Half way through September and I haven't bored the world with what I watched in August yet.
- Toy Story - Gets better every time I see it.
- Tarzan, The Ape Man (1981) - I think I would have to be paid to watch this again. Dear god. I'm a bloke, and like most blokes I know I am somewhat fascinated by boobs. Boobs are incredibly brilliant things for all sorts of reasons (most of which I won't go into now) but dammit, I need something else in a 107 minute movie. A story? Some dialogue? Some direction? - John Derek, Bo's husband was cameraman and director and obviously thought that the world shared his obsession with seeing his wife get wet - every scene seems to involve Bo falling into water, or going for a swim, or having a bathe, or getting washed down. It's like being relentlessly pummeled with Pirelli Calendars or old Penthouse magazines. 107 minutes of watching Bo Derek (who also produced the movie) getting wet, jiggling her boobs about a bit, and doing 'acting' does not for a enjoyable evening make. (Does touching your mouth all the time count as acting?) Other highlights included Richard Harris (apparently bored out of his mind) seeing how loud he could shout, and wild Oran-outangs in Africa. Dull beyond belief. Mind you, it's not every day you get to see a movie producer kissed on the nipple by a chimpanzee.
- The Exterminating Angel - Luis Buñuel. Not seen many Luis Buñuel films yet but if they are all as good as this I will have to go hunting.
- Kronos (1957) - Plodding Invasion from Space movie which hasn't got any better since I watched it last year but this viewing did provide me with one of my irritatingly abstract Namethatfilm Flickr group screen captures..
I watch these things way too closely for my own good, and I am not alone. The movie was identified, from this still, within a couple of hours....
- The Island - shameless rip-off of Parts: the Clonus Horror (qv) which, despite (or more likely because of) having several shitloads of money thrown at it is a far far inferior film. Parts was by no means a perfect film but it tried hard to make itself credible. The only real thing we were asked to swallow whole and undigested in Parts was the fact that cloning was possible and that the clones of rich people could grow up from infancy, isolated and innocently ignorant of their true nature until their adult bodies were need for spare parts. In this piece of shit we are not only asked to believe that cloning is possible but that it is possible to clone people into adults. But also that, in defiance of the law which requires them all to be brain dead hunks of meat, it is also necessary to keep the clones fit active and happily aware - because the Evil Corporation* has discovered that if they don't give the clones a happy clappy life the organs fail within a few years. So, lots of scope for playing with ideas about what makes a human human and how far would we as individuals go to keep ourselves alive. Could we would we kill another version of ourselves to live longer? Lots of ideas to play with. All of which are totally ignored in favour of lots and lots and lots and lots of explosions and endless fights and explosions and shooting as our heroes are pursued by elite ex-SEAL security bods who fire off brazzilions of rounds of ammunition without hitting ANYTHING they aim at, manage to get their hands nailed to doors with a nail-gun (I kid you not) and are out run, out fought and out fucking everythinged by a three year old clone (who, until the day before, got his exercise being beaten on the X-Box by Scarlett Johansson). He's a lucky son of a bitch too is our hero. Here's the latter part of one of the chase sequences:
Our clones are on a flat-bed truck hiding under its load of train axles and wheels. A helicopter and many many trucks full of well-armed (but presumably cross-eyed) supergoons are in pursuit in a variety of vehicles. Ewan McGregor (for he is our three year old hero) accidentally pulls the only strap holding these several hundred tons of scrap metal onto the back of the truck. The axles start to fall off the truck. They smash into the following vehicles. Vans career all over the place. Car parts whang around like ping pong balls. The driver of the truck on which our heroes are fighting for their lives doesn't notice. He doesn't notice that his load has fallen off. He doesn't notice that the motorway behind him has suddenly turned into a demolition derby. He doesn't slam on the brakes. This. Is. Bollocks. Any truck driver in the world would slam on the brakes as soon as they started loosing their load. (I asked my Brother in law who is a Truck Driver). The baddies, now having run out of cars, launch two supersexy, two-man jet powered motorbikes after the truck. Ewan hits one of the drivers of one of bikes with a bit of chain he happens to find lying about - he finds bits of chain lying about and hits people with them with monotonous regularity in this movie - the people fall off the bike. Ewan and Scarlett get on the bike. They out-fly the pursuing baddies on the other bike and cause them to crash. (Obviously playing boxing with short blonde women on the X-Box is fucking good training for this sort of thing). Ewan and Scarlett crash into the side of a building. Ewan and Scarlett go right through the building in loving, plate glass smashing slow motion. They come out the other side of the building, fall off the bike, land on the stupidly huge, three storey high, bright red corporation logo the building has glued to the side seventy storeys up. They recreate the end of North By North West and Ewan hauls Scarlett to safety. The baddies arrive in a helicopter and start shooting at them. Other baddies arrive up the lift (this how we know it's 70 storeys) and start shooting at them from an open window. Shoot shoot shoot they go. Between them, these two sets of villains fire so many bullets in the general direction of the logo that they manage to bugger whatever is holding it onto the side of the building and it breaks away - all this without ONCE hitting our hero and heroine. For some unexplained reason the helicopter goes round the building while this is happening, looses altitude and reappears just in time for the logo to finally break loose and fall on top of it. Explosion. Falling helicopter. Falling three storey high corporation logo. Falling heroes. Some sixty storey of falling later all this stuff hits a building site. Massive amounts of flying scaffolding poles and building materials are now added to the maelstrom. The soundtrack is very very loud. The dust settles - and our two protagonists climb out of the wreckage without a fucking SCRATCH!
And that's just one of the chases.
*You knew there was going to be an Evil Corporation didn't you?
- Bound - Lesbians vs The Mafia.
Three years before they made The Matrix the Wachowski Bros. made this small neo-noir crime film which works on all its levels: it's smart, it's funny, and it's sexy. Loved it.
- Track of the Moon Beast (1976 - well 1972 really but it was four years before the director - who was never allowed to direct again - could find a deaf / blind film distributor who would take it off his hands.) Track of the Moon Beast (aka nothing) Is a laboriously paced lo-budget, no-rehearsal variation on the Werewolf theme in which our hapless (and talentless) hero is struck by a chunk of moonrock which has been chipped off the moon by an asteroid (sic). A small piece of moonrock meteorite lodges in our hero's noggin and therefore, inevitably, turns him into a rampaging death-dealing creature when the moon is full. Just for a change he doesn't turn into a wolf-like thing but a giant lizard-like thing with predictable and tedious results. Monster. Girlfriend. Baffled police. Baffled scientists. Old legends. Scientist friend who puts two and two together - all the usual ingredients flacidly served up with amazingly inept direction. By the early 70s, after over 30 years of making this story, you would have thought that anyone who could point a camera in the vague direction of an actor could have done this with their eyes shut. Maybe that was the problem - maybe someone said "I bet I could make this movie with my eyes shut" and actually tried. It would explain a lot.
I spent most of the film calling unused edit points. Unused because, presumably, there was nothing to cut to. It's a game I started very early on in the film. First real shot of the movie, which runs under the opening credits, is a motor cycle driving to camera. As the credits finish the bike pulls off the road middle distance and (slightly ineptly) parks. The rider starts to pull off his helmet - and that's where we should cut to a close up. Just as the rider pulls the helmet off. "Our hero ladies and gentlemen! You will be spending the next 80 plus minutes in this man's company so let's have a good look at him and show you what a good looking hunk he is..." except there is no cut because there's no close up; the rider pulls off his helmet, looks about a bit, gets off the bike, and before the opening shot has finally finished, half the audience have gone to sleep. There's a lot of that in this movie. Lots of whole scenes played out in wide shot. Very boring. Very slow.
I'm off to find the MST3K version now...
- Invasion Earth: The Aliens Are Here ( 1988 ) - There are many contenders for the title of The Worst Film Ever Made - last night's movie, Track of the Moon Beast, is currently number sixteen on the IMDb's bottom 100 - but Invasion Earth: The Aliens Are Here is my preferred candidate for the title. It's shit. To quote my own IMDb review: A second viewing some four years later hasn't improved it in the slightest. The central gag of the movie is almost good enough pass muster. I can hear the pitch now: "Aliens take over a small movie house and splice together footage from old SF movies to hypnotise the audience into.... er... well, we'll work out why later. But how about it? It'll be cheap!" They got the money but never did work out the why. Most of the movie's running time is taken up with cheap clips from older (much more interesting) bad old movies (or, even cheaper, their trailers) intercut with 'comedic' moments of people falling over and accidentally throwing popcorn over each other, and fantastically absurd and badly handled attempts to parallel (parody?) the action in the old movie on the screen with action in the cinema house itself; near the start there is a particularly incomprehensible sequence which intercuts between footage from The Blob, in which the titular blob* takes over a movie house, and the aliens taking over the movie house in which the clip from The Blob is being shown. It doesn't work. I have no idea what it was supposed be doing. Whatever it was the movie makers thought they were doing here, they failed. This is not uncommon in bad movies but most of the time you have an idea what the makers were trying to do.
No matter how bad a movie is (and I have watched a LOT of bad movies recently) there is always some redeeming feature: a horrendously ill-written line, an idea that falls flat on its face, a moment of unintentional humour - something. There's always a little something that lifts it for a moment and leaves you with a warm nugget of discovery - something to hold on to as the rest of the mindless drivel flickers past your eyeballs... this movie's only redeeming feature is that it is just 78 minutes long.
It is crap. Pure unmitigated, grade Z, unadulterated, high-fibre, total shit from the hopelessly confused start to the pathetically flat non-ending.
*Not a phrase you get to write that often.
- The Gunfighter - one of those great Westerns I have never seen before. It is wonderful. Apart from anything else, in these days when every sodding second of every sodding movie is scored, it was great to see a movie which had no music. No swirling syrupy violins telling you what you should be feeling at any particular frame. I may be wrong, but after the opening credits I don't think there is a single piece of non-diegetic sound in the whole film. The only piece of music comes right at the end as the congregation sing at Jimmy Ringo's funeral.
- Over the Hedge - predicable bit of Dreamworks animation that takes all Pixar's usual bag of tricks and ticks and doesn't add many of its own. There were a couple of moments that made me laugh but the 'For the Adults' movie references were painfully clumsy and dragged it down. Naming a character 'Stella' just so another character can do the Marlon Brando / Streetcar "Stellaaaaaah!" thing is just plain insulting to the intelligence.
- Young Frankenstein - Isn't Teri Garr wonderful? Opening a week-long Frankenfest on my telly (why not?) my favourite Mel Brooks film.
- Blackenstein (1973) - Blacksploitation take on the Frankenstein story with some terrific expository dialogue:Armless and legless Vietnam vet Eddy gets new arms and legs (where the utterly respectable Dr Stein gets them from is not explained) but Frankensteiny complications set in when creepy servant Malcolm deliberately swaps Eddy's 'DNA formula' for that of another patient (he's very woodenly in love with Eddy's wooden fiancée, Dr Stein's assistant, and wants his rival out of the picture). Most of the first half of the movie is made up of endless shots of the genuine 1930's Universal Frankenstein props in full colour, three people in white coats preparing injections, and establishing shots of the Doc's house (Enough already! We know where he lives!). The second half, shadowy disembowelings of hastily introduced 'characters' in dark alleys. It's a textbook exercise in padding. There is one wide shot of the lab in which the vague shadowy outline of our newly risen monster is seen walking slowly from screen right to screen left that runs for one minute and twelve seconds! - two shots later there is a phenomenally uninteresting 42 second shot of the monster walking away from the camera, in a location we have never seen before, and just in case you missed the shot in the lab it is repeated a few minutes later with fiancée girl asleep in the foreground. In the end the monster is eaten by police dogs! Utterly inept.
"Yes, Eddy, Doctor Stein just won the Nobel Peace Prize for solving the DNA genetic code...".
- Lady Frankenstein (1971) - Frankenstein's daughter Tania (Tania Frankenstein?!?) attempts to avenge her father (killed by his own creation) by building a creation of her own. She does this by whanging her husband's brain in the body of a hunky but simple-minded servant boy. The usual rituals of by the numbers mayhem is served up but with a generous scattering of boobs and bums, and a wonderfully bonkers score which, on the crappy, legally downloaded copy I watched, drowns out great chunks of the rather strange dialogue. The movie has all the classic post Universal Frankenstein clichés. Torch-wielding mob, sparky things going ...zzzzzzzzzp! ...zzzzzzzzzp!...zzzzzzzzzp! in the lab, and the inevitable opening roof, up to which the soon to be animated corpse is lifted at the hight of the thunderstorm - though budgetary restrictions here meant that the platform only went as high as the top of a stepladder, and the lightning was simulated by a passing grip throwing some small fireworks about. That other staple ingredient of the Frankenstein myth, the moment when 'the monster' accidentally drowns a little girl he is innocently playing with, is presented with a real twist here. For no reason whatsoever (apart from the obvious) our smock wearing creation chances upon a couple mid bonk. She, as was the habit of Italians having sex in the seventies, is totally naked and he still has his trousers on. He runs away. She screams, gets picked up, faints and is thrown into a convenient river where she drowns. Creation number two kills creation number one, the torch wielding mob burn down the castle and creation number two strangles his wife/creator/employer (Frankenstein's daughter) while they are having sex in the lab. The End. Joseph Cotten (yes, that Joseph Cotten) played Frankenstein and the rather yummy Rosalba Neri played his daughter.
- Flesh For Frankenstein (1973 aka Andy Warhol's Frankenstein - and a shitload of other titles including the rather wonderful Up Frankenstein) A very gory very hysterical mess. It was only towards the end I realised they were trying for comedy and had been all the way through. I should have been tipped off when Udo Kier as the baron humps his half-finished female creation on the slab and then declaiming in his thickest Cherman accent: "To know death, Otto, you have to fuck life... in the gall bladder!" but I was having so much trouble trying to stay awake.You did vat to mein gauwl blatter?
The dialogue was inane and the pacing leaden. I suspect - though I have no evidence, not that I've looked for any - that a lot of the dialogue was semi-improvised. Improvising is hard work even if you know where the scene is going and what information you need the audience to hear, doing it in a second or third language as these guys appeared to be doing, must be next to impossible. So, Germans improvising very obscurely black comedy with lots of tits and giblets thrown at the screen (it was shot in 3D). Got that? Good. Another film I watched so you don't have too.
- House of Dracula - Dracula, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein's Monster, Misguided Kindly Doctor Turned Evil By One Of His Own Experiments, and (as a brilliant cherry on the cake) a Hunchback Nurse! incredibly dull trash heaven. Dracula turns up at a kindly doctor's cliff-top castle wanting to cured. So, by an amazing coincidence, does The Wolfman. When the doctors says he can cure the Wolfman but not before the next full moon our tormented lycanthrope throws himself off the cliff only to be swept into a sea cave that: (big breath) not only contains the preserved but inert body of the Frankenstein monster (apparently last seen sinking into quicksand!), but has the perfect temperature and humidity for growing the 'mold' with which the doctor plans to cure the Wolfman, AND also contains a hitherto unknown secret entrance to the castle. Phew! (I would guess our screenwriter was a two bottle a day man.)Grrr! Grrr! erm... er... line?So - not a lot happens after that. Dracula turns a tap during a blood transfusion and turns the doctor evil and just as the obligatory low budget mobette (What is the word for a small mob? Is there such a thing?) of torch wielding extras turns up wanting to know what's going on and where their pay-check is coming from, the doctor throws a couple of switches, revives the monster and the castle collapses in flames around their ears. The last of the Universal Frankenstein movies - Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein ( 1948 ) doesn't count - it's a sad ending to the saga spawned by the bonkers glory of James Whale's Frankenstein and the even better Bride of Frankenstein.
- Singin' in the Rain - Friday night pizza movie choice of daughter number one who, at the tender age of seven, is showing an excellent taste in Hollywood musicals.
- Mistress of Atlantis - G W Pabst's weirdly compelling version of the much filmed novel L'Atlantide by Pierre Benoît (this is the second of seven filmed over the years). I've never read the book and I imagine the story has been pared to the bone here but what reaches the screen is wonderfully hypnotic and dreamlike with minimal dialogue and almost every shot slowly re-framing, panning, tilting, or dollying. I wish I had a better copy. Like the one this screen capture came from:
For some reason I cannot begin to fathom I find images of wind-up gramophones in the desert strangely fascinating.
- The Mole People (MST3K) - I also find the films of John Agar compulsive viewing too. So far this year I have seen him shrunk and shoved in a bottle (or was that last year) and had his body taken over by an evil discorporeal brain from another planet. He really is a dreadful actor. In this one he climbs a mountain falls down a hole and discovers a lost tribe of albino Sumarians who live on a diet of mushrooms, spend a lot of time whipping Mole Creatures, and are ruled over by Alfred from the Batman TV series - basically nothing much has changed since the last time I watched it a year ago. But that was the full vanilla version. Mike and the Bots added more than the usual amount of hilarity to this one.
- Slipstream (1989) - odd one this one. As SF movie pedigrees go 1980s movie credits couldn't get much better than this: directed by the writer director of TRON, starring actors who had appeared in Star Wars, Aliens, and BBCs excellent Edge of Darkness, the producer of two Star Wars films was in charge, the editor had cut Alien and Legend, hell! even the conductor had worked on Robot Monster in 1953 (but I doubt if he boasted about it)*. What arrives on the screen is a weirdly disjointed long aeroplane chase which switches location from what looks like a very wet and miserable North Wales to a sunny and dusty Turkey without missing a beat, has Bob Peck playing a poetry quoting android, wandering a post apocalyptic wasteland in a business suit pursued by a blond, bearded, psychotic lawman Mark Hamill waving the kind of long-barrelled pistols only previously seen in Sergio Leone movies. The sort of climax takes place in an underground museum lorded over by F Murray Abraham. Very odd. I'm not sure it works - but the memory of it made me want to watch it again. It's not as good as I remember it, which is odd given that I see from my blog that I didn't particularly like it the first time I watched it.
*As an added bonus it also has the rather yummy Rita Wolf whose boobs were the only decent or memorable thing about My Beautiful Laundrette.
- It! The Terror From Beyond Space - well, Mars actually. I seem to be in a rewatching mood this week. I first watched this one a year ago and this time I was struck mostly by the wonderfully efficient set design. Most of the action of the movie takes place in a spaceship, with the crew moving from deck to deck trying to outguess and kill the rampaging monster loose on-board. (It's Alien 20 years before Alien was written.) The space ship in the movie is a real spaceship, one of those 1950s pointy silver cigars with wings, and the decks were stacked up one on top of the other, like layers of a cake with a central set of ladders and hatches. Each deck was different but, on a second viewing, obviously shot on the same set. Walls were rearranged and it was dressed differently, different signs over the doors etc. - and bugger me it worked. It's a clever bit of set design. Babylon 5 used a similar, simple but effective trick. Each 'sector' of the station was called by a different colour 'Green sector', 'Blue sector', etc The corridor sets incorporated a coloured strip at about hip hight. It must have taken only minutes to strip off one colour and substitute another - "and here we are in Grey Sector!" It worked and... and my geekyness is showing isn't it?
- Ghostbusters (1984)- I first saw Ghostbusters many many years ago. I didn't like like it. I just didn't understand why anyone though Bill Murray was in any way shape or form funny. Anything I saw him in just fell flat. Then a few years ago I saw him in Jim Jarmush's Broken Flowers and I got it. I suddenly saw what everyone else had been seeing in him all along. He was funny! So I was quite looking forward to watching this again. I still don't like it. It's not particularly funny, or scary or complicated. Couple of nice lines: "Listen... do you smell something?" and "Back off, man. I'm a scientist." have entered my Great Lines To Steal list. But the rest of it I thought was pretty blah. What was fascinating though was watching the other actors on screen finding Bill Murray funny. One shot had William Atherton, as the health inspector, in a OTS where Murray had his back to the camera. I don't know what Murray was doing - because we can't see his face - but Atherton was fighting hysterical giggles whenever he looked at him. The shot didn't sit well in the scene as Atherton's character was supposedly angry and aggressive at the time. he same thing happens in a similar shot with Sigourney Weaver - but she's supposed to be laughing so it works.
- Laserblast (MST3K) - again.
- Christmas on Mars ( 2008 ) - Low budget art SF film that looks good, sounds great, and has a weird otherness that makes you keep watching - but fails to be truly wonderful because the script, if there was one, is so thin as to make it near pointless. The Plot: Major Syrtis (the only obvious joke in the movie, folks) is living on Mars in a wonderfully realised junkyard of a base. This is what space stations will look like after a few years of habitation; it's a cobbled together, patched and repaired mess. It's what the spaceship in the SF movie that I'm never going to make looks like; the bastard offspring of Mir and Dark Star - anyway, back to the plot: It's Christmas eve 2055. The first baby on Mars is due to be born the next day. The 'oxygen generator' breaks down. Major Syrtis is organising a carol service but the man he has appointed to play Santa Claus is having hallucinations and runs out into the Martian surface wearing the Santa suit. He dies. An enigmatic (ie he has no dialogue) alien arrives and is told to put on the Santa suit. The enigmatic alien fixes the oxygen generator. The baby is born and the alien departs. The End. Christmas on Mars apparently took some seven years to shoot - a lot of it in sets built in the director's back garden and, though it looks wonderful, you would have thought that at some point over the seven years someone would have thought to write some dialogue that consisted of more than "Um..." and "Fuck!" I'm not against swearing. Far from it I think a good well-placed expletive can work fucking wonders. But when erm... every fucking line in the fucking movie is fucking um.. well... um... fucked up. Then... you know. Um.... er... you know - fuck it! This may be the way people talk in real life but movies aren't real life. Even movies that look like real life don't look like real life really looks. Even on Mars.
- The Hapiness Cage (1972) - aka The Demon Within, The Mind Snatcher. A very young Christopher Walken gets his personality wiped in a very stagy set-bound adaptation of a play in the Clockwork Orange, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest vein. Not badly done but very wordy.
This isn't Rosalba Neri