Friday, July 01, 2011

Go make a cuppa and have a pee: it's Every Bad Film (plus a couple of good ones) I watched this month in glorious black and white! There's only 24 of them and one I dismiss in one (very short) word.

(For those of you with short attention spans (or weak bladders) here's a link to Every Film I Have Watched in the Last Month: The Short Form which you have probably read already but have almost certainly forgotten.)
  1. A Bay of Blood (1971) - Let's start another new month with another Mario Bava! - Just like I did last month. It's not a plan, it's just that A Bay of Blood arrived in the post this morning and was therefore on top of the Crap to Watch pile this evening (and I was too knackered to make any decisions about what to shove in the DVD player). The fact that it is now on top of my Back to eBay pile shows I haven't totally lost my critical faculties.
    So, A Bay of Blood, a proto-splatter/slasher movie, deemed by many to be ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL MOVIES EVER. Yeah... Right... 84 minutes of watching Italians aimlessly wandering to gruesome deaths as the camera zooms, pans, and racks focus trying to find them. Hmmmm. I wasn't impressed. Every character with a speaking part in this show ended up dead: impaled, garrotted, whacked with machetes, or blasted by their six year old kids with a shot gun for reasons which were not very obvious. Something to do with a prime bit of real estate and a will. I think it was supposed to be a very dark comedy. Whatever it was, it was released in the USA as Last House On The Left 2 - despite having nothing to do with the original Last House On The Left and even having been shot the year before. Another Mario Bava non-sequel. No pick axes in this one.

  2. Rocketship X-M (1950) - for the umpteenth time. Another in the vast number of films in which the First Manned Mission to Mars Goes Horribly Wrong. (It's almost a sub-genre in it's own right.) This time though, the first manned mission is only supposed to be going to the moon, the fact that it misses and ends up on Mars is possibly due, the crew suspect, to divine intervention. God is also responsible for all the astronauts dying by the end of the show (almost unheard of in Space movies - before and since) But, as a reward for delivering the dire warnings against people blowing themselves back to the radioactive stone age like the Martians did, God makes the last few members of the crew feel uplifted and noble just before they plunge to a horrible fiery doom. Nice one, God. Some really bad space science on show here too: apparently in the 1950s rockets went 300 turbo miles due up, before turning at 90° to parallel the surface of the Earth, then gradually accelerated, somehow gaining extra momentum from the Earth's rotation, till they achieved escape velocity. The average Road Runner cartoon demonstrates a better grasp of physics. In space small things are, apparently, prone to become weightless far sooner than large things.

  3. Shrek 4 - meh. (Told you.)

  4. All the Kind Strangers (1974) - creepy little made for TV movie about a family of orphan children kidnapping adults to become their new parents. Our heroes are not the first to fall into their hands and there are more than a few cars drowned in the creek. It sort of held together, despite its obvious made for TV structure and some godawful 70s country music, right up to the pat 'give me the gun, kid, and we can just work this out' ending - at which point the end credits rolled so I didn't have to suffer a long disappointing let-down. If there was a film demanding a downbeat or ambiguous ending this was it. I bet the original script had the heroes die - or at least implied they did.

  5. The Last Horror Film (1982) - continuing my totally unconscious habit of watching films released as sequels to films they have no connection with, The Last Horror Film (aka Fanatic and Fanatical Extreme was, apparently, released in Germany as Maniac 2: Love to Kill). It's an odd mix this one. Half giallo, half guerilla travelogue (the film is set in, and was filmed at, the 1981 Cannes Film Festival - cue lots of hand-held shots of real stars attending openings, and topless women on the beach). The pay-off of the framing device is genuinely funny, one of the best, comes out of nowhere, well-timed jokes I've seen for ages. It also has more film within a film end credit cards than any other film ever made AND it's got Caroline 'Starcrash' Munro in the bath. What more do you want?

    2nd The End
    A 'The End'.

