don't Go in the Woods, and it has the links in the first sentence or so.  Much like Demons I'm whittling this down to only a few remaining movies, as I intend to watch Demons 3: Black Demons and then Don't Hang Up and Don't Look in the Attic.  I am also considering Don't Look Now, the Nicholas Roeg film, cause I like him as a director a lot.

Don't Go Near the Park was directed by 19 year old Lawrence D. Foldes, and if that's not a telling statement, then I don't know what is.  Does this movie look like it was directed by a 19 year old?  Yes, it does.  Story over.  Review over.

I kid.  It does look amateur though, and it feels on par with that level of direction.  It's a horror movie, a sort of slasher or thriller.  It isn't as terrible as one might expect, but it does in general feel incomplete and I honestly can't imagine why most people would be watching it.

Scant on plot, essentially you have a father dude who has a daughter so that he and his sister can sacrifice her and get out of their doom of being immortal.  They've been alive for about 12,000 years, where they have been killing others because if they kill people they get to remain young looking, versus being both old and immortal the entire time.  So he has a daughter called Bondi, and has to wait until she's a certain age, then his plan is to sacrifice Bondi and this will shuck their immortal coil.  Sounds a lot like the basic plot to Elves, doesn't it?

Also like Elves, we follow Bondi until she connects with her group of friends.  She has a fight with her dad and connects to Nick and Cowboy, two homeless kids living in a park with Petranella, an old woman who wears a disguise.  Petranella wears a disguise to scare locals and the law out of the park so they can all continue to live there as a sort-of family.  Unbeknownst to Bondi, Petranella is also the sister of her dad, and shares the 12,000 year immortality curse.

Mildly confused?  Yes, and it gets worse.  Petranella kills people to remain young looking, and that's why there's the whole "don't go near the park" thing.  A local cop/dude Taft meets Nick and befriends him and warns him to stay out of the park.  All is well and good until Bondi reaches the age to be sacrificed, her dad tracks her down, and then the shit gets real as its Petranella versus the dad.  Oh, and randomly Petranella and dad can now shoot laser beams from their eyes and they can summon fire with words.  You didn't know they could do that before the last four minutes of the movie?  Yeah, why would you know that, they've never done it before.

It's your average sort of confusing, badly shot, but could-be-worse type fare, and it won't hurt nor will it entertain in great quantities.  It will do.  And give you about 1.5 stars worth of entertainment.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Katherine - 1975

Christmas came, again.  It usually has a way of doing that, huh?  My ex-wife or current wife who is living somewhere else and we don't sleep together or really love each other much anymore got me a NEW DVD BOXSET which I will not reveal yet.  I also did watch and dislike the final movie on my Strange Tales movie by the way.

Katherine was a movie which I chose at random from the set and popped in with zero expectation or hope.  I mean, to give a hint, this boxset was another installation of Mill Creek's "hey we got all these public domain movies, let's put them on a DVD and make money off them" sets a la Sci Fi Invasion boxset which I hold so near and dear to my heart.

Katherine begins, and... is that Sissy Spacek?  It is!  Sweet!  Hey that's...the guy from Happy Days, that's Henry Winkler! And Art Carney and Julie Kavner in the credits.  Wow, cool.  And then the movie was really going, and completely out of nowhere it blindsided me by not only being good, but being super progressive, interesting, chilling, and genuinely fascinating.

The first thing I noticed was the style.  You have what I can only describe to modern audiences as The Office-like approach.  You know, sans comedy.  Psuedo-documentary style film where you have a plot but then you cut away to the actors talking in character about what their screen character was saying or doing, about their feeling or emotions at the time, giving insight.

As the plot unfolds, we see a group of girls graduating from school.  They're all young and naive, not knowing what to expect or what life holds for them.  Sissy Spacek as Katherine decides to take some time and go to South America, which is her first taste of witnessing an oppressive government.  She tries to help out the locals, and is disappointed and angry by the resistance she gets from the government.  Then she comes back to the US and tries to solve her own government issues there.

My mom is a government-hating, outspoken woman similar to Katherine in the beginning of the film.  Like Katherine, she goes to South America to try and help out.  This movie did, in that way, feel "close to home" for me.  Katherine comes back, hooks into the local hippie movement of the 60's, and start protesting regularly.  She soon goes more extreme, however, going into the underground and having conflicts with the law.

The style, the pacing, the acting, and the film subject itself were all top notch.  I knew I was in for a treat just because of Sissy Spacek's acting in several of the scenes.  She was amazing to watch, and simply becomes Katherine.  They also did a fantastic job of having her "look" slowly get more funkified and extreme as the time goes on, morphing from average woman to a rebel with strange glasses and hair and style of dress.

I am not sure what else to say about it, but the whole thing was an eye opening, wonderful experience.  I genuinely feel like I actually learned something from it.  In the end, when the movie finishes, I have to say the message perhaps gets changed a tiny bit, but it's a solid, great film which deserves to be remembered.  What a way to kick off the set.

Elves - 1989

There are a lot of Christmas themed horror movies out there.  I've probably seen about, let's say, most of them.  The newer ones, it gets spotty.  I saw the remake of Black Christmas with Malcolm McDowell.  I saw Santa's Slay with Bill Goldberg.  But I gave up on a the smaller scale ones, and the ones that didn't star ex-wrestlers.  So, I turn perhaps in desperation to a movie like Elves from 1989.

At some point in the first 20 or so minutes of this one, I realized I'd seen it before.  A while ago, sure.  I have absolutely no idea.  I live a life where I have been doing this for approximately 8 or more years pretty much constantly.  By this I mean finding weird unknown of movies and watching them.  It's been solid for 8 years at least, and before that I was doing it around my teen years as well.  I have seen, watched part of, or at least heard of a lot of the "better known" culty or unknown of films that exist.  Let's just ballpark it here.  I know I didn't see Elves in the last 4 years, about.  I am therefore guessing I saw it in 2011.  I'm just grasping at straws.  It obviously doesn't really matter, but hey, it is a ballpark guess for you, my adoring and concerned fanboys.

Elves is not the sort of movie one needs to see more than once.  It's extremely mediocre, and honestly feels like the sort of thing the internet would be a bit more obsessed with, since it's got the riff-ability factor as well as that general Troll 2 feel to the whole thing.  It stars Dan Haggerty, who was apparently in a show called The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams.  I won't pretend I know anything about the show.  Apparently he was also in a movie I reviewed here, Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan.  Wow, man.  That was a while ago. Going on 3 years of this blog.  Be proud of me.

Elves has a plot involving a Nazi grandfather raising his virgin girl, her role will be to eventually have sex with the elf in this movie, and her offspring will be the master race.  So how did Nazis get from the Aryan people to human-elf hybrids?  Seems a far leap.  Anyways, notice I said elf instead of elves, because there is only one elf in the movie.  One elf, which is a costume, rubber faced mask and all, but no actor is listed in the credits.  The elf in question is going around killing off unimportant characters in the movie, while virgin girl Kirsten connects with Dan Haggerty's character and they fight for her survival.

And you know, it is a thoroughly unremarkable movie.  I may sound enthusiastic about it, but honestly I think I just feel like writing.  The movie itself is completely bland.  I mean sure.  It has deaths, it has nudity, it has a bad elf costume, and Nazis.  But it's got that blah blah been there done that feel to the whole thing, and it's not got a single moment of "good" to it.  So, one ends up watching it, simply wondering how much of it could be left.  Then you tack on an ending where I have no clue what happened.  I may actually find another review where they figured it out.  Much better answer than ever watching this again.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

99 Women - 1969

I have seen a Jess Franco movie here and there on this blog before.  There's a whole lot of movies of his I could delve into if I really wanted to, but truth is I don't really want to.  I'll indulge from time to time, and review it here.  And this is returning to the Women's Prison Massacre type of film that is sexploitation.

99 Women is about a women's prison where our main lady Marie gets sent.  Prisoners there include Rosalbi Neri from Lady Frankenstein and a host of other hot and barely dressed women.  I watched the "unrated" version which had nudity and sex aplenty, and it was even hardcore in nature.  This is a lot like the 70's movement that was going on at the time.  With recent changes in the censorship rules, a lot of movies were capitalizing and basically making pornos.  Deep Throat would come out soon after this movie, becoming perhaps the best known of these movies.

