|Things we are thankful for....|
Well, after the whirlwind that was October, with its random trips to foreign countries and the glories of SCARE-A-THON 2016 (as well as the premiere of the Doc’s foray into reality television, the Shout! Factory-produced HORROR HUNTERS, available for viewing HERE), November presented itself as a semi-return to normalcy. Or at least what serves as the “new normal” these days – only managed to get in a total of 23 viewings for the month as opposed to the headier days of the past where double that was not uncommon. But, hey, we’ll take it and be happy that it wasn’t less, right?
We’re heading into the final lap of 2016, so we’ll keep these short and sweet in the interest of sneaking a few more flicks onto the plate before the clock tolls midnight. Happy to expand my thoughts further should any be so inclined for the conversation! In other words…
Please feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.
Alligator (1980) d. Teague, Lewis (USA) (4th viewing)
Our own Music Box Theatre was screening this as a midnight movie, but instead of waiting around until the wee hours of the night, Mssr. Kitley, Lady AC, and I decided to chill out with some chips and nachos at home to watch Robert Forster face off against the titular reptile, grown to enormous size in the Chicago sewers with the aid of experimental hormones. The scene where Mr. Chompy is revealed in a local swimming pool is etched into my childhood memory; equally so the one where the lizard king wreaks havoc on nefarious tycoon Dean Jagger’s daughter’s nuptials, slinging blood and flinging guests with equal gusto, with the limo-pulverizing finale the icing on a crushed wedding cake.
Lady in White (1988) d. Laloggia, Frank (USA) (2nd viewing)
Recently released to Blu-ray by Shout! Factory, this oft-overlooked offering put me in mind of Bob Clark’s classic A Christmas Story with its sentimental and nostalgic backward glance at a simpler time (the 1950s) that still harbored the darker shadows of the human condition. Lukas Haas is terrific (as a young boy who makes contact with the spirit of a murdered girl and is compelled to uncover the details of the crime to let her soul rest in peace), and given marvelous support by Len Cariou, Alex Rocco, and Katherine Helmond. Here’s hoping that this new presentation helps secure new fans for what should have been a beloved '80s classic instead of a hidden horror.
The Love Witch (2016) d. Biller, Anna (USA) (1st viewing)
A minor miracle of indie filmmaking, as instead of trying to mask her minuscule budget via the standard shaky-cam found-footage route, creative force Biller takes the DIY aesthetic to its zenith, designing her own sets/costumes and composing the music in addition to the expected writing, directing, editing, producing, et. al. chores. The results are magnificently heightened, with eye-popping colors that match the high-wire turns of her exquisitely cast ensemble of players. Samantha Robinson is utterly breathtaking as our sorceress d’amour; it’s a perfectly modulated performance, more magic act than the impersonation of manners it first appears to be.
Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966) d. Warren, Harold P. (USA) (2nd and 3rd viewings)
A longtime MST3K staple, Warren’s classic misfire celebrated its 50th anniversary with a digitally restored presentation at the Music Box complete with a special appearance by Jackey Neyman Jones, who starred as little Debbie onscreen (and who had just published her memories about the film, Growing Up with Manos). And yes, I watched it twice in one week, the first at home with Joel and the ’bots in case there were time-honored shout-outs that I was obliged to chant along with the assembled masses. As it turned out, the MB crowd was pleasantly respectful, refraining from providing their own rifftrax treatment and simply letting the film’s inherent weirdness work its own brand of magic.
TURKEY DAY 2016:
(Click HERE for more pics and reviews at Kitley's Krypt)
The Brain from Planet Arous (1957) d. Juran, Nathan (USA) (2nd viewing)
A giant floating globe of extraterrestrial gray matter takes control over B-movie stalwart John Agar; the results are pure late-1950s low-budget sci-fi gorgonzola.
The Mummy and the Curse of the Jackals (1969) d. Drake, Oliver (USA) (1st viewing)
High-falutin’ title for “Let’s get a mummy to fight a werewolf because we haven’t seen that before. Oh, and get John Carradine because why not.”
The Corpse Grinders (1971) d. Mikels, Ted V. (USA) (2nd viewing)
Enterprising and unscrupulous cat food magnates decide to sweeten up their profits by adding a secret ingredient to their recipe (which has the added benefit of disappearing anyone who interferes or suspects their nefarious plot). Of course, who would have guessed that the meow-meows would subsequently develop a taste for human flesh? Not sure which gets mangled worse, the titular corpses or the American Sign Language used by head baddie Sanford Mitchell.
The Witchmaker (1969) d. Brown, William O. (USA) (1st viewing)
I’d never heard of this one before, but it was nice to see a Satanic panic flick that danced the exploitation tango with plenty of flesh (though no outright nudity) and blood on display. It’s no Brotherhood of Satan (though it does come from that film’s creative team of Alvy Moore and LQ Jones), but it’s got plenty of drive-in charm.
Last Shark (aka Great White) (1981) d. Castellari, Enzo (Italy) (2nd viewing)
Three words: Shark vs. Helicopter. God bless the Italians.