  6. Dead Awake (2001) - Ding! the sound of the crapshovel hitting a small gem amid all the dross. The other side of the same disc as The Last Horror Film - one of those Hollywood DVD two films on one DVD that look like pirate copies but aren't - Dead Awake is a nicely paced and very odd little thriller. And it's genuinely odd, not faux, 'let's be wacky and culty here' odd. Very dreamlike in places which is as it should be because the story is that of an insomniac yuppie, who hasn't slept for 10 months, witnessing a murder and getting charged with it. Genuinely and very weirdly funny too. I haven't had so much fun for ages.


  7. Shadow of a Doubt (1943) - Hitchcock. And not, sadly, as good as I remember it. There were a couple of nice moments, famous moments, like the shot of Uncle Charlie bounding up the stairs and suddenly realising that, though the police no longer thought he was the murderer, he would have to kill his niece who knew he was. I really like the way Hitchcock lets the audience participate in the film like that. Letting you get inside a character's head by having the actor turn away from the camera at a crucial moment and making you supply the acting. But it seemed very talky and long, yet very hurried. I was also slightly annoyed by the fact that a sequence I remember being in the film was missing. It was missing because it was never there. My memory had seamlessly transplanted a moment from Strangers on a Train into Shadow of a Doubt and then got pissed off when it didn't arrive as expected.

  8. X-Men:The Last Stand (2006) - I was bored rigid. Apart from Halle Berry's bum in those leather trousers, I can't think of a single moment of the film that wouldn't have been improved by less CGI, more acting (though, given the crapness of the script, there was bugger all for anyone to work with), and no Vinnie Jones; gods, than man can kill a movie dead in its tracks. I spent most of my time feeling sorry for the actors (apart from Vinnie Jones) who must have had aching noses at the end of each day from the amount of nostril flaring they were doing. Every shot someone was flaring their nostrils to suggest rage, or impotent rage, or suspicion, or shock, or long suppressed lerve, or hunger, or tireness. Any emotion in a Marvel movie can be shown by a tightening of the jaw and a flaring of the nostrils. Apart from grief. Grief is done by kneeling down, clenching everything from the buttocks upwards, tilting your head back, and screaming NOOOOOOOO! at a camera somewhere above your head. Hugh Jackman did that falling on his knees and shouting NOOOOOOOO! thing twice in this film, which I thought was a little excessive but it made a change from all the nostril flaring, and all the constipated Kung-Fu they were doing under all the CGI superpower stuff.
    Okay, Shawn, in this shot you're shooting your freeze ray at the 'flames shooting out of his hands' guy, so I want you to lean forward a bit... that's good. Grab a couple of imaginary melons... no, a bit lower. Good. Now imagine you are trying to squeeze one out - a real log. That's it! Great! First shit you've had all week... Really grit those teeth.... NNNNNNNNNNN. Looking good. Still needs something though. I know! Could you flare your nostrils too? That's it! Hold it... Cut! Print it! Thank you, and moving on...
    The film also had two (count 'em two!) 'The end... or is it?' endings. But at least it was better than the second Fantastic 4 film - but that's not saying a lot, so was Confessions of a Window Cleaner.

  9. Shaft (1971) - The music is great. The rest of it looks very dated and pedestrian. I know it was a revelation at the time. A Black PI hero? Unheard of, and its runaway success ushered in the whole Blaxploitation boom but looked at objectively 40 years later it's just not that good a film. Apart from the music. The music is just fucking genius.

    I bet this bit went down well in Mississipi

  10. Il Divo (2008) - visually appealing but, to me, incomprehensible retelling of a slice of recent Italian political history. I'm no wiser at the end of it about anything but the pictures were nice.

  11. Saboteur (1942) - less than overwhelming Hitchcock - this is the one that ends with Dr. Auschlander from St Elsewhere falling off the Statue of Liberty.

  12. The Opposite of Sex ( 1998 ) - A total delight.

  13. Shoot or Be Shot (aka Shooting Stars 2002) - nothing much to add to my IMDb review after my first watching (6 years ago?! Holy Cow!) apart from noting it was a lot funnier than I remembered.

  14. Clash of the Titans (1981) - one of those films I have been wanting to share with the kids for a while now and they loved it. Number two daughter was cuddled into me and had her hands over her eyes for the whole of the scary Medusa sequence. When it was over I said to her "It's okay, you can look now." and she replied "I am." She had watched the whole thing through a crack in her fingers. Job done.

