Monday, June 3, 2019

Fool's Views (5/1 – 5/15)

Hello, troops!

The first half of the month was filled out in grand fashion with various spontaneous groupings of Views, from auto-related thrillers (Fender Bender, Submerged) to surgical theme nights (Scalpel, Suture) to the ongoing exploration of director Richard Fleischer (up to 11 for the year) to our fifth annual Turkey Day in May at the illustrious Krypt of Kitley!

But the biggest inspiration came out of the blue, with the realization that this summer marks the 20th anniversary of The Blair Witch Project's theatrical release. All the more fitting since, earlier this year, I had stumbled across David A. Stern’s The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier at the public library purely by chance and was once again dazzled by how these young filmmakers (Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, not Heather, Mike, and Josh) created such a deep and enduring mythology out of thin air. Looking forward to spilling a few hundred words in honor of their efforts.

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



Fender Bender (2016) d. Pavia, Mark (USA) (1st viewing)


The Maze (1953) d. Menzies, William Cameron (USA) (2nd viewing)

Watched this again with Kitley, who was equally impressed by the DIDN’T-SEE-THAT-COMING finale. This is probably the film that I’ll be forcing upon everyone for the next few years, so prepare yourself. (Or just watch it and thank me later.)


The Night Creature Features Died (2018) d. Stanley, John (USA) (1st viewing)


Phantasm (1979) d. Coscarelli, Don (USA) (7th viewing)


Scalpel (1977) d. Grissmer, John (USA) (1st viewing)


Submerged (2016) d. Miller, Steven C. (USA) (1st viewing)



I have plans to write a larger piece to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the microbudget feature that transformed the horror landscape forever, which gave me the perfect excuse to not only revisit the feature films, but also the ancillary short films that generated much of the ballyhoo during the summers of 1999 and 2000. The more I learn about how the original was brought into being, the more astounding it all seems, and I’m more of a fan now than I was two decades ago (and I was pretty wild about it back then).

The Blair Witch Project (1999) d. Myrick, Daniel/Sanchez, Eduardo (USA) (7th viewing)

Curse of the Blair Witch (1999) d. Myrick, Daniel/Sanchez, Eduardo (USA) (3rd viewing)

The Burkittsville 7 (2000) d. Rock, Ben (USA) (1st viewing)

Shadow of the Blair Witch (2000) d. Rock, Ben (USA) (1st viewing)

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) d. Berlinger, Joe (USA) (2nd viewing)

Blair Witch (2016) d. Wingard, Adam (USA) (2nd viewing)

Stay Tuned - there's more to come!

In the meantime, for your reading pleasure, I offer up the first installment of the Cinematic Crossroads featured on Kitley’s Krypt a few years back, wherein Jon Kitley, Dave Kosanke, Brian Kirst, and yours truly debated the merits and deficits of one of the more divisive horror outings in recent memory. Grab your flashlights and stickman totems and dive in!


Speaking of Kitley’s Krypt, this marked the fifth installment of our springtime celebration of Gobblers and gobbling. Enjoy the full report (complete with pizza photos!) HERE:

12 to the Moon (1960) d. Bradley, David (USA) (1st viewing)

Elevated somewhat by the presence of Cat People screenwriter DeWitt Bodeen and celebrated cinematographer John Alton (An American in Paris, Father of the Bride), this low-budget black-and-white sci-fi programmer features a multinational space crew headed for the moon, where they encounter an array of hostile environments upon landing (molten silver, quicksand pits, lunar dust, meteorites). Though there is some inevitable in-house, politically based bickering, it’s kept to a minimum, and the worst of enemies join forces in the final reel to save the Earth. Thanks, guys!

Konga (1961) d. Lemont, John (USA) (3rd viewing)

Michael Gough, he of the stentorian voice and imperious eyebrows, devours the scenery as amoral biologist Charles Decker who, after surviving a plane crash in the African jungles, sets aside his man-eating horticultural experiments to focus on a new serum that transforms a baby chimpanzee into a guy in a gorilla suit. The maniac-of-science then proceeds to sic his overgrown creation on anyone who threatens him, be it his superiors at the college, potential scientific rivals, or the boyfriend of the curvy female student (Claire Gordon) the old letch has his eye on. When he spurns the affections of longtime companion, assistant, and whipping post Margo Johns, she injects Konga with a superdose of serum, turning it into an ENORMOUS guy in a gorilla suit who trots around London with Gough in its hairy grip. Supremely silly, but never boring.

