Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Fool's Views (1/30 – 2/5)

Well, whaddya know, more or less on schedule and with a truckload of flicks as well. Gotta love it.

January came and went without me getting to the cinema once. However, I was finally lured out into the wilds last Friday in order to see one of my favorite trashy horror flicks on the big screen, and it was a magical night. Thanks to Mr. John Pata for scooting his fine behind down to Brewtown and making it happen. Other than that, though, it was all new first-time viewings courtesy of the magic window on the wall or on the desk, and considering the richness of the dishes, I have no complaints at all. Special shout out to fellow fiend Dave Kosanke for hosting one of my favorite synapse-sizzling Views of the week – details below.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.



How Awful About Allan (1970)
 d. Harrington, Curtis (USA) (1st viewing)

Anthony Perkins stars as a troubled mental patient, psychosomatically blinded by guilt over having accidentally set his father on fire and scarring sister Julie Harris in the process. After being released to stay with her at the old family abode, Perkins starts to suspect their new boarder is trying to kill him (but cannot identify the assailant due to his infirmity). Though there aren’t a whole lot of surprises, Harrington generates a reasonable amount of tension via scenes viewed through Perkins’ obscured vision, with Joan Hackett lending able support as a former flame.

Panic (1982) d. Ricci, Tonio (as Anthony Richmond) (Italy/Spain) (1st viewing)

A scientist meddling in things best left alone finds himself transformed into a slobbering, melting, moaning, limping freak lurching around a small English village draining the locals of their precious bodily fluids. Superstud cop David Warbeck (playing a character called…wait for it…Captain Kirk) proceeds to run around the country tracking the invincible beast, who is now inexplicably superstrong and impervious to bullets. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as exciting as it sounds, even with the occasional bloodletting, oozing, or smattering of female nudity, although the “ticking clock” of whether our heroes will be able to corner their quarry before the Army “contains” the town with an air strike of nerve gas is pretty amusing.

Pieces (1982)  d. Simon, J.P. (Spain/USA) (4th viewing)

“You don’t have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre!” screamed the ad line, and boy, they weren’t kidding. This legendary Spanish splatterfest doles out the gore by the bucketload, but what really sets it apart are the astonishing lapses in narrative logic and the wealth of buh-rilliantly inept performances by Christopher George, Susan Day George, Edward Purdom, Paul Smith…heck, pretty much everyone involved! In addition to the already loopy plot about a killer assembling a dream girl from hacked-off sections of his victims, viewers are treated to jaw-dropping onscreen moments that include the most random kung fu attack in cinema history and Day George’s immortal line reading of “Bastard! BAAAAAASTARD! BASTARRRRD!” Seriously, this is must-see material for gorehounds and bad movie lovers alike, and seeing it on the big screen (Milwaukee’s Times Theater) with a great crowd just made it that much better.

Visitor, The (1979)
 d. Paradise, Michael J. (Italy) (1st viewing)

Ovido Assonitis, the visionary behind such schlock classics as Beyond the Door, Tentacles (and supposedly a goodly portion of Piranha II: The Spawning), wrote and produced this mind-blowing epic slice of cheese featuring an A-list cast in service of a sci-fi Christian parable comprised of equal parts The Omen, The Bad Seed, Rosemary’s Baby, Ice Castles, The Birds, Close Encounters, The Star Chamber and The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh. While single mother Joanne Nail is wooed by Lance Henriksen’s basketball team owner, her daughter Paige Conner is revealed to be the spawn of an extraterrestrial terrorist hunted in taciturn fashion by godlike John Huston. Glenn Ford, Franco Nero, Mel Ferrer, Shelley Winters, and Sam Peckinpah also engage in the madness, which consists of multiple creative “accidents,” random aviary attacks, randomer ice-rink brawls, big-screen Pong tournaments, rooftop light shows, and one exploding basketball. Nothing makes a lick of sense, but it’s never ever boring (especially when Franco Micalizzi’s inappropriately bombastic score kicks into high gear, which happens early and often). High-five to Dave Kosanke for hooking a Fool up.


Mutant Hunt (1987)
  d. Kincaid, Tim (USA) (1st viewing)

From the 80s heyday of straight-to-video lunacy comes writer/director Kincaid’s (Breeders, Robot Holocaust) tale of cyborgs-gone-wrong, with healthy doses of futuristic fashion sense, buff dudes with great hair, crappy fight choreography, illicit drug use, impressive practical gore and animatronic f/x, and dum-dum comedy to keep the gears turning. Even so, things get a little boggy in the final stretch, even with the slim 75-minute running time, and while there were ample opportunities and a lot of teasing, bare female flesh is glaringly absent from the proceedings. There’s even a gratuitous shower scene where the lovely lass in question steps out of the stall, the top of her black bikini clearly apparent at the bottom of the frame (odd considering Kincaid’s adult film background, which he would later return to). Still, an entertaining beer n’ chips time-waster from a bygone era.

Wild Hunt, The (2009) d. Franchi, Alexandre (Canada) (1st viewing)

Terrific Canadian indie feature set in the world of LARPing (aka Live Action Role Playing, i.e. turning your average group of Dungeons and Dragons players loose in the countryside to do “battle” armed with foam swords and Renn Faire-speak). What’s most remarkable about Franchi’s script (co-written with star Mark Antony Krupa) is that it both mocks and celebrates the participants’ imagination and dedication to the fantasy world they’ve created. We’re introduced into the pageantry through the eyes of Krupa’s “Viking” character’s younger brother Ricky Mabe, there to retrieve sultry/conflicted girlfriend Tiio Horn who has escaped his clutches to play “captured princess” for the weekend; his overt scorn for the players’ enthusiasm surprisingly endears them further to us, the viewer. As emotions run high, the lines of fantasy and reality are inevitably blurred, whereupon bad things happen to good people in the best tragic ways. Now streaming on Netflix and well worth checking out.


Buried (2010)
 d. Cortes, Rodrigo (Spain) (1st viewing)

The same year that James Franco was Oscar-nominated for playing a character whose arm is trapped under a boulder, director Cortes and screenwriter Chris Sparling goes one step further by secreting Ryan Reynolds’ American truck driver away inside a coffin-like box in Iraq for 95 minutes of increasingly claustrophobic screen time. Reynolds literally shares the screen with not another living soul, only sharing verbal exchanges with disembodied voices on a rapidly dying cell phone, and unlike 127 Hours, we never leave the container’s confines, making Cortes’ magic trick that much more impressive.

For Your Consideration (2006) d. Guest, Christopher (USA) (1st viewing)

While departing from his mockumentary stock-in-trade, there’s still a loosey-goosey handheld feel to the fourth of Guest’s ensemble comedies. Unfortunately, it’s also the most strained, following Catherine O’Hara’s fading screen veteran as she rides the Hollywood buzz wagon circulating her latest role, that of a dying Jewish matriarch in “Home for Purim.” Guest’s cast (which includes regulars Parker Posey, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, Bob Balaban) does fine with what they’re given, but one might have hoped for something cleverer than the obvious Hollywood targets that he and co-writer/co-star Eugene Levy choose to skewer.

Hindenburg, The (1975) d. Wise, Robert (USA) (1st viewing)

In the disaster movies-laden 70s, a big screen, all-star telling of the infamous May 6, 1937 zeppelin tragedy must have seemed like no-brainer, but unfortunately audiences are instead treated to an airborne soap opera that doesn’t generate any significant thrills until the big-ship-goes-boom final reel. There’s a whole lot of chitter-chatter about George C. Scott’s attempts to uncover an anti-Nazi espionage plot (the film’s supposition for the catastrophe, based on Michael Mooney’s book), but ultimately we don’t care about the multitude of doomed passengers and crew, Anne Bancroft, William Atherton, Roy Thinnes, Gig Young, and Burgess Meredith among them. That said, the fiery climactic scenes, highlighted by Albert Whitlock’s team’s special effects, are undeniably impressive and worth fast-forwarding through the rest of the silliness to get to. Those only familiar with Herbert Morrison’s “Oh, the humanity!” newsreel footage (myself among them) might be surprised to learn that nearly two-thirds of the personnel on board actually survived the incident.

Peacock (2010) d. Lander, Michael (USA) (1st viewing)

Quirky character drama about Cillian Murphy’s small-town Nebraska recluse whose life is turned upside down when a politician’s whistle-stop campaign train crashes off the tracks and into his backyard…revealing his formerly secret alter ego, Emma, to the town’s surprised residents. With his “wife” now engaging with the community, Murphy’s formerly orderly existence becomes a tension-filled juggling act of dueling characters and alibis. The Irish actor impresses in both roles, with fine support from Ellen Page, Susan Sarandon, Bill Pullman and Josh Lucas.

Soldier Blue (1970) d. Nelson, Ralph (USA) (1st viewing)

Rollicking Cowboys (well, Union Soldiers) and Indians adventure yarn maintains a light, even comedic tone as feisty Candice Bergen’s coarse fiancée and Peter Krause’s naïve private travel cross country after their wagon transport and escort is attacked and killed by redskins. However, the film culminates with a graphic recreation of the real-life Sand Creek tragedy of Nov. 29, 1864 where over 500 Cheyenne were massacred by heavily armed cavalry members (an obvious attempt to mirror the unpopular practices taking place in Vietnam). It’s one of the most devastating cinematic tone-switches in recent memory, and probably accounts for the film’s lesser known status today. Worth seeing.

2012 Totals to date: 31 films, 29 1st time views, 14 horror, 1 cinema

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