Thursday, July 25, 2019

Fool's Views (6/1 – 6/30)

Howdy, folks!

Been a fair spell since I’ve done the full Fool’s treatment, mostly due to the fact that Cinepocalypse 2019 took up a large chunk of time and energy, but also I’ve been teaching more self-defense workshops both with IMPACT Chicago and through my home base of Lincoln Square Athletic Club, and have been subsequently spending less time in front of screens large or small. That said, it’s been a great year for movies thus far at the Doc’s office, averaging around 40 flicks a month for the first six months – it will be interesting to see how the rest of the year plays out!

Kicked off a couple new movie projects in June as well. My pal Daniel and I decided that, in anticipation of Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007 in Bond 25 (as it’s currently being called in the trades), we would start at the beginning and wend our way through the famed British secret service agent’s film exploits over the past five and a half decades. As it turns out, I haven’t seen most of these in well over 20 years, so in many ways it’s like seeing them for the first time.

Similarly, I stumbled across one of Chuck Norris’ early films, The Octagon, while over at my other pal Dan’s house and realized I hadn’t seen most of his flicks since they came out in the 1980s. So in a fit of Amazon retail therapy, I ended up buying about 17 movies starring His Beardness and will be picking my way through them as time allows. (I’m contemplating keeping them on the shelf until October and having the Chucktober Film Festival, but I’ve already got the October Horror Move Challenge/Scare-A-Thon on the books, so we’ll have to see if my penchant for puns rules the day.)

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



Death Warmed Up (1984) d. Blyth, David (New Zealand) (2nd viewing)


The Entity (1982) d. Furie, Sidney J. (USA) (2nd viewing)


Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) d. Fisher, Terence (UK) (4th viewing)


Funny Games (1997) d. Haneke, Michael (Austria) (4th viewing)


The Green Inferno (2013) d. Roth, Eli (USA) (2nd viewing)


Happy Death Day 2U (2019) d. Landon, Christopher (USA) (1st viewing)

Conjuring a sequel to 2017’s surprise crowd pleaser should have been a no-win proposition, especially considering that film’s “Groundhog Day meets Scream” premise. I mean, we’ve already done the time-loop-with-a-slasher thing, including having broken said time loop, so where could things possibly go from here? Landon, this time also assuming writing duties , answers that question by bringing back all of the major players, including final girl Tree (Jessica Rothe, excellent once again), and sending us down the side alley of discovering how the time loop was created in the first place. Phi Vu, playing Rothe’s boyfriend’s roommate Ryan, and his fellow brainiacs are working on a science project across campus, one that creates alternate dimensions with alternate histories, and it is this wrinkle that gives HDD2U its heart. While decidedly less a horror film this time around, the winning comic cast and zippy screenplay keep things moving at such a delightful pace that you’ll hardly have time to call foul.

The Meg (2018) d. Turteltaub, Jon (China/US) (1st viewing)

I had every intention of seeing this “Way Bigger than Jaws” killer shark flick in the cinema last summer, but was discouraged from making the effort from the general buzz from critics and fellow fans that it wasn’t nearly as much Big Dumb Fun as it should have been. Well, I’m here to tell you that, yes, yes it is. Jason Statham leads a international cast of relative unknowns (with Rainn Wilson and Cliff Curtis showing up to collect their guest star paychecks) down, down, down into the depths where a seismic disturbance has opened a rift in the ocean floor, allowing our titular Tyrannosaur of the Deep to escape and start munching everything and everyone in its path. Statham is absolutely perfect in the role of unflappable deep sea expert-turned-action star and Bingbing Li is every bit his match as the smart and beautiful scientist running the show. Summertime blues begone.

When a Stranger Calls Back (1993) d. Walton, Fred (USA) (2nd viewing)



The Black Cat (1934) d. Ulmer, Edgar G. (USA) (3rd viewing)


The Raven (1935) d. Landers, Lew (USA) (2nd viewing)



Lady Snowblood (1973) d. Fujita, Toshiya (Japan) (1st viewing)

After years and years of having this on the shelf, I finally ended up tossing it in the player at the behest of blood brother Dan Kiggins (“What the hell do you mean you’ve never seen it before????”) and enjoyed it just as much as I assumed I would. Japanese exploitation star Meiko Kaji (Female Prisoner Scorpion, Stray Cat Rock) is a force of nature seeking to avenge her family’s savage slaying and mother’s rape and subsequent death in prison. One can understand why Tarantino would want to steal, er, borrow, um, homage the plentiful scenes of aesthetic bloodletting on display.

The Raid: Redemption (2011) d. Evans, Gareth (Indonesia) (5th viewing)

It’s funny how watching a team of elite police officers attempt to take down a tower block improbably populated by martial arts thugs serves as comfort food in our house, especially considering the gory content and body count. Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks, I guess. I still remember watching this in the cinema and the spontaneous applause that burst out from the matinee crowd following the “Mad Dog vs. the Brothers” battle royale.

Sukiyaki Western Django (2007) d. Miike, Takashi (Japan) (1st viewing)

It’s A Fistful of Dollars, itself an adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, put back through the Japanese lens but with the all-Asian cast speaking English. Oh, yeah, and Quentin Tarantino (him again?) is on hand for some reason to narrate the proceedings in a Kabuki drawl. Lots of shooting and swordplay and stuff, and everyone seems to be having fun, but it’s still pretty thin broth.


Dr. No (1962) d. Young, Terence (UK) (2nd viewing)

Here’s where it all started, and considering producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli couldn’t have known they were creating the longest running action franchise of all time, it’s probably worth giving a little slack if things are occasionally a little creaky. Sean Connery makes his debut appearance in the tuxedo, as does his signature Walther PPK pistol and nascent battle with supervillain organization SPECTRE.

Our eponymous metal-handed antagonist (Joseph Wiseman) has a somewhat dodgy scheme to disrupt US and Russian space exploration with his “missile-toppling beam,” but all anyone seems to remember is Ursula Andress rising from the sea with her white bikini, belt knife, and dubbed voice (Nikki Van der Zyl, who also looped most of the other female characters in the film, outside of Lois Maxwell’s Miss Moneypenny). Future Hawaii Five-O star Jack Lord is the first incarnation of American CIA agent Felix Leiter, who mainly seems to be on hand to give Bond intel and act as his chauffer and/or chaperone. U-S-A!

From Russia with Love (1963) d. Young, Terence (UK) (2nd viewing)

When a Bond lookalike is killed off in the pre-titles sequence, you have to wonder why exactly Red Grant (Robert Shaw) would go through all the trouble of creating a Bond mask for his training target to wear. I mean, that’s dedication. But as much fun as Shaw (and the climactic train compartment fistfight) is, I’m a sucker for Lotte Lenya’s SPECTRE operative #3 Rosa Klebbe and her poisoned toe-knife.

Connery seems far more comfortable this time around, unraveling a scheme involving a secret decoder device called the Lektor that the baddies have lifted from the Russians and are attempting to sell back to the Brits. Miss Universe runner-up Daniela Bianchi continues the tradition of Bond ladies getting hired for their physical assets while their vocal tracks are covered by another (Barbara Jefford does the honors here), but she’s still quite nice to look at.

Hammer Glamour goddess (One Million Years B.C., Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde) Martine Beswick makes her film debut as tussling Gypsy girl Zora, her first of two Bond appearances (Thunderball being the second), and Desmond Llewellyn makes his first turn as everyone’s favorite gadget master “Q” (although he’s called “Major Boothroyd” here, presumably of Q Branch).

Goldfinger (1964) d. Hamilton, Guy (UK) (2nd viewing)

Considered by many to be the best Connery outing and the high point of the 24-film series overall, there are almost too many memorable items to tick off here, including Bond’s legendary tricked-out Aston Martin (introduced by an increasingly exasperated Q), Shirley Bassey’s crushing delivery of the title track, and Jill Masterson’s (Shirley Eaton) gold-painted demise.

Despite being dubbed (the actor spoke nearly no English at the time), Gert Frobe makes for one of the most memorable non-SPECTRE villains as Auric Goldfinger, an eccentric millionaire who has whipped up a scheme to explode a nuclear device inside Fort Knox, thereby rendering the bullion inside worthless and increasing his own stock’s value. By his side are the mute brute Oddjob (Olympic silver medalist weightlifter and professional wrestler Harold Sakata) with his razor-brimmed bowler hat and the luscious Pussy Galore (indelibly assayed by resident Avengers badass Honor Blackman) and her all-female Flying Circus.

Question: Why the HELL does Goldfinger bring along the captive Bond on his Fort Knox raid? I mean, why not leave the guy locked up back at the stables when all he can do is screw things up for you? Classic Bond Villain Goof. (See also: When it’s obvious that Pussy has failed to administer the lethal knockout gas to the troops, why would you entrust her to be your getaway pilot?)


