- Shock (1977 aka Beyond the Door II) - Mario Bava's last film which I bought for a quid at a charity shop (I sometimes wonder if all those nice old ladies know what they are selling). I was sold on this DVD by the tag line, 'Beyond the door the ever continuing cycle of evil is about to occur... again!'. I loved that 'again!'. The other thing that sold me on it was the fact that on the back of the sleeve they seemed to think the film was called 'The Grim Reaper'.
What we get on screen is the usual Italian OTT Grand Guignol full of nightmares that might be real, possibly possessed creepy children, pick-ax murder, walking wardrobes, and people slashing their own throats with Stanley knives. All good clean family fun. It would have been a lot more fun if we had actually been made to care about why any of this bloody nonsense was going on. As it was the film was just a series of set pieces of 'horror' with brief interludes of people explaining plot points to each other. Beyond the Door II has, as far as I can tell, nothing at all to do with any other film called Beyond the Door. It's a non-sequel.
- Sleepwalker/s (1997) - that slash is there in the title because what I watched was called one thing on the disc, and another on the sleeve - and I wrote 'what I watched' because 'what I watched' turns out to have been nailed together from two episodes of a short-lived TV series (called Sleepwalkers). The show, which starred Naomi Watts in a vest (hubba hubba!), dealt with a team of investigators able to dive into other people's dreams. The show looks like it wasn't bad but was cancelled by the powers that be after 9 episodes.
- The Last Producer (2000 aka Final Hit) - Burt Reynolds plays an over the hill movie producer desperate to raise $50,000 to option a hot script before a deadline. Almost a remake of The Independent but incredibly unfunny. I think it was supposed to be a comedy - and possibly a satire too. Desperately over-wordy, dull, confused, and self-indulgent. Turd of the year so far.
- Witchboard III: The Possession (1995) - another one of my recent haul of four movies on two discs sets - featuring people you've never heard of (but vaguely recognise) in films no one wants to pay more than 50p to watch. This one was another of them directed by Peter Svatek ( - who? He also directed last month's Hemoglobin.) Possibly the only film ever made in which a character is attacked and killed by a butterfly collection. The evil fat banker collapsing behind his desk screaming in pain with dead butterflies stuck all over him has to be one of the most ludicrous things I have seen on screen for a while. Curiously enough it was my second film in a row where the central character has to raise 50,000 dollars and gets charged 25% interest by an overweight money lender.
IMDb's Plot keywords for the film are:Which just about says it all.
Ouija, Stockbroker, Landlord, Freak Accident, Ouija Board, Roman Numeral In Title, Numbered Sequel, Third In Trilogy, Spirit, Demon, Suicide, Sex, Sequel, Part Of Trilogy, Supernatural, Third Part, Djinn, Evil Spirit, Independent Film, Number In Title.
- Blade Runner (1982) - Thought it was about time I watched something worth watching. And what better to watch on Star Wars Day (May the 4th) but Blade Runner. Makes sense. (113)
- Back to the Future: Part II - Pizza night with the kids. Part III next week.
- Parts: The Clonus Horror (1979) - low budget, better than average independent SF. Not great but not bad, intriguing ideas let down by obvious cash limitations and uninspired direction. The director later sued the makers of The Island for plagiarism.
- One Eyed Jacks (1961) - A western that was originally slated to be directed by Kubrick but ended up being directed by the film's star, Marlon Brando. It's been on my list for a while since I read somewhere (I wish I could remember where) that Brando was totally out of control during production and would sit around for days with a full crew just waiting for the right kind of wave to appear on the beach before he would shoot. The implication of the article was that the film was a self-indulgent product of a towering ego gone mad with power. The director's cut came in at 300 minutes - that's 5 hours! The released version ran to 141 minutes and, although over-long and sedate in some places still manages to look hurried in others, often the film jumps into scenes far too late for comfort and leaves the viewer too far behind. There is some good stuff here though; some cracking acting in minor parts and Karl Malden in particular was great as the villain. These days, for whatever reason, the film is in the public domain and the quality of the commercial DVD I watched was not good, the aspect ratio was cropped to 4:3 and god knows how many generations old the transferred tape was. It was not good at all, very faded. Even the version available here, at Archive.org looks better than my disc (and isn't badly cropped either). Which is a pity, because some of the cinematography was obviously very good even in the debased form I got to see it. The French, unsurprisingly, have restored it:
The above cap comes from the French restored version.
