Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Fool's Views (5/16 - 5/31)

"Butch knows best..."

Back again! And just in time before the madness of Cinepocalypse 2019 begins!

The latter half of May was highlighted by three horror icons – Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, and Christopher Lee – all of whom share a birthday within a day of one another (PC on May 26, VP and CL on the 27th). With Severin Films releasing the feline-centric anthology The Uncanny on Blu-ray and The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (which I had never seen) as part of their Hemisphere Box of Horrors box set, the time seemed right to celebrate the trio in style. (It also occurred to me that I hadn’t watched Uncle Vincent in Theater of Blood in far too long, and had never given it a proper review. Consider that box checked.)

I also took a deeper dive into director Richard Lester’s filmography, as well as knocking out what may be the last of De Palma’s output for the foreseeable future, shared the mike (and snacks) with Kicking the Seat maestro Ian Simmons for another round of Argento, and then wrapped things up with Shout! Factory’s trio of Pride 2019 releases.

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



The Cleaning Lady (2018) d. Knauz, Jon (USA) (1st viewing)


Inferno (1980) d. Argento, Dario (Italy) (4th viewing)

Argento’s “sequel” to Suspiria is even more an exercise in style over substance than its predecessor, with numerous flashy sequences (underwater room, random butcher attack, electrical power surges resulting in lights and music flickering on and off) and a plot so tangled it feels like a bag o’ cats got hold of it. We also have one of the dullest main characters in the form of musicologist Mark (Leigh McCloskey) who survives various deadly incidents by seemingly being too uninteresting for anyone to notice. Prog rocker Keith Emerson delivers a prominent score, but only a few memorable hooks. Though it appears smack dab in the middle of the director’s most fruitful creative period, I find it one of his least satisfying endeavors; like a vivid nightmare from which one eventually awakens, even after multiple viewings, I barely remember any of it once the credits roll.

Listen to Ian and AC discuss this latest installment of “Scuola Argento” on the Kicking the Seat podcast HERE:

Hell Night (1981) d. DeSimone, Tom (USA) (3rd viewing)



The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967) d. Reinl, Harald (Germany) (1st viewing)


Theater of Blood (1973) d. Hickox, Douglas (UK) (6th viewing)


The Uncanny (1977) d. Heroux, Denis (Canada/UK) (2nd viewing)



Good Will Hunting (1997) d. Van Sant, Gus (USA) (3rd viewing)

It’s hard to believe this came out nearly 22 years ago, considering what enduring stars Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have turned out to be. Robin Williams finally corralled an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his fine, restrained turn as a therapist looking to break through the armor put up by Damon’s belligerent janitor genius. Our boys from Boston also nabbed the Best Original Screenplay, but other than Boogie Nights and The Full Monty, there wasn’t a ton of competition that year. (It’s worth noting that James Cameron’s Titanic, which took home nearly everything else, was not even nominated in this category.) It’s also kind of amazing to think that Van Sant gambled all of his Tinseltown good will (get it?) on his next project, Psycho.

Legend (2015) d. Helgeland, Brian (UK) (1st viewing)

Tom Tom goes Kray Kray playing England’s infamous gangster twins, delivering two memorable performances that probably deserved a little more attention come Oscar time. Then again, it was the same year that he was nominated for The Revenant and starred in the best film of the year, Mad Max: Fury Road, so maybe the Academy was leery of Hardy fatigue.

White Chamber (2018) d. Raschid, Paul (UK) (1st viewing)



Juggernaut (1974) d. Lester, Richard (UK/USA) (1st viewing)

Richard Harris is an utter delight as superconfident demolition expert Fallon, assigned to diffuse a series of terrorist bombs placed aboard a massive luxury ocean liner, and he’s surrounded by a stellar cast of familiar British faces, including Anthony Hopkins, David Hemmings, Ian Holm, Roy Kinnear, Freddie Jones, Jack Watson, with Americans Clifton James and Shirley Knight, and handsome Egyptian Omar Sharif rounding out the cast as our intrepid captain. Top-notch thrills without descending into disaster movie tropes.

Help! (1965) d. Lester, Richard (UK) (2nd viewing)

Having enjoyed unexpected critical acclaim with their first outing, A Hard Day’s Night, Lester re-teamed with the Fab Four for a more outlandish fictionalized offering, one that involves a cult hell-bent on recovering a sacred ring that has been gifted to Ringo as a present from an adoring fan. Things are markedly sillier this time around, with globetrotting and wardrobe changes galore, but it’s still great fun watching our boys smirk and poke fun at their celebrity. This film is oft credited with creating the “music video” concept, as Lester stops the action to deliver fast-paced, visually quirky narratives that often have nothing to do with the songs’ content. (Musical highlights include “Ticket to Ride,” “I Need You,” “The Night Before,” “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl,” and the title song.)

