Sunday, April 2, 2017
Fool's Views (3/1 - 3/21)
As mentioned in the previous post, 2017 got off to a pretty rocky start, but once my stage obligations were concluded, I found myself with a bit more spare time and inspiration to enjoy the moving image once again. (Just in the nick of time, since I’ll be heading off to Belgium in a week to partake in my third go-round of the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival aka BIFFF, where I’ll probably consume more flicks over the course of 10 days than in the previous three months.)
In addition to a quartet of Blu-ray screeners from Shout! Factory and Severin, I actually got to the cinema on four separate occasions and batted 1.000 right down the line: Get Out, Raw, Logan, and a midnight screening of Razorback at the Music Box Theatre. Plus, for the first time since November’s Turkey Day, a group of the fear-loving faithful gathered at Kitley’s Krypt to partake in some long overdue Sharing and Scaring.
I also decided to make Akira Kurosawa my dedicated “director project” for 2017 (previous subjects include David Cronenberg, Robert Altman, Robert Aldrich, and Alfred Hitchcock), so I kicked things off with a revisit of Ran, and first time viewings of Drunken Angel and The Hidden Fortress. It’s going to be a good year, methinks.
In fact, March was so bountiful, I’m going to break this installment of the Views into two parts. So, stay tuned!
As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.
Dreamscape (1984) d. Ruben, Joseph (USA) (4th viewing)
***CLICK HERE FOR FULL BLU-RAY REVIEW***
Drive-In Massacre (1976) d. Segall, Stu (USA) (2nd viewing)
I first became aware of this (very) low budget California horror film (co-written by B-movie character actor extraordinaire George “Buck” Flower, who has a small role), about a madman killing off drive-in movie patrons via an old VHS tape called Filmgore, hosted by none other than Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. The purpose of the “documentary” was to showcase notable scenes from Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Blood Feast, Driller Killer, Two Thousand Maniacs, Snuff, and a few head-scratchers like Don Dohler’s Fiend and Ted V. Mikels’ Astro Zombies which aren’t notably gruesome at all.
Included in the Filmgore mix was a condensed version of Drive-In Massacre, i.e. it really only showed the kills, which I remembered as being suitably splattery if hardly realistic. I later caught up with the film in toto on one of Mill Creek’s box sets 2009, a print so dark and grainy, you could barely make out what was happening and the “dramatic action” (heavy on the quotes) was not the stuff to keep you riveted. Now, in a newly restored Blu-ray available from Severin Films, fans can finally see the few enjoyable moments of deep red in their full glory as well as bear witness to the 70 remaining minutes of utter tedium. Knock yourselves out, folks!
Fun fact: Director Segall (who also provides an audio commentary track) went on to be a highly successful producer of schlock TV programming, including Silk Stalkings, Hunter, and Renegade.
The House That Screamed (aka La Residencia) (1970) d. Serrador, Narciso Ibáñez (Spain) (3rd viewing)
Gorgeous photography and well-executed art direction help belie the depraved goings-on within headmistress Lilli Palmer’s girls boarding school, allowing director Serrador to lure us in and make emotional connections with his fetching cast before he starts subjecting them – and us – to humiliation, torture and wildly stylish murder sequences. Cruelty between peers, staff and family members abounds throughout, with sexual tensions and perversions barely contained on screen. (Serrador employs some ovation-worthy visual innuendos throughout.)
There’s also a marvelous shift of viewer alliance from ingénue heroine Cristina Galbo to “bad girl” Mary Maude so skillfully executed it prompts favorable comparisons to Hitchcock. A superbly twisted conclusion caps this terrific feature from the man who would give us Who Would Kill a Child? six years later. Available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory in a gorgeous digital print that puts your current 50Pack bargain version to shame – it’s a Hidden Horror hidden no more.
Get Out (2017) d. Peele, Jordan (USA) (1st viewing)
An impressive balancing act between social critique and popcorn genre thriller, anchored by excellent performances across the board. When Chris (Daniel Kaluyaa) heads off into the country to meet his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents, he’s understandably nervous; she hasn’t mentioned to them the fact that he is black. What starts off in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner terrain quickly shifts to more sinister subject matter; these affluent bastions of polite white society (perfectly epitomized by Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford) profess to loving Barack Obama and admiring black culture, but it quickly becomes apparent to Chris (and the viewer) that he is being systematically isolated from help or escape. (His charging cell phone is consistently being unplugged, the Negro servants are robotic vestiges of humanity, etc.)
Writer/director Peele’s feature debut is assured and confident, with numerous visual flourishes (the hypnosis scene, ostensibly to help Chris quit smoking, is particularly impressive) and the racial commentary never comes off as preachy but doesn’t shy away from making its statement. It could have gone so wrong on so many levels, and the fact that it never does is achievement aplenty.
Jack Frost (1997) d. Cooney, Michael (USA) (1st viewing)
Yes, it’s the one about the killer snowman and really, there’s not much more to say. Oh, wait, yes, there is. It’s more fun than it deserves to be, especially considering it was reportedly shot in 18 days in the middle of a heat wave, or perhaps the expectation bar is inherently lowered when your homicidal antagonist is, well, a snowman. True, writer/director Cooney could (and should) have worked a little harder to come up with wittier zingers for his frozen freakjob to spout, but at the same time their bizarre non-sequitur nature proves more amusing than the average groaner pun. The cast is enthusiastic and game, and it’s got American Pie cutie Shannon Elizabeth making her feature debut. Bottom line, I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it by a long shot.
Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) d. Gibson, Brian (USA) (2nd viewing)
***CLICK HERE FOR FULL BLU-RAY REVIEW***
The Final Battle (aka Le Dernier Combat) (1983) d. Besson, Luc (France) (1st viewing)
I'd heard about Besson’s debut feature for years (most significantly in Steven Jay Schneider’s 100 Sci-Fi Movies You Must See Before You Die book), but had never gotten around to it. For those who only know the director/producer for his flashy Hollywood efforts (The Fifth Element, Lucy, The Professional), you owe it to yourself to track this puppy down as it’s a terrific slice of low-budget dystopian apocalypse that transcends its early ’80s Mad Max brethren by going small and weird instead of big and stupid.
Logan (2017) d. Mangold, James (USA) (1st viewing)
Allowing everyone’s favorite clawed and flawed anger management case to have an R-rated swan song was a nice touch, especially for mature Marvel Universe fans who were worried that they might not ever have a Wolverine movie where Mr. Sideburns STABS EVERYONE IN THE FACE ALL THE TIME. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are the romantic couple to beat for 2017, and their spiritual offspring – in the form of new mutant Dafne Keen – is a welcome addition to the X-family. Terrific mainstream entertainment that somehow transcends the prevailing superhero fatigue.
TO BE CONTINUED....