Hands of a Stranger (1962) d. Arnold, Newt (USA) (2nd viewing)

A solid if overcooked redux of Maurice Renard’s The Hands of Orlac, with James Noah as a famed pianist whose hands are crushed in a terrible auto accident and Paul Lukather as the brilliant, cutting-edge (haha) surgeon who grafts on a new pair of paws… which seemingly have a murderous mind of their own. Unlike other adaptations, we never learn who the previous owner was, but considering he was gunned down during the opening credits, he can’t have been that great of a guy.

Frankenstein '80 (1972) d. Mancini, Mario (Italy) (2nd viewing)

Probably the only Frankenstein feature in which the monster visits a prostitute and actually pays her in cash...before raping and killing her anyway. As the titular mad scientist, former muscleman Gordon Mitchell steals a formula (the "Schwartz Serum," which resembles blue Romulan Ale) to create a reanimated, piecemeal, sexually ravenous monster none-too-subtly christened "Mosaic." This by-the-numbers Eurotrash effort blatantly follows the blood n’ boobs stopwatch formula: Introduce a female character, get their clothes off, messily do away with them, then return to the "plot" for another 15 minutes. Rinse, lather, repeat.

John Richardson, best known for his loincloth-clad heroics alongside Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C., headlines as a reporter carrying on his own investigation into the crimes while the lovely Dalila Di Lazzaro keeps her clothes on here as Frankenstein's niece, perhaps prepping for next year's role as the female monster in Flesh for Frankenstein. Bizarre, inconstant moments of “comedy” are provided courtesy of a nicotine-starved police inspector ranting at his underlings, and future f/x wiz Carlo Rambaldi's special effects primarily consist of applique scars and red Karo syrup-soaked livers, hearts, kidneys, etc. being flung about. Not a great film by any stretch, although watching a female butcher clumsily bludgeoned to death by a cow femur has its unexpected pleasures.

Terror in the Midnight Sun (1959) d. Vogel, Virgil W. (USA) (1st viewing)

Perhaps better known as Invasion of the Animal People, the version re-edited by notorious huckster/producer Jerry Warren with footage of John Carradine inserted, this Swedish/American co-production is actually a fairly watchable alien invasion film with a great looking monster. Things get slightly bogged down by long scenes of snow skiing and ho-hum romancing between geologist Erik (Sten Gester) and former Olympic skater Diane (Barbara Wilson), who just happens to be the niece of the scientist (Robert Burton) handling the expedition, but it’s an engaging and enjoyable sci-fi romp overall. Directed by The Mole People’s Virgil Vogel.

The Carrier (1988) d. White, Nathan J. (USA) (1st viewing)

In the small town of Sleepy Rock, outsider Jake (Gregory Fortescue) is attacked one evening by a Sasquatch-like creature, but when he shoots it with his rifle, the hairy beast disintegrates into the ground. Soon after the encounter, Jake seems to develop a condition whereby every object he touches becomes a weapon of instant destruction, causing anyone who comes in contact with it to (painfully) melt away into nothing. But since the townsfolk don’t know who the carrier is (both science and religion prove fruitless), hysteria and paranoia run rampant throughout the village, turning neighbor against neighbor and diminishing the bird and cat population (used as “red object testers”) to zero.

This is probably the only screen venture where one can witness opposing flannel and plastic wrap-clad mobs facing off against one another, shouting “Give us your cats! Cats or Death!” Michigan writer/director White only completed this one feature, which is too bad because the unusual premise is spun out with more skill and greater dramatic heft than most directors with greater budgets and resources. Cinematographer Peter Deming (Evil Dead II, Scarecrows, Drag Me To Hell) and composer Joseph LoDuca (Army of Darkness, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Curse of Chucky) lend their home state skills to the pot, with Bruce Campbell credited as being one of the sound effects recordists! Available on Blu-ray through Code Red and well worth checking out.


