Saturday, April 22, 2017

Euro-Spy Poster Art!









Every now and then I just have to dip back into this pool! 


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Land of the Giants (1968-1970) - Kurt Kasznar and the Coward as Plot Device


I have no good way to defend watching more of this pretty bad Irwin Allen television series. It is, without a doubt, an hour long show begging to be chopped down to less than fifteen minutes. I have now suffered ....uh...watched three full random episodes from the second season and I think the only reason I can articulate for doing this is that I'm kind of mesmerized by how terrible it is.


Almost nothing about any of the characters makes sense except that they are necessary for there to be an actual story. For instance, one of the miniature humans stranded on this alien world is a middle-aged, overweight bastard named Fitzhugh. Played by Kurt Kasznar as a sniveling coward who constantly puts his crewmates in deadly jeopardy because of his greed and general worthlessness Fitzhugh should never have survived the first week on this planet. I'm not saying he would have been caught by the giants. I'm saying that any intelligent group of adults would have had enough of his selfish crap and fragged him for the greater good. I mean, come on! Lives are on the line here! I'm sure they would have made it look like an accident to the younger members of the crew but giving that scumbag a dirt nap would have made it much easier to keep everyone else alive and out of trouble.


But, of course, that would never happen on what is essentially a family friendly show. Plus, he is in sad way very important. Indeed, the only reason Fitzhugh exists is to do the stupid things he does so that the thin scripts have some engine driving the plot. Without his idiotic actions the show would be even slower and more boring than it already is! The mind boggles.

I have to stop watching this show. Damn you ME-TV! 


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Production Art for KING KONG (1933)






Amazing! 


Monday, April 17, 2017

REBELS IN CANADA (1965) - Amando de Ossorio Makes a Western!


Over the past few years I've been slowly tracking down the few films by Spanish filmmaker (and creator of the Blind Dead films) Amando de Ossorio that I have yet to see. I finally watched one of his two westerns tonight and enjoyed it for it's slight pleasures. It's part of one of my favorite western sub-genres - films about the Canadian Mounted Police! It's a tiny subset of westerns but I love it so!

Very much a Euro-Western made before the release of Sergio Leone's worldwide hit A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964) changed everything,  Ossorio's REBELS IN CANADA (1965) is cut from a very different cloth. Released under half a dozen titles including Three From Colorado, Massacre on the Hudson River and Canadian Wilderness it tells the story of Canadian trapper Victor DeFrois (George Martin) who, in a fit of vengeful anger at the English fur-dealer responsible for his brother's death, joins a rebel group fighting the Mounted Police. The rebels are trying to oust the British influence from the country in an attempt to control their fortunes and their future. To achieve this goal they kidnap the villainous businessman's very blonde daughter and stash her in the woods with Victor as her guard. Eventually these two star-crossed people fall in love (like ya do) and fight to find a way to live together in this terrible situation.


This was Amando de Ossorio's second feature film as director and it shows that he was ready for the job. He injects some interesting visuals into the story often finding some sharp ways of making scenes that could be dull come alive. The scene in which rebel leader Leo gives a speech to his assembled crew is juiced up by being done as one shot with the camera centered and rotating around to follow him as he circles the group. It's a clever 360  degree shot that keeps things interesting. Also, there is a fist/knife fight between Martin and a nasty prospector that is set in a very dangerous looking set of river rapids. This sequence looks quite realistic and I can't understand how the two actors didn't sustain serious injuries!

It was nice to see the lovely Diana Lorys in a solid role as Victor's old flame who seeks revenge on him for leaving her in lurch with his new blonde woman. She is good here giving off a sense of native menace and is convincing in her final battle with another female character. Lorys was famous at the time as a key cast member of Jess Franco's THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF (1962) and would go on to star in Ossorio's FANGS OF THE LIVING DEAD (1969) and turn in a memorable performance in Aured's BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL (1974).


This is a well mounted (see what I did there?) film, colorful and vibrant enough even if it feels much more like a film made a decade before it's production. It's a fun little western programmer that wouldn't have felt out of place as a Saturday matinee for the kiddies and I suspect that is what it was meant to be. It's an OK film with some neat moments and that's about all. If you like the Hollywood westerns of the 1950's you might enjoy this one but you'll have to track down the fan-subtitled version I watched as I don't know of an English language version.


Friday, April 14, 2017

What I Watched in March


The X-Men film series and all it's offshoots have been a mixed bag, to say the least, but I've enjoyed more of them than I've disliked. But if we had to suffer through convoluted messes like the third X film and that hideous Origins Wolverine disaster to get to LOGAN (2017) then it may have been worth it.

Set in an apocalyptic future America in which the rest of mutant-kind has been hunted to extinction, Logan hides his identity trying to earn enough money get a sick Charles Xavier out of the country. Xavier's illness makes him unintentionally dangerous and the plan is to get him far away from people. Enter a woman on the run with a child that just might be another mutant with a connection to Logan. Soon, a business financed paramilitary force is after them and Logan has to decide if he has any of his past heroic nature within.

The strengths of this film are many and often surprising. I expected great performances from this cast but the depth of emotion in the story was stunning. I expected well done action sequences but I didn't expect each action scene to cause so many intensely distressing feelings for me. This is a finely written, beautifully crafted and - dare I say it - brilliant film with much to say about life, humanity, friendship, duty and love. This is a great movie and if it is ignored at award time then the Academy can burn in Hell.


I'm a fan of Vin Diesel and have followed his screen career since seeing his self-made short film Multi-Facial in 1995. He's a big beefy guy with an remarkably resonant voice  who can actually emote and has taken control of his career in a way that is impressive. As insane and over-the-top as the Fast & Furious films have become they are still great fun action movies and play by their own loopy rules (and physics). It was in the hope of just such silly fun I went to see XXX: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE (2017).

