Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fool's Views (1/1 - 1/15)

Welcome to 2012, my friends. It’s been a bit of a slow start for the old Fool, or rather, I’ve been operating at what might be considered “normal” speed for most. Chalk it up to a combination of acclimating to a new schedule, rehearsals for a new play, and writing a new HorrorHound article, the subject of which might be immediately apparent based on the brunt of the films below. Plus, there was all that tallying and discussions about everyone’s top 10, 20, etc. of 2011 – plenty to keep the Doc a-hoppin’.

But back in the saddle we are, and it’s finally feeling like winter, so there should be plenty of good Viewing ahead. Hope you enjoy what we’ve got in store for you this week, and as always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

HORROR:

Day the Sky Exploded, The (1958)
(1st viewing) d. Heusch, Paolo
When the first manned space expedition goes awry, Paul Hubschmid’s rocket ship is abandoned and exploded, resulting in a rogue collection of asteroids being diverted from their orbit around the sun. Naturally they start heading towards Earth, wreaking all kinds of weather-related havoc (tidal waves, forest fires, etc.) en route to our certain extinction. A not-bad sci-fi programmer from Italy, despite its heavy reliance on stock footage (the aforementioned natural upheavals, control rooms, an infinite number of missile launches). Mario Bava served as director of photography (although he’s credited as “Mario Baja”) and spaghetti horror buffs will spot his Kill Baby, Kill star Giacomo Rossi-Stuart as one of the frantic technicians attempting to thwart disaster through mathematics and thermonuclear warheads. There’s an amusing little aural snafu about an hour into the flick – as the panicked crowds break through the military barrier, it becomes clear that the English dubbing team laid down a 15-second clip to cover a 2-minute scene. As a result, we hear a woman cry “My baby!” with the same inflection about eight times in a row.




CHRISTOPHER LEE FILM FEST:

Curse III: Blood Sacrifice (aka Panga) (1991)
(1st viewing) d. Barton, Sean
After American émigré Jenilee Harrison’s sister halts an African tribe’s ritual sacrificing of a goat, an evil sea spirit proceeds to hack its way through the film’s white populace. As the resident doc, Christpher Lee actually tenders some substantial screen time in his supporting role, even managing a bit of Afrikanese as well as two hefty monologues. However, Harrison’s vacant, stilted acting (10 years after her stint as Suzanne Somers’ replacement on Three’s Company) doesn’t help matters, though former soccer star Henry Cele fares well as the family’s native right hand man. There’s some brief nudity, mild gore and an overactive drum/synth score all attempting to enliven writer/director Barton’s suspense-free suspense scenes, while the halfway decent (machete-wielding!) rubber monster design is by Chris Walas. Bears no relation to any of the other Curse films.




End of the World (1977) (1st viewing) d. Hayes, John
As a stranded alien and the priest whose body he replicates, Christopher Lee pulls double duty in this turgid early Charles Band production, lording over six alien nuns while blackmailing nosey brainiac Kirk Scott and bride Sue Lyon into procuring the mysterious elements necessary for their return trip home. Of course, once they’ve got the goods, Lee and his sister act reveal their darker purpose: they’re really here to exterminate the Earth’s population via a series of natural disasters. Cheapjack effects, stock footage, yawns and annoying weeo-weeo electronic music score abound, although there’s a pretty great practical car explosion in the second act that clearly was done the good ol’ fashioned way of finding a junker and blowing that baby UP, flaming gas splashing all over the asphalt and terrified actors running for cover in the foreground. Aging screen veterans Dean Jagger and Lew Ayres show up to collect a paycheck, which couldn’t have been much. The “surprise” ending is a doozy, followed by some of the slowest crawling end credits on record.




Season of the Witch (2011) (1st viewing) d. Sena, Dominic
High profile B-movie starring Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman as two wisecracking thrill-killing 14th-century Knights Templar who suffer a crisis of confidence after offing one innocent victim too many and desert, only to be captured and pressed into duty transporting a young witch to a remote abbey in the hopes of ending the Black Plague. For his part, Christopher Lee delivers a delicious, boil-covered hare-lipped cameo, enduring impressive prosthetics for his limited time onscreen. Bragi F. Schut’s lame screenplay and dialogue do no one any favors. Cage has become as much as a liability as asset when it comes to attracting audiences – much like Drive Angry the same year, horror fans stayed away in droves. Unnecessary and shoddy CGI may dampen spirits, as does the goofy third act which goes giddily off the rails, but for those seeking mere escapism, this is a relatively inoffensive popcorn burner. Filmed on location in Austria and Hungary.





Tale of the Mummy (aka Talos the Mummy) (1998)
(1st viewing) d. Mulcahy, Russell
As some might have gathered at this point, Christopher Lee had no problems picking up a check for a day’s work and featured billing. Here, the venerable actor exits the scene at the eight-minute mark, having fulfilled his duties via a fateful 1948 excavation scene (that includes some truly horrible CGI). Flash forward to 1999, where Lee’s granddaughter Louise Lombard returns to recover the sarcophagus for display in the London Museum. This original but silly take on the mummy legend has the bandages themselves become the monster, scrambling around London car parks, tube stations, laundry chutes and gay bars in search of seemingly random victims, extracting their internal organs in order to restore Talos to life…with a cockamamie interplanetary alignment “ticking clock” in place for good measure. Decent cast includes Michael Lerner, Sean Pertwee, Lysette Anthony (of Krull infamy), Shelly Duvall, a very young Gerard Butler and the unintentionally hilarious supercool Jason Scott Lee as a U.S. embassy detective. Shorn of nearly 30 minutes for its US release, from 119 to 88, though I can’t help but feel a little grateful.




CIVILIAN:
Forks Over Knives (2011)
(1st viewing) d. Fulkerson, Lee
You don’t have to be a vegetarian…unless you want to, you know, live longer, be healthier, reduce your risk of cancer, spend less time in the hospital, etc. Such is the thesis put forth by this thought-provoking documentary based largely on the research of Drs. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. and T. Colin Campbell, and I gotta say Fulkerson & Co. make a compelling case for converting to a plant-based, whole-foods diet. Check it out and see if it doesn’t make you think twice about eating that Double Whopper.

2012 Totals to date: 6 films, 6 1st time views, 5 horror, 0 cinema

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