The Keeper (1976) d. Drake, T.Y. (Canada) (1st viewing)
I have no idea what corner of the universe this Christopher Lee vehicle popped up from, especially since I thought I had covered the genre icon’s entire horror filmography in my career retrospective for HorrorHound four years ago. Not so, apparently, to my eternal shame. Thank goodness for Kitley for unveiling it for us, because even if it’s not the greatest flick (need I remind you this is Turkey Day?), it still manages to entertain with a yarn about a mysterious mental hospital where hostile brainwashing is the modus operandi of choice.
Shadowzone (1990) d. Cardone, J.S. (USA) (1st viewing)
Minimal but effective creature effects, a solid B-cast and lots of splatter enliven this zany science-gone-awry bunker fantasy from Full Moon. James Hong, Louise Fletcher, Miguel Nunez, and Baywatch’s Shawn Weatherly meddle in affairs best left alone, while jarhead David Beecroft attempts to uncover the truth about their brain expanding experiments. FX man Mark Shostrom’s impressive giant animatronic rats and monkeys share eye candy screen time with sexy prone nudes Maureen Flaherty and Robbie Rives.
Amy (2015) d. Kapadia, Asif (USA) (1st viewing)
As in Winehouse, as in documenting her rise from goofy Brit jazz singer to pop superstar, as well as her hounding at the hands of the paparazzi that destroyed her as surely as any drug and alcohol addictions.
Author! Author! (1982) d. Hiller, Arthur (USA) (1st viewing)
Misguided “comedy” about playwright Al Pacino separating from flakey wife Tuesday Weld, raising their brood of children, and scribbling a problematic Broadway show with warm and winning Dyan Cannon in the lead. A car crash between Kramer vs. Kramer and Cheaper By the Dozen, made all the more painful for Pacino’s thoroughly unsympathetic lead performance.
The Handmaiden (2016) d. Park, Chan-wook (South Korea) (1st viewing)
Exquisitely mounted in every respect, with a stellar cast bringing a labyrinthine and vividly erotic mystery to life. Known for his violent mood pieces Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, Thirst, and Stoker, Park enters the land of the “legit” on his own terms.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) d. Miller, George (Australia) (2nd viewing)
The “Black and Chrome” version doesn’t really bring anything new to the table (in fact, one might argue that it actually performs a disservice to the magnificent color palettes on display), but it was still a delight to see this masterpiece of kinetic action on the big screen once again. Nuck’s final sacrifice is the epitome of a noble warrior’s death.
The Raid: Redemption (2011) d. Evans, Gareth (Indonesia) (4th viewing)
Speaking of action masterpieces... Welsh born writer/director Evans marshals the forces of his fearless Indonesian cast, delivering one of the most jaw-dropping thrill rides of the last decade, full stop. The feverish pace and eye-popping martial arts stuntwork are unrivaled spectacles of wonder.
The Trail of Dracula (2013) d. Mitchell, David (UK) (1st viewing)
Mitchell’s documentary starts off strong, exploring the historical and literary origins of the world’s most famous vampire, but then gives short shrift to anything not falling under the Universal or Hammer banner. Considering the finished product is only an hour long, it comes off as a missed opportunity. (I mean, how do you only give a minute of screen time to Badham’s 1979 or Coppola’s 1992 efforts, both of which were huge box office smashes?) Available now on DVD from Severin/Intervision.
FASTER AC! KILL! KILL!
Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004) d. Tarantino, Quentin (USA) (2nd viewing)
Hardly the whirling dervish of the first installment, I joked to the femalien that the reason QT had to break it into two movies was to accommodate the languorous line readings of Michael Madsen and David Carradine, who seem to be competing with one another for the “meaningful pause” award. Still plenty of fun, but move it along, peoples.
The Killing of America (1981) d. Renan, Sheldon (USA) (1st viewing)
Haunting and effective documentary that ended up being shelved due to its disturbing content and tone, not surprising since it covers the U.S.’s fascination with firearms, mass murderers, serial killers, assassinations, and violence in general, both as participants and spectators. Available from Severin Films and worth your time if you’ve the stomach for it.
Killing Them Softly (2012) d. Dominik, Andrew (USA) (1st viewing)
Surprisingly funny (and unsurprisingly violent) tale of mob workings, with Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini as hired contract killers tracking down Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendehlson after they knock over Ray Liotta’s high stakes poker night. Good stuff.
CALLING JACK RYAN
The Hunt for Red October (1990) d. McTiernan, John (USA) (4th viewing)
The third in McTiernan’s Hollywood action trifecta (and sadly the last time he knocked it out of the park, although I did like his 1999 Thomas Crown Affair remake with Pierce Brosnan quite a bit). Sean Connery hits his superstar peak as a defecting Soviet admiral and Alec Baldwin makes a solid impression as Tom Clancy’s literary hero (though apparently not enough to justify his salary for the subsequent sequels).
Clear and Present Danger (1994) d. Noyce, Philip (USA) (2nd viewing)
After the so-so Patriot Games, star Harrison Ford and director Noyce reunited to pull off a much more satisfying tale of political intrigue and double crossing. Colombian drug cartels provide the backdrop for a high stakes duel between mercenaries and politicos, with Ford’s idealistic-but-not-really-a-man-of-action caught in the middle.
2016 Totals to date: 239 films, 164 1st time views, 125 horror, 30 cinema