Monday, May 6, 2019

Fool's Views (4/16 – 4/30)

You're gonna need a bigger cigar box....

Greetings, my friends!

It’s funny how things fall out in the Doc’s office. I started off the year knocking out a bunch of director Richard Fleischer’s films, and I have made pretty decent strides to that end (up to 10 at this point), slowly and steadily plugging away. However, as fate would have it, I reviewed screeners for new Blu-ray releases of Takashi Miike’s Audition and Brian De Palma’s Obsession (tres apropos, no?) in February, which renewed an interest in their respective films I’d missed and/or revisiting those that I hadn’t seen in a while. As of this writing, the tally already stands at 12 (each) for the year, with a few on deck still to go.

To further complicate things, having just reviewed Shout! Factory’s release of Tarantula, I was inspired to dig out Bill Warren’s massive tome, Keep Watching the Skies! American Sci-Fi Movies of the 1950s, which led me to the underrated 1953 3D thriller The Maze (recently released to Blu-ray by Kino Lorber) and now I can’t stop talking about it.

Then, last week, my friend Daniel asked if I was interested in seeing the Pet Sematary remake, only to reveal that he hadn’t seen the directors’ previous film, Starry Eyes, so of course we had to remedy that. Then Jon Kitley tells me he’s covering a couple of toothy “Animals Attack” movies for his HorrorHound column, which had me digging through my old DVDs for some good ’gator action of my own....

And then Arrow throws its new Jose Ramon Larraz three-pack my way!

It just goes to show, folks. Even the best-laid plans give way to fits of spontaneous completism, random inspiration, and pressing deadlines. Hope you have fun with this batch. I know I did.

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



The Brain (1988) d. Hunt, Ed (Canada) (2nd viewing)


The Maze (1953) d. Menzies, William Cameron (USA) (1st viewing)


Rogue (2007) d. McLean, Greg (Australia) (2nd viewing)


Starry Eyes (2014) d. Kolsch, Kevin / Widmyer, Dennis (USA) (4th viewing)


Superstition (1982) d. Roberson, James A. (USA) (2nd viewing)


Tarantula (1955) d. Arnold, Jack (USA) (7th viewing)



One of the less-celebrated European genre filmmakers of his generation, Spanish-born director José Ramón Larraz finally receives his due with new collection from Arrow Video, bringing together a fascinating cross-section of films from the first half of his lengthy career. While only Vampyres can truly be called “horror,” all three show the director’s flair for combining erotic imagery with taboo themes, base desires, and startling violence.

Whirlpool (1970) d. Larraz, Jose Ramon (UK) (1st viewing)

In Larraz’s directorial debut, Vivian Neves (Britain’s top nude pin-up at the time) stars as Tulia, a young model invited to a photographer’s (Karl Lanchbury) secluded country home where he resides with his aunt Sara (Pia Andersson). But with games of strip poker and bed-swapping on the docket, the proposed quiet weekend retreat turns out to be anything but. Supremely downbeat ending, almost as if Larraz is punishing audiences for being turned on by all the naughtiness that preceded it.

Vampyres (1974) d. Larraz, Jose Ramon (Spain/UK) (4th viewing)


The Coming of Sin (1978) d, Larraz, Jose Ramon (Spain) (1st viewing)

Having caused tumult in her current household, young gypsy Triana (Lydia Stern) is sent to visit a wealthy and sexually adventurous neighbor (Patrice Grant), where she is haunted by dreams of a naked young man (Ralph Margulis) on horseback… dreams that are soon made flesh. Alliances are drawn and broken within the sexual triangle and the titillation of all the writhing bodies is tempered by the knowledge that none of this can end well.

Blood Hunger: The Films of Jose Larraz is available now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video and can be ordered HERE:


Being John Malkovich (1999) d. Jonze, Spike (USA) (3rd viewing)

20 years later, this bizarre yet entirely accessible comedy (scripted by Oscar-nominee Charlie Kaufman) has lost none of its edgy humor or commentary, with top-five performances from stars John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, and Mr. Malkovich himself.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse (2018) d. Persichetti, Bob / Ramsey, Peter / Rothman, Rodney (USA) (1st viewing)

Yep. This was indeed the Best Animated Feature of 2018. Action-packed, filled with heart, inclusivity, social commentary, humanity, and innovation. Can we have this in our live-action movies too, please?


Bodyguard (1948) d. Fleischer, Richard (USA) (1st viewing)

Terrific hard-boiled crime thriller with Laurence Tierney as a disgraced cop-turned-reluctant bodyguard for an aging rich meat-packing magnate (Elizabeth Risdon), but it’s pretty clear from the get-go that her nephew (Philip Reed) has wheels turning within wheels. Priscilla Lane (Arsenic and Old Lace, Saboteur) is utterly charming as Tierney’s partner, on and off the streets, in her final screen appearance.

Soylent Green (1973) d. Fleischer, Richard (USA) (4th viewing)

A strangely and deliberately paced futuristic detective story so consumed with world-building (even more prescient and increasingly realistic 45 years on) that we sometimes forget that there is a mystery to be solved.

Set in a wildly overpopulated New York, Charlton Heston plays Thorn, a cynical cop who stumbles into the world of the “haves” when a wealthy CEO (Joseph Cotten) is murdered. Enjoying warm showers and fresh fruit and gorgeous “furniture” (slang for live-in partners, personified here by Leigh Taylor-Young) is something that our weary antihero could get used to – it would just mean forgetting his old pal Sol (Edward G. Robinson, in his final role) and letting go of the suspicion that something isn’t right about the assassination of someone in the algae and kelp industry. Chuck Connors and Brock Peters lend able support as two of Thorn’s thorns on opposite sides of the law, with fun bit parts from Whit Bissell, Dick Van Patten, and Paula Kelly.

Even if we don’t know the movie, we probably know the final lines, and it’s one of those cases where I wish “Soylent Green is _______!” hadn’t become a pop-culture catchphrase because it’s one of the great onscreen reveals: Heston follows trucks to warehouses and watches their cargo travel down conveyor belts, changing form bit by bit until the truth becomes shockingly clear. “You've gotta tell them. You've gotta tell them! We've gotta stop them somehow!” And yet we know… no one will tell them. No one will stop them. Because the world would rather consume itself than face the ugly truth or share the wealth.

The Vikings (1958) d. Fleischer, Richard (USA) (1st viewing)

A robust adventure yarn that celebrates those marauders of the seas… who are perhaps not exactly deserving of the heroic treatment they are given here. Kirk Douglas (who also produced) stars as Einar, the first-born son of Regnar (Ernest Borgnine), who in turn has an illegitimate bastard, Eric (Tony Curtis), who has blood connections to the throne of England! Oh, and both of the brothers have a yen for kidnapped English princess Morgana (Janet Leigh). It’s all a rip-roaring cavalcade of misogyny and toxic masculinity (the axe-throwing scene is particularly oogey), but Kirk looks good with his snazzy eye-patch while “running the oars,” so there you go. Fleischer and Douglas apparently went to great pains to present the most historically authentic presentation of Viking life as they could, and Jack Cardiff’s cinematography shows it all off to great effect.


Shinjuku Triad Society (1995) d. Miike, Takashi (Japan) (1st viewing)
Rainy Dog (1997) d. Miike, Takashi (Japan) (1st viewing)
Ley Lines (1999) d. Miike, Takashi (Japan) (1st viewing)

After working almost exclusively in the direct-to-video world of Japan’s “V-cinema” for four years, the “Black Society Trilogy” marked the beginning of Miike’s theatrical career. Set in the bustling Kabuki-cho nightlife neighborhood of Tokyo, Shinjuku Triad Society follows a mixed-race Korean/Japanese cop (Kippei Shiina) struggling with private issues while hunting a psychotic criminal (Tomoro Taguchi) who traffics in children’s organs. Set and shot entirely in Taiwan, Rainy Dog follows an exiled yakuza (Show Aikawa) who finds himself saddled with a son he never knew he had and a price on his head after the Chinese gang he works for decides to turn on him. Ley Lines moves from the countryside to the city and back, as three Japanese youths of Chinese descent seek their fortune in Tokyo, only to run afoul of a violent gang boss (Naoto Takenaka).

As with the Dead or Alive trilogy, I would rank them in descending order from earliest to latest, with the first two neck-and-neck as my favorite and the third offering a little further down the line, but all are definitely worthwhile and deserving of a second viewing.

The trilogy is available now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video in a supplement-stuffed package and can be ordered HERE:


Zebraman (2004) d. Miike, Takashi (Japan) (1st viewing)

Probably the first straightforward comedy I’ve seen from Miike (Visitor Q and Ichi the Killer definitely have their laughs, but of a very twisted variety), and seeing perennial tough guy Show Aikawa (Dead or Alive, Rainy Dog) as a nerdy schoolteacher, who may or may not be a secret superhero, is an added treat. The two-hour running time is a little excessive for the slim story told, but the finale is so rewarding that it’s worth the wait.

One Missed Call (2008) d. Miike, Takashi (Japan) (1st viewing)

Efficient J-horror offering, where a group of teens start receiving voicemails from their own future selves seconds before their future demise. The premise is intriguing and of course there is a mystery to be resolved involving angry spirits, but the strangest thing is how non-Miike it all feels. One has to wonder if that was the director’s goal, to make a “normal” scary movie without any distinctive flair. Mission accomplished... for better or worse.


Terra Formars (2014) d. Miike, Takashi (Japan) (1st viewing)


Yakuza Apocalypse (2015) d. Miike, Takashi (Japan) (1st viewing)

A yakuza boss is revealed to be a vampire when his longtime nemeses show up, but before he is destroyed he passes on his curse/gift to his second-in-command, Akira (Hayato Ichihara). Much bloodletting ensues, with numerous show-stopping battles pitting Akira against numerous skilled assassins including a guy fighting in a giant frog costume and everyone’s favorite “Mad Dog” from The Raid movies, Yayan Ruhian. A decent enough concept on paper; problem is that it never really feels like as much fun as it should be.

Blade of the Immortal (2017) d. Miike, Takashi (Japan) (1st viewing)

Based on the manga by Hiroaki Samura, this epic samurai extravaganza (the director’s 100th movie) nearly surpasses his own impressive 13 Assassins in terms of sheer excess – it is only the fantasy elements that keep it from being quite as engaging. The premise of a warrior, Manji (Takuya Kimura), who cannot be killed has its limitations, especially when we realize that if it weren’t for his “gift” he would have been dead a long time ago since every opponent lands what would have been a killing blow. Hired to avenge the death of a young girl’s father, Manji wades and slices through a blood-soaked 2.5 hours of double-crossing and arterial spray, and while the production values are sumptuous and the action unrelenting, it’s perhaps a case of too much of a good thing all in one sitting.

2019 Totals to Date: 156 films, 100 1st time views, 79 horror, 3 cinema



  1. I'm gonna take some issue with categorizing Being John Malkovich as "civilian", because to my eye, that sucker is a horror movie through and through. Sure, it's a satire, but the end of that film is as bleak as they come.