  15. Cyborg (1989) - written by someone with a real guitar fetish (the major characters are called Gibson Rickenbacker, Fender Tremelo, Pearl, Marshall Stratt, Furman, etc.) Cyborg is your usual post-apocalyptic bollocks but because it is a Jean-Claude Van Damme post-apocalyptic bollocks there's more than the usual amount of kicking people in the face and sweaty grimacing. There are also more than the usual amount of post-apocalyptic bollocks stupidities on show too - including an unusually large number of randomly placed rusty oil drums with something burning in them. Not that they were used for anything - apart from one particularly hilarious moment when Van Damme kicks one of the endless supply of stunt-goon villains into one. On being kicked back onto one of the drums the villain immediately bursts into flames, staggers forward a few yards and falls onto the burnt-out shell of a wrecked car - which EXPLODES! (This whole scene taking place in the pouring rain.) The plot was assembled from bits of old westerns found lying around. Bits of The Searchers bolted on to Two Mules for Sister Sarah with chunks of Once Upon a Time in the West nailed on for good measure. Made cheaply, every shot is stretched out far beyond any logical sense; people run around in slow motion a lot because it takes longer for them to get where they are going and you don't have to write dialogue for slow motion scenes - but there is one glass painting of a post-apoc Atlanta Ga. that they had obviously spent a few quid on. We know they spent a few quid on it because it was on screen for 20 seconds - that's a hell of a long time for a static establishing shot in which nothing happens. "We paid for that fucker - keep it on the screen for as long as you can!" As a painting it was pretty crap, as an establishing shot it was pointless because it was immediately preceded one set of characters walking past a sign saying 'Atlanta Ga. Welcomes Careful Bands of Marauding Psychopaths' (or something) and it was immediately followed by a shot of another sign saying ATLANTA. Well, I get the message; I don't think we're in Kansas any more.... I'm glad to say I didn't pay any money for this movie; I found it on the street next to a recycling centre. I'm taking it back.

  16. Deep Star Six (1989) - Alien underwater! Not bad to start with, a cast of (to me) unknowns (and Miguel Ferrer) putting in solid workaday performances as your standard mixed bag of a mixed sex crew who have just spent the last 6 months in an deep sea installation. Someday someone is going to make a film about a bunch of working Joes (and Jos) stuck together in a big tin can in a hostile environment without throwing a monster into the mix. Maybe it's just me but often I find the bits before our crew encounter the rapacious carnivorous THING much more interesting than all the running around screaming and doing stupid things just so they can get eaten that happens afterwards. After watching enough crap like this even the game of guessing which of our crew are going to get eaten and the order in which they get ate gets pretty boring too. You're black, you're the hero's best friend, and you got kids who send you cute drawings? You're fucking doomed, you are. And don't ever say "When we get out of this I want you to come visit me on my farm...." Speeches like that act as some sort of aperitif for rampaging rapacious carnivorous THINGs. It's like rubbing barbecue sauce all over yourself and shoving a sprig of rosemary up your bum - don't do it!

    In Deep Star Six the THING is a rapacious giant carnivorous crustacean of some kind. The crew do all the usual stupid things they have to do to get eaten - and get very wet while they do it. As usual the two crew members voted most likely to survive in the first three minutes survive. And, as usual, the laws of physics don't make it past the first act.

  17. Beast from Haunted Cave (1959) - The word 'The' was out of favour in 1959. Cheap mercifully short reworking of Key Largo, on skis, with a monster. Not as bad as it sounds.

  18. The Case of the Bloody Iris (1972) - Italian crime / slasher nonsense with a really bad case of the zooms. Just about every shot. Zoom Zoom Zoomity Zoom. I was getting motion sick by the end of it. Luckily there were no whip pans or I might have thrown up.

