Monday, March 21, 2016

Escape from DS-3 - 1981

I think I said it once a while back that you can tell a fuckin rare movie it you find it for sale on VHS.  Even more so if the price is exorbitant.  Case in point is Escape from DS-3.  I googled the name of the movie, and second page in I found this!  Are you freaking kidding me!?  Since that link will eventually die, it sold on Ebay for $100 plus $5 shipping.  A fuckin VHS of a unknown 1981 film.

Why? Did I hear you ask that?  Well, it's a complex answer but basically two words: Robert Emenegger.  Yes, the director of the bizarre Killings at Outpost Zeta is back.  I told you I could easily see another of his movies.  And am I glad I did.  Like I'm also glad I impulsively bought Killings at Zeta just now on Amazon.  Fuck yeah bro.  These movies are truly bottom of the barrel in terms on budget, but what kind of a movie does that end you up with?  The reason I ask and bring it up is that I really, really liked Escape from DS-3.

Bubba Smith would be the only known actor from this sci fi movie, and this was before he got onto Police Academy, he wasn't quite known yet.  These were all actors that were usually background extras in movies, or had tiny roles.  Yet, they all were great in this movie.  A large part of it had to do with the tone of the film, as it's all dialogue and the tone is very planned out, so the atmosphere relies mostly on the tension and the suspension of reality that comes therein.

Taking place in the future year of 2045, DS-3 begins with main character Lavette getting wrongly accused of a crime.  He goes through the typical government system: a system that wants to convict, that is corrupt, and that puts on a trial just as a show.  This results in him getting sent to prison colony DS-3, a ship somewhere in anonymous space.  In the set-up, Lavette learns from the prison guards, from the other prisoners, from dialogue that we hear between the prison wardens, about the prison specifics.  He is to be grouped with 3 other prisoners, they each have their own cell, they spend an hour or two together every day, for meals and for exercise, and there is a camera watching each cell.

We watch as he learns that they monitor him every 15 minutes, that they'll allow him access to certain things if he's on good behavior, as he identifies the strengths his co-prisoners have, and how he can use their skills to help all 4 of them escape.  It's mostly dialogue, a lot of it is shown as narration, or replaying a conversation from an unknown time and passing it off as "what a character is thinking."  One might say that's an excuse to have what's cheap and easiest: actors sitting in a booth recording lines instead of doing it in a scene.  True.  However, it is also useful, smart, and when it's done right it's a damn effective devise (case in point right here).

The movie continues like this, and it was a really neat experience for me to watch it while high and drunk.  This is the kinda movie that really made me wonder where are these actors now? Since they never had a legit acting career, what was the rest of their life like? That's why DVD special features are so great.  I'd love to know about the making of this film.  There are times where you can practically see the entire tiny sets they had to work with, the limited scope.  I'd bet that a lot of this was filmed in people's garages, or some tiny studio somewhere, with about 10 feet of wall decorated as a set and the rest of it crammed with all the furniture that used to be in that room.  You can only have one camera angle cause there's only one way it will look good enough.  You know what I mean.

There's some dark comedy, and there's plenty of interesting and downright clever dialogue in this film too.  At one point I realized why I liked it so much.  It's a lot like, again, a play.  With some simple swapping out of background sets, this would make a really neat play.  A play about the resistance to defeat, the resiliency of our main character Lavette.  There's a lot of obstacles he has to overcome, and it's all done effectively right, it's a great character and very strong.

There was one funny moment of dialogue I still remember.  Mac is played by Bubba Smith, and in the film he used to be a boxer.  So at one point, Lavette says "Mac the ex-boxer", and what I heard it as was "Mac the X-boxer." Like as in someone who plays the X Box a lot, I guess. Did they ever think that word would have a double meaning? What if you heard the work hashtag in a movie from 1953?  It would be so anachronistic, but still completely make sense!  It made me laugh.

For a interesting, well executed, and well paced film, it deserves high marks.  As a low budget, made for TV, and time killing movie high marks as well.  It does slow down in the last 30 minutes, which is regrettable, and takes a star or so off, but it was still a great movie I might watch again.  3.5 stars.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Click: The Calendar Girl Killer - 1990

So if you are gonna make a supposed slasher horror film, and if you're going to have nudity, are you going to wait until near the hour mark to show anyone dying, or to show any of that nudity?  Yeah okay, you don't necessarily have to start the movie with a bloodbath involving nude girls, but an hour is a long time to wait for something to happen, especially if your movie is under an hour and a half long.

Most of this movie is a lot of stupid setting up for these over the top ridiculous photo shoots.  You have a photographer who takes photos for a calendar (I guess) and he has a few girls that are gonna pose for it.  He takes them out to places and does these elaborate as fuck set-ups to the photo shoots, and the girls stand there in bikinis trying to look sexy, or dangerous, or whatever, but mostly succeed in looking stupid.  All the ridiculous ideas for photo shoots are represented here:  girls with guns, girls with 80's hairdo's, girls with chainsaws, dressed up as pirates...virtually everything except naked girls!  Which I would assume are the sell-point to calendars like this.

Like I said it's scant on the nudity.  This whole movie feels like the kind of a thing that might have been, that should have been, interesting - except it wasn't.  There's a perfect scene that's also an analogy for the entire film.  At one point these two guys are getting in some macho fight next to a pool.  One of the girls that's there seems more interested in the fact that she ran out of shitty beer than the actual fight itself.  It's like that the entire movie: instead of watching what should be fun and entertaining (the fight) you kinda just wanna get drunk and pass out.

Click's story-line is barely there, it's following the photographer and the girls who he photographs, it's then given a body count in the later half of the film when the killer in a nurse costume shows up and starts hunting people.  The best part of the entire movie is the odd photography setups that are employed.  A lot of times I had to wonder if they were just trying to justify having some weird ass shit going on to keep audiences interested while the plot did nothing.

When the kills finally do happen, they're a few mindless, gore-less, devoid of entertainment scenes that will leave you wondering, "was this what I was waiting for?"  I guess I don't mean to rag on this movie too much, it's just that I wasn't quite in the right mood for it, and now as I type this review I am definitely not in the right mood and feel like bitching about things.  It could be said this has those so-bad-it's-good qualities, but they are few and far between, and it's the exact same amount as fun as leafing through some old 70's magazines with drunk friends.  Occasionally one of you has something funny to say about a picture or article, but mostly you're just waiting till it's over, then you skip the last few pages cause you're all over it.

For some strange photo sequences, and a memorable killer, I still give it 2 stars.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Dr. Orloff's Invisible Man - 1970

Also known as:
Secret Love Life of the Invisible Man, Dr. Orloff's Invisible Monster, Orloff and the Invisible Man, The Invisible Dead, Love Life of the Invisible Man, Orloff Against the Invisible Man...

Another Jesus Franco winner right here.  Obviously.  Look at those names, those are only the English ones!  This movie also features no less than 3 fully naked women in it, and a graphic rape scene!  Hooray!

 Convinced it's one you should watch yet?  Well do it!  This is the same man who did the nudity-packed romp Oasis of the Zombies, which makes this the most linear and best of his movies I've seen in comparison to that piece of shit.  Usually directors start in sleaze and porn then upgrade later to real films, seems it was the opposite for Mr. Franco.  In this, he was not directing, but only his characters were in it.

But seriously, this is part of the Dr. Orloff series, which has about 4-5 legitimate entries, and most of the series is directed by Franco.  This movie in particular was actually not directed by him, but it is a very similar style and obviously as seen above it does not leave the nudity behind.  We'll call it Franco-esque.  In the beginning, Doctor Garondet is summoned from his village by a boy.  The boy won't tell him much, just that he needs to come to Orloff's castle immediately.  Garondet immediately encounters everyone's petrifying fear of Orloff, as no one wants to go near the castle.  He is ditched in the middle of the road by his transporter, and proceeds on against all voices of caution.

Once at the castle, things don't look too much better.  Orloff's own helpers won't help the doctor, and instead send him this way and that, eventually though he finds that the first naked girl there on the left sent for him.  She sent for him because she believes there is some sort of ghost, a phantom, something she cannot see, that is around.  When Garondet encounters Orloff later, Orloff quickly confirms this to be true, then proves it by having things move around, seemingly by magic.  He relates to us a story of his daughter, who was killed and robbed, and how he got revenge by turning one of the men who did it into a monster - and then turning that monster invisible.

That takes us pretty much up to the 50 minute mark, and being only 75 long, this movie flew by.  There's not many boring moments, and for a low grade nudie flick, it has very good pacing.  The good doctor is a interesting enough main character, and the host of supporting characters all entertain us.  They did a good job of continually have us not know where the monster is; of course it's invisible, but there is always dialogue and actions people take to remind us the monster could be anywhere at any time.  In the scenes later on in the film where we do know where it is, it's always doing something horrible or deadly, so it's a good job by...whoever.

Pretty good cinematography, minimalism, and of course great pacing, solid soundtrack and good acting.  A bit crude of a movie, sure.  But without the nudity, I'd say this would still hold up to horror fans anywhere and could be considered ahead of it's time.  I give it 4 stars.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Bat - 1959

I haven't seen or reviewed very many films with Vincent Price, I dunno what to tell you, I was never into the guy per say.  Maybe I should watch his big favorite films, or maybe I should just wait until I see him in an oddball performance of his that I actually do like.  Usually I like my actors based on one of their stranger movies before their mainstream films.  I thought he was okay in that film Madhouse, second rate though it may have been.  He didn't seem quite committed, but his glory days were arguably behind him in those days.

The Bat is a murder-house mystery that was clearly based on a play.  It's all basically one or two locations, and most of the movie progresses through dialogue.  But hey, whatever, we've dealt with that before.  There's a villain called The Bat, and he's been offing people in the neighborhood.  Everyone seems to have their own suspicions about who The Bat is, and enough scenes take place that could keep you as the audience guessing if you were to be into this film, which I frankly wasn't really.

It is proof though, that sometimes the right ingredients work, and sometimes they still don't.  Good actors, minimal plot elements that I would normally like, and a high riffability factor to this, what's not to like?  I dunno man, maybe it was the pacing, maybe it was the stupidity of the villain, or maybe it just seemed too dull to withstand.  Probably all those factors and more.  The Bat feels like it never got off the ground.

In the house where most the movie takes place, there is a million dollars hidden somewhere.  The people staying there include some women, Lizzie, Dale and Cornelia, and sometimes their butler Warner.  The doctor Malcolm Wells, played by Vincent Price, comes by from time to time when they call him, as does policeman Andy.  When they find the body of the bank owner John Fleming hidden in the house, it means that The Bat has been there.  He has a signature killing style that the body fits.  The policeman seems to think it's the doctor, the butler, and just about everyone else.  The women flitter around like startled chickens, and the doctor is the only one who does anything smart to actually capture The Bat.

It's one of those where people get suspected and discounted for various reasons, things get all wonky, and the movie goes to the extremes of believe-ability at times.  Sometimes The Bat seems too smart for an average person, sometimes the people he's chasing around in the house are.  But it all evens out, the killer gets revealed, and everyone goes home happy in the end.  It's watch-able, but I doubt it makes anyone's best of list.

Life Returns - 1935

Here is one I wasn't going to review.  I didn't add it cause I was thinking about it days later, no way, not that either.  Added it cause I still want to include as many from the Sci Fi Invasion boxset as possible, in my attempt to watch and review all 50.  So, my second oldest film on the blog (?) I think.

 If you spend enough time on the internet, it's pretty nuts what you can find.  I am not someone out there googling the weirdest shit I can think of either.  However, I had heard of this story before, and that's because this movie Life Returns is based on the "true" story of a happening in the early 20th century.  I say true in quotations because the story was never verified to complete satisfaction and cannot be proved.

In 1934 or so, Robert E. Cornish made headlines and made heads turn when he supposedly brought back to life dogs that had been killed.  Here's the info on it.  The way he proved this was not just his word for it was that he filmed the surgery.  But with only the film, that was not good enough, since obviously film at that point could be edited, could be altered, manipulated etc.  The film is online, check it out here.  Point is, this was obviously a big deal regardless.  So what better way to capitalize on these recent headlines than to make a movie about it?

Little boy Danny found a dog.  Let's start the plot there.  Moreover, he has a dog that isn't especially well trained, and there are dog catchers loose in his city right now.  Danny is naturally afraid for his pup, and he does whatever he can to protect his dog.  In the meantime, Dr. Cornish has gone from promising scientist to under-utilized employee at his place of business.  So he talks to the dog catchers and they promise him a dog he can experiment with.  You can probably see where this is going now.

At barely over an hour long, this movie was made with hardly even a thought.  It's like they took the footage of Cornish experimenting on dogs and said, okay, let's set this up with a thin story about who these people are and how the dog ended up on the table.  Then they filmed the bare necessities.  Then the big pay-off, which is the dog surgery.  They took the real footage Cornish had filmed of his dog experimentation, and they simply edited in reaction shots of the child actor and various other people.  Voila! It's a movie!  Funny enough, by allowing this to happen, wasn't Cornish kind of admitting that his footage might be fake?  Like sure, you can use my "real" footage in a total piece of fiction film!  I know it's barely a year after my experiments, but I'm sure they'll get proven in no time.

The movie is filmed in pretty shitty quality and certainly has nothing besides the surgery at the end to make it stand out.  The rest of the movie is pretty much a drama/real life story kinda a thing, it's not that it's boring or tedious, it just seems very pointless.  If you're going to make a film with experimenting-on-dead-dog footage, couldn't you at least make it a horror film?  I guess the point was to make us sympathetic with the boy - he loves his dog, so we should want the scientists to bring the dog back, and thus we should support the experiments.  I have to wonder then, if this was made at the request of the doctors?  There is surprisingly little information on the film and on the man Dr. Cornish himself considering the bizarre story here.

As a film, gimmick aside, it's relatively pointless but harmless.  With the experimentation footage put on the end, it feels slightly surreal and very exploitative, so that didn't really work.  Also, it's kinda hard to watch even for a non-dog lover.  It's basically next to watching animal torture.  So I guess my point is, there's very little reason to watch this.  But for interest factor and linear plot, I guess it can have 1.5 stars.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Street Gangs of Hong Kong - 1973

Since I revisited sword and sandal nonsense, why not kung fu nonsense also?  My first impression of this movie was pretty great, because midway through I looked at the IMDb page for it.  Wait a minute here.  "A low budget kung fu movie - an ambitious martial arts student infiltrates a murderous gang in the hope of finding the man who killed his father."  That's what it says the plot is?  Huh, that's weird, nothing about that has been mentioned so far.  So I wait until the end of the movie.  Finish it.  Nope.  That plot is not the plot to this movie.  Great first impression.  I love it.

Graverobber and general troublemaker Shen is always pissing people off it seems.  He lives a sporadic, untied lifestyle, but generally is a good guy.  Things start to go wrong though, when one of the graves Shen robs turns out to be haunted.  A ghost comes to Shen and bids Shen to follow his instructions, or he'll haunt Shen forever.  Shen hastily agrees.  Shen gets in a fight following the ghost's instructions, and the ghost decides he will teach Shen better kung fu before Shen continues to do work for him.  Now there's the real plot!

I'm never sure about the dialogue in these films.  It could be that this was filmed with completely serious dialogue, and in the re-dubbing process that brought this film to the US, they decided to make it have comedic elements instead.  Or this film could have always been comedy, and it was translated that way.  You see, both have happened.  Films have been completely serious in their original Chinese languages and then "spiced up" with comedy, and films have been translated as accurately as could be.  The reason I mention this is that there is comedy in this film, and it is actually funny.

Directed by Chang Cheh and produced by the Shaw brothers again, it's another kung fu blastoff flick in the spirit of Crippled Avengers.  Perhaps a bit less budgeted that that movie, but this one is not scant on looks.  It's pretty crappy quality on Amazon Prime, but the stars and the sets are pretty cool.  It has a sense of linear plot and direction that is not quite as common in these types of movies too.  Usually, a lot of these flicks are like my best guesses at the plot (though of course I don't really know).  I'm looking at you, Spirit of Bruce Lee.

The last 30 minutes of this film are almost completely comprised of kung fu fights, with the main character Shen beating the crap out of everyone.  It's a little intense, and that was the only part of the film that got a little tedious, although naturally it's all real kung fu so it still has that going for it.  The talent on display here is tremendous, and I give giant kudos to Wang Chung as leading man Shen.  He is normally one of those background actors, or in a smaller role, but this movie shows a great leading man.

Funny, entertaining, and fast paced, it was a surprise how much I liked this.  The ghost character was cool, and the main character Shen was really likable.  He's childish and dumb, but very well played, believable, and a fun person to root for.  I give it a solid 3.5 stars.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Mole Men Vs. The Son of Hercules - 1961

Gotta hit up this genre for mindless entertainment sometimes, don't I?  This one has the English title above, but is also known as Maciste The Strongest Man in the World.  Maciste is not known in the US so they re-titled it as Son of Hercules.  Although in the movie he's called Maciste - although pronunciation sounds like "Majestus".  Who cares about all this shit?  Well, I gotta put some info into this thing, or it's pointless.

This Maciste entry pits him against the Mole Men and their evil queen:

There's also a character named Katan or something, and I just thinking of Chris Kattan.  There is a lot of bad pronunciation in this, let's just say that right off.  What else does this movie offer?  A horrid looking hairy ape thing that gets in a fight....  Another evil queen, another black sidekick to Maciste, just like in Thor and the Amazon Women....  In fact, it is the same writer director as Thor, Antonio Leonviola (gee, what a surprise).  I have to say that I do appreciate seeing a beefy and strong black guy as opposed to a wimpy sidekick black guy this time, a whole lot more equal feeling in this flick. Also, physically the black sidekick (Banjo, pronounced Banger) is bigger looking than Maciste.

Plot wise, Maciste's friends are held by the evil queen and she agrees to spare their lives if he passes some endurance test.  So, another series of big build-ups to some tests of strength.Where would we be without these movie standby's?  In test number one, Maciste has to hold a bunch of big iron bars.  No problem for ol' Mac, though he grunts and sweats a lot.  Finally winning that, things ponder on until the end of the film wherein Mac must turn a giant wheel (with Banjo nonetheless!) to put an end to a prison that is underground, in the home of the mole men.

Everything in this one was pretty good, I guess.  Decent sets, average pacing, and it didn't suck.  Better than Thor and the Amazon's in other words.  It's not my genre, but it is the definition of mindless fluff/fun, and if you're down, it's worthy.  2.5 middle of the road type deal.