There is in this movie:  hardcore scenes of sex with penis in vagina shots.  Oral sex scenes with penis in mouth or tongue licking vagina.  Lesbian sex scenes with touching, licking, kissing etc.  One scene where you can see spread labia.  And most surprising to me, several scenes where you could see close ups of assholes, even if the asses themselves were not the focus cause we're supposedly watching the insertion right around it.

Moving on from all those gritty details, what do we have here...  Marie is sent to the prison, she doesn't know the ropes and gets punished by the cruel Madame Thelma Diaz.  Diaz and Governor Santos are in cahoots to punish and torture the prisoners more than allowed, Santos regularly having sex with them and punishing them in extreme ways.  Soon, Diaz is going to potentially get replaced by new warden Leonie Caroll.  Marie with two other prisoners decide this would be an ideal time to escape, and go about their plan.

If you cut out the nudity, this movie would be about an hour long.  It's 100 minutes as it stands, about a solid 40 minutes of that is probably the sex.  The sex comes often and is definitely a focal point.  We see a lot of nudity, exploitation, and we get off.  The film, in this way, does achieve it's goal.  But what's also surprising is that it's actually watchable beyond the sex.  The acting is quite good, the drama is there, and we actually care about Marie and warden Caroll.

The music was also pretty cool, and the pacing was decent.  All in all, I was surprised I liked this as much as I did!  I was pretty much expecting something that was plotless and dumb, with loads of nudity.  And sure, the nudity in this doesn't exactly "enhance the story", and sometimes it's very extraneous, but it'a actually really not that bad a film!  I liked it alright.  I give it 3 stars.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Church - 1989

"The Church is considered as the official second sequel to the Demons series. Although it was originally intended to be the third film in the series, the story has no direct thematic link with the first two parts, and therefore the 1991 horror film Dèmoni 3 (also known as Black Demons) is usually -and incorrectly- associated as the third film of the saga." - Wikipedia

Also known as Demons 3: The Church.

Thematically similar to Demons 5: The Devil's Veil, which came out the same year as The Church here, I am closing the gap as far as Demons films goes, I only have Black Demons from 1991 remaining.  Please refer to the entire breakdown as shown here.

The Church was directed by the Argento collaborator Michele Saovi.  It's clear his alliance and association with Dario Argento is still ongoing at this point in the series.  Asia Argento is cast in this as a young girl thrown into the mix of demonic goings-on.  She's a good actress, and her character is pretty cool in the story I will say.  

The Church begins with knights killing an entire population of a small village because the priest says they're demons.  Then they build a church over the grave to keep the land holy.  Then we fast forward to modern day and the church is there, in disrepair, falling apart and full of mysterious catacombs and ancient texts.  Evan comes to the church to document the old texts, and Lisa is an artist working on the church walls.  They quickly form an attraction despite the leering old Bishop.  Meanwhile, a work crew in the basement upsets the balance of the old building, and demonic forces get unleashed.

It's a semi clusterfuck movie which solidly reminded me of Demons 5.  In that one there were random characters doing things, story lines that never came back up, and nonlinear chaotic feeling to the film.  This one is a bit more linear, but it sort of loses it towards the last 30 minutes.  Evan and Lisa disappear, Asia Argento's father character goes crazy and kills himself and gets raised from the dead, then promptly disappears, some random people split up and are never heard from again, etc.  It's typically overdone, and half the people we never see what happens with them, except at the very end.

It's got a fantastic score by Philip Glass, and I also read the Keith Emerson of Emerson Lake and Palmer was on the soundtrack, but IMDb does not show that.  The music, the effects, and the demon stuff is all incredibly solid.  It's remarkable and a standout in the Demons unofficial sequels, definitely the best since Demons 2.  Also very well shot, great lighting and great atmosphere in this one:
The acting and the script is also quite good.  It felt like it could've been longer, maybe some of the storylines were cut short?  Anyways, the biggest gripe would be the storylines that appear and are never addressed again.  Besides that, it's a genuine 4 star demon action film I'd recommend.