I saw the first XXX film and did not like it. If I had remembered this fact a bit more clearly I would have skipped this matinee screening and done something more productive with my time. But ten minutes into this third entry in the series the memory came flooding back and I said out loud 'Oh, yeah. This is going to suck.' What I had forgotten was that these movie have no sense of reality but not in the fun, wink-wink slick manner of the Fast & Furious franchise. Here all is supposed to be super serious with Cage being the smartest man in the room at all times. The problem is that the script is never up to a level higher than a cartoon so for Cage to be that smart guy everyone around him has to be as dumb as a stack of peat moss. There is almost no attempt made to present the other characters as credible threats, thinking human beings or even anything other than game play obstacles to be overcome.

That is the biggest problem of this film and this sad series in total. Nothing matters because nothing is creditable and therefore there are no stakes in the story. Without a viable sense of danger we have no reason to care about the thinly drawn characters or their fate so it's all just a silly and eventually tiring bunch of kinetic crap. A movie about a group of extremely talented, adrenaline junkie spies should not bore it's audience into yawns. It's easy to see Diesel is trying to build another franchise around a core group that will expand into a 'family' but I suspect it will fail. Or, it should.


KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2017) has been lauded and castigated in almost equal measure among monster fans. The 'thumbs up' crowd claim it's a fun, exciting monster epic that builds a new Kong story from elements of Apocalypse Now, the original 1933 Kong and the 1976 remake. This is true, to a certain point. The 'thumbs down' side argue that the film is bereft of decent characters, the action overwhelms the story and pace is too quick. This view is also true to a degree. Where do I stand?

I ended up enjoying KONG but with reservations. Most of the objections I've heard from the Nay side seem a little silly but I do think there are some valid criticisms to be made. First, there is precious little time spent letting us get to know the characters. The only actors that really get a shot at crafting meaningful characterizations are Sam Jackson and John Goodman but even they are given less time than is necessary. John C. Reilly's WWII pilot is somewhat amusing and talks a lot but we don't really get to feel much for him. Everyone else is merely a cipher moving through the tale doing what is required to advance to the next plot point.   

That would be my main criticism of the film - there is not enough time spent letting us soak up the beauty and grandeur of the Skull Island they have created. It's as if they learned only one lesson from the Peter Jackson mess from 2005 - don't let things drag out to David Lean lengths. And don't get me wrong - that's a damned good lesson to take from that film! But when you're creating a whole new fantasy world location you need to let us look around for a while before tossing us into the conflict. Let us wallow in the visuals and then gradually introduce the monsters and tension. Or introduce the monsters in a shockingly quick manner and then let us look at the world you've built in the second act so we grow to understand the environment and it's people a bit. We needed much more time with the human natives without Reilly's babblings to show us their village and how they live in this mad place. This is where the film could have let us get to know the characters well but it doesn't.

I suspect that there were several scenes left on the cutting room floor that would give the movie the extra characterization I feel it is lacking. Perhaps we'll get those in some future extended edition on Blu-Ray. But it would have been nice to have seen them on the big screen making the exciting action sequences more emotionally involving. I like what is there, but I hope for more.


GET OUT (2017) is one of the best horror films of recent years and takes some great older ideas into fascinating modern areas. Jordan Peele's debut as writer/director shows that he is a student of the genre as well as a clear-eyed observer of humanity and society. It is his vision of American culture that I found most refreshing. He lets his audience gradually see, one incident at a time, how a black man interacts with and carefully negotiates a world where he is always suspect. We see how his natural fear of white people and their inherent position of power informs his thoughts and actions and how he has to remind himself that the family of his girlfriend feels no malice toward him. But while his normal defenses are sometimes too sensitive to small things is he right to sense a dangerous undercurrent of racial superiority in his weekend hosts' attitude? Is the predatory vibe he gets from certain comments a misread of a culture he knows only as an outsider or a warning sign he should heed?

I won't reveal anything more than to say that this is a brilliant film and heralds what I hope is a long career in the horror genre for Peele. 

The List 
X-RAY (1981) - 3 (terrible slasher)
LOGAN (2017) - 9
SPECTRAL (2016)- 5 (derivitive SF tale)
THE WITCH'S MOUNTAIN (1972) - 5 (odd Spanish horror effort)
THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED (1969) - 8 (rewatch)
XXX: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE (2017)- 3 (miserable)
DEATH WISH 3 (1985) - 5 (cheesy, ridiculous BUT entertaining trash)
PULSE (1988) - 4 (electricity is evil!)
KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2017) - 7
HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB (1973) - 8 (rewatch)
THE NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF (1981) - 7 (rewatch)
LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR (19677) - 7
GET OUT (2017) - 9
HATE FOR HATE (1967) - 5 (spaghetti western) 


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Paul Naschy Artwork

It's not well known that one of the elements Paul Naschy added to his screenplays was the occasional drawing to indicate specifics about how characters should look. His scripts were handwritten and his inclusion of these bits of art make me wish for the publication of facsimile copies of some - any - of them for fans to read. They would make it possible to get into the his head to understand more of his creative process or how his ideas grew from page to screen.

Here is a drawing from one of his Waldemar Daninsky El Hombre Lobo film scripts. 

And here is a color rendition of his vision of Doctor Jekyll from DR. JEKYLL AND THE WEREWOLF (1972). 


Nice! 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Every Vincent Price Death Scene!



There are a lot of ways to die onscreen and it looks like Price suffered most of them! 
Crushed by an avalanche the he also caused to happen has to be the oddest, although being choked to death by Charlton Heston has a coolness factor that is off the charts.