The commercial bare bones copy I watched last night looked like this:
- The Day The Sky Exploded ( 1958 ) - I'm going to have to stop buying DVDs. The version of The Day The Sky Exploded available for free on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/movie?v=Cb7zoNyXmMA) is far better quality than the disc I paid money for (albeit very little money). My home copy, which came as part of a boxset of crap, is very jumpy and transferred from a very battered print. I'm tempted to watch the whole movie again, on-line, just to find the moment where one of the female characters walks through a door and approaches two scientists hunched over a console. They are staring at a radar scope image of the impending, rapidly approaching, doom from space. They look up as she walks over to them and as she opens her mouth to speak, the film jumps and she vanishes - leaving the two scientists pondering deeply and concernedly about what she just said. We have no idea what they are thinking about because many feet of film are missing. I wonder if it's in the YouTube version? because I do wonder what she said; it was obviously very important to the two characters who heard her. I hope it was more interesting than the rest of the dialogue. A very dull film.
- Smash and Grab (1937 aka Larceny Street) - Mildly diverting, very thin, British Thin Man knock off, with the leading man (scenarist, and producer) Jack Buchanan getting more Vaseline on the lens for his close-ups than the heroine. The heroine meanwhile spent most of her time trying to avoid turning her profile to the camera - it might just have been a coincidence but she did appear to have the sort of nose that would fill the screen. You can tell I was gripped can't you?
- Flushed Away (2006) - a rewatch with the kids and funnier than I remember.
- Wedlock (1991) - Just how many Rutger Hauer movies have I seen this year? (Enough for me to know how to spell his name at least. Hang on. I'll look... Armageddon, Flesh+Blood, Hemoglobin, Blade Runner... and this one. Five? Is that all? it feels like a lot more.) Wedlock almost sank my 'All films set in a future prison are automatically shite' rule. The future prison here has an almost good SF idea at its heart. All the prisoners are fitted with collars. Under certain circumstances the collars will explode taking the prisoner's head off with a spectacular and messy bang. The collars are electronically paired with another inmate's collar. Nobody knows who they are paired with. If paired collars get more than a fixed distance apart, or are tampered with, BOTH collars explode. The outer prison wall is just a line painted on the ground. Step over the line and there is no guarantee that your unknown partner is near enough to stop your head being blown off. This has the effect of turning the inmates into their own warders as it's in all of their individual interests to make sure that no one escapes in case they are linked with the escapee. It's a pretty nice idea to play SF games with. Our hero goes on the lam with a female prisoner who has found out that he is her partner and the script soon descends into a long chase as the ill matched pair (who have to stay within a hundred yards of each other) have to elude the law, the hero's former partners in crime, and it all gets very tedious. So (hurrah!) rule is intact though slightly modified: 'All films set in a future prison are automatically shite; no matter how well thought out the prison is.'
On the plus side it did have a brief appearance by the yummy O-Lan Jones who I last saw painted green and being the best thing in the otherwise fucking awful Martians Go Home
- Koyaanisqatsi (1982) - Number three child wouldn't go to sleep; I needed my nightly film fix. Solution? Turn off the lights and watch a 96 minute abstract documentary montage with a hypnotic score by Philip Glass and no dialogue*. 5 minutes later he was asleep in my arms. 90 minutes after that I managed to tear my eyes away from the screen... I love Koyaanisqatsi.
* Though my DVD copy does have subtitles. (I'm afraid to look.)
- Gamer (2009) - Another piece of evidence to support my thesis that ''All films set in a future prison are automatically shite; no matter how well thought out the prison is.'' I have no idea how I manage to end up watching so many bad SF films set in futuristic penal systems; I certainly don't go looking for the things. They just turn up. My normal selection procedure for buying crappy second hand DVDs runs like this: Does it have Rutger Hauer in it? Yes. Have I ever heard of it? No. Does it have any combination of scantily clad women / explosions / men with rayguns and / or supposedly horrifying monsters on the front of the box? Is it less than a quid? If it scores more than three of the above it's an automatic purchase. This one failed most of those tests (all save the less than a quid one) but I bought it anyway - and it still turned out to be a totally shite SF movie.
Gameris a frenetic yet boring (an extremely difficult trick to pull off) mess that makes the Deathrace 2000 remake look sedate and interesting. (And, it turns out, a fucking bootleg too so I won't get my less than a quid back by selling it on eBay. Grrrrr.)
- Back to the Future: Part III (1990) - My least favourite of the three (part 2 is the best) completing the Pizza Night run of the trilogy. Number one daughter was gripped by all of them.