  19. The Borrowers (1997) - another one of those films I have been boycotting for years as a needless American bastardization of a childhood treasure, but I was snookered into watching it with the kids as our Friday Night Pizza Night movie and .... I really enjoyed it. Once I had got over the hump of realising that the makers had jettisoned just about everything in the books apart from the names and heights of some of the characters I settled back and enjoyed the ride which, though not exactly ground-breaking in originality, was fun family fare and made me laugh aloud several times. The design elements were interesting too. The film appeared to be set in England but in a strange never-never time that was sort of the fifties and sort of the nineties - most of the cars for instance were Morris Minors and milk was delivered to the doorstep in glass bottles but houses had huge Americn Freezers with built in ice-dispensers and magnets stuck all over the doors. The same director went on to make the vastly underrated Thunderpants set in a similar not quite identifiable time. All the Morris Minors in that one were green.

  20. Stone (1974) - another to me unknown film bought in a charity shop for pennies purely because I had A: never heard of it and B: it had an airbrushed chrome effect in the title:

    ...and a skull wearing a hat.

    Not enough movie posters have skulls wearing hats.

    Stone turns out to be a pretty terrific little low budget Australian biker film with some real drop dead moments. The opening titles are brilliant. And so simple.

  21. Dead of Night (aka Mirror of Death 1988 ) - a screamingly bad piece of no budget crap about a (rather cute) woman conjuring up a evil spirit that enters her body through her dressing table mirror, lures men back to her home, kills them, then stashes them (standing up) in closets around the house. Really, really bad. Bad with a capital B. Screeds of badly written dialogue delivered by bad actors who (all credit to them) go for it with hopeless gusto. Some scenes look like a first read through. Lots of penguin flapping (those vague armflap gestures that bad actors do when they don't know what to do with their hands) and plenty of time to do it in. There's some fantastically long-winded dialogue in this film; e.g. (and trust me on this one, it's worth it. Suck it in and plough on through):

    SARA (our sometime possessed heroine) is washing her face. She looks in the mirror and the face of SULA THE DEMON looking out at her. Sara screams in terror. RICHARD, Sara's sister's boyfriend and a seriously crap actor, appears, sees the demon, and pulls Sara away.
    CUT TO:

    Richard hurriedly picks up the phone and dials.

    What're you going to do, Richard?

    Calling the police! I've heard and seen enough!

    What're they gonna do but arrest Sarah so they can close their books and everything'll look good on their records.

    Got a better idea!? Let's hear it!

    How about calling the police so they can see this Sura first hand?

    Oh, Sara, If Sura gets back in your body again we'll never get control of her. What we need right now is someone who knows how to deal with these things.

    (Shouting and giving a real master-class
    in Penguinflapping frustration.)
    Who knows how to deal with evil spirits floating out of mirrors!?

    I know it's going to sound stupid... but why don't we just look in the Yellow Pages?
    So they do; they all rush to a table and pore over the Yellow Pages. This was not a comedy. This was serious. God, I hope it wasn't supposed to be a comedy. Because if it was I didn't notice. Whatever it was it was, it was a painful experience to watch. I spent a lot of the running time trying to work out how they got a trailer out of the thing. You know those times you go see a film and realise it was pretty crap and you had seen all the best bits in the trailer that had suckered you in in the first place? This film didn't have any best bits.

    Someone in the editorial team knew it was a piece of shit too because right at the end, after all the credits have rolled and the screen has gone black, there is a repeated line of dialogue on the soundtrack. Just as you are about to hit the eject button, someone has edited in Richard the crap actor boyfriend's voice screaming:

    "Oh my God! What was THAT!?"

  22. Tripwire (1990) - another big box VHS that I bought for 10p solely because I had never heard of it and (also solely) because it had a picture of David Warner on the cover. In fact that's just about all it had on the front cover: David Warner holding a big gun. Now I like David Warner. I like him a lot. He's a jobbing actor who delivers what he's asked to deliver with a credibility that the material often doesn't deserve (Quest of the Delta Knights being a very good example) and he does a great line in villains (Tron, Time After Time, The Man With Two Brains, Time Bandits etc. etc.) but he's never been a big name box office draw and I did have to ask myself, "Just how badly underpowered does a film have to be that it has David Warner on the cover as the main selling point?"

    I found out.

    It was shit.


  23. Prison Heat (1993) - All you really need to make a Women in Prison movie is four actresses (and I use the term loosely) willing to get naked, a shower block, and a wall. Bought to you by Global Pictures, the brains behind American Cyborg: Steel Warrior and Delta Force 3: The Killing Game, Prison Heat pushed the boat out and had a staircase as well. Even by the usually low WiP movie standards, it was pretty awful. Highlights include (some of the heroines' astounding knockers aside) our sadistic and corrupt cardboard villain pointing at the lead heroine and instructing one of his minions to "take her to solitary...." followed by a shot of the lead heroine being chained to a wall in a cell next to someone else - and an amazing moment when our feisty lead heroine hauls herself up into a skylight with another feisty heroine (Feisty Heroine 2) hanging onto her leg. Our feisty lead heroine lifts at least twice her own bodyweight up by her fingertips. In the next shot, from another angle, the lead feisty heroine has managed to get herself into a position which, from the establishing shot we have just seen, would be impossible to achieve (even without someone hanging off your legs). She then kicks out part of the window, before climbing out onto the roof, turning round and helping out Feisty Heroine 2 who has, presumably, been hovering in mid air all this time. Another 10p well wasted.

  24. Wild Force (1986) - Wooo-Hoooo! Recently I have come to suspect that I have watched too many crappy films. So many that I have become totally inured to the things. I was starting to wonder if I was finally starting to get bored with my search for whatever it is I'm searching for (I'm still not sure). It has been a while since I really wholeheartedly enjoyed a really crappy movie. Sometimes these days they're feeling like a bit of a chore. Tonight I remembered why I do it. I've struck 10p big box VHS paydirt. Wild Force is a Philippine film. I know very little about the film industry of the Philippines but if Wild Force a good one (it got sold abroad so I guess it must be) I hate to think what the crap they couldn't export is like. It is a film of STAGGERING incompetence. I really don't know where to begin because once I start I suspect I'll still be ranting about its deficiencies and joys for days. But the moment where a minor villain swims across a swimming pool is a joy and will have to stand in for the whole.

    The villain has information that the 'Team' of heroes need. He is sat by the side of an outdoor swimming pool, being attended by two bikini clad bimbos. The only female member of 'The Team' sits at a table on the other side of the large pool and, in a series of medium closeup shots alternating between the two of them, she makes goo goo eyes at him. It is sunny (but very windy) on her side of the swimming pool. It is raining heavily on his side. He likes the look of her (I prefer the two birds he has in his hands but there's no accounting for taste or the requirements of plot development). In a wider angle that lets us see both sides of the pool, he gets up from his chair (it's stopped raining on his side by the way) and dives into the pool leaving the bimbos wondering what to do. An assistant director tells them. The one on the left of the screen doesn't quite get it... "Step back, love... no back... further back.. stop looking at the camera...! No... BACK!" By the time she finally gets out of the frame the villain is across the pool and clambering out the other side in such an ungainly manner that he has his trunk-clad arse and dangly bits waving in our faces (thankfully from a long way away). Cut to a ridiculously low angle of him sucking in most of his substantial paunch and pointing his still dripping crotch at the attractive 'team' member. Two lines of dialogue later and there's a real WTF!? jump-cut to him coming out of the shower, wrapping a towel around himself and her (still fully and demurely clothed) sat on a bed. What the hell is going on?

    The dialogue is terrific. And dubbed I suspect, in the producer's kitchen by three actors doing 'different voices' for different characters. A bit like you do when reading kids a bedtime story. I also suspect the actor playing the Maguffin, the kidnapped Doctor Johnston, did his own dubbing but as he is a terrible actor, and has (or effects) a southern drawl, and puts the emphasis on all the wrong syllables, he manages to sound like Slim Pickins on a trampoline. An image I will try to get out of my head as soon as I can.

    And quite who all these blonde white people on the cover are I have no idea. The film was full of sweaty Filipinos. And all those helicopters? There was one in the film. One. Which they obviously only managed to blag for an hour or so for the filming, because whenever it landed or took off it always landed and took off from the same field - wherever it supposed to be, base camp, or somewhere several days march into the jungle - same field, same trees in the background, same hills in the distance.

    This one is going to get rewatched many times. I haven't laughed so much in ages.

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