Can't Stop the Music (1980) d. Walker, Nancy (USA) (1st viewing)

Yes, it’s the notorious Village People movie that officially killed the disco era, but it did give us the screen debut of former Olympic champion Bruce Jenner, as well as a memorable (cough, cough) early performance from Steve Guttenberg. As the fictitious organizer of the band, Valerie Perrine bubbles and bimbos her way through the proceedings, opposite aging screen legends Barbara Rush (When Worlds Collide) and Tammy Grimes (Horror at 37,000 Feet). Yes, there are some real head scratchers in the mix (um, the entire movie), but the musical numbers are outrageous and fun, including “YMCA,” “Milk Shake,” and the catchy title song, which will stay in your head for, well, forever. Available now from Shout! Factory.

Superman II (1980) d. Lester, Richard (USA) (3rd viewing)

I had forgotten how campy this whiz-bang sequel to the 1978 smash hit was, as well as the amount of collateral damage wreaked by the Caped One’s battle with the three Kryptonians. Also, why exactly did Supes have to ditch his powers to be with the supremely annoying Lois Lane? And how exactly did he get them back when the process was supposedly irreversible? All the complaints I’ve levied against recent superhero flicks seem to be in great evidence here, which just means the more things change, the more they stay the same. Only with more CGI. (Also had an unintentional Valerie Perrine double feature here, as she plays Lex Luthor’s other dingy assistant, Miss Teschmacher.)

Suture (1993) d. McGehee, Scott / Siegel, David (USA) (1st viewing)



Doctor Dolittle (1967) d. Fleischer, Richard (USA) (2nd viewing)

Rex Harrison talk-sings his way through another big-screen musical, this time in the service of this big screen adaptations of the novels of Hugh Lofting, sharing the screen with Samantha Eggar, a very energetic Richard Attenborough (a last-minute replacement), future 7-Up pitch man/Bond villain Geoffrey Holder, and “The Candy Man” tunesmith, Anthony Newley. A notorious critical and financial flop in its day, it inexplicably garnered nine Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and won two statuettes (Best Special Effects and “Talk to the Animals” for Best Song) following a massive wine-and-dine campaign by 20th Century Fox. The film's IMDb “Trivia” page is littered with various calamities that befell the production, including weather, issues with the animals, budget overruns, revised songs and scripts, more budget overruns, casting issues, concerns over the source material’s racist content, and a multitude of anecdotes revealing what an absolute knob Harrison was before, during, and after shooting. All of that aside, while no classic, I still find it to be enjoyable if overlong (2.5 hours!) juvenile fare.

Crossed Swords (1977) d. Fleischer, Richard (UK/USA) (1st viewing)

A well-produced and star-studded adaptation of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper that proves serviceable if not exactly thrilling and/or rollicking in the vein of, say, Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers which producer Ilya Salkind clearly tries to emulate, going so far as to borrow several of that film’s performers (Charlton Heston, Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch). Almost-grown-up Oliver! star Mark Lester takes on the dual role of an impish thief and the Prince of Wales, the former dodging the law and the fists of his brutish father (Ernest Borgnine, tentatively attempting an English accent) while the latter pouts and preens behind castle walls. But when Fate casts them into each other’s roles, all sorts of chicanery ensue. Fleischer has assembled a mighty cast, all of whom seem happy to chew the scenery and cash the checks, including Rex Harrison, Sybil Danning, Harry Andrews, George C. Scott, David Hemmings, and Hammer mainstay Michael Ripper.

Fantastic Voyage (1966) d. Fleischer, Richard (USA) (3rd viewing)

When a top scientist slips into a coma after being nearly assassinated whist escaping from behind the Iron Curtain, a bold plan is conceived to remove the blood clot in his brain by miniaturizing a team of doctors (Arthur Kennedy, Donald Pleasance, Raquel Welch, William Redfield), with a government agent (Stephen Boyd) sent along to protect the mission against a suspected saboteur. Most of the fun comes from watching our shrinky-dink heroes navigating their way through the human anatomy, realized in imaginative fashion via the stellar production design and Art Cruickshank’s visual effects, both of which received Oscars.

2019 Totals to Date: 180 films, 112 1st time views, 98 horror, 3 cinema


No comments:

Post a Comment