- Hell Comes to Frogtown ( 1988 ) - I was very disappointed. Mind you I don't suppose anything could live up to that title. Pretty meh Post-Apoc tale of a Keith Chegwin lookalike sent on a dangerous mission into a mutant reservation to rescue then impregnate six women being held captive by giant mutant frogs. The best joke comes in the first 10 seconds and after that it goes downhill rapidly but never makes it to the 'so bad it's good' depths - and was never going to be as funny as it thought it was.
- The Time Travelers (1964) - a rewatch. It has its clunky moments - the 'comedic' moments were particularly heavy handed - but it still stands up head and shoulders above most of the SF dross of the period. And I was reminded of a thought I had the first time I saw it. I may have mentioned it somewhere before but I can't find it. This film was made in 1964, and in it various stage magic tricks are used to simulate incomprehensible future technology.
Clarke's oft-quoted third law, 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.' dates from 1973.
Beating Arthur C Clarke to the draw by 10 years? I'd be proud of that.
- The Horror of Party Beach (1964) - even with the help of the MST3K crew this is a pretty unwatchable flick that promised WEIRD ATOMIC BEASTS THAT LIVE OFF HUMAN BLOOD!!! but then most cheapo SF/horror films of the day did the same.
- Antropophagus (1980 aka The Grim Reaper) - So I find out why Shock (1977 aka Beyond the Door II) was mistakenly labelled The Grim Reaper on the back of the box. Just how many Italian horror movies are there that end with the villain being killed with a pick-axe? Not that many I would guess. Gods! this was a boring piece of crap. It's reckoned by many to be a seminal Italian horror masterpiece - though reading the forums those that do so all seem to have first seen it when they were about 12 - coming to it as an aged 50 year old it had me yawning from the start, checking the elapsed time after about 30 minutes and the rest of the show wondering why Italians seemed to think long silent shots of people walking around slowly is in any way scary. Maybe it's an Italian thing.
"Mama mia! I can't look! She's wandering aimlessly again!"
The version I saw was shorn of the two notorious shots that got it labelled as a 'Video Nasty' back in the days. I don't think I missed anything. Now to turn the disc over and watch...
- The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek, Part II (1985) - a Charles B. Pierce pictures inc. production written by Charles B. Pierce, produced by Charles B. Pierce, directed by Charles B. Pierce and starring Charles B. Pierce - and his son Chuck. Filmed in Fouke, Arkansas (which is the way I felt when I had finished watching it) The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek, Part II (aka Boggy Creek ll: and the Legend Continues) treads a fine line between boredom and tedium. Nothing happens. And then it happens again. Sometimes nothing happens in flashback with a stocking tied over the lens to make it all misty and, you know, flashbacky. In short we spend 90 minutes watching Charles B. Pierce being a pompous prick telling people to 'be quiet' and 'get back' a lot - as nothing happens. And then it ends. Highlights include his co-star son (who plays one of his students) calling him 'Pop' on screen. And Charles B. Pierce running around in too short shorts and a tight moob-hugging shirt holding a handgun - jumping over a small bush! Charles B. Pierce also provided the endless soporific voice-over. Fans of Charles B. Pierce may like it.
- Katalin Varga (2009) - slow, beautifully shot (and even more beautifully soundscaped) tale of revenge. Completed for £28,000 by a first time director with a stunning central performance by Hilda Peter.
- Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (2010) - which I enjoyed a lot more than I was expecting to and, I suspect, a lot more than the first one (which I can hardly remember).
- Amateur (1994) - to my shame I only know one Hal Harltley film. This is it.
- Alien Trespass (2009) - Hoooo boy! Another incredibly long 90 minutes in which trashy SF B-pictures from the 1950s are mercilessly and relentlessly homaged to death before your very eyes. The film climaxes with the alien monster attacking our heroes in a cinema showing The Blob (the climax of which has the alien blob of the title attacking the local cinema). Oh the recursive fun. This 'aliens attacking people in a cinema watching The Blob attack a cinema' is turning into the stock cliché ending for 'affectionate spoof' films relentlessly homaging trashy SF B-pictures of the period. Given the rich pickings in the cliché-ridden field which it's spoofing, Alien Trespass manages to miss or fumble every one of them it picked up. The pace is leaden. The story is an unfocused mess and the script is just a tedious bore. I wanted to like it. I really did. I love the originals but I sat there for the whole show waiting for a joke to arrive. Any joke. Didn't even have to be a good one.I was still waiting as the end credits rolled. The originals were funnier.
- Mulholland Drive (2001) - second veiwing and I'm still bewildered. It took me four viewing before I 'got' Eraserhead. I think Mulholland Drive is about lesbians - but I'm not sure.
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
May. In which I almost watched a few decent films: