April 26, 2005

The scene I keep replaying in my mind (updated)

I finally got around to watching the remake of Dawn of the Dead a few days ago. I'm a huge fan of the original, and like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I think the new version is good but in a very different way than the original.

I really like the "fast" zombies. That's not to say they're better than the traditional slow shuffling zombies, because there's a whole 'nother flavor of terror in being inexorably overwhelmed by mindless masses of the flesh-craving undead.

But these new zombies that have been showing up, like the berzerkers in 28 Days Later and these hyper-aggresive monsters in Dawn - wow. They're not just shambling around, instinctively looking for the living. The zombies in Dawn of the Dead are actively searching. And when they see a target, they go full-tilt towards it, ready to rend and devour.

Which brings me to my main gripe about the movie. Like happens all too often in these flicks, everyone is a crack shot. Dozens of zombies sprinting towards you? Your escape route threatened? Ultimate pressure because if they get you, you die? No problem, because everyone instantly achieves perfect head shots each and every time. One of my favorite bits in Shaun of the Dead was the fact that none of the main characters could hit the broad side of a barn with a gun, and it was played to both comedic and suspensful effect.

But this is about "the scene I keep replaying in my mind". It was subtle, and only peripherally related to the main action. I'll try to keep it general enough to not give away any spoilers.

When the nurse is driving away from her home, the camera shot is from the hood of the car and through the windsheild and back window you can see the zombie that almost got her in pursuit. He's running in a full sprint down the street after her. As she begins to gain some distance and turns a corner, a lady comes out of her house and he peels off, still in full sprint, and tackles her and takes her down. By this time, they're far in the background of the camera shot, and you might not even notice.

This morning while getting ready for work, I didn't turn on the TV and I didn't have a radio on. I was completely oblivious to the world outside my home, much like that lady in the movie. As I went out front to take the trashcan to the curb, it struck me how similar my situation was to that lady, who was probably just out to pick up her morning paper.

That is true horror, peeps. Everyday life, interupted by the unimaginable.

Update: If you follow the very first link above it will take you to the IMDB entry for Dawn of the Dead. From there, click on the trivia link and you'll see all of the little tributes to the original movie that were included in the remake. Cool stuff.

Posted by Ted at 11:16 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 01, 2005

Satan has Martha Stewart on speed dial

In 2000 an animated series aired for about three episodes before being yanked from the schedule due to intense pressure from religious groups.

Maybe you saw it. God, the Devil, and Bob.

God and the Devil

The premise is explained in a short clip at the start of every show. God is thinking that maybe he should start over, but being a benevolent God, he decides to let one person convince him that humanity is worth saving. In a sporting gesture, God lets the Devil pick the person.

Meet Bob. Bob works for a Detroit automaker. He is everyman. A family man with a young son and rebelious teen daughter. His wife is trying to go back to college and they're doing ok. Not great, but ok. Bob definitely has his human foibles.

As God puts it, "I wouldn't go making any long-term plans."

Except that Bob manages to convince God that humanity is worth saving, and the series goes from there.

This series is wonderful. Despite the objections from the fire-and-brimstone fundamentalists, God as depicted here is loving and mysterious and unfathomable and immediate.

Probably the single biggest objection was the way God is portrayed. Voiced by James Garner, God looks a lot like Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead. If the circumstances call for it, God will wear a baseball cap and sunglasses. He's been known to hoist a beer on occasion.

Most of the time, God is only visible to Bob. And Bob is trying to wrap his mind around the consequences of being God's chosen one. At first Bob thinks his job is to be a prophet ("that's what prophets do: draw a crowd and shout at people"), and in one episode comes to believe that he's invincible. For a thrill he goes skydiving without a parachute. God shows up on the way down and disabuses him of that notion ("Bob, haven't you ever heard of dumb luck?"). God is not mocked, but organized religion is.

Not unexpectedly, some Christians were up in arms:

Another segment of the show was a direct attack on those preaching the gospel. Bob goes to a preacher, who is naked and smoking a cigar, while getting a massage from a blonde whose cleavage was ready to fall out of her dress. -- George Whitten, editor of Worthy News.

More correctly, Bob went to a televangelist from the God Network (the sign out front reads "formerly UPN" *snicker*) and pitched his idea for a new show about talking to God. Bob was thrown out when the televangelist found out his idea wasn't designed to make money. As for the massage, cleavage and money-grubbing TV preacher, well, that was about the most realistic part of the show as far as I'm concerned.

Now the third side to this triangle is the Devil (voiced by Alan Cumming), and he's a treat. His character makes me think of Felix Unger if he were played by David Niven, with a healthy dollop of wicked in the mix. God and the Devil are on speaking terms, and the relationship mostly seems to be the Devil scheming while God keeps half an eye on things.

The Devil tempts Bob mightily ("I'm Evil, Bob, it's what I do"). In one hilarious episode, Bob blows off the Devil once too often and the Devil retaliates by dating Bob's daughter. In another, the Devil decides to redecorate Hell and calls on Martha Stewart to manage the job. He gets distracted by something on Earth and she takes over for a while.

Satan's sidekick is a little demon named Smeck. He's the administrator of Hell and gets nervous when the Devil goes off on a tangent. He's happiest when the Devil is doing what he's supposed to be doing, namely, raising hell.

The idea behind the show was not to be disrespectful towards God and religion. There is a theologian listed in the credits, a Catholic priest I believe.

Still, I can see why this show had so many people upset. If you'd rather believe in the Old Testament God, then this depiction is not for you. On the other hand, the stories consistently show a strong family relationship that succeeds despite the very human flaws that we all possess.

God, the Devil, and Bob is available on a two-disk DVD set that has the entire (mostly unseen) first season. Well worth it if you can deal with the subject.

Posted by Ted at 09:12 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 16, 2005

Quote of the Day

From A Smell of Honey, a Swallow of Brine:

I may be a bitch, but I'll never be a butch!

I was going to do a review of this DVD from Something Weird Video, but to be honest, it just isn't going to appeal to anyone but someone whose taste in movies runs far to the odd. Like me.

Briefly: three movies, and Honey is by far the best of them, and it's not very good. Joining in on the disc are The Brick Dollhouse, which is a pitifully poor murder mystery, and A Sweet Sickness, about a wannabe starlet who's sleeping her way into the biz. They're both listed at IMDB.com, you can read the reviews yourself if you've a mind.

These are 60's-style sexploitation flicks, specifically the sub-genre known as "roughies". The goal was to have a bit of story, and as much naked boobage and buns as possible. There's no happy ending in a roughie, and at some point someone gets manhandled. Usually one of the ladies, but not always. Simulated sex (very simulated), make these barely softcore. More time is spent on foreplay than on anything else, which is actually refreshing and one of the good points.

The one feature on this DVD that makes it all worthwhile (to me) is watching Honey with the commentary on. They've got the two owners of SWV sitting there with the producer of Honey and a bunch of other sleazy flicks just like it, and the guy is a treasure. Funny stories, inside details and insight on the movie business. He had me laughing my ass off when he explained the title "A Smell of Honey, A Swallow of Brine". His first choice was "C.T." for cock tease, which is what the main character is, but the censors wouldn't allow it. Then he tried "Maneater", but no newspaper would run ads for it with that title. He finally got fed up and came up with Honey. He also released Dollhouse after buying it from the original producers. They had about 100 minutes of incoherent nonsense going on, and he edited it down to about 60-odd minutes of barely coherent dreck. It's terrible and he knows it and doesn't care.

Look at me, after saying I wouldn't do this I go ahead and review it anyway. If you're a fan and can rent a copy, this is worth it for Honey and the commentary. Otherwise give it a pass.

Posted by Ted at 04:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 14, 2005

Updated Rocket Jones Movie Review List

Here.

Posted by Ted at 06:05 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 10, 2005

A movie review you won't see here

Even I have standards. Admittedly low standards, but still...

Slaves of Love

A tribe of Amazon women use a magnetic force to pull down airplanes flying over their island. They enslave all the men aboard the planes and use them as their sex slaves.

I wonder where I can find a copy?

Posted by Ted at 06:05 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 22, 2005

Steve Reeves

If you've ever watched the Hercules movies on late night television, then you're familiar with Steve Reeves. It's obvious from his on-screen physique that he was a bodybuilder, but his pre-Hollywood career was phenominally successful and in fact he had to slim down and lose muscle mass to broaden his appeal to movie audiences.


Steve_Reeves_Hercules.jpg

Born in Montana in 1925, Reeves was strikingly handsome, personally charismatic and also blessed with the ability to quickly attain the bodybuilder's physique. To this day, his symmetry and overall looks are legendary.

Reeves began bodybuilding at 15 years of age and was always the first to admit he had a good foundation and was an "easy gainer". Within a couple of years, he was training under professional supervision in California and winning local competitions.

In 1944 he was drafted into the Army and he served for 19 months in the Asian theater, seeing action in the Philippines and being part of the initial U.S. occupation forces in Japan. During this time, he used improvised weight equipment and did rope climbing and calestetics when circumstances prevented regular workouts.

"I don't think there is one chance in 50 trillion that the particular mix of hereditary genes that formed the product we see in Steve Reeves will ever occur in combination again." -- Russ Warner, Muscle Magazine photographer

A little more than a year after his discharge from the military (and resumption of serious training), Reeves won the 1947 Mr. America contest. He was 21 years old. He went on to be a force in the bodybuilding world for several years, winning both the Mr. World and Mr. Universe titles.

And then Hollywood came calling.

At first, he was only used as impressive looking walk-on scenery in films and on television (he played a detective in Ed Wood's Jail Bait), and it wasn't until he was invited to Italy in 1959 to star as Hercules that his on-screen popularity soared. He went on to make a series of sequels and similar movies of the genre. In fact, he became so popular (quite possibly the first "action" star), that he was reportedly offered the role of James Bond in Dr. No and as the Man With No Name in A Fistful Of Dollars.

After injuring his shoulder in a chariot accident (he did his own stunts), Reeves was unable to continue serious training. He retired and bought a horse ranch. He remained a vocal critic of the use of steroids in bodybuilding, feeling that they went against the health benefits and inherent physical challenges of the sport.

The movie Gladiator was sometimes called the first "Steve Reeves type" movie to be done in decades. Some thought that Reeves should have been at least given a cameo in the film as a tribute to his groundbreaking efforts.

In May of 2000, Steve Reeves passed away on the same day that the movie Gladiator premiered. He was 74 years old, and had been diagnosed with lymphoma just six weeks previously.

Rocket Jones bondage moment Trivia: In the book Lash! The Hundred Greatest Scenes of Men Being Whipped in the Movies, ranking 7th is Reeves' flogging in Duel of the Titans and ranking 24th is his flogging in White Warrior.

White Warrior is available in the dollar bin at WalMart. It's not great, but it's not bad, and it's got Steve Reeves in it.

Posted by Ted at 06:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 13, 2005

Victor and I have this weird mental simpatico thing going on this week

I posted the lyrics to Never My Love. Victor rags on The Association, who did a version of Never My Love. I post a picture of Luuka the Bear who went to the rocket launch with me. Victor has a bear portray me in his epic birthday tribute to Joe Don Baker.

It's funny as hell, and I really suggest that you... aw crap, let Victor finish the sentence.

(oh yeah, this is under the Cult Flicks category because it's Joe Don Baker's birthday and Victor has done a remarkable series of posts on the man and his career.)

Posted by Ted at 07:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 04, 2005

Ossie Davis dies at age 87

Always dignified regardless of the role, Hollywood lost a major star today. Go read the article, it has an excellent summary of his life and body of work.

Davis, who wrote, acted, directed and produced for the theater and Hollywood, was a central figure among black performers of the last five decades. He and [wife and actress Ruby] Dee celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1998 with the publication of a dual autobiography, "In This Life Together."

He was also more than an entertainer. Ossie Davis was a civil rights activist from the earliest days, and he delivered the eulogy at the funeral of his friend Malcolm X.

Posted by Ted at 02:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 27, 2005

With all the buzz going on about Phantom of the Opera

Instead of just reviewing a movie this time around, I thought I'd point out an excellent DVD for cinema fans.

The disk is a triple feature under the title Horror Classics, volume 1. Released by Navarre video, it falls under their Reel Values label. I got my copy at Suncoast Video for around ten bucks.

So what's so special about this DVD with the mundane name?

On it are three silent classics: Nosferatu, Phantom of the Opera, and Metropolis. My review for each of these movies is simple: See them, and be prepared to be wowed!

I talked a little bit about Nosferatu here:

My only complaint is that the Americanized version I have changed the names of the characters, making the story more familiar yet taking away from the original intent (for instance: Graf Orlok was changed to Count Dracula and Profesor Bulwer became Dr. Van Helsing).

There's more to the story. According to some accounts, when Bram Stoker's Dracula was first put on sale for movie rights, among the first buyers was F. W. Murnau, who was one of the most famous German directors at the time. Soon after beginning production of the film, they got the word that they had been scammed and that the widow of Bram Stoker refused to allow them to use the name and specific storyline of Dracula. To get around the problem, Murnau changed the name Dracula to Count Orlok, Harker became Hutter and Van Helsing became Professor Bulwer. Instead of London, the story is set in Bremen.

When Nosferatu premiered, the widow Stoker brought legal action against the studio and Murnau. In 1925 a German court ordered all prints of the film to be destroyed. Fortunately, several prints of the film survived.

Another interesting fact from the movie is that very little of it was shot on a movie set, almost the entire thing was shot on locations in Eastern Europe. The castle? Real. City street in Bremen? Real. The authenticity shines through.

Next on the DVD is Phantom of the Opera, the classic starring Lon Chaney (Rocket Jones bio here). As so often happens, the recent Broadway play and movie productions change the original plotline to suit "modern" audiences, and in my opinion the changes greatly lessen the impact of the original.

Not that any version of Phantom has been completely true to the novel by Gaston Leroux. Even this first version required the creation of a new ending when audiences hated the final scenes as first filmed.

The first time you see the Phantom's real face is among this list of the 100 Scariest Movie Moments, although the entire scene of the masqued ball is chilling.

Finally, there is Metropolis. Filled with amazing performances and incredible special effects (in 1927!), the cast was enormous and the expense of creating this masterpiece almost bankrupted the studio.

According to the director himself (Fritz Lang, who also did the classic Frau im Mond), the film as originally conceived wasn't seen for decades because several important filmed sequences were lost.

The lead actress, Brigitte Helm, was an early movie star. When she had to turn down one role it was given to newcomer Marlene Dietrich. Ms. Helm made her final film in 1935, after which she retired to Switzerland. She was so disgusted by Adolph Hitler and his takeover of the German film industry that she refused to talk about her career or the subject ever again.

This film influenced many SciFi films to come, including such diverse efforts as Star Wars, Blade Runner and Dr. Strangelove.

I'll repeat myself. These are must-see films, and this DVD is a wonderful value.

Posted by Ted at 08:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 24, 2005

B-movie Biology

Interesting discussion about monsters and more, both giant and miniature, to be found here, courtesy of J-Walk Blog.

Note the U. of Chicago address, some people just can't enjoy a movie... sheesh. ;)

Posted by Ted at 04:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 21, 2005

Big ol' mean folk-stompin' sized lizard monsters

Being sick (yeah, now me too dammit), I had some time last night to put a small dent in my to-watch stack of "Ted movies" (as my wife calls them). If you're not a regular visitor, you might not realize that I love "B" movies, the low-budget efforts that I lovingly refer to as crap movies. There's a whole category here on Rocket Jones dedicated to them, full of reviews and trivia and related nonsense, and an updated list of my movie reviews. Now grab some popcorn and let's get on with this episode.

Back at the dawn of the nuclear age, a wave of giant creature movies hit the screens. My personal favorites from that time include Them! (giant ants) and Tarantula (giant spider - shudder - and an early bit part for Clint Eastwood), but I also had the pleasure of watching the following two.

First up is a cheesy little stinker called The Giant Gila Monster. See, there's this young man named Chase Winstead who lives in rural Texas. He's clean cut, polite and respectful, and works hard at the local auto repair shop. Two odd things about him though, somehow parts from wrecked vehicles he's towed tend to end up on his hotrod, and it seems that the townspeople trust him and his judgement to a ludicrous degree. I mean, the sherrif doesn't make a move without checking with Chase first, and overlooks the obvious theft of tires and such. Mental note: work on my "aw shucks" look, I've obviously underestimated its power.

Chase is the leader of the local hot rod club (if you're a classic car enthusiest, that's enough reason to watch this one right there), and they help the sherrif search the area when mysterious vehicle wrecks start happening and people start disappearing.

"Buying a car is just like getting married or goin' to New York City. Everybody ought to do it once, but nobody ought to do it twice." - Town drunk in The Giant Gila Monster

I'm not going to go into the plot much more than that, other than to say that Chase kills the giant Gila Monster in the end and saves his crippled little sister in the process (he steals car parts because he's saving his money for leg braces for sis). He also arranges to have the hottest DJ in the area show up to spin records at their club barn dance, and finds time to sing three songs during the movie. Other than the songs, this is a good kid.

And what, pray tell, could be wrong with the songs? Chase is played by Don Sullivan, who tried, and failed miserably, to become another Frankie Avalon. He wrote and performed the songs in this movie, and they are painfully bad. Painfully. Bad. Painfully. Bad. A little known fact is that in Texas it's legal to kill someone for playing the ukelele, and it's known at the Don Sullivan law. Painfully. Bad.

Ok, enough ragging on poor Don, who turned in a pretty good performance otherwise. On to the monster, the Giant Gila Monster. The monster is incredibly realistic, mainly because every time it appears it's a real lizard in closeup or on a miniature diorama. To save money (very low-budget) you never see the Gila Monster and actual people in the same shot, it always cuts from one to the other. Something I didn't know before watching this is that Gila Monsters are slow and ponderous critters. There's not much excitement when he's on screen, although it's fun watching him wreck an HO scale a train as it goes over a trestle bridge. You can almost imagine someone picking the lizard up and turning it around for another pass over the pile of toy trains hear the screams of the people trapped inside the wrecked passenger cars. Sheer comedy terror.

Merciless, I know. But I still recommend this movie. The plot is not awful, the acting is only fair to terrible, and Don sings three times, but it's still fun. And when you're watching a movie with the title The Giant Gila Monster, if you're expecting more than fun then you're expectations are set way too high.

Trivia: This movie, and it's sister flick Attack of the Killer Shrews, were produced by Ken Curtis. Ken Curtis started his career as a vocalist for Big Band leader Tommy Dorsey before going into pictures. He appeared in many movies including the small but important role of Dolan in Mr. Roberts, but he's undoubtably best known for his long-running television role as Festus in Gunsmoke.


Everyone loves giant beastie movies. The Japanese are famous for it, and most everyone else who makes movies rattled off a few. Even Denmark.

Yep. Denmark.

The movie is called Reptillicus, and I'll say right up front that this movie is rotten. Awful. Eye-gougingly, where's-my-electric-drill-I-need-to-put-it-through-my-temple, gargling ground glass bad. Making your kids watch this is grounds for a visit from the naughty-parents police.

I also recommend it (big surprise there, eh?), with reservations.

Like most movies, this one has it's good points and it's bad points.

Good: When the monster is first discovered, the explanation actually makes a kind of sense.

Bad: They hire a cartoon as night watchman at the lab where they're studying the remains of the monster. This guy is the prototype "Rose Nylund St. Olaf" story character.

Good: The monster regenerates itself. That's how they wind up with a whole monster even though they only started with a little piece. It also causes them to be creative when killing it, because blowing it up (as per usual practice) would just cause lots of explodey bits growing into many new monsters.

Bad: The monster itself is badly done (see Don Sullivan above). His primary weapon is a green acid spitball thing that is badly animated. Even for a badly done monster movie it looks amatuerish. Also, look for the guy getting eaten, it's obviously (badly) drawn in. Pitiful (and lots of 'badly').

Good: You get to see lots of pretty scenery around Copenhagen.

Bad: You get to see lots of pretty scenery around Copenhagen. In order to pad out the movie, it looks like they took stock tourist footage of the city and stuck it in here and there. At one point the lead characters go out for a night on the town and it plays like a travelogue.

Good: Pretty Scandanavian sisters. Woo-hoo!

Bad: The American General character. Another cartoon, although a super-heroic one. This guy was the inspiration for the slogan "I am an Army of One".

My favorite line from Reptillicus:

"Shoot it point blank, from very close range."

As opposed to point blank, from long range, I suppose. I think the biggest problem with this one is that it doesn't translate well into English and some of the dialog and motivations seem 'off' to me. Unlike The Giant Gila Monster, it isn't a strength here when the film tries to take itself seriously.

So there ya go, the horror of ukelele-strummin' hot-roddin' song-singing teenagers giant reptiles and extra cheese for your popcorn or chilidog. Enjoy!

Posted by Ted at 06:35 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 19, 2005

"No one f*cks with the King"

Ho Tep: 1. Relative or descendant of the 17 Egyptian Dynasties, 3100-1550 B.C. 2. Family surname of an Egyptian pharaoh (king).

Bubba: 1. Male from the Southern U.S. 2. Good ole boy. 3. Cracker, red neck, trailer park resident.

We had a mini Bruce Campbell movie marathon last weekend, culminating in our first viewing of Bubba Ho-Tep. Basic storyline:

Elvis (played by Bruce Campbell) is still alive and living in a nursing home in Texas. He had switched places with an Elvis impersonator years before when he got tired of all the hype and burdens of his celebrity. Also living in the nursing home is John F. Kennedy, who's being kept hidden there by the government. His disguise is so complete that they made him black (played by Ossie Davis). These two elderly gentlemen must team up to defeat an ancient Egyptian mummy who's killing the residents of their nursing home.

Keep that in mind, because they play this movie absolutely straight within the parameters of that backdrop.

In other words, this is not the movie that you expect to see. Given the plot, you ready yourself for horror served up with a thick frosting of comedic farce. Instead, what you get is a surprisingly introspective and complex look at life. At the start, Elvis is just existing, and doesn't really start to live until JFK piques his curiosity about the mysterious deaths happening in the home. Yes, there is a mummy and he's killing elderly residents and that's central to the plot, but it also manages to be peripheral to the real story of two old guys taking control of their lives again and standing up for what they know is right.

This is a low-budget indie film, but thankfully most of the money was spent on casting and not special effects. Campbell's Elvis is subtle and brilliant, and Ossie Davis's JFK is eminently dignified, yet occasionally there are lapses that make you wonder if he's not just a mentally unstable old man. Besides Campbell and Davis, Ella Joyce (who co-starred in television's Rock) plays the nurse who takes care of Elvis. Her character is at once professional and compassionate, and she manages to portray the weary detachment of one who's spent too long taking care of and watching the elderly die without completely burying her affection for those under her care. One of the administrators is played by Reggie Bannister, who you might remember as the guitar-strumming tuning-fork-wielding ice-cream dude from Phantasm.

The movie is based on the novella by Joe Lansdale and according to what I've heard remained faithful to the original work.

A funny moment was when Elvis and JFK were talking about the mummy and how he was a "soul sucker". This made me think of another Elvis-themed movie (but I couldn't remember the title). In that flick, a teenage rocker kidnaps Elvis for his mom's birthday because she's a huge fan. In that movie the little sister sleeps with the lights on because she's afraid of "the slimy soul sucker". When I mentioned it to my wife, she immediately knew the movie and title (Heartbreak Hotel).

Back to Bubba. The plot makes sense in the context of the background story, with plenty of wry little twists and snicker-inducing moments. The special effects aren't awful, and at times they're pretty darn good. The ending was a little hokey, but it matched the tone of the rest of the movie.

Recommended.

On to the DVD itself. I got the collectors edition for Christmas, and the extra features are wonderful. There's a "music video" that basically highlights the guy who did all the music, and he did a helluva job too. Remember the low-budget that these guys worked with? There isn't a single actual Elvis song in the movie, but you don't even realize it until after it's over, and it isn't because the sound track is full of soundalike crap. There are two commentary tracks, the first with the producer and Bruce Campbell talking about the making of the film (very nice), and the second with "the King" providing his insights as the story unfolds (lame). There are a few other extras included too.

Posted by Ted at 04:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 18, 2005

{begin funky wah-wah guitar lick}

Blaxploitation.com: A Soulful Tribute.

Posted by Ted at 05:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 16, 2005

Ya know, it's possible to just *enjoy* a movie sometimes

It's probably just me. I have an obvious fondness for B-movies, so maybe it's easier for me to overlook the glaring flaws present in most of these cheesy goodies. And it annoys the hell out of me when some critic-wannabe overanalyzes a B-movie to the point of taking all the fun out of it.

You may remember the small debate Victor and I had over the movie Starship Troopers. He even went so far as to rename it Earth vs. Soup so as not to influence his critque by comparing it to the book (one of my all-time favorites).

Victor shredded the movie in his review (parts 1 and 2 - worth reading). I'm ok with that because Starship Troopers was not a B-movie. A major studio made the movie, using a top-flight director and talent with name recognition. They spent oodles of money on special effects. This movie was meant to be a blockbuster. Only problem is, they screwed up the story so bad that not only did they alienate Heinlein purists, but the end result wasn't even a very good flick. Each and every point Victor brought up was correct. I still liked the movie though.

So that's kind of the way I watch my movies, and it most certainly colors my perception when I review them. If you follow my recommendations, most of the time you won't see a great movie, sometimes it's not even a good movie. I try to be up front about that though. The key to enjoying these is to just *enjoy* them, and don't expect brilliance. But you'll also be surprised at how often you underestimate them too.

Ok, rant over. What kind of fired that up was watching a couple of old Bela Lugosi flicks, writing the reviews below, and then checking out what others have to say on the net (mostly IMDB). I usually do that, putting my own thoughts down before reading the other reviews. So anyways, on to the fun...



Imagine the kindly small town doctor. Everyone loves him, he's everybody's best friend. The shingle out in front of his office reads "Paul Carruthers, M.D." How much Rockwellian americana can you stand?

But when the doc opens his mouth to speak, what comes out is Dracula, "I vant you to take two of these und call me in ze morning."

Bela Lugosi is cast as the doctor in The Devil Bat, a little gem released in 1940. The plot is fun and has some inspired ideas, but don't think it's going to make a lot of sense.

By this stage of Legosi's career, he was pretty much stuck in B-movies, although it would be quite some time before he was reduced to appearances in Ed Wood films. In addition, the quality of the film bore no relation to the performance he gave. He was always 'on', no matter how lousy the script or supporting performances. Bela Lugosi's acting ranged from brilliant to over-the-top ham, and he appeared in few really 'good' movies, in large part because he never toned down his accent (he didn't try very hard either).

Back to the movie. Bela, er, Doc Carruthers isn't just a beloved doctor, he's an expert chemist who created a formula which made his bosses rich. He missed out on the big bucks because he sold the rights for cash. Being bitter, he develops another formula, this one designed to enrage giant bats to the point of attacking whoever is wearing it.

What giant bats, you say? Why, the giant bats that Doc is creating in his lab. He tricks selected victims into trying the new 'after shave' and then tsk-tsks over the body when found with their throat ripped out.

Lugosi is wonderful to watch, and you can even get past the ridiculous farce of the heavily-accented "Doc" (although I did chuckle through the first third of the movie every time he spoke). The newspaper photographer, One-Shot, is a hoot, in a 1940's kind of way.

Here's a lovely bit of surreal dialog between the Chief of Police and the newspaper reporter:

reporter: So what are you holding back?

chief: Oh no, I'm not trusting a reporter with details!

reporter: Chief, I promise to help solve this case.

chief: Ok then, we've got this one clue that we've kept secret...

This one is big fun.

Trivia: Dave O'Brien, who played the reporter, appeared in almost 200 B-movies, mostly westerns. His cinematic talents also included directing (43 movies), writing (31 movies), stunt work and songwriting! For all that, he's best remembered as one of the dope-smoking teen fiends in the classic cult-propaganda flick Reefer Madness.

The second Bela Lugosi flick is The Invisible Ghost. I'm going to put the synopsis from the box here:

In the effort to ease the pain of losing his wife, Kessler (Lugosi) submits to hypnosis therapy. But the hypnosis causes Kessler to have lapses of memory followed by a rash of murders - all which seem to be fulfilling the vendetta of his late wife.

There's more, but this is enough. The description above was written by someone who never saw the movie or badly confused it with something else. There's nothing in the flick about hypnosis, and as to the vendetta, well, the movie never mentions any vendetta (and his wife isn't very 'late' either, if you know what I mean). Even the title bears little relation to the actual movie.

Even so, this is another fun movie. Bela Lugosi again steals the show in every scene except when the butler Evans in onscreen. Evans was played by black actor Clarence Muse, and his character defied the stereotypes of the day, being intelligent and dignified, often moreso than the rest of the cast. He's a delight, especially when he makes wry comments during the goings on.

So yes, I recommend this movie too. After all, how often have you seen a movie where one of the lead actors gets executed in the electric chair before the film is half over? No clemency for him!

Trivia: Clarence Muse held a law degree from Pennsylvania's Dickerson University, and was one of the first inductees into the Black Filmmaker's Hall of Fame. In his long career, his film credits included roles in White Zombie, Huckleberry Finn, Showboat, Porgy and Bess, Car Wash and The Black Stallion.

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January 08, 2005

No way aliens ever gave John Wayne an anal probe

According to this site, it's possible that in the John Wayne movie Rio Grande, you can see a UFO in the background over the Duke's shoulder.

Uh-huh.

Another find from J-Walk, but I wanted to put it in the Cult Flicks category so it got it's own post with another Pulitzer-quality title.

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January 05, 2005

Everyone in Southern California is an actor

I was recently watching Sorority Babes at the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama , and as they do occasionally there was a 'biography' feature on the DVD. Skimming the titles of the other movies done by the director and stars (yes, stars, show a little respect), I noticed that one of the ladies also had a role in the movie Body Double, a 'real' movie that I saw not too long ago.

Heading over to the Internet Movie Database, I discovered some interesting things about Ms. Brinke Stevens, who played the character Taffy in Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama.

Brinke Stevens

After graduating with a double-major (biology and psychology) at San Diego State, she went on to earn a master's degree in marine biology from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

She also worked as an environmental consultant for a Southern California nuclear power plant, and all this was before becoming a model, actress, and, ultimately, scream queen.

"I go from a demure co-ed to a whip-cracking dominatrix from hell. There are savage, scale-eyed zombies, virgin sacrifices and demonic posessions, and when I turn into a gorgeous, va-voom woman I say the line I've always wanted to say, 'Behold the new queen of hell!' And I say it with relish." - Brinke Stevens, about the movie Teenage Exorcist

She remains (refreshingly) unenhanced, although she is underendowed by Hollywood standards. (Rocket Jones official policy: Boob jobs bad.) This doesn't stop her from stripping down when her art requires it (yes, I said that with a straight face).

Her role in Body Double was as "Adult film actress #3". Many of her movie credits are direct to video schlock exploitation flicks, but she's tried to go mainstream more than once. She's had roles in The Three Amigo's, This Is Spinal Tap!, Psycho III and The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad, all uncredited.

Altogether she's appeared in over 90 movies, including two to be released in 2005. She also wrote and starred in Teenage Exorcist and Dr. Horror's Erotic House of Idiots, and produced a well-received series of video's where she interviews producers and directors of low-budget horror and exploitation films.

I like that. Find your talent and wallow in it, and if you can make a living at it, so much the better. And if you can't, you can always fall back on that education thing.

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December 30, 2004

Clerks: Uncensored

The movie Clerks is one of those movies where you love it or just don't get it. I believe it has to do with your sense of humor, to some it's outrageously funny, to others - eh, not very. I happen to fall into the "love" category.

My wife bought me Clerks: Uncensored, thinking that she was getting me the original movie. Instead, what I got is the animated series that briefly aired on television. In this case, "briefly" translates into "two episodes".

Dante, Randall, Silent Bob and Jay

There were actually six episodes completed, but the test audience watching the premier hated the pilot. After they showed the second episode to dismal response, the network yanked it from the schedule.

Apparently a whole bunch of people fall into the "don't get it" category, including network executives.

And that's a shame, because this had potential. True, it's primarily an attempt to cash in on Clerks cult hit status, but it's still some damn funny stuff. Dante and Randall return, as do Jay and Silent Bob, who've given up dealing dope to appease network television sensitivities. Instead, they're described as "merry mischief makers". Everyone's language has been cleaned up (a lot!) too.

Like the Simpsons and South Park, celebrities make guest appearances, whether they want to or not. If a celebrity doesn't want to make an official appearance, they'll often be worked into the storyline as a joke, and Gilbert Gottfried does the celebrity dialog - in his normal voice. Hilarious. The humor is very irreverent, with lots of sight gags and things to catch away from the main action, as well as movie take-offs. They pack a lot of funny into a short period of time.

Don't watch these expecting a Clerks movie clone, or you'll be disappointed. Instead, enjoy them for the toons they are, but be prepared for outrageous humor that'll make you laugh out loud.

There are also quite a few very cool extras in the DVD set (it's two disks). I'm especially enjoying the episode commentary, where you learn all kinds of back-story on what went wrong and what went right during the creation and life of the project. There are funny stories and fond rememberances of the process, tinged with a bit of bitterness over how the project turned out and why it ultimately died.

Snootch to the Nootch!

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December 24, 2004

Nice start to the day

Today is Christmas eve, and since Christmas day itself falls on a Saturday, today is a federal holiday. Yay! Next friday too, for the same reason. Yay again!

Mookie and I just finished watching Nosferatu, the silent classic and original vampire movie made in Germany in 1922. Good enough story to keep the MST3K moments to a minimum, and a riveting organ soundtrack added. My only complaint is that the Americanized version I have changed the names of the characters, making the story more familiar yet taking away from the original intent (for instance: Graf Orlok was changed to Count Dracula and Profesor Bulwer became Dr. Van Helsing). Still, that's a minor quibble, and if you can find a copy of this one, I highly recommend seeing it.

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December 23, 2004

"I'd like to report a murder. Mine."

Before I get into the movie review, I want to tell you to get over any bias against WalMart and check out their DVD collections. Up near the registers they've taken to putting out boxes of $1.00 DVD's, and there are some minor classics in the mix. This movie is one of them, and I've got several more in the stack to be watched in the near-future.

D.O.A. Starring Edmond O'Brien, this 1950 film noir release is about as good as it gets.

The plot is intriguing: a man on vacation is poisoned and will die within a week. In that time, he tries to discover who poisoned him and why.

Parts of this flick are sheer brilliance, while others are... let's say less brilliant. Things move along quickly, and I wouldn't be surprised if this film were at least indirectly the inspiration for the series 24.

Because of the pace and complexity of the plot, most characters flash in and out of the picture, sometimes returning later, sometimes never to be seen again. There's enough going on that I'm going to rewatch it and take some notes to tie up some loose ends in my mind. The film is good enough that doing that isn't going to be a chore, it'll be pure pleasure.

Since the movie is set in the 1940's, men are tough guys and gals are dames. A lot of the acting is broad and overdone, especially one love scene between the main characters that just drags on and on and on.

The relentless pace of the story masks a lot of odd leaps of logic and believability, which helps because there's little time to reflect on the "huh?" moments. One bit that defies understanding is an odd slide-whistle "wolf call" that's used every time the main character sees a good looking dame. It's presence is senseless and distracting and goes onto my top-10 list of stupid movie moments. What the hell was the director thinking?

There's no happy ending, if there were it wouldn't be film noir. All in all this is a satisfying little film and well worth the buck you'll spend to snag a copy.

Trivia:
Pamela Britton plays O'Brien's girlfriend, and she later played Dagwood's wife Blondie in the television series and the landlady in My Favorite Martian.

Beverly Garland, credited as Beverly Campbell, made her debut in D.O.A. and continues to be active both in movies and television to this day. She later went on to star in the TV series My Three Sons and most recently in recurring rolls in 7th Heaven and Port Charles.

Actor Nevil Brand also made his movie debut in D.O.A. as Chester the sociopathic thug. With his chilling performance, he stole every scene he was in and went on to a successful career playing tough guys including Al Capone on television's The Untouchables. Brand originally intended to make the Army his career and emerged as the fourth most-decorated US Soldier in WWII. He caught the acting bug while making US Army training films and used his GI Bill to study acting after his discharge.

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December 18, 2004

Boris Karloff

Introduction
While cruising the net, I ran across this image, which brought back memories:

classic.gif

[The stamps issued consist of] five portraits of the actors based on publicity photographs of their most famous horror films. Lon Chaney appears as the Phantom of the Opera, Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Boris Karloff as Frankenstein and the Mummy and Lon Chaney Jr. as Wolf Man.

The descendants had wanted stamps that carried two portraits of their famous relatives, one with monster makeup and one without. Designer Derry Noyes of Washington met their wishes by placing signed photographs of the four actors at the top of the sheets of 20 stamps.

The stamps are the second to contain hidden images, using a process developed by Graphic Security Systems Corp. of Lake Worth, Fla. This time designers have scrambled an image -- not letters -- into each of the stamps: bats on the Dracula stamp, hieroglyphics on the Mummy, masks on the Phantom, wolves on the Wolf Man and lightning bolts on Frankenstein.

To see the images requires purchase of a $4.95 "decoder lens" from the Postal Service.

With that as inspiration, here's the last in a series of brief bios based on those classic stamps.

(in the extended entry)

Boris Karloff was born William Henry Pratt in 1887 in London, England. Coming from a long line of British diplomats, he turned away from family tradition to become a performer on the stage.

"When I was nine I played the demon king in Cinderella and it launched me on a long and happy life of being a monster." - Boris Karloff

In 1912, a then-unknown Karloff had taken some time off to canoe while performing in Regina, Saskatchewan in Canada. Upon his return, he learned that his hotel had been destroyed by a tornado that killed 28 people. He helped to organize a concert that raised some much needed relief funds for the city.

Karloff had a dark skin tone from his mother's East Indian heritage, so in silent films he was cast most often in Arab and American Indian roles. His breakthrough role was as the monster in 1931's Frankenstein, when he was 44 years old. Frankenstein was his 81st movie. All total, he acted in some 200 movies and made almost 100 television appearances.

He got the part as Frankenstein's Monster when Bela Lugosi turned it down because there was no dialogue and he'd be unrecognizable under the makeup. The costume included huge lifts and a heavy brace, which made the role physically difficult. In fact, Karloff suffered from back trouble for the rest of his life as a result of the costume, and underwent three major back surgeries.

After becoming a star, he wasn't so self-important that he couldn't poke a little fun at himself. His first Broadway play was "Arsenic and Old Lace" in a role that was written for especially for him. He played the black sheep of the family, whose face has been changed by a disreputable plastic surgeon so that he looks like Boris Karloff. The resemblance is comically remarked upon often during the play (and later the movie starring Cary Grant but not, inexplicably, Karloff).

Known as a warm and generous man, Boris Karloff enjoyed a reputation both as a professional performer and as a good friend. He was married five times and died in 1969 in his native England.

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December 16, 2004

Like real-life 'Groundhog Day' meets Siskel & Ebert

Most people have a few special movies that they can watch over and over and over again. For me it would be the following:

Father Goose - Cary Grant
Victor Victoria - Robert Preston, Julie Andrews, James Garner
King Ralph - John Goodman
Sahara - James Belushi

Maybe this has been done before, but feel free to post yours and link back, or leave 'em in the comments.

Posted by Ted at 12:20 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Reviewing movies you'd never hear about otherwise

Not me, well... yeah, me. But I mean besides me. Ptiza of Chicken Soup for the Vegan Soul (love that title, love her writing), tells about the Number One Worst Movie of All Time.

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December 12, 2004

A couple of movies starring Scandanavian lovelies

Ursula Andress in Dr. No

Ursula Andress will be forever remembered by me as Ursula Undress, thanks to Mad Magazine and one of their most accurate parody monikers ever. She starred in Dr. No, the first James Bond movie, and became the prototype Bond girl.

When Ursula is in a movie, you just know that at some point she's gonna get naked, right?

Slave of the Cannibal God was a pleasant surprise. Costarring Stacy Keach, there's a lot of plot going on, the acting was better than average for the genre and Ursula manages to stay dressed through more than half the movie. That last might not seem like a plus, but by not taking the easy copout (who needs plot when we can distract the audience with breasts?), the movie manages to sustain interest and when she finally does get naked, well, that just makes it better.

To wildly oversimplify the story, Ursula hires explorer Keach to lead her and her brother in a search for her missing husband, who disappeared on an expedition into the jungle. Shit happens.

There are uncomfortable scenes in the movie. It's about cannibals after all, and what would a cult flick be without some gruesome, eh? A lot of the jungle atmosphere is achieved by stock wildlife scenes, and we're not talking Bambi nibbling grass in a meadow. These are mini-vignettes of mother nature at her most violent and vicious, very in-your-face and disquieting.

Overall, I recommend this movie, especially if you like the jungle/cannibal sub-genre. It's done better than most, and it's got Ursula Andress naked.

Anita Eckberg. Say it slowly, let it roll off your tongue. Ah-neet-ah EK-berg. Sweeeeeet. The second movie unmistakably demonstrates that beauty overcomes talent (or lack thereof) every time.

Anita Ekberg

This time the title is Fangs of the Living Dead. Originally made in Spanish, the half-assed dubbing done here adds to the charm and unintentional hilarity. As good as the other movie was, this one isn't, which is not to say it isn't worth seeing if you love crap movies. Since it is set in Italy and Transylvania, brunette ladies abound, which is worked into the story when the conspicously blond Ms. Ekberg arrives in the village.

You get a double-shot of Anita as she plays both the main character Sylvia and her mother (in a brunette wig) in flashbacks. Sylvia, as far as I could tell, is a fashion model who inherits a castle from the mother she never knew. Or something like that. She travels to the castle to find that she has a creepy and mysterious uncle still living there. He might be a vampire, and the women chained up in the dungeons below probably are too. Her boyfriend follows her across the continent and tries to rescue her until the uncle foils his plans with, of all things, a locked gate. Yep, true love is no match for a good fence.

You can tell that this was meant to be a serious film because there's additional (some would say redundant) comic relief in the character of the boyfriend's best friend, who tags along for the adventure and bumbles his way through the movie.

"I knew your mother. She was very blonde." - Fangs of the Living Dead



One more thing, in a cherry on top kinda way, is the background music. Here's a sample:
Dahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

That's the sound of an organ chord in some minor key, signifying suspense. You hear it about 600 times during the course of the film.

The acting is melodramatic and overwrought (especially Anita Ekberg's) and the dialogue doesn't help matters at all. On the other hand, we get mondo cleavage, vampire women cat fights, shirtless guys chained up (for you ladies), and cheesy special effects. In other words, Fangs of the Living Dead earns Rocket Jones' highest recommendation!

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December 05, 2004

Lon Chaney Jr.

Introduction
While cruising the net, I ran across this image, which brought back memories:

classic.gif

[The stamps issued consist of] five portraits of the actors based on publicity photographs of their most famous horror films. Lon Chaney appears as the Phantom of the Opera, Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Boris Karloff as Frankenstein and the Mummy and Lon Chaney Jr. as Wolf Man.

The descendants had wanted stamps that carried two portraits of their famous relatives, one with monster makeup and one without. Designer Derry Noyes of Washington met their wishes by placing signed photographs of the four actors at the top of the sheets of 20 stamps.

The stamps are the second to contain hidden images, using a process developed by Graphic Security Systems Corp. of Lake Worth, Fla. This time designers have scrambled an image -- not letters -- into each of the stamps: bats on the Dracula stamp, hieroglyphics on the Mummy, masks on the Phantom, wolves on the Wolf Man and lightning bolts on Frankenstein.

To see the images requires purchase of a $4.95 "decoder lens" from the Postal Service.

With that as inspiration, here's the third in a series of brief bios based on those classic stamps.

(in the extended entry)

Lon Chaney, Jr., is the only person to have played all four of the classic movie monsters: the Wolf Man, Frankenstein's Monster, the Mummy and Dracula.

Born Creighton Tull Chaney in Oklahoma City in 1906, Lon Chaney Jr was inextricably tied to his father's acting career. From the earliest days, in addition to doing regional theater under his own name, he worked menial jobs to support himself without calling upon his father. He was at various times a plumber, a meatcutter's apprentice, a metal worker and a farm worker. Despite his attempts to separate himself from his father's legacy, there was no animosity between them. From his father he developed skills as a makeup artist, but was seldom allowed to utilize them because of strict union rules.

After his father died in 1930, Creighton Chaney began making films, appearing in several small parts. In 1935 a producer insisted on changing his name to Lon Chaney Jr. for marketing purposes. Chaney was uncomfortable with the change but recognized that the famous name would help his career.

Lon Chaney Jr as Lennie

In 1939 he was given the role of the simple-minded Lennie in the film adaptation of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. This proved to be his breakout role, giving an incredibly sensitive and touching performance. The role was his personal favorite as well, and often after a few drinks, he would recite scenes from the film at parties.

His next legendary movie role was in 1941 as the Wolf Man. Once again, he brought uncommon life and pathos to an unconventional role, this time as the lead character who struggled with personal demons as well as lycanthropy.

After this, Chaney starred in a string of minor horror films and gained a reputation as a solid character actor in more prestigious, big-budget films such as High Noon.

All told, Lon Chaney Jr appeared in over 170 movies. Not too shabby for a son whose father told him that he was too tall for a successful career in film.

He suffered from various illnesses and alcohol problems later in his life, and died in 1973.

When he died, it was as an actor who had spent his life chasing the fame of his father, but who was much beloved by a generation of filmgoers who had never seen his father.

Like his father, he refused requests for autographs.

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December 03, 2004

That "Cult Flick" thing going around

And we all know how I avoid crap like that...

Pep and Liz from Truly Bad Films lend their take.

Steve and Robert, the Llama Butchers give their two yips worth.

"Seen it" in bold, occasional comments made (in the extended entry).

1 This Is Spinal Tap - this is one of those "get around to it someday" movies for me.
2 The Rocky Horror Picture Show
3 Freaks - wonderful.
4 Harold And Maude
5 Pink Flamingos
6 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - oh yeah.
7 Repo Man
8 Scarface
9 Blade Runner
10 The Shawshank Redemption - better than the original King story.
11 Five Deadly Venoms
12 Plan 9 From Outer Space
13 Brazil - I rent this every few years to rewatch.
14 Eraserhead
15 Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
16 The Warriors - I fell in lust with the whiskey-smooth voice of that DJ.
17 Dazed And Confused
18 Hard-Boiled
19 Evil Dead II
20 The Mack
21 Pee-Wee's Big Adventure - I can't stand him.
22 Un Chien Andalou
23 Akira
24 The Toxic Avenger - my introduction to the entire Troma lineup.
25 Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory
26 Stranger Than Paradise
27 Dawn Of The Dead
28 The Wiz - ease on out, ease on out-ta my head.
29 Clerks - I liked it, and the alternate ending really drove home the filmmaking process and how it can alter the entire tone of a movie.
30 The Harder They Come
31 Slap Shot
32 Re-Animator - loved it.
33 Grey Gardens
34 The Big Lebowski - didn't like it, couldn't even finish watching it.
35 Withnail and I
36 Showgirls
37 A Bucket Of Bood - the first half was 5 stars, the second half was pretty lame.
38 They Live
39 The Best Of Everything
40 Barbarella
41 Heathers
42 Rushmore
43 The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension
44 Love Streams
45 Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story - what a voice that woman had!
46 Aguirre, The Wrath of God
47 Walking And Talking Nicole Holofcener
48 The Decline Of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years
49 Friday
50 Faces of Death, Vol. 1 - not my cup of tea
51 Monty Python and the Holy Grail
52 A Clockwork Orange - one of my all-time favorites
53 Mommie Dearest - until you've seen this dubbed in German, you haven't truly experienced it. Would probably be great in Klingon too.
54 The Princess Bride
55 Swingers
56 UHF
57 Valley of the Dolls
58 Fight Club
59 Dead Alive (aka Braindead)
60 Better Off Dead
61 Donnie Darko

Robert the Llama Butcher likes The Adventures Of Baron Von Munchausen, and I'll heartily agree.

Pep and Liz have a few suggestions too: Matinee - hell yeah! Office Space - ehhh.

My additions: Red Dawn, Idle Hands, My Favorite Year, and I definitely second the nomination of Matinee! In fact, let me add King Ralph and Always, and make it a John Goodman triple crown.

Posted by Ted at 06:01 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

November 28, 2004

Lon Chaney

Introduction
While cruising the net, I ran across this image, which brought back memories:

classic.gif

[The stamps issued consist of] five portraits of the actors based on publicity photographs of their most famous horror films. Lon Chaney appears as the Phantom of the Opera, Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Boris Karloff as Frankenstein and the Mummy and Lon Chaney Jr. as Wolf Man.

The descendants had wanted stamps that carried two portraits of their famous relatives, one with monster makeup and one without. Designer Derry Noyes of Washington met their wishes by placing signed photographs of the four actors at the top of the sheets of 20 stamps.

The stamps are the second to contain hidden images, using a process developed by Graphic Security Systems Corp. of Lake Worth, Fla. This time designers have scrambled an image -- not letters -- into each of the stamps: bats on the Dracula stamp, hieroglyphics on the Mummy, masks on the Phantom, wolves on the Wolf Man and lightning bolts on Frankenstein.

To see the images requires purchase of a $4.95 "decoder lens" from the Postal Service.

With that as inspiration, here's the second in a series of brief bios based on those classic stamps.

(in the extended entry)

From the PBS American Masters database:

When we think of the silent film era, we think of actors like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, or Clara Bow, stars who created trademark personas and spent their entire careers testing the limits of those characters. They perfected what they had created, but rarely attempted other roles. For many in the industry, both then and now, this type of career is considered the pinnacle of success, but for one actor it was the antithesis of the his art. For Lon Chaney, the art of acting was the art of continual transformation.

Leonidas Frank Chaney was born in Colorado in 1883, and both of his parents were deaf-mutes. That beginning allowed him to become highly skilled at pantomime and projecting emotion via his facial expression and body language. He started work as an extra at a theater, doing stage work, learning the trade and becoming an expert at stage makeup that served him well during his career (he wrote the 'make-up' entry for the 1929 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica). Lon Chaney made his first credited appearance in a film in 1912 and appeared in over 150 movies over the next 20 years. His last movie was the only "talkie" in his catalog of work.

Lon Chaney pioneered special effects makeup and prosthesis which earned him the nickname "Man of a Thousand Faces". His most famous roles were as Quasimodo in 1923's Hunchback of Notre Dame and later as the quintessential Phantom of the Opera. He also played Fagin in an early film version of Oliver Twist, and starred in Tell It To The Marines, for which he became the first actor to be awarded an honorary membership in the Corps. The shipboard scenes in the movie were filmed on the USS California, later sunk at Pearl Harbor.

Besides acting, Chaney also directed many of the films he starred in, which probably also helped establish him as a star. Unfortunately, most of his early work, both in front of and behind the camera, remains lost. His 1918 film The Kaiser, The Beast of Berlin was a major success at the time and is on the American Film Institute's "Ten Most Wanted" list of lost films.

Lon Chaney died of throat cancer in 1930, which gave Bela Lugosi the role of Dracula. There were several other roles that had to be recast in other films because of his death as well.

His craggy features kept him from romantic leads, but he found continuous work as a character actor in supporting roles. In the 60's and 70's, a number of his 'lost' films were rediscovered, including many of his non-horror movies, and his good nature and winning personality in regular roles was rediscovered as well.

"My whole career has been devoted to keeping people from knowing me." Lon Chaney


Lon Chaney was an intensely private man, which gave him a reputation as a strange and unfriendly man. His costars, among them Loretta Young and Joan Crawford, and friends tell a different story.

From his bio on IMDB.com:

A friend of Afro-American actor Noble Johnson since both were boys in Colorado together, Chaney was responsible for giving his old friend some early breaks in a career that spanned more than four decades. Likewise, Chaney befriended the young Boris Karloff shortly after the latter's arrival in Hollywood. As with Johnson, he helped Karloff gain a foothold in the movies, and until the end of his life, Karloff always spoke kindly of Chaney as a good friend and colleague.

1991 Lon Chaney postage stamp
Besides the stamps listed above, he was also included as one of ten 29˘ US commemorative postage stamps celebrating stars of the silent screen, issued 27 April 1994. Designed by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, this set of stamps also honored Rudolph Valentino, Clara Bow, 'Charles Chalpin' , John Gilbert, Zasu Pitts, Harold Lloyd, Theda Bara, Buster Keaton, and the Keystone Kops.

His son, Lon Chaney Jr., became a famous actor of the horror genre.

Posted by Ted at 07:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 25, 2004

Bela Lugosi

Introduction
While cruising the net, I ran across this image, which brought back memories:

classic.gif

[The stamps issued consist of] five portraits of the actors based on publicity photographs of their most famous horror films. Lon Chaney appears as the Phantom of the Opera, Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Boris Karloff as Frankenstein and the Mummy and Lon Chaney Jr. as Wolf Man.

The descendants had wanted stamps that carried two portraits of their famous relatives, one with monster makeup and one without. Designer Derry Noyes of Washington met their wishes by placing signed photographs of the four actors at the top of the sheets of 20 stamps.

The stamps are the second to contain hidden images, using a process developed by Graphic Security Systems Corp. of Lake Worth, Fla. This time designers have scrambled an image -- not letters -- into each of the stamps: bats on the Dracula stamp, hieroglyphics on the Mummy, masks on the Phantom, wolves on the Wolf Man and lightning bolts on Frankenstein.

To see the images requires purchase of a $4.95 "decoder lens" from the Postal Service.

With that as inspiration, here's the first in a series of brief bios based on those classic stamps.

(in the extended entry)

Bela Lugosi was born in the Austrian-Hungarian empire as Be'la Ferenc Dezso Blasko (lots of little squiggly emphasis marks missing in that name) on October 20, 1882.

As a young man, he became a star of the stage and theater in Budapest, as his fine singing voice gained him many roles in operettas as well as traditional plays.

He volunteered for military service during WWI and was commissioned as an infantry lieutenant. He was wounded three times during the war.

He was forced to immigrate to Germany because of his "leftest" activities when he helped organize an actors union. He arrived in New York City in December, 1921.

He became a charter member of the Screen Actors Guild, having membership number 28.

Bela Lugosi died of a heart attack on August 16, 1956. At the time of his death, Lugosi was in such poor financial condition that Frank Sinatra quietly paid for his funeral. Lugosi was buried in his full Dracula costume, including a cape.

According to Vincent Price, when he and Peter Lorre went to view Bela's body during the funeral, Lorre, upon seeing Lugosi dressed in his famous Dracula cape, quipped, "Do you think we should drive a stake through his heart just in case?"

Biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia (excerpted):

The man who will always be known as Dracula actually had a long and distinguished acting career (mostly on stage) before donning cape and fangs in Hollywood. In 1901, after studying at the Budapest Academy of Theatrical Arts, this banker's son made his stage debut as a featured juvenile. Tall, aristocratic, and handsome in a vaguely sinister way (with piercing eyes and a cruel mouth), he spent the next two decades building a reputation as one of Hungary's great matinee idols, and made his first film-A Leopard-in 1917. Political turmoil in his homeland drove Lugosi to Germany in 1919; he appeared in several films there, including a 1920 adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and a 1922 filmization of The Last of the Mohicans.

Emigrating to America shortly thereafter, Lugosi toiled in stage melodramas and routine programmers (such as 1923's The Silent Command and 1925's The Midnight Girl) before assuming the title role in the 1927 Broadway production of "Dracula," which he also essayed for two years on the road. The thick, almost impenetrable accent that hampered him in most roles actually proved to be an asset when he played Bram Stoker's Transylvanian vampire. Film rights to the play were sold to Universal, which announced that Lon Chaney would play the title role. But Chaney's untimely death from cancer in 1930 prompted producer-director Tod Browning to cast Lugosi instead. Dracula (1931) launched Universal's long-running cycle of horror movies and made its star a household name overnight.

Unfortunately, the movie's success also doomed Lugosi to a lifetime of boogeyman roles in vehicles of steadily diminishing quality. After refusing to play the Monster in Frankenstein (1931, the role taken by Boris Karloff), he played his first mad doctor in Murders in the Rue Morgue a voodoo master in White Zombie (delivering a wonderfully florid, over-thetop performance), and a priest of the Black Arts in Chandu the Magician in 1932 alone. But the next year he was already working for Poverty Row producers, getting top billing in Mascot's The Whispering Shadow and Majestic's The Death Kiss but winning only supporting roles in major-studio productions such as The Island of Lost Souls and International House (all 1933). Independent producer Sol Lesser gave Lugosi a bona fide hero role as the star of The Return of Chandu a 1934 serial also released in featurelength version. That same year he returned to Universal for The Black Cat (1934), the first (and best) of several chillers that teamed him with Karloff, whose career eclipsed Lugosi's almost from the start.

Lugosi's typecasting and his failure to master the nuances of the English language certainly hampered his American film career, but he also proved to be his own worst enemy, taking leads in the most abysmal mini-budget schlockers for whatever money producers were willing to pay. A colorful character role, that of Ygor, the mad shepherd in Son of Frankenstein (1939), briefly restored Lugosi to prominence, and he appeared to good advantage in that year's Ninotchka (starring Greta Garbo), but he alternated strong supporting roles in Universal's Black Friday (1940), The Wolf Man (1941), and The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942, again as Ygor) with negligible turns in low-budget Monogram melodramas produced by schlockmeister Sam Katzman, who teamed Lugosi most ignobly with the East Side Kids in Spooks Run Wild (1941) and Ghosts on the Loose (1942).

Major thanks to IMDB.com for much of this material.

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November 23, 2004

Lilly and Marilyn were Hot Rod Babes

Head on over to MunsterKoach and stroll through a wonderful site dedicated to the legendary George Barris custom hotrods featured on the 60's show The Munsters. Everything you ever wanted to know about the Munster Koach (the family hearse) and Drag-u-la (Grandpa's coffin coupe), including plenty of pictures (cheesecake photos of Marilyn posing with the cars too!).

Thanks to The Astounding B Monster for the pointer.

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November 15, 2004

Movie Review Index

Updated 3/12/05

I've been doing crappy movie reviews* since almost the beginning of Rocket Jones, and thought it might be a good time to recap and give you a one-stop place to see what's been done to this point.

Movies
American President
Andromeda Strain
Angry Red Planet
Ape Man, The
Astro Zombies
Attack of the Puppet People
Attack of the Sixty-foot Centerfold
Beast from Haunted Cave
Beast that Killed Women
Beast, The
Bound
Braniac, The
Brotherhood of the Wolf
Bubba Ho-Tep
Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death
Clerks: Uncensored
Creature from the Haunted Sea
Curious Dr. Humpp
D.O.A.
Dave
Destination Moon
The Devil Bat
Don't Look in the Basement
Electric Dreams
Fangs of the Living Dead
First Spaceship on Venus
Ghost Gunfighter
The Giant Gila Monster
Gladiator Eroticus
Gorilla, The
Happiness of the Katakuris
House at the Edge of the Park
Idle Hands
The Invisible Ghost
Last Man on Earth
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Lord of the G-Strings
Metropolis
Monster of Camp Sunshine
My Fellow Americans
Night Train to Terror
Nosferatu
Omega Man
Phantom of the Opera (original silent version)
Play-Mate of the Apes
Reptillicus
Retroactive
Revolt of the Zombies
Severed Arm, The
Shogun Assassin
Slave of the Cannibal God
SnowBeast
Sorority House Vampires from Hell
Story of Riki-Oh
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original and remake)
They Came from Beyond Space
Toy Box, The
Toys Are Not For Children
Van Helsing
The Veil (TV series)
Virtual Girl
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
What's the Matter With Helen?
Whoops, Apocolypse!
Wizards
X from Outer Space, The
Zulu

Bios
Bela Lugosi
Lon Chaney
Lon Chaney Jr.
Boris Karloff
Brinke Stevens
Steve Reeves

*As in: the movies I review are usually crappy, the reviews themselves are brilliant if unconventional.

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November 12, 2004

Queer Eye for the Undead Guy

Saw Van Helsing yesterday. I have the same basic feelings towards it that I had towards The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Great special effects, much more storyline than I expected. Not a very good movie, but fun nonetheless. Biggest nitpick: why was Dracula so damned gay? Dashing, suave and debonair, yes, but he practically swished and sang show tunes (he said, tossing out stereotypes with abandon).

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November 05, 2004

One premise, two movies

Boy. Girl. Jealous computer.

Two movies take this basic storyline on divergent paths: Virtual Girl (1998) and Electric Dreams (1984). What a difference 15 years makes.

Lets start with the sweet stuff first. Almost nobody saw Electric Dreams when it first premiered, which is a shame because this is a charming love story with a SciFi-ish twist. In it, an architect named Miles buys his first PC (in the days before PC's were everywhere), with plans to control his entire home with it. Of course, things get screwed up right from the start, since almost the first thing he has to do at setup is input his name. He mistypes it, and for the rest of the flick the computer calls him "Moles". The PC gradually builds itself a male personna and things seem to be reasonably under control (with amusing exceptions here and there).

Then a new neighbor moves into the apartment downstairs. Madeline hits it off with Moles Miles, and also with Miles' computer without realizing it. The computer becomes jealous over the relationship between Miles and Madeline, and an interesting if improbable love triangle develops. When Miles realizes that the mysterious 'other man' is his own PC, he tries to take control of the situation and all hell breaks loose. I said this was a sweet movie, and there is a happy ending.

Electric Dreams is one of those movies that stuck with me and I'm not sure why. It bills itself as a fairy tale, which is as good a description as any. The soundtrack is pure 80's with a strong European lean, the story is fun and interesting, the special effects are ok (considering their age), and the acting is better than average. If you get a chance, grab a bottle of wine and a blanket big enough for two and cuddle up with your snuggle buddy for this one.

Note: in the end credits, the movie is dedicated to UNIVAC 1, one of the earliest supercomputers of the 1950's.

Virtual Girl is a modern, raunchier movie that's based on the same basic plot elements. I caught it on late-night cable, so the fact that there's plenty of nudity and softcore sex wasn't a surprise. What was a surprise was how much plot there actually was. To be sure, this isn't a good movie, but it's far above the usual late-night skinflick trash that's on.

A hotshot programmer is given the task of debugging a virtual sex simulation. The underlying rationale makes sense, and the scene between him and his boss arguing over it was a nice touch and unexpected in this type of movie.

Where you'd usually see the lead male actor panting in anticipation for every woman in sight, this guy is happily married. They have a baby, and near the beginning there's a brief attempt to show him as a devoted family man. Mostly the baby is used as a prop to advance the storyline when necessary - evil threatens baby! Ratchet up the tension.

Once again, the computer becomes jealous of the man. More correctly, the computer software is the jealous partner this time. Virtuality is her name ("Just call me Virtue"), and she starts to influence reality and cause problems in interesting ways.

The special effects in this one are way beyond what you'll see in Electric Dreams, but still fall short of today's best efforts. The best bits are when Virtue morphs from one girl to another ("What do you want? blonde cheerleader? brunette amazon? Anything you desire."). I have a quirky taste in women, so I'll admit that the lead actress is good looking enough but did absolutely nothing for me.

So there you have it. I recommend Electric Dreams, and if your tastes run in that direction you could do worse than Virtual Girl.

Posted by Ted at 04:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 29, 2004

Found Wood

A while back Robert Heinlein's lost novel was published.

Not long ago they discovered a complete Jimi Hendrix concert filmed in 1968.

Check out what they've found now:

Danny and Shirley are a young couple with a problem: it seems that Danny can't rise to the occasion, and Shirley's running out of patience. The mysterious Madame Heles is a necromancer who has the solution to their boudoir blahs - a hands-on approach involving her two lovely assistants, the house stud, and some very special rituals.

Bond.  Renee Bond.

Oh yeah. They're releasing one of Ed Wood's 'lost' smut films, Necromania (link safe for work, but I'd wait until I was home). Best known for "Plan 9 from Outer Space", some say his films were so bad that it's sure proof of his genius. Besides his attempts at sci-fi, westerns and horror, he also did porn. But of course even his blue movies are blessed with that Ed Wood magic.

As I went through the Ed Wood filmography, I was delighted to discover that Rene Bond starred in several of his more mature offerings. You may recognize her, she was very popular in adult movies and as a model in men's magazines in the 60's. Knowing that doesn't mean I'm old, it means that I can appreciate vintage erotica.

I don't watch much porn, but since this is Ed Wood, well, you know I'm gonna order it.

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October 27, 2004

100 Scariest Movie Scenes

Check out the list at RetroCrush.

A rattle of the bones to Dave for pointing it out. I saw it in the comments at Vadergrrrl's place, and she has an excellent post on her personal favorite scary films too.

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October 26, 2004

Movie Review: Astro Zombies

Mad scientist. Check.
Creepy assistant. Check.
Pulsing brains and hearts. Check.
Homicidal monster. Check.
Splashing blood and gruesome gore. Check.
G-Men. Check.
Foreign spies. Check.
Busty babes in bra and panties or bikinis. Check.

So can someone please tell me why this movie is so damned dull?!?!?!?!?

Tura Satana

Astro Zombies has a decent cast, and you'll probably recognize several of the actors. Robert Carradine stars as the evil scientist, but he's barely trying here. Robert Bagdad checks in as the odd assistant, and while he looks like an evil assistant, he spends a lot of time alternating between evil genius in his own right and bumbling idiot servant. Tura Satana of Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is the head of an international ring of spies out to steal the doctor's secrets, but her acting is if anything even worse in this movie. The G-men are just annoying, and tend to die after long boring chase scenes. They're supposed to be the good guys, but such faceless drones that I really didn't care whether or not they lived or died.

I think the idea was to build suspense by dragging out the action, but the director had no real clue about how to really build tension. There wasn't a lot to work with either, because the script is bad, the acting is bad, the plot is bad, the sets are bad... The cars are nice though, it's fun to see yesterday's roads filled with Mustangs and Galaxys.

About three-fourths of the way into this movie, you can almost hear the director say "time to liven this mess up!" Suddenly spies and G-men start to get shot and stabbed, the monster starts to attack, the gore becomes more graphic, and characters actually run instead of meander around the screen. Not that any of it saves this bomb.

One part that made me laugh was that the monsters (the Astro Zombies), are powered by photoelectric cells stuck to their heads. Yep, solar powered evil. For nighttime badness, they also have a built in battery pack that recharges during the day. In one fight scene, a G-man manages to remove the battery pack from the monster. The monster grabs the G-man's flashlight, and we're treated to a long sequence where the monster is struggling through the back alleys of Los Angeles, trying to make it back to the doctor's secret laboratory, all the while holding the flashlight to his forehead!

An interesting bit of trivia, this movie was co-written and produced by Wayne Rogers - Trapper John of television's M*A*S*H. I'm curious to know how many times he's been punched for having a hand in this movie.

Simply put, this movie sucks, and not in a good way. Stay away from this one, unless you need the sleep. What a shame, because it had so much potential too.

Posted by Ted at 11:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 17, 2004

Mucho Queso Gracias!

I recently had the pleasure of getting reaquainted with old friends: Mexican horror movies. These were a staple on late-night TV when I was growing up, usually coming on after Monty Python and the bullfights from Mexico City.

"Mexican horror films are, without a doubt, the closest thing to a cinematic acid trip you are ever going to encounter." Keith Crocket - Cinefear Video

Like Japanese monster movies, there's a certain atmosphere and quirkiness to these flicks, a "feel" that is recognizable and (to me) much more accessable than the Japanese flicks. Keith Crocker pegs it with his definition: simplicity. These are no-frills, straightforward efforts. No tongue-in-cheek, no broad overacting, no subtle messages or morality plays, these movies are simply meant to entertain.

The movie that fired me up again is called The Brainiac. It was part of a three-movie collection I found digging through the WalMart bargain bin.

In the movie, a Baron is condemned to death by the Catholic Inquisition in Mexico. As he's being burned alive, he looks up and sees a comet passing overhead. He then proclaims a curse whereby he'll return when the comet appears again and wreak his revenge upon the court's descendents.

And that's just what happens, except with typical Mexican-style surreal twists. It's 1961 and 300 years have passed. The Baron doesn't just come back with the comet, he comes back *from* the comet, as a brain-sucking alien monster who can assume his human shape as the Baron, turn invisible and hypnotize people with his eyes!

That 'brain-sucking' description is literal, in fact, the medical doctor who does the autopsies on the victims describes it just so:

"Two puncture wounds are here at the base of the skull, and the brains are sucked out."

I love technical medical terminology.

During the movie, you see a lot of this monster, there's no fleeting subliminal glimpses here. Obviously, the makers of this movie are proud of the mask they created (it is pretty cool), so they show it often. You might think that he's got massive fangs to make those "two puncture wounds", and you'd be wrong. The monster has this giant dorky-looking forked tongue that flops out when he's about to kill someone.

And he goes about exacting his revenge, being the charming Baron to meet the people he later kills, and occasionally snacking from a bowl of brains he keeps in a locked cabinet in his castle mansion. Mmmmm, tapioca!

Just as he's about to feast on his last victim, two policemen who've been hot on his trail - sort of - show up and just happen to have flamethrowers handy. Bye bye Baron Brainsucking Alien.

I left a lot of plot out so's not to spoil it for you. The Braniac is a great introduction to Mexican horror, and an excellent example of the genre, but there's so much more to explore!

Here's a blip from The Astounding B Movie Monster archive:

Let's browse through the musty catalog of video categories. What am I in the mood for? There are B-movies. There are horror B-movies. There are Mexican B-movies. There are Mexican horror B-movies. There are Mexican wrestling B-movies. There are Mexican wrestling horror B-movies. There are Mexican wrestling WOMEN horror B-movies. That's the one! Just what the doctor ordered.
...
All of the Mexican Bs seem to star the same actors and were apparently all made by the same director, producer, writer and crew. More significantly, they all have essentially the same plot. (Mad doctor murders women. Wrestlers to the rescue.)

If you get a chance, these are fun movies to watch. Three of the best from this sub-sub-sub-genre are Doctor of Doom, Wrestling Women Vs. the Aztec Mummy (one of my all-time favorite titles), and Night of the Bloody Apes.

Wrestling women Lorena Velazquez and Elizabeth Campbell

"Well, I think we better be careful! Maybe that stupid mummy has fits, and undresses! Who knows what he has beneath his clothes?!?" - Wrestling Women Vs. the Aztec Mummy


Why wrestling? Well, wrestling used to be big time in Mexico. Like American kids dreaming of growing up to be NBA superstars, Mexican kids used to dream of becoming wrestling stars. In pre-WWF days, American wrestling was fun but kind of bland. Mexican wrestling, on the other hand, added huge portions of schlock Hollywood to its product.

A typical match: To the beat of drums, ten beautiful Mexican ladies in brass bikinis would come down the aisle, dropping rose petals and waving feather banners on long poles. Next, four brawny men in loincloths would carry a gilded litter to the side of the ring, and out would step - The Aztec God. He would slowly and majestically climb into the ring, where some of his bikini-clad maidens would remove his headdress and perform silly purification rituals with incense and more dancing and drumming. When they finally withdrew, the Aztec God would be standing alone in the ring, stoic, arms crossed, waiting for his opponent.

And what an opponent! The cameras would suddenly pan upwards as bright beams of light shined down, and a UFO flying saucer would hover down on cables, belching smoke and flashing colored lights as it was lowered, until it rested on the ground. After a moment, the door would open, and two beautiful Mexican women in silver bikinis would step out. They would lay out a red carpet and suddenly a bright light would shine from the doorway, illuminating from behind a figure standing there. The Alien had arrived.

When he finally made it into the ring, they'd have a regular ol' wrestling match. And when it was over, the next match would be announced, and it would be more of the same wonderfully tacky theater, maybe Doctor Love against Snake Charmer.

For more about Mexican horror films, I highly recommend reading this article at Cinefear.



I took some trouble to format this one a little nicer than the normal Rocket Jones post. Two reasons: first, because I can use the html and css practice, and secondly because I'm truly fond of these movies and they deserve a little something special.

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October 09, 2004

Movie Reviews for Dummies

Don't write lines like this:

"The music that was played throughout was so awful it makes you want to rip your eyes out of their sockets."

Huh?

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October 08, 2004

Two Three Ok, Four Remarkable Movies

I've recently seen a foursome of interesting movies, each fun and worthwhile in a unique way, yet flawed enough to keep them from reaching their full potential.

First up, and probably the best known here in America, is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, starring Sean Connery. Critics panned it and a lot of people hate it for various reasons.

Too bad, 'cause I like this movie. Characters not true to legend? Boo hoo. Unbelievable special effects? That's the point. It doesn't follow the storyline it's based on? It's based on a comic book, get over it. Much like Starship Troopers Earth vs. Soup, you need to suspend belief and just enjoy the ride. I enjoy these bigger-than-life adventures in the Raiders of the Lost Ark style (I think RotLA is overrated too). Lots of fun.

Next, I've got a pair of international offerings courtesy of my friend Dan. He's got the same twisted taste in movies that I do, so we trade flicks often and suggest weird little offerings for each other.

Shogun Assassin. From Japan, this is the movie that inspired Kill Bill. In fact, Kill Bill is an Americanized version of this cult classic and pays tribute in little ways to the original, but you probably missed them if you've never seen this one. The cover of the box proclaims that this flick has been banned since 1983 (due to extreme violence), and that it's impossible to keep a body count. The violence is intense and frequent by 1980's standards, but is fairly tame in today's slasher flick-infested world. The gore mainly consists of gushing blood and is cartoon-like in the way it sprays all over the place.

Lone Wolf is an elite and loyal Samurai for a senile and paranoid Shogun. The Shogun's ninjas kill Lone Wolf's wife, so he vows vengence and, accompanied by his toddler son, they begin their quest to topple the Shogun. Lone Wolf pushes his son along in a stroller-like cart (remember, this is medieval Japan), vanquishing all mercenaries, samurai, and ninjas sent against them, and there are a lot!

The son narrates:

"My father tells me not to count the number of men he's killed, just to pray for the souls of those he's killed. I need to know how many souls to pray for, so I keep count..."

As silly as this sounds, it works. The actor who plays Lone Wolf has a powerful screen presence (unfortunately he died a few years ago of a heart attack), and the spiritual aspects of Japan are played up somewhat. There is some nudity, and like I said the violence is plentiful but not particularly gruesome by today's standards. In short, this is a Samurai movie, and an excellent one at that.

The third movie goes in about a dozen directions at once, and although it can't seem to make up its mind about where it wants to be, it's still a riveting and enjoyable movie.

Made in France, Brotherhood of the Wolf tells the story of a legendary beast that terrorizes a rural province in pre-(French) revolutionary times. The cinematography is beautiful, and you can enjoy it just for the scenery, which is a good thing because some aspects of the plot are just plain silly. I tend to be overlook that, because what do I know about French cinema (other than I can't stand Jerry Lewis)? Same for Japanese films, so I just shrug and move on.

We've got a beast running around wreaking havoc, killing men and women, children and adult alike, and the local French army garrison has had zero luck tracking it down. The King sends his Royal taxidermist to determine what exactly is going on, and he charms the local yokels as he begins to unravel the mystery.

And it's quite a mystery. A local brothel is involved, as is the Catholic Church. His sidekick, an American Indian he befreinded during the French Indian War, gets quite involved with the local gypsies, and between them and the peasants and the clergy and the hookers and the resident royalty, well, everyone has something to hide and an agenda of their own.

Remember that "silly" part I mentioned? For some odd reason, many of the fight scenes are straight out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In fact, I had no idea that the French in those days were such kick ass kung fu fighters! I have absolutely no idea why this was included in the film, and the film doesn't even try to justify it. You're just cruising along, digging on the hoop skirts and powdered wigs, and suddenly it's Bruce Lee time, baby.

Once again, suspend belief and just go with the flow, and you'll find a lot to like. The plot keeps you guessing pretty much right to the end, and I have to again mention the absolutely beautiful scenery and cinematography.

Finally, we have a flick that I saw on the SciFi channel, titled Retroactive. This is a little gem for action film fans. The premise is inspired: if you could go back and relive a moment, what would you do differently?

Jim Belushi plays the baddie in this movie, and enjoys the hell out of it. He's a low-class Texas redneck and the kind of guy who owns a gun and is always on the edge of the law. Critical, but oddly peripheral to the story is a government lab with an experimental but functioning time machine.

Belushi and his meek wife pick up a stranded hitchhiker, a good-looking lady who's car has broken down in the remote Texas desert. Along the way they encounter a few other people and things get out of hand quickly, resulting in Belushi killing his wife.

The hitchhiker gets away, finds herself at the lab and accidentally gets to relive the last stretch of time. Knowing what's about to happen, she tries to change events but just makes things worse. It happens again and again, and each time it gets more complicated and goes more wrong as she desperately tries to set things right.

There's lots of explosions and gunfire and car chases and crashes, and like I said, the SciFi aspect is critical to the plot but not really used beyond that. Once again, just go with the flow and enjoy the action. It's by no means a great movie, but it's interesting and entertaining and Belushi makes a great bad guy.

So there you go, four movies I can heartily recommend, and I only used the word 'silly' for two of them.

Posted by Ted at 05:35 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 04, 2004

Janet Leigh

Best known as the woman stabbed to death in Psycho's infamous shower scene, actress Janet Leigh has passed away at age 77.

Besides that signature role, she had a long and distinguished career, starring in movies with leading men such as Van Johnson, Van Heflin, Robert Mitchum, James Stewart, Martin and Lewis, John Wayne, Dick Van Dyke, Victor Mature, and Tony Curtis.

Thank you Ms. Leigh.

You can get the "Mad Mother Shower Curtain" here. I always wanted one of those.

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October 01, 2004

Frankenfish, the movie

You may recall the ongoing hullabaloo about Snakehead fish in the mid-Atlantic states. It's mean, tough and voracious, with the ability to scour small ponds free of other life.

Sounds like a bad movie, right?

Thanks to the SciFi Channel, now it is. I just saw a preview where the Snakeheads not only survive, but "move up a few rungs on the food ladder". They're still mean, tough and voracious, but now they're also twenty feet long.

You know I'm gonna be watching.

Posted by Ted at 09:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 26, 2004

Television of my childhood

I saw a commercial late last night about the Action network showing episodes of the old Irwin Allen series Time Tunnel.

This is another of those series I remember watching with my dad, along with Combat, Bonanza, and The Rifleman (with Chuck Connors, who played baseball for the Dodgers - boo! - but I liked the show anyways).

So the commercial came on, and even though I haven't thought about it in years, memories of the show instantly clicked back into place. Airing in 1966 and only lasting one or two seasons, later shows like Star Trek, Quantum Leap and many others owe thanks to Time Tunnel for inspiration. I'm looking forward to seeing it again.

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September 22, 2004

Another Icon passes

It's a sad day for us Cult Cinema buffs. Film maker Russ Meyer has passed away at age 82. Best known for his trademark well-endowed female leads and plenty of nudity, his movies stand up to the cheesy test of time and are still lots of fun to watch.

Thanks Russ, I'll watch something in your honor this week.

Posted by Ted at 11:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I'm still partial to MaryAnn myself

Most of us remember her as Ginger from Gilligan's Island, but Tina Louise has had a decent career in Hollywood (translation: she hasn't starved for lack of acting roles, though there are rumors of a porn movie or two in her filmography).

Of course, it helps to look this good in a toga (in the extended entry).

Tina Louise, Warrior Empress

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September 12, 2004

Birthday Present

Maybe I'm just easy to please. I had fond memories of an early Ralph Bakshi animated movie called Wizards, and when it was recently released Mookie got it for me for my birthday.

Like I said, maybe I'm just easy to please, because I thought it held up well. Nobody would ever mistake this for great cinema, and what some people consider weaknesses I found to be strengths. You'll recognize some similarity of style with Bakshi's later Lord of the Rings, and it's somewhat reminiscent of Vaughn Bode's Cheech Wizard comics.

Wizards features some stunningly creative graphics to tell the story. In fact, the biggest disappointment are the conventionally animated portions, because it's pretty damn poor. Not that the story is any great shakes either. There are some funny bits though.

One of my favorites is when Elenor is being held by the fairies, and the fairies are pissed. A monster shows up and starts to raise hell.

Guard: "Uh, Miss? You'd better do something about that thing."

Elenor: "It'd be better if you release me and we all just run away."


Well, it always made me laugh.

I'm not going to talk about the plot, except to say that it's not as bad as some claim.

My suggestion, if you see this, is to just go with the flow. Appreciate the movie for what it is, and don't expect too much. It helps to be easy to please, I guess.

Peace.

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September 01, 2004

Too cool

A sequel to Clerks is on the way.

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August 22, 2004

Movie Reviews - Courtesy of Mookie

My other posts on cult cinema and B-movies can be found by clicking on "Cult Flicks" at the bottom of this post.

The ladies went on vacation a couple of weeks ago, and while they were gone Mookie picked up a few movies for me that she thought I'd like. She made some excellent choices, and I'll review them in parts.

The House at the Edge of the Park - This is a brutal movie, starring the same guy (David Hess), in the same basic role that he played in The Last House on the Left. Hovering right on the edge between ick and cheesy beyond redemption, the movie starts with a rape and murder, and moves right along from there. When Tony and his mildly-retarded best friend invite themselves to a party, it doesn't take long before Tony is terrorizing the entire gathering with a straight razor. He uses it too, more than once, on more than one guest. These partygoers are what we'd call yuppies today - young, wealthy, and reeking of self-satisfied ego, which pisses Tony off. Tony isn't all that stable anyway. Made in 1980, this movie delivers a heaping helping of disco and the Peter Maxx school of design and fashion, which helps set the scene instead of being the distraction I expected. The storyline is straightforward but far from minimalist, with a fair amount of intricate (if sometimes silly) interaction between characters. There's a fair amount of nudity and some uncomfortably realistic sexual assaults. The acting is only ok, and the direction is better than you usually get in this genre. The fact remains though that no character here is all that likable, so it's hard to root for the good guys or against the bad guys. The Last House on the Left is the better movie, if you have to choose only one.

Don't Look in the Basement - The suspense on this one just keeps building and building. A new nurse arrives at an insane asylum, and slowly realizes just how out of control the situation really is. This one has some blood and violence, but the unexpected plot twists and genuine chills delivered make this one fun to see. The crazies are extremely well done, both in concept and as played by the actors who portray them. Only thing is, the basement has almost nothing to do with this movie. I think they just had a good title and ran with it.

I'll save the rest for a later post. Trust me, they're worth waiting for (and that's not sarcasm). In the meantime, I have a dining room to finish painting. Ciao.

Posted by Ted at 07:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 16, 2004

I know your damn words

"Klaatu Barada Nikto."

-- The Day the Earth Stood Still

-- Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness

Posted by Ted at 05:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 07, 2004

What else did you expect?

I didn't have much energy left at the end of the day last week, so I usually just tossed in a movie and found something mostly non-lethal to gnaw on for dinner. And do you know what that means? Yep, I'm gonna tell you all about the latest B movies and obscure classic wannabes I watched. Yay!

We'll kick this off with a truly odd little flick called What's The Matter With Helen?. (does that period go there?). (or there?). (crap, this could go on forever...)

In the movie WtMwH (how doodz is that?), Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters play two moms who have almost nothing in common. Nothing, that is, except that their sons partnered up to commit a horrible murder and mutilation. Needing to get away, they move to Hollywood and open a dance studio for children. Debbie Reynolds character is your basic money-grubbing floozy, while Shelley Winters plays a semi-psychotic religious fanatic. That's a horrible over-simplification, because their characters actually do have depth and you're able to empathize with them both. Look for Agnes Moorehead in a cameo role.

And in case you're unclear on the subject, I give this one a hearty recommendation. Great fun.

Which brings me to something I was pondering a while back. Some reviewers give the traditional 'stars' or 'reels' or whatever-out-of-five or ten somethings. Others give the now-ubiquitous 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down'. Online, I've even seen the awarding of 'severed thumbs', as in "three severed thumbs out of four". I like that. I was wondering if I should do something similar, like awarding Krafts (four Krafts, three and a half Krafts, etc), because Kraft claims to be the cheesiest, and that's what these reviews are all about. In the end, I decided against it, and will just describe and recommend for or against like I've been doing. Who listens to reviewers anyways?

Moving right along, I also watched Idle Hands. I thought I might've mentioned this before, but a search of the site doesn't turn anything up. Folks, this comedy/horror flick scores a 10 out of 10, all thumbs up (severed and otherwise), plus maximum cheesiness. In other words, rent this movie and you won't be sorry. Think Fast Times at Ridgemont High meets The Exorcist. Funny funny stuff, and eminently quotable. Big thanks to my beloved for thinking of me and buying this DVD. As an added bonus, Jessica Alba (Dark Angel) plays the lead character's girlfriend.

How's about a pair from Roger Corman? I watched not one, but two creature features. First up was Creature from the Haunted Sea. Bad, bad, bad. Fun, fun, fun. Every character is a stereotype, from the Bogie-impersonating bad guy to the inept secret agent (now I know where Chevy Chase got his schtick from). The storyline is nonsensical, the monster laughable, and if I ever meet that character who communicates via animal noises and birdcalls I will strangle him on sight.

Second of the Corman flicks was Beast from Haunted Cave. Something that became obvious was Corman's reliance on quirky mannerisms to define a character. The previous movie had animal-noise boy, and this movie has the gangster who never stops eating. In every scene that he's in, he's stuffing his face, even in the middle of a robbery. The plot here is better, as is the acting, and all in all I liked this one a lot more. Not that it's a great movie or anything, but you get to see Frank Sinatra's cousin in one of his major movie roles. Oh yeah, the monster is some kinda giant spider thingie. Sorta.

Lets finish up with one of those forgotten classics, eh? Revolt of the Zombies, made in 1936, was one of the very first zombie movies ever. It seems that during WWI, some French Cambodian troops were used and proved very effective at the front. They happened to be zombies, and the Cambodian priest who controlled them was imprisoned after the war in the interests of humanity. A team of Allied scientists were sent to Angkor (Wat) to discover the secret of zombification, with the task of destroying it forever. There's lots of love interest and mystery and plenty of zombies, who just happen to be living people under someone else's control - no walking dead here. For you trivia buffs, the lead is played by the same actor who later played the General in White Christmas. Find this one and enjoy it, just don't forget that it's a 30's movie and you'll be fine.

So there ya go. Betcha didn't know zombies originated in Cambodia. You learn the darndest things when you least expect it.

Posted by Ted at 05:29 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 24, 2004

Andromeda Strain

I'm not going to do a regular review of this 1971 flick (adapted from the book by Michael Crichton), but I will say a couple of things about it.

First, if you haven't seen it lately, do yourself a favor and watch it again. If you've never seen it, you should. It's very much in the techno-science style of Fantastic Voyage.

Secondly, one of the most frightening scenes I've ever seen in any film is when they're testing for the whatever-it-is, and you watch the first rhesus monkey die from exposure to it. Absolutely chilling.

Posted by Ted at 12:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 15, 2004

*retch*

Not only are they remaking the classic House of Wax (and destroying the original storyline in the process), but word is out that Paris Hilton is co-starring.

Hopefully she's the first to go.

Posted by Ted at 08:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 10, 2004

Please explain

I watched Bound last night, starring Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon.

What is it about Gina Gershon that women find so attractive? She's not a classic beauty, but she is easy on the eyes, and I suspect that there's something more than just physical looks that drives ladies wild.

For the record, I really like the movie.

I just stumbled across another little interesting movie tidbit. The flick Donnie Darko (very odd so far) just started, starring Jake Gyllenhaal who also played Homer Hickam in October Sky (rocket movie, yay!), and is also the brother of Maggie Gyllenhaal, who starred in Secretary and plays one of the sisters in Donnie Darko.

No Kevin Bacon's were harmed during the making of this post.

Posted by Ted at 10:30 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 08, 2004

Additional thunk'd about "The Last Man On Earth" post

(original post here)

There have been countless stories written about a variation of the "Last Man on Earth" theme. Besides the classic "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson, Damon Knight's short story "Not With A Bang" is an interesting take on the situation. Originally published in the Winter/Spring 1950 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction, it's also included in the excellent anthology Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Slay Ride.

Posted by Ted at 06:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 02, 2004

Would the last person alive please turn out the lights?

You've probably seen The Omega Man, the post-apocalypse film starring Charlton Heston. But did you know that the movie had been done before? Both movies were based on Richard Matheson's classic book "I Am Legend", and tell the story of what may be the last human alive and his battle to survive against zombies who roam the night looking for blood.

Wake up, make coffee, gas up the generator in the garage, clear the zombie corpses off of the porch, go grocery shopping, then spend the day killing zombies and burning their bodies. It's a big city, so the routine goes on each and every day. You're half-crazy from the solitude, so you practically welcome the company at night as the zombies try to break into your house.

That's the plot of Last Man On Earth, an Italian chiller made in 1964. Starring Vincent Price, the black and white cinematography and eerie scenes of an empty city littered with corpses go a long way to set the dark tone. This movie is a downer right from the beginning, which feels right considering the concept. There's a lot more background story than in Omega Man, and more psychological depth to the characters.

The Omega Man is one of those wonderfully cheesy SciFi thrillers that you either love or hate. Adapted from the same story as the first movie, both share the main plot line, but where Vincent Price is borderline crazy from his situation, Charlton Heston seems to thrive on it. Details differ, but the most obvious change is recognizing that by being the last man alive, you pretty much own everything. Heston stocks his penthouse apartment with fine art, liquor and food, and as long as he remembers to keep gas in the basement generator, then life is good (except for the being alone part).

Sharing the title, but not the storyline, is the 1924 flick, The Last Man On Earth. This forgotten classic examines the situation from a more literal point of view. What happens if, after all the men die, you find a fertile male? The obvious (and cheesy) answer is "breed".

Similar storylines can be found in such classics as Hell Comes To Frogtown, among others, but here...

Ok, now I'm pissed off. The box gives the synopsis for that movie, but the actual flick included is the Vincent Price version - again. Son of a bitch. Hang on... all right, I've double checked everything, and they switched movies on the DVD.

So now I can't recommend it based on personally seeing it myself, but I am going to be looking for a copy of the original. Ya know what? Go watch Hell Comes To Frogtown.

Posted by Ted at 09:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 16, 2004

Risking my sanity so you don't have to

This is going under Cult Flicks because I'm not sure where else to put it.

I watched the premier episode of Extreme Dodgeball last night on the Game Show Network. I watched it again this afternoon with Mookie, because she TIVO'd it, and this way you get more than first impressions. As if that's important.

Do you like Slamball? If yes, then you'll enjoy Extreme Dodgeball. I admit it, I liked it. But before I actually describe the "sport" itself, well...

William Hung did a video commercial plugging various Game Show Network shows. What did he butcher sing? What else but Queen's "We Are The Champions", in that WH style that causes mass suicides we've grown to tolerate. Cheesy, and the perfect introduction, in my humble opinion. Consider yourself warned.

It's showtime! You know the format: two chatty announcer/hosts - one being Bil Dwyer (that's not a typo, it's only one "L") from BattleBots, with a much more subdued 'do - and a hot babe down near the action to 'interview' the teams during breaks in the action. Throw in pointless segments about various players (called "Beyond the Ball") and you've about summed up the entire show.

Oops, forgot about the teams, didn't I? In the Extreme Dodgeball league (?!?!), the teams are supposedly put together based on occupation, but 'concept' is the real story. Face it, even in LA you're not going to find five real Sumo wrestlers who're willing to be stupid for what probably amounts to minimum guild scale, not to mention the fact that there's no such thing as female Sumo. So the team is actually four fat guys and a fat gal. Just calling it as I see it, and as one of the circumferentially overachieving, let's just say that if I were on the team, my nickname would be 'Slim'. The other teams are horse jockeys, mimes, CPA's, rent-a-cops, hot chicks (and a guy), bodybuilders and tatooed people. Yep, I always wanted to list my occupation as 'canvas for prolific tatoo artist'.

The game itself has enough interesting twists to actually make it, well, interesting. A match is best-of-three games. For the first game, two balls are used. Second game, a third, larger ball is added, and in the third game one team member is designated the "Dead Man Walking" and if you hit them it's all over. The rest of the rules were mostly familiar. My favorite was "no head shots", which meant that a valid strategy was to curl up on your knees facing the other team and let them wail away at your head for no effect - rules-wise, not concussion-wise.

The team balance is actually pretty good, which is what the show's producers want. The rules work well, the strategies and tactics used were logical and surprised me a couple of times. All in all, you can tell that these people extensively tested and tweaked the rules.

So yes, I'll watch it again, if I stumble across it one night when nothing else is on and I want some noise on in the background. It's certainly not something I'm going to seek out and look forward to. I've seen worse. But you already knew that.

Posted by Ted at 05:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 12, 2004

Movie Review Time

Rejected title: Uh-oh, what's Ted gotten into this time?*

I'm going to start with the best and work down to the worst. These are all titles I've recently picked up in various bargain sections.

First and by far the best is Zulu. You may remember this 1964 classic that tells the true story of the 1879 battle at Rorke's Drift. About 150 British soldiers bravely (and barely) hold off a series of attacks by more than 4,000 African Zulu warriors. Starring Michael Caine, this one is a must-see movie, especially for anyone who loves action movies and/or historical drama. If I remember correctly, I got this one at Mieir's as part of a 3 for $10.00 deal.

The second disk of that deal wasn't quite the classic, They Came From Beyond Space. Alien minds take over earth scientists to help them repair their damaged spaceship, and it's up to a McGuyver-esque wannabe to uncover the truth. Luckily for earth, he's got a metal plate in his head, making him immune to alien mind control. I really enjoyed this one, right up until the last three minutes, when the stupidest ending ever committed to film managed to completely screw up a decent movie. This was based on the book "The Gods Hate Kansas", and at times this 60's British import tries too hard and takes itself too seriously.

I almost put this 1998 direct-to-video T&A offering last: Sorority House Vampires from Hell. It somehow seems right that the IMDB description at that link is screwed up. The cast list is correct, but the plot synopsis is for a whole different movie.

I'll just copy the blurb on the box for you instead:

Death, Demons, D-Cups! The UFO-Demon, Rabaalhazor, has sent the vampire, Natalia to destroy the Earth. Each time she takes a victim a natural disaster rocks the planet. Humanity's only hope is the sexy sorority pledge, Buffy, and the members of her sisterhood. She must not only save the world but she also must save herself from the perverted desires of both Rabaalhazor and Natalia.

They spared all expense for this one. The opening sets were cardboard boxes covered with random PC boards glued here and there. Not that you noticed, because there was a topless vampire babe go-go dancing in front of it. Intended to be in the same vein (pun intended) as movies like Scary Movie this spoof muddles along without letting anything like humor and production values get in the way.

There are occasional smirk-worthy bits, including onscreen subtitles that appear every time Surfer Boy speaks. Rabaalhazor sounds like a cross between Mako and Cheech Marin. But mostly, it's an unwatchable mess, which is a pity, because I really like the title.

So what could possibly be worse than that? This last movie was irretrievably spoiled by a horrid audio track. I can overlook weak plot, uneven pacing, poor acting, and sleaze and cheese, but when I have to strain to hear dialogue that sounds like it's coming from the bottom of a well, it kinda ruins it for me.

Ghost Gunfighter (also released as High Tomb) is a horror story set in an abandoned western ghost town. The town starts to come to life around a bunch of stranded kids (surprise, surprise), and of course they start to die (ditto).

I may upgrade my review of this one in the future, because I'm that pissed off right now about the audio. The movie has real promise, but at the moment it's in the "sucks" category. Maybe my mind will change, but there's an awful lot of stoopid and lame-ass going on, podner.

So there you have it - a classic, a fair-to-middlin' flick, and two stinkers.

* Thanks to Dawn of Caterwauling for the inspiration to use the 'rejected title' idea (translation: I stole it from her fine site).

Posted by Ted at 07:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 05, 2004

Sex dominates the world, and now I dominate sex!

Hi-dee-ho esteemed guest, it's movie review time! Since I seem to have driven my old readers away in disgust picked up several new semi-regular visitors, let me tell you that I adore obscure and crappy horror movies. Then I bore you to tears write all about 'em here, because that's what I do. If you'd like to see the rest of the Rocket Jones "Cult Flicks" category, click here.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of watching several movies, but for this post I'm going to review just three.

Let's start out with a question: when someone says "Argentina", do you automatically think "horror movie"?

Me neither. How about "mad scientist monster movies?" No? Hmmmm... ok then: "cheesy sexploitation movies?" Ding ding ding ding ding ding! We have a winner!!! Argentinian sexploitation sci-fi horror. How cool is that?!?!?!

Screwing around aside (no pun intended), the story here is that a mad scientist, the Curious Dr. Humpp, has his monster (we know he's a monster because he has a blinking light in the middle of his forehead) kidnap various people in order to have sex with each other. Among the victims are a lesbian couple, a group of orgiastic hippies, a stripper, and so on. According to his evil plan, he then uses aphrodesiacs and "electronic control of the libido" to coerce them to have frequent sex, after which he extracts the "blood forces of sex" from them. The title of this post is one of his dramatic lines from the movie. Of course, not all goes according to plan and even the evil talking brain in the jar on his desk can't help much.

Believe it or not, this movie is better than it sounds. The production values are reasonably decent, the acting isn't terrible, and even the dubbing is pretty well done. According to what I've dug up on the web, several extra sex scenes were added to spice up the movie for release in the US, so if you fast forward through most of the nudity and softcore you'll actually be watching the movie as the director originally intended, making it more of a morality play and less of a schlock flick.

Next up is a double feature DVD from Something Weird Video: The Toy Box and Toys Are Not For Children.

The Toy Box is just plain odd. Equal parts horror, sexploitation, science fiction, and acid trip, this is a flick that works best if you just hang on and enjoy the ride without trying too hard for understanding. If you insist on storyline, then "Uncle" throws parties where people act out fantasies to get rewards from 'the toy box'. That's about as distilled-down lucid as you can get with this movie, and even that falls way short of the actual twisted happenings.

Winding up this odd threesome of odd movies is Toys Are Not For Children. Looking for a one-word description? "Disturbing" fits as well as anything else. A young girl grows up obsessing about her father, who was tossed out of the house by mom. In a bizarre series of events, she gets a job in a toy store, gets married (unhappily), and then finds happiness by becoming a hooker. She eventually does have a reunion with her daddy, and it's hard to imagine things going any more badly than they do. Although still considered a 'sexploitation' flick, this movie is more a psychological study, and there is actually very little nudity.

So there you have it, three twisted movies, each deemed worthy of your time. If you're into that sort of thing, of course.

Posted by Ted at 06:24 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 14, 2004

Movie Review: Happiness of the Katakuris

Japanese. Horror. Subtitled. Musical. Schizophrenic. Fun. Thriller. Stupid. Subtle. Disjointed. Hilarious. Crude. Original. Sweet. Surreal.

Wow, this one is impossible to describe. It's all of the above, and more. Imagine watching the shower scene from Psycho, and immediately afterwards the police show up and the investigation is conducted as a musical number from Saturday Night Fever. It makes even less sense than that, but damn, it's odd fun.

Did you enjoy Clerks? Fargo? Godzilla? North by Northwest? Gumby? The Sound of Music?

I saw it on the Sundance Channel. Check your local cable or satellite listings, or according to IMDB reviews, it's also available at some Blockbuster Video stores.

If you like things a lot off the wall, you'll probably enjoy this movie. Or not. Hell, I have no idea. All I know is that *I* loved it.

Did I mention the zombies?

Posted by Ted at 07:07 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 11, 2004

Thunderbirds are Go!

A new live action style movie due out in July. Be sure to watch both trailers, because the US and international versions are different.

Thanks to Doug Pratt for sending this link to me! And if you go to Doug's site, you should order one of his cool new Freedom 'hoody' sweatshirts or 'rocket scientist' t-shirts. Both are Mookie-approved!

Posted by Ted at 11:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 09, 2004

All right, your wait is over

I warned you here that I was going to watch a couple more offerings from Seduction Cinema. By the end of last month, I'd recorded Play-Mate of the Apes and Gladiator Eroticus. Boy howdy.

Like I originally stated, the formula is to spoof a popular movie, and to fill it with lesbian softcore porn. Part of what makes these films work is that the original storylines are closely followed, so the movies tend to actually have plots.

But face it - and I can't believe I'm actually saying this (my 'guy' membership will be revoked for sure) - there is such a thing as too much lesbian porn. Watching one of these movies is fun, but two is borderline boring, and three is serious overkill. Maybe it's because it was the first one I saw, but I still think Lord of the G-Strings is the best of the three I've seen. Play-Mate of the Apes was fun and funny, but there were way too many enhanced bustlines for my taste. The overstuffed petrified-chest look just doesn't do it for me.

Now that this peculiar little itch has been scratched, I can get back to my beloved obscure crappy horror movies. I do have some interesting flicks on my list to be reviewed, but with springtime here my movie time is seriously curtailed. We'll get to 'em all in time.

Posted by Ted at 12:05 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 05, 2004

I'm getting a little tired of the same six Egypt shows on The History Channel

The Scream network. All horror, all the time. Sounds like 'must see' TV to me!

Thanks to Bad State of Gruntledness for the pointer.

Posted by Ted at 12:31 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 27, 2004

The greatest hockey movie of all time*

No, not Love Story. I'm talking about Slap Shot!

For the 25th anniversary of the original, they made Slap Shot 2. I don't know whether this is a good thing or not, because to be honest I haven't seen it. To balance that out, the original was one of the first DVD's I ever purchased (right after Love Story).

And here's a quickie for you, the Hanson brothers official website. This is worth a stroll through all by itself!

*Welcome to "drive-by" postings, ala Rocket Jones. No time to really develop this one, so you get some links and a friendly swift kick in the butt to go follow them.

Posted by Ted at 12:02 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 24, 2004

Movie Review: First Spaceship on Venus

This one is a treat, despite some flaws. Remember that bit in Shrek where he's talking about layers? You know, like an onion, there are many layers because it's not something simple? Fine, like a parfait then. The point is that there's a lot worthwhile in this movie, even if you're not a fan of the genre.

First Spaceship on Venus was made in East Germany in 1959. Rather than overt preaching about the joys of Communist living, the message here was much more subtle and pervasive. Almost every aspect of the movie was colored by the society which created the film and the society it was targeted towards. There's an grim earnestness here, where everyone is expected to pull their weight for the common good of all Earth (even those poor misguided Americans). Of course, the crew is gloriously diverse, containing both males and females and of every race. One scene that troubled me happened near the end, where some crew members were lost. There was no effort to rescue them, and even though they were hailed as heroes they weren't sacrificed. They were just left behind by circumstance when the ship returned to Earth, and little was wasted on regret. To my mind, that perfectly pointed up the socialist attitude of individual expendability.

This movie is based on a story by Stanislaw Lem, who's novel Solaris has been made into a movie twice - first in Russia, and then again a year or two ago by Hollywood (starring George Clooney). I've read some Lem, and don't much care for him. I'm wondering now if it's because of our differing viewpoints about the world we grew up in. His fiction is wildly imaginative, but there always seemed to be an alieness about his writing that had nothing to do with the story he was telling.

But despite (or maybe because of) this, First Spaceship on Venus presents an intriguing story. More cerebral than action-oriented, much of the plot is advanced via dialogue, and since it was filmed in the earliest days of space exploration, they get a lot of the science wrong, sometimes with unintentionally funny results.

The spaceship is one of the most beautiful creations ever conceived for the big screen. It also has one of the dumbest names - the Cosmostrator.

The special effects are outstanding for the most part, especially the surface of Venus. The dubbing and editing are horrible. Supposedly my copy was "fully restored and enhanced from a digital master", which just tells me that the original must've been in really bad shape. The picture isn't bad, but it's not all that great either.

Bottom line: this one is well worth watching. In fact, I'll go ahead and call this one a must-see.

Posted by Ted at 07:59 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 17, 2004

The Veil

This obscure series was made in 1958, and never made it to US television other than rare showings on PBS.

From SomethingWierd.com:

Two years before Thriller, Boris Karloff hosted a hitherto obscure ten-episode pilot of a unsold TV horror anthology, The Veil. Though Twilight Zone and One Step Beyond wouldn’t make their debuts until 1959, The Veil uncannily evokes both by presenting “true and authenticated” stories of ordinary people who experience some aspect of the bizarre or paranormal intruding into their lives. In addition to his duties as a genteel host -- in which Karloff greets us from in front of a gigantic flaming fireplace which looks like he’s hosting from Hell -- Boris also stars in [many of the] episodes which makes this a rare treat for Karloff fans and forces one to wonder why the shows were never aired.

Apparently, nine episodes were made with an American audience in mind, and a tenth episode titled "Jack the Ripper" was made in England and tacked onto the end of the series to round it out.

Some years after they were originally made, the episodes were grouped together into three compilation movies. This was done without the knowledge of any of the original directors or even the series creator.

SomethingWeird video offers up the series on multiple DVD's and VHS tapes, but I stumbled onto another version completely by accident. Brentwood Video offers a collection of 10 classic zombie movies called The Dead Walk (reviews will be coming eventually), and each of the five double-sided DVD's contains a bonus in the form of an episode of The Veil. Completely unexpected and a wonderful surprise.

The picture quality on the DVD's is excellent, and the acting is pretty good. Fans of the genre will recognize some familiar faces among the casts. The stories range from fair to good, and concentrate on the eerie. No explanation is ever offered for the uncanny events.

Zombie movies and Boris Karloff. Pass the popcorn!

Posted by Ted at 01:36 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 11, 2004

Glad I'm not in *her* address book

My wife is watching The Beautician and the Beast (1997) starring Fran Drescher and Timothy Dalton, and she tells me that they've just mentioned a third celebrity in the dialogue who's now dead: Mother Theresa, JFK Junior and just now Sonny Bono. That's kinda spooky, considering the movie was made fairly recently.

Posted by Ted at 09:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 06, 2004

Cult Cinema reviews

Last weekend I stumbled across a new genre that I'd never seen before. After doing some research, I've discovered that it's a fairly new niche in the cult flick scene and seems to have a small but loyal group of followers.

Softcore Lesbian Spoof movies shot direct to video.

Man, I can't wait to see the Google hits that one generates. The movie I saw on late-night television was titled Lord of the G-Strings: Femaleship of the String. The main characters were all female, and it was an obvious and not terribly bad parody of the Tolkien works ("terribly bad" as per my definition). I love crap movies, so if your tastes run to the normal, then these probably aren't for you.

In the movie, Dildo the Throbbit is entrusted with the task of delivering the G-String of Power to... uh, someplace... for destruction. Need I go on?

The sex is simulated and overwhelmingly (but not exclusively) lesbian. The characters get naked often. There is a plot of sorts, and actual acting is attempted at times. The humor is pretty hit and miss, but there are some laugh-out-loud moments.

And then there is the leading lady. Her screen name is Misty Mundae (go on, I'll wait for you to stop snickering). She's killer cute, with an innocent face and the morals of... well, no... she has no morals that I can determine, at least as far as making softcore lesbian spoof flicks. (Mental note: run that job search through Monster.com)

Misty Mundae has made numerous movies over the last several years for Seduction Cinema, and seems to have a cult following built up, including her own Yahoo group fan-club (as does Seduction). The movies have titles like The Erotic Witch Project and The Sexy Sixth Sense, as well as some not-spoof flicks. Apparently it's not all mindless T&A either, as I saw some good reviews of one movie as a noir thriller offering.

So what do I think? I went through the satellite-guide for the month and picked out a couple of other related flicks. I'll let you know after I've seen Play-Mate of the Apes and Gladiator Eroticus: The Lesbian Warriors. I'd pick these up if I see them in a bargain bin somewhere, but they're not going onto my "must buy" list.

Favorite review snippets:

"This is just under ninety minutes, which means total production time was about ninety minutes."

"Best scene: the gorilla having sex with the sex-doll... now there's something I hadn't seen yet..."

"...What surprised me about this movie, is that it actually worked. The movie made some sense. The formula actually worked."

"three beautiful women get lesbo-crazy in front of a camera. Talk about entertainment!"

Sexy fun, and there's nothing wrong with that. Uh huh, I already know I'm a pig. Oink.

Posted by Ted at 05:49 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 04, 2004

Texas Chainsaw Massacre - Old vs New

I've had the original version of this movie sitting on the shelf for awhile, purposely putting off watching it again until the remake was released. I wanted to see the original and the new to make a back-to-back comparison.

The original TCM remains one of the most disturbing films of all time. It's intense in ways that Hitchcock approached only at his very best. Considering its reputation, there is surprisingly little gore and only one murder by chainsaw. Where it gets you is the unsettling details in every scene and unrelenting suspense, because it just never lets up.

A major gripe with the original was "poor cinematography". It's pretty dark and murky much of the time, which adds to the atmosphere in my opinion. I also don't agree with the complaints about plot (or lack thereof). This movie doesn't tie up loose ends, and there's very little understandable motivation for the characters. Imagine the scariest book you've ever read, but the first and last chapters are missing. You get the distilled essence of terror, without any of the context that helps you to rationalize it. That multiplies the experience because things happen that are just on the edge of making sense.

The DVD contains several scenes that never made it to the theatrical release, including background and thoughts from the actors involved. There are plenty of other extra features too.

On to the remake. The story has been changed. It makes (a little) more sense than the original, but much of the urgency and sense of not knowing what was coming next was lost in the update. The movie just feels more modern, and that's not a good thing in this case.

The acting is better. The actual filmwork is better. The 'good guy' characters are more likable. The special effects and gore are more gruesome, and there's more blood splashing around. The lead female character, played by Jessica Biel, is a good looking lady, and she gives a fine performance.

But throughout the film the director went for the modern touches, like gore and sex jokes. Instead of suggesting, they went for explicit. Even the creepy little details that made the original so memorable seemed contrived in the remake, placed for effect instead of being the disturbing minutinae that set the scene.

So far, everything I've said about the remake are in comparison to the original. And don't get me wrong, the remake is a pretty good movie. It will scare the hell out of you. Some people will like the new version better because it is a more complete movie. My personal opinion is that the original is a scarier experience.

The remake DVD is pretty sparse in the special features department, offering the TV ads, the movie trailer, and a lame-ass music video.

UPDATE: I was reminded that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies were inspired by the real-life person Ed Gein (warning: link has some graphic photos). Despite what the movies claim, they are not true stories. Ed Gein was also the inspiration for Bloch's Psycho, later turned into the peerless classic film by Alfred Hitchcock. For more information on Gein and other mass and serial murderers, check out the Crime Library.

Posted by Ted at 08:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2004

Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold

This one was on Showtime Beyond late last night. I needed something like this movie, because I'd just watched the Caps/Thrashers hockey game, and it was the worst possible result - a tie. Why was that bad? Well, the Thrashers goalie, Numinem, is on my fantasy hockey team, so a win would've been welcomed. A win by the Caps would've been welcomed. Instead we got a tie. Blech. To be fair, it was a fun game to watch. Anyways, I tried to not let my disgust with the hockey game color my movie review.

This movie is horribly, tragically, pathetically bad. The acting is laughable, the characters are one-dimensional, and the plot is simplistic and childish.

In other words: so far, so great!

Victor and Nic will be interested in the presence of a lab rat who advances the plot in a big way. As Victor says, the presence of rat automatically makes this great cinema. To be truthful, the rats are actually someone in giant rat costumes, but it's at least as realistic as Alf was.

It also helps to have a 60' tall naked blonde with lines like "Help me, I'm huge." Yes dear, you certainly are. She's horny too, which reminds me of the Tubes lyric:

She left me there though I tried and tried
A fifty-foot woman's never satisfied.

Special effects suck were impressive. I especially liked the sledge hammer made from a rubber mallet spray painted silver. It would have been more realistic if they would've masked off the handle first. They also seemed to have a problem getting the actors to actually look in the right direction during some special effects scenes. A little more directorial care goes a long way.

Favorite line, spoken by one centerfold candidate (probably not an exact quote): "You know I'm a shallow person, I want you to be honest with me."

The climax is a lame-assed cat-fight between rival giant bikini-clad centerfolds (wow, three hyphenated words in one sentence, a personal best!). The good guy gets the good centerfold, and for some reason the bad centerfold and bad guy inexplicably and spontaneously combust. And yes, I feel really bad for not warning you about that spoiler.

This one doesn't try to take itself seriously, which is why it works as well as it does. If nothing else is on, this one's worth a look.

Posted by Ted at 08:24 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 19, 2004

Oscar Worthy Performance

Scandalous that this one was ignored.

Thanks to the Llama Butchers, via Farm Accident Digest, for pointing this one out.

Posted by Ted at 07:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 18, 2004

Movie Review - The Beast (1988)

Not the 50's horror feature of the same name, this movie is sometimes found under the title "The Beast of War".

The Beast of the title is a tank. A Soviet main battle tank involved in the invasion of Afghanistan, which becomes separated from the rest of its unit. The story involves the crew of the tank and their efforts to rejoin their comrades despite being surrounded by hostile mujadeen and forbidding country. It's a war story, but the focus is on the people involved on both sides, both Soviet tank crew and Afghan's fighting the invaders.

There are rumors that you can occasionally find this one in the $5.00 bargain bin at WalMart. I haven't seen it there, but I'm going to look more carefully from now on.

Another underappreciated movie, this one is thumbs up, comrades!

Posted by Ted at 08:10 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 07, 2004

Watching the crap so you don't have to

Oooo boy, this group is a mixed bag. One thumbs-up crapfest, one so-so offering, and one real stinker.

Behind door number so-so, we have Snowbeast. This made-for-TV bigfoot thriller stars a whole heap of washed-up TV stars like Clint Walker, Bo Swenson, Yvette Mimieux and others you'll probably recognize. Amazingly enough, this bland thriller was written by the same guy who wrote the screenplay to Hitchcock's Psycho, proving that Bob Marley was right when he sang "a hungry man is an angry man". This guy must've been desperate for grocery money (I know that doesn't quite fit the point I'm trying to make, but I wanted to throw in a Marley quote to impress you).

The plot is full of holes, and the actual violence seen is minimal - it was for TV after all. Not very good, but not unwatchable either.

Much better, in a crapesque sort of way is Night Train to Terror - a trio of tales embedded in a senseless concept meant to tie the stories together. God and Satan are riding a train together, discussing souls. Also on the train, for no apparent reason, are quite a few teenagers, partying like only teenagers in 60's beach movies can. There's a catchy song they play at various times, and you'll likely wind up with an ear-worm from it. The stories here are actually not too bad. The special effects range from tacky to good, including some pretty cool stop-action claymation work. There are gruesome moments and blood and gore, and several gratuitious breast shots (and one bush sighting as well, for those who're keeping track).

The ending credits note that God is playing himself.

Remember the Lurch-like actor Richard Moll? Apparently he had a (so-called) career playing freaks in cheesy horror movies before he hit the big time, playing the freak bailiff on the television sitcom Night Court. I used to think his role in House was what his acting career had sunk to, but apparently it was a simple return to his roots. He plays a couple different roles in this one. Recommended.

Finally, we have The Severed Arm. This flick should be studied in every cinema course as how to completely screw up a great concept. Here's the story line: "Trapped in a cave, five men cut the arm off of another companion in order to ward off starvation. After they are saved, their victim seeks revenge on them one by one."

Isn't that cool? Unfortunately, everything else about the movie is absolute dreck. I should've known that suck was inevitable when, in the first two minutes of the movie, we have an extreme windblown comb-over moment. I mean, the actor gained eight inches in height as his hair stood straight up in the breeze. Believe me, it was all downhill from there. I suggest remembering this title for the express purpose of avoiding it.

Posted by Ted at 01:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 04, 2004

Iconophile

Everyone (yes, everyone, and if that doesn't include you it's because we're all keeping it a secret from you), asks where I find all this useless drivel obscure trivia to talk about. When I'm lovingly describing movies (that period between 'about' and 'When' just slipped out. The management apologizes and to compensate shall not put a period after this sentence)

Here's one place I go when looking for info about the lesser-known lights of the silver screen. Some of it's not work safe.

Posted by Ted at 11:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 02, 2004

Nothing So Strange: the movie

This is a mock documentary, pure fiction told absolutely straight. If you'd like to see something not like every other Hollywood movie out there, check this one out.

J-Walk has details.

Posted by Ted at 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 29, 2004

Movie Review worth reading, because it's somewhere else

Over at Who Tends the Fires, Ironbear reviews a Jackie Chan movie. It ain't pretty, but the review is fun and the comments are great!

Posted by Ted at 11:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 27, 2004

Just lay off the pretzels, ok?

Three lightweight presidentially themed movies I enjoy, especially during this political season:

Dave

The American President

My Fellow Americans

Posted by Ted at 04:18 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

It's probably just me, matey. Arrrgh!

I finally got to watch the rest of Pirates of the Carribean last night. Good movie, but am I the only one who thought Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) sounded an awful lot like Arthur (Dudley Moore) in the movie?

Posted by Ted at 05:28 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 21, 2004

Movie Review Time

Boy Howdy, do I have some off-the-wall fun for you this time around. Y'all know that I enjoy the lesser-known classics (translation: crappy movies), but some of what I watch falls more literally into the actual classic category. These movies are perfect examples.

The Gorilla (1939) – This is a true Hollywood production, and the quality shows. Featuring great sets, real actors, a plot and special effects, this early spoof of horror movies has plenty of slapstick comedy to go along with the thrills and chills. Bela Lugosi makes a fine butler, and the Ritz Brothers play a trio of private eyes hired to protect a millionaire targeted for murder. The high point of the movie is the funniest maid (Patsy Kelly) ever to steal a scene, but it’s pretty obvious why the Ritz Brothers never made it as big as Abbot and Costello or any of the other great comedy teams. Nevertheless, this zany movie is an ok way to escape for a little while. My favorite line: “Did you see that face? I’ll bet when snakes get drunk they see him.”

The Ape Man (1943) – More Bela Lugosi and more monkey business! In this film, he plays a mad doctor who ends up the victim of his own experiments. To recover, he must kill. Overall, the mood is darker than in The Gorilla, but this flick still has some humorous moments and a rich plot full of details and minor storylines. The ending has a twist that you’d never guess in a million years.

When The Ape Man was originally released, World War II was in full swing and there are frequent mentions of it. In fact, in one scene a female character makes fun of a guy for being a “4-F reject”, and he proudly let’s her know that in 30 days he goes into the Navy. She apologizes immediately.

Something else I noticed, in both movies, was that guns were common and unremarkable. Many of the characters (male and female) were armed, and casually pulling a pistol out for protection caused no great reaction from other characters. At the same time, the guns were always handled safely and nobody was trigger-happy, in fact they were never used at all in The Gorilla and not until the very end of The Ape Man – and it wasn’t a hail of gunfire either.

Both of these movies get two opposable thumbs up.

Posted by Ted at 09:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 15, 2004

Movie Review - Whoops Apocolypse (1982)

This was a six-episode series that ran in Great Britain, and was later made into a much inferior movie. If you do manage to snag a copy of this title, and it has Loretta Swit (HotLips of M*A*S*H fame) as the US President, then you've got the movie (bummer). You want the one with Barry Morse as American President Johnny Cyclops. I found my copy-of-a-copy version while stationed in Germany, and it's on my perpetual list of gotta-haves for when it finally (hopefully) is released on DVD.

Whoops Apocolypse is a brilliant satirical spoof of the world in the 80's.

Wow, that sounded so simple. If you are a fan of anime, and are familiar with the Excel Saga, then this is the live-action version of that concept. No idea is sacred, no institution unscathed, no tradition left untrampled.

Here's the synopsis from IMDB.COM:

A light-hearted look at the final week before doomsday. American President Johnny Cyclops is trying to run a re-election campaign while dealing with the Russians, a deposed Shah needing to be hidden, and a new weapon called a 'quark' bomb. Meanwhile, Lacrobat, the infamous terrorist, has stolen one of the quark bombs and is trying to get it into the Middle East. Stopping Lacrobat, getting the Shah to safety, placating the Russians and winning the election will require a brilliantly planned and perfectly executed strategy on the part of President Cyclops...

Like Airplane!, there is so much happening on so many levels that the mind boggles. You'll find yourself suddenly cracking up long after watching when a joke finally clicks inside your head.

Imagine the newly-elected conservative Prime Minister of England, sitting in quiet satisfaction with his closest ministers, basking in their victory. He decides to reveal a secret to his friends and colleagues, now that they're in power. The Prime Minister has a plan to save vast amounts of money by completely eliminating the military. When his ministers question the wisdom of leaving the country undefended, he reveals his secret. He is, underneath the clever disguise, actually Superman, and he will provide all defense of the homeland.

Watching the ministers trying to grasp the fact that their leader is a complete loon is priceless. Especially when the Prime Minister wants to announce to the world that he is Superman, thus deterring any and all enemies from ever again committing agression against the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, international terrorist Lacrobat (John Cleese!) has stolen one of the new 'quark' bombs, and is making his way across Europe with it. It's not a little bomb either, so some of the camoflauge he uses have to be seen to be believed.

This one is mucho rare and hard to find, but if you ever get the chance...

Posted by Ted at 02:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 11, 2004

Movie Review - Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death

This is one of my all-time favorite movies. It pokes fun at everyone and everything, managing to slip from parody to parody without totally falling over the stupid-cliff. In fact, in places it's downright erudite.

The beginning of this movie is reminiscent of the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Well, not really, but work with me here. The story moves right along, where the feminist anthropologist Dr. Hunt (Playboy playmate-of-the-year Shannon Tweed, playing the part almost straight) is coerced by the US Military to enter the dreaded Avocado Jungle of California to search for the mythical Piranha tribe and the missing feminist Dr. Kurtz (Adrienne Barbeau).

Cutie Karen Mistal as sidekick Bunny provides airhead relief, and Bill Maher plays the guide.

I don't want to give any spoilers, because I really do recommend this movie. Like Starship Troopers Earth vs. Soup, ignore the title and be prepared to enjoy this movie more than you thought you would.

Sample dialog:

Dr. Hunt: "Dr Kurtz. I'm unfamiliar with the academic guidelines at Radcliffe, but I would think that any major university would consider warring on the United States and eating prisoners of war a serious breach of ethics."

Dr. Kurtz: "Always the cautious scholar, eh Dr. Hunt?"

Go on, take a chance. Run out right now and rent this movie. You'll thank me, and if you don't like it, well, then there's just something wrong with you.

Posted by Ted at 05:09 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 10, 2004

Movie Review - Destination Moon (1950)

First words spoken from the surface of the moon:

"By the grace of God, and in the name of the United States of America, I take possesion of this planet on behalf of and for the benefit of all mankind."

Impressive movie, and prescient in a lot of ways considering it was made years before space travel was even seriously considered possible. The special effects are surprisingly good for the day, and the Bonestell lunar dioramas are spectacular. Minor nitpick: keep the remote handy, because the DVD soundtrack changes from barely audible dialog to blaring music repeatedly. A little more balance would've been nice.

This would make a great rainy-day double feature with When Worlds Collide. Heck, throw in The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Angry Red Planet and make it a marathon.

Two enthusiastic spacesuited thumbs up.

Posted by Ted at 06:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 09, 2004

Like I threatened promised

Oooo goody, a movie review! Well, it's a DVD review, because besides the two movies here, there are some extraordinary extras included on the disk. Besides lots of gratuitous boobage. And by boobage, I'm talking gratuitous! This go-round, I'm talking about a double-feature from the shlock 'nudist camp' genre of the mid-60's.

In The Beast that Killed Women, the setting is a nudist camp for no discernable reason other than it gives the opportunity to show lots and lots of topless women. The concept here is to keep trotting out the boobs, in hopes that you'll never notice weaknesses in the movie, like plot, acting, dialog, acting, directing, continuity, believability... you get the idea.

How bad is it? Solidly in the "so bad it's good" category, long stretches focus on a tree or steps in the background while naked women repeatedly walk by, "enjoying nature" as nudists do. Mostly, people stand around until joined by someone else, at which point they improvise a conversation that tries to advance the story. But hey, as long as they're naked, eh? Actually, it's fun picking the movie apart, because silliness abounds.

The beast is a guy in a really tacky gorilla suit, and the total body count by the end of the movie is one. Yep, one lousy dead girl, and she was dressed. But most every other girl is naked. Did I mention the gratuitous boobs?

The second movie on the DVD is The Monster of Camp Sunshine. Rats play an important role in this movie, since one of the characters works in the lab at the hospital and is very sympathetic towards her little friends. This flick uses the pretext of warning about the dangers of runaway science to quickly move the story from the hospital lab to - you guessed it - a nudist colony. But first, the nurse accidentally drips an unknown chemical on a cage full of rats, and "their killer instinct is unleashed!" The rats jump at the nurse, causing her to fall out of the window, where she manages to hang on long enough for a doctor to come to her rescue. She's so upset that her roomate decides that they should visit the camp to cheer her up. Oh yeah, her roomie is a nude model. Big surprise, that.

Back to the plot, and from here on out just assume that any actual story is sporadically interjected between lengthy stretches of naked women and men (sorry ladies, it's butts-only on the guys). The doctor in charge of the lab figures out what happened and in a stroke of genius decides that the best way to dispose of the killer chemicals is to put them into a jar and throw them into the bay! But fate has different plans, and the jar is found the next day, upstream at the camp (we know it's upstream because they helpfully tell us so).

The stream running through the nudist camp becomes contaminated with the contents of the jar (in the most hilariously contrived and convoluted set of circumstances possible), and the simpleton camp gardener takes a drink from the stream, which "unleashes his killer instinct!" This time, they just say the hell with all restraint and go for it. The army is called in, and we're treated to stock war footage from the Civil War to World War II. I laughed out loud as a troop of US Cavalry from the old west rode by, followed by clips of troops coming ashore on D-Day. While the doctor buries the softball-sized remains of the gardener (all that was left, and he was actually kicking dirt over it with his shoe), the rest of the characters decided that it was too nice a day to be sad. So they get naked. Once again it's so bad it's fun (zero body count this time, though one girl did get her arm cut by an axe).

One of the funniest lines in the movie is where the nurse explains her love for the nudist movement. She says "I spend all day at the hospital around sick bodies. The nudist camp is my chance to be surrounded by healthy bodies." Of course, as she says this she's puffing on a cigarette, as does most everyone throughout the movie.

Like with the first movie, great fun can be had watching for the assorted silliness, especially the contortions the actors go through so as not to show anything frontal below the waist. Warning: Zither alert!

Now on to the DVD itself, which is a gem. It's put out by Something Weird Video, and besides the two (crappy but nudity filled) movies, you get all kinds of extra goodies, and this is where it shines. Three different sets of drive-in intermission features chock full of those snack bar teasers, local business commercials, and more. Notable is Ed McMahon in a Budweiser commercial, and a reminder to sign the petition in the lobby against "pay TV" and that evil "cable TV".

That's not all. There's also a gallery of trash movie posters accompanied by remastered original radio spots. These are cool as hell.

But there's more! The original theatrical trailer for The Beast that Killed Women is included, as are the trailers for the nudie flicks Eves on Skis, Goldilocks and the Three Bares, Nudes on Tiger Reef, Nudist Life, and Pussycats Paradise. Be still my heart.

And there are 'short subject' features dating as far back as the 1920's about nudists, done up in semi-documentary style. It's interesting to see what each era considered racy for the day, although each contains nudity. I especially enjoyed the variety of music used.

Finally, there's "Let's Go to the Drive-In!" - an interactive selection on the DVD that allows the uninterrupted playback of hours of content, just like being at the movies. Nifty neat-o keen.

Boobs and drive-in atmosphere. It doesn't get much better than that. Pass the popcorn, because this one was a pleasant surprise.

Posted by Ted at 06:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 08, 2004

So I walked into Suncoast Video yesterday...

... serious mistake.

I'm now the proud owner of the science fiction classic Destination Moon, directed by George Pal, based on a story by Robert Heinlein, with moon sets and backgrounds designed by Chesley Bonestell.

In the cult classic category, I got Cannibal Women in the Avacado Jungle of Death, starring Bill Maher (yep, that Bill Maher), Adrienne Barbeau and Shannon Tweed.

Next up is a straight horror double feature of Fade to Black and Hell Night.

Finally, a 'drive-in' double feature from the rare nudist camp horror genre, The Beast that Killed Women and The Monster of Camp Sunshine. I'd never seen those last two available outside of specialty catalogs, so I just had to pick them up.

Reviews coming. I know you can't wait.

Posted by Ted at 06:24 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 31, 2004

I'm cute *and* fluffy!

Best line from Lilo & Stitch.

Posted by Ted at 03:44 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Mixed feelings about this one

The X From Outer Space.

I always considered myself the guy who never met a Japanese monster movie he didn't like, until now. I kept waiting for this movie to fall over the precipice into the "so bad it's good" category, but no matter how hard I wished, it just stayed firmly in the 'bad' place.

From the TV guide:

A spaceship returns to Tokyo with a spore, which grows into a spear-spitting monster.

There was actually more plot than that. Basically, the spaceship is sent to Mars to find out why the previous six ships haven't reported back. The Japanese suspect a mysterious UFO is causing the disappearances. The UFO appears, spaceship finds sparkly egg spore and returns to earth where the egg hatches spore grows into a giant monster named Guilala (Goo-La-La). Which attacks Tokyo.

"Fireball" and "spear" must be synonyms in Japanese.

Scientists find solution. Monster is reduced back to spore, and they "Shoot it out of the universe" on a rocket to nowhere. Tokyo saved.

Love triangle not resolved, no further mention of UFO nor missing spaceships.

Plenty of cheesy 60's pop music in the soundtrack if you like that sort of thing. If you ever have the chance to see this one, run screaming in the opposite direction. If you can do that and shoot fireballs at Tokyo at the same time, so much the better.

Update: I did some further digging and found the following in a movie review:

they defeat GUILALA using a rare material known as "Guilalium", which blocks GUILALA's main drive; it stops the flow of energy. Using some remaining jets, the Japanese Defense Air Force literally bukkakes the mighty monster into his small, harmless spore form. This movie marks the first bukkake scene in history.

That ought to be good for a few Google hits, eh? Anyway, this movie does seem to have it's champions among the cult movie afficianado's.

Posted by Ted at 09:13 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 23, 2004

Two down...

Many have already written about the passing of Captain Kangaroo. I grew up watching him (and Romper Room with Miss Maryann, and Beany & Cecil). He was my first best friend.

Also, the incredible Ann Miller has left us. In my opinion, she was the greatest female tap dancer of all time, and one of the overall best as well. If you've never seen her work, on January 27th, the Turner Classic Movie (TCM) network is going to air a tribute to her with four of her movies - On the Town, Easter Parade, Kiss Me Kate, and Hit the Deck - and an interview from 1997. I'll be setting the TiVo for this one.

Posted by Ted at 09:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 20, 2004

Movie Review

Another in a series of Cult Flicks and Trash Picks posts.

Riki-Oh, The Story of Ricky

A friend at work lent me this one, with plenty of warning which I'll pass along to you. This is the most violent movie I have ever seen, with the blood and gore reaching absurd levels.

Basic plot: Ricky gets sent to prison where he winds up the target of practically everyone. He wins in the end.

It takes 90 minutes to tell the tale, and along the way people are disembowelled, chopped with machetes, impaled and... jeez, I can't go on. It's that graphic. Oddly though, you tend to de-sensitize and the story is just enough to keep you watching, if for no other reason than to be able to say that you've seen it (uh, that would be me Tim). The cartoonlike quality of the acting helps with the belief suspension too, especially the characters reaction to pain. And there's plenty of pain spread around for everyone. For instance, one guy is ripped open, and with his dying breath tries to strangle his opponent with his own entrails (I don't think so, Tim).

Anyways, I'll return it to my friend and thank him, and now I can say I've seen it. This movie is only for dedicated blood-freaks and Asian cinema devotees.

Posted by Ted at 06:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 04, 2004

Rat Movie Sightings

I got to watch two fun movies yesterday that met my definition of 'decent', and both had guest appearances by Victor and Nic's furry little buddies.

In the SciFi flick Angry Red Planet, the explorers are attacked by a weird giant rat/bat/spider creature thing that was pretty cool.

Towards the end of Attack of the Puppet People, two of the shrunken victims are chased by a rat as they make their way along a city street. A cat comes along and scares off the rat while the people make an escape.

Two great movies, two football games (although the Ravens lost, dammit), and two hockey games in the evening (the Caps... *sigh*). It was a pretty good day, ya know?

Posted by Ted at 07:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 29, 2003

The best kind of survey

Yep, the kind that's already been done and all you have to do is read the fascinating results. Plus it manages to combine two of my addictions - rockets and old crappy movies.

Courtesy of The Astounding B Monster! (an all-around fun place to visit), here's a pundit's guide to the top rocket jocks in movie history.

For an added bonus, check out this nifty look at SciFi's Coolest Conveyances. Notable is the invasion by the undersea Mu-vians, still pissed off at us dirtsiders after all this time.

Posted by Ted at 07:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 20, 2003

December 15, 2003

December 07, 2003

Lady Penelope

What guy wouldn't love a woman who was rich, classy, dabbled in espionage, and owned a pink six-wheeled limosine? Ah yes, Parker, go get the car...

Follow the link in that article to see the movie trailer for the new Thunderbirds movie, due out next summer. International Rescue rides again. Woo-hoo!

Thunderbirds was one of a series of sci-fi adventures produced by Gerry Anderson and the BBC during the 1960's that used puppets and the technique called Supermarionation. Similar shows included Fireball XL-5, Stingray, SuperCar and Captain Scarlet.

This is a neat page showing several of the various vehicles modeled and rendered. It includes several of the rocket ships from these shows in formats compatible with Microsoft Flight Simulator.

And if anyone was wondering (Bueller? Bueller?), I've seen flying rocket models of Thunderbirds 1, 2, and 3 (4 was a submarine, 5 the space station).

Posted by Ted at 07:01 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 29, 2003

An unexpected visit from an old friend

Mookie (who blogs dead people) and I had the house to ourselves today while mom did her last day of work for awhile. We did some chores and straightening up, then sat down to watch George of the Jungle together. If you haven't seen that movie, then you need to be smacked upside. If you saw it and thought it was stupid, well... duh!

So as the closing credits rolled, we were watching for the song titles because one in particular had caught our fancy, when a name jumped out at me.

Sergio Aragones. He was listed as one of the animators for the opening credit cartoon. Does that name ring a bell? I spent years loving his little doodles in the margins of MAD magazine. Each issue had countless little masterpieces scribbled in random corners of each page.

And that brought back names I didn't even know I remembered. Don Martin (master of odd sound effects), Dave Berg (The Lighter Side...), Antonio Prohias (Spy vs. Spy) and Mort Drucker. These guys were my heroes growing up, because I wanted to be a cartoonist too. I wasn't bad, but nowhere near talented enough to make a living at it. Oh well.

On the first trip to the grocery store every month I'd scan the magazine rack and snag the latest issue of Mad. My mom would just roll her eyes and add it to the pile at the checkout. She never complained much because I would read them cover to cover. Heck, most of my popular culture came from those pages, as I read parodies of the movies of the day - movies I'd never see in their original versions. I'd carefully fold each back cover to find their secret message (thanks to Al Jaffe), and cover my lunchbox with Mad stickers trumpeting inane sayings.

Once my brother got old enough, he started to get Cracked magazine, and I always looked down on him for it. Cracked was funny (remember "Shut up's"?), but it wasn't the original, ya know?

I have a box of old Mad magazines in my basement that I rescued from my parents house a few years ago. I was actually kind of amazed that they had kept them for all those years. I was proud to introduce my kids to 'the usual gang of idiots'.

Update: While doing some research for this post, I found references to early illustrations done by Basil Wolverton. I loved his work, but only found it in the complilations and paperbacks. He was a little before my time.

Also, fans should check out Doug Gilford's Mad Cover Site, especially his very cool cover trivia pages.

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November 23, 2003

The Duke

A while back I bought a two-DVD set of old old John Wayne westerns. I try to watch one every saturday while the girls are at work, and I've noticed a few things.

More happens in a one-hour western than happens in today's two-hour action movies. Yeah, the special effects are gazillions times better now, but for sheer plot movement and storyline, you can't beat 'em, and this includes the long stretches of horse chases and riding back and forth between town and the ranch (or wherever the secondary locations are). I'm also realizing that there is truly nothing new in Hollywood. Today I watched the Duke, in grainy black & white, run up the side of a wall and dive back onto the bad guys he was fighting. In how many kung-fu movies have we seen that done?

He always got the bad guys and got the girl too. He was honorable when wrongly accused. When someone needed help, he was there for them. He never started trouble, but he always finished it.

John Wayne was America. What a cowboy.

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November 04, 2003

Mad Scientist's Club

As a kid, my favorite book was The Mad Scientist's Club, written by Bertrand Brinley. This collection of tales were great fun as the seven club members used science to solve problems, uncover mysteries and pull off outrageous practical jokes. Many of these stories originally appeared in Boy's Life magazine.

Maybe you remember tales such as The Strange Sea Monster of Strawberry Lake, The Unidentified Flying Man of Mammoth Falls, The Secret of the Old Cannon, or The Great Gas Bag Race. If not, then you really missed out and should track down a copy.

Ok, so I tracked it down for you. Amazon has the original, the second collection, and the only published novel length story - The Big Kerplop!

There's talk of finally printing the final unpublished story in the future. I'll be getting a copy as soon as it's available.

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October 27, 2003

Calling all Bruce Campbell fans

Bubba Ho-Tep is in the house!

Thanks to Bad State of Gruntledness for the pointers. See him for trailers.

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October 22, 2003

Someone loves me very very much

I had to take half a day off with my wife today to deal with some things, and afterwards we did some shopping. I wound up with the following DVD's:

Killer Klowns from Outer Space
The Last House on the Left
Return of the Living Dead
WWII movie 3-pack including A Walk in the Sun, Gung Ho!, and Go For Broke!
Excalibur

Best Buy* has a sale going on, three for $20.00. The first three titles were from that deal. Other available titles were Amityville Horror, Burnt Offerings, Species and Child's Play, among others. Fun stuff for those who like their horror a little cheesy.

The WWII movies are the kinds of flicks I watch on AMC and TMT sometimes, starring folks like Van Johnson, Robert Mitchum and Dana Andrews. Sorry Victor, no Joe Don Baker.

Excalibur was a freak find at the Wal-Mart bargain bin. Classic.

* I hate Best Buy with a passion because they sell those crappy extended waranties and then weasle out of honoring them even though it breaks the heart of the little girl trying to get the service they promised. But sometimes you go where the deal is, and as long as you know that the bastards will screw you over given half a chance, well, forewarned is forearmed. Ya know?

Posted by Ted at 08:27 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 17, 2003

Vintage Television

Anyone remember Harry Broderick?

Here's a hint:

Once upon a time, a junkman had a dream...

Ringing any bells? The name of the show was Salvage 1, starring Andy Griffith. It ran for 20 episodes in 1979, and was among the worst crap ever broadcast or the most brilliant and inspirational programming - depending on who you talk to.

In it, Andy... uh, Harry rounded up a team of experts and built his own rocketship. He was a junkman, and the moon was full of stuff that NASA had abandoned. The whole tone of the show was that ordinary people could do extraordinary things and like the original Star Trek, the technology was only a background to the 'people' stories being told.

Wonderful pilot movie. The series was pure crap, and I never missed a single forgettable episode. Am I the only one who remembers this?

Y'all were probably watching Three's Company or Dukes of Hazzard.

Posted by Ted at 01:34 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

October 07, 2003

Cinema

Mookie's education in movie classics continued last night, with her first viewing of Blazing Saddles. It's been a while since I'd seen it myself, so we had a fun couple of hours together.

The other night on one of the movie classics channels, they showed the Hammer version of The Mummy. October is easily my favorite month for television movies because all the classic horror gets trotted out for Halloween. More fun for Mookie.

I also saw an advertisement on the Bravo network that starting in November, they will be showing the 60's classic war series Combat. One of my warmest childhood memories is of sitting in the living room with my Dad watching Combat and Bonanza. I was too young to understand what was going on, but it didn't matter, because I was with Dad. I'm really looking forward to seeing this series. The main star is Vic Morrow, who was killed in a stunt gone wrong on the set of the remake of The Twilight Zone movie. Something I didn't know about him was that his daughter is Jennifer Jason Leigh. Small world, eh?

Next up for Mookie is Slap Shot.

Posted by Ted at 07:39 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 04, 2003

Dr. Strangelove

"You can't fight in here, this is the War Room!"

Gotta love this movie.

Posted by Ted at 08:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 03, 2003

Guilty Pleasure

The Bravo network recently started showing the series West Wing from the beginning, and we decided to watch it. We never saw it while it originally ran, and I only had the vaguest sense of what it was all about. So thanks to PVR (the satellite version of TIVO), we’ve been taping the episodes and watching when we get a chance.

I’m enjoying the show so far. It’s well made and acted, with interesting stories and likable characters. There is definitely a liberal bias here, but it’s still entertaining. Of course, reality is mostly right out the window, and we’ve had to pause the show a few times when I went off when something particularly stupid was said (the show is about a Democrat administration), but even so they good-naturedly poke fun at them too. In one episode, a senior-staffer and his secretary have this exhange about budget surpluses and tax-breaks (not exact quotes, but close):

Secretary: “I want my money back.”
Staffer: “It’s not your money, it’s our money.”
Secretary: “What do you mean, ‘your money’?”
Staffer: “It’s in our bank account, just sitting there for us to use.”
Secretary: “So give it back and let me use it.”
Staffer: “We don’t trust you.”
Secretary: “What?”
Staffer: “If we give it back, you’ll just waste it on yourself.”
Secretary: “It’s my money. I want it.”
Staffer: “Sorry. We can’t do that.”
Secretary: “Why not?
Staffer: “We’re Democrats.”

Each episode also has at least one moment where the music swells in the backround and someone – usually the President, but not always – says something poignant and inspirational. Hey, it's television.

As written, I hate the administration policies, but I could definitely respect the President himself. The show isn’t about showing both sides of the issue-du-jour, but they occasionally bring up interesting points of view and very rarely an intelligent opposing opinion. I’ve noticed that they love to serve up as the ‘primary’ opposition argument something that can be scathingly and completely discredited in one dramatic speech. There isn’t much time for nuance, so it’s a little like Barry Bonds playing T-ball.

You can imagine the ‘guns are evil’ factoids and distortions they trot out almost every episode, and the characters are painfully earnest. You feel that the characters passionately believe in what was just said. I laugh and gleefully point out the stupidity.

My favorite part is at the start of each commercial break when they do a segment called “True Tales of the Oval Office”, and talk about some little trivia tidbit or quote about one of the Presidents. Nifty.

I’m definitely enjoying the series. It’s good entertainment, as long as one doesn’t mistake it for reality.

Posted by Ted at 08:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 22, 2003

Delta Skelter

A couple of weeks ago, I was stunned when my daughters told me that they had never seen Animal House. We had been discussing classic movies, because I've been introducing them to Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant, John Wayne, etc.

Last weekend we rented the video and the girls enjoyed it. It's been a while for me too, so it was like rediscovering an old friend (tired cliche, but true). Today in the news is the announcement that the DVD is about to be released, and they held an anniversary party featuring members of the original cast and a reenactment of the parade.

Screw the Prowler, I want a DeathMobile!

Posted by Ted at 04:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 17, 2003

Those were the days

I'm watching Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, a 1961 movie starring Walter Pidgeon and Barbara Eden. In it, a US atomic submarine tries to save the earth from being incinerated when the Van Allen radiation belts catch fire. Yep, kinda silly, but still a fun movie.

An interesting scene in the movie took place at an international conference of scientists, when a European expert insisted that the world should wait and see what happens, because he believed that everything would be ok if mankind didn't interfere. An American admiral devised a solution that required intervention, and after some debate the Euroweenie demanded that America not act unilaterally. In fact, he called for an 'international vote' to make the decision. The Americans ignored him and went to save the day.

Sound familiar?

Posted by Ted at 02:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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