The Ritz (1976) d. Lester, Richard (UK/USA) (1st viewing)

Adapting his Broadway hit, Terrence McNally’s farce about a Cleveland businessman (Jack Weston) hiding out from his murderous mobster brother-in-law (Jerry Stiller) in a New York bathhouse hasn’t weathered particularly well with its multitude of mincing (F. Murray Abraham, in an early featured role) and/or sexually voracious (Paul B. Price) gay characters, but it’s still notable for Rita Moreno’s go-for-broke turn as Googie Gomez, a Puerto Rican cabaret performer looking for her big break. Treat Williams also appears as a high-pitched hit man, which is about as funny as it sounds.


Casualties of War (1989) d. De Palma, Brian (USA) (2nd viewing)

I remember not thinking much of De Palma’s entry in the Vietnam Epic Sweepstakes when it first hit theaters 30 years ago, and in revisiting it, I can finally articulate where it falls short. De Palma’s features are rightly celebrated for their technical flair and flourish, their ability to transport and transcend, to dazzle with spectacle and suspense. But this film, concerning a squadron of U.S. Army grunts who capture, rape, and murder a local woman (Thuy Thu Lee), requires searing emotional realism and authentic dramatic moments, and De Palma is just not the man for the job. (Nor is playwright David Rabe, whose script is full of heightened dialogue that never feels authentic coming out of the actor’s mouths – they always feel like Capital-L LINES.)

Michael J. Fox does his best to provide the emotional center, but lacks the gravity to effectively do so, and Sean Penn is so busy trumpeting sadistic machismo with every breath that he never feels like anything less than a cartoon. John C. Reilly and John Leguizamo make early screen appearances as the other team members, with Don Harvey (looking like a young, rougher John Travolta) memorable as Penn’s second-in-command. It’s all very well-intentioned and De Palma deserves credit for playing outside his comfort zone, but you can almost sense the sigh of relief when he shifts his attentions to blowing things up beautifully.

Domino (2019) d. De Palma, Brian (Denmark/France) (1st viewing)

Game of Thrones alumni Carice van Houten and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau team up for this not particularly thrilling thriller about a Copenhagen police officer whose failure to follow procedure results in his partner winding up dead and an international freedom fighter/terrorist on the loose, with U.S. government heavy Guy Pearce causing additional interference. The De Palma trademarks are present (split diopter shots, slow motion, bravura camera moves) but they feel almost perfunctory, less organic and inspired. After waiting seven long years since his last theatrical release (the passionless Passion), this is a decided disappointment.


Boom! (1968) d. Losey, Joseph (UK) (1st viewing)

I know John Waters considers this one of his favorite movies, but I was bored out of my mind watching Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor squander all of the mojo they’d acquired with their previous teaming on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Maybe it gets better after multiple viewings? Maybe with a crowd? Whatever it was, I missed it.

Jeffrey (1995) d. Ashley, Christopher (USA) (1st viewing)

Lightweight but enjoyable adaptation of Paul Rudnick’s play about a young gay man (Steven Weber) who swears off sex in the face of the AIDS crisis, only to meet the love of his life (Michael T. Weiss) immediately afterwards. Most of the fun comes from Patrick Stewart camping it up in regal style as Jeffrey’s bon vivant confidante, as well as a flurry of celebrity cameos (Sigourney Weaver, Nathan Lane, Robert Klein, Victor Garber, Kathy Najimy, Ethan Philips, Camryn Manheim, Olympia Dukakis).

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995) d. Kidron, Beeban (USA) (1st viewing)

All this time, I honestly believed this was simply a remake of Stephan Elliott’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994), but turns out, nope, it’s its own thing! Yes, it starts off with three drag queens heading out on a soul-expanding, consciousness-raising road trip, but then our three heroines break down in a sleepy Midwestern town and have to sweat out the weekend waiting for their car part to arrive; unsurprisingly, they make friends and change the lives of everyone they touch. It’s sweet and silly and why the hell not. It’s still pretty impressive to think that major stars such as Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes were willing to challenge their public personas, and that the film was a major box office success across the country, with a relatively unknown female director at the helm. Well done, all.

All month long, Shout! Factory is celebrating Pride Month by offering a two-week sale of over 100 personally curated releases in their library that have spoken (for a variety of reasons) to many in the LGBTQ community and their allies, offering drama, music, camp, classic TV and even horror! There’s something for everyone in the mix. The best part: your purchases go towards a good cause, as S!F is donating a percentage of all sales during the month of June to the Los Angeles LGBT Center—a long-standing non-profit organization that provides valuable and much-needed services to many, not just in L.A., but across the country.

2019 Totals to Date: 197 films, 122 1st time views, 104 horror, 3 cinema


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