The Octagon (1980) d. Karson, Eric (USA) (1st viewing)

Along with Cannon’s Enter the Ninja the following year, this was a main contributor to the popularity of the ninja as a ubiquitous B-movie force in the 1980s, as well as the flick that established Chuck Norris as a truly bankable action star, following growing receipts for Breaker! Breaker!, Good Guys Wear Black, and A Force of One. There are some decent action sequences (the ninja camp finale was named one of the top 25 fight scenes of all time by Fighting Stars magazine), and the ongoing echoing inner monologue in Chuck’s head never fail to amuse. Ditto Chuck’s completely bored expression when Carol Bagdasarian’s Aura climbs on top of him for a little snuggling. Lee Van Cleef, Art Hindle, Karen Carlson, and Tadashi Yamashita co-star, with Ernie Hudson and Tracey Walter making early film appearances.

Lone Wolf McQuade (1983) d. Carver, Steve (USA) (2nd viewing)

Since Chuck is clearly trying to follow Clint Eastwood’s model of “say as few words as possible,” it seems like a logical extension for director Carver and composer Francesco De Masi to attempt a spaghetti western feel… and darned if they don’t do a serviceable job of it. It also helps that Chuck is surrounded by a solid ensemble cast including David Carradine, Barbara Carrera, R.G. Armstrong, L.Q. Jones, Leon Isaac Kennedy, Robert Beltran, Sharon Farrell, and William Sanderson. There’s plenty of ass-kicking and guns blazing, all with Norris barely cracking a smile or changing expression. That’s Friday the 13th: Part 3 star Dana Kimmell as J.J. McQuade’s daughter-in-distress.

Invasion U.S.A. (1985) d. Zito, Joseph (USA) (2nd viewing)

Man, oh, man. This one is the epitome of big, dumb, macho explosive 80s action (released the same year as Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rocky IV, Commando, and Norris’ own Code of Silence and Missing in Action Part 2). Joseph Zito – of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter fame – BLOWS EVERYTHING WAY THE HELL UP, while resident baddie Richard Lynch snarls his way to terrorist heaven. Not a good movie, per se, but definitely fun for what it is.

(8 days, 25 movies, 9 countries)

Verotika (2019) d. Danzig, Glenn (USA) (1st viewing)
Belzebuth (2017) d. Portes, Emilio (Mexico) (1st viewing)
Punta Muerto (2018) d. de la Vega, Daniel (Spain) (1st viewing)
Flatliners (1990) d. Schumacher, Joel (USA) (2nd viewing)
Villains (2019) d. Berk, Dan / Olsen, Robert (USA) (1st viewing)
Deadcon (2019) d. Waechter, Caryn (USA) (1st viewing)
Phallus in Wonderland (1992) d. Wells, Distortion (USA) (1st viewing)
The Swerve (2019) d. Kapsalis, Dean (USA) (1st viewing)
Total Recall (1990) d. Verhoeven, Paul (USA) (3rd viewing)
The Lodge (2018) d. Fiala, Severin / Franz, Veronika (UK) (1st viewing)
Bliss (2018) d. Begos, Joe (USA) (1st viewing)
Attack of the Demons (2019) d. Power, Eric (USA) (1st viewing)
Kindred Spirits (2019) d. McKee, Lucky (USA) (1st viewing)
Hot Dog…The Movie (1984) d. Markle, Peter (USA) (1st viewing)
Darlin' (2018) d. McIntosh, Pollyanna (USA) (1st viewing)
Satanic Panic (2018) d. Stardust, Chelsea (USA) (1st viewing)
Why Don't You Just Die! (2018) d. Solokov, Kirill (Russia) (1st viewing)
Tammy and the T-Rex (1994) d. Raffill, Stewart (USA) (1st viewing)
The Lurker (2019) d. Liberacki, Eric (USA) (1st viewing)
The Mute (2018) d. Konopka, Bartosz (Poland) (1st viewing)
Achoura (2018) d. Selhami, Talal (Morocco/France) (1st viewing)
Ghost Killers vs. Bloody Mary (2018) d. Bittar, Fabricio (Brazil) (1st viewing)
Mope (2019) d. Heyne, Lucas (USA) (1st viewing)
The Last to See Them (2019) d. Summa, Sara (Italy) (1st viewing)
Airheads (1994) d. Lehman, Michael (USA) (1st viewing)


2019 Totals to Date: 241 films, 122 1st time views, 132 horror, 25 cinema



  1. For what it's worth, there is a large and vocal minority of Bond fans who think that From Russia With Love is the best Bond film. Goldfinger is NOT uncontested. Note: I am part of that minority.

    1. Ha! You're not catching me on that one. I was very careful to include the "considered by many" qualifier, since I don't know that I would consider GF my favorite of the series. (I'll reserve judgment until I've gone through the entire series again, but On Her Majesty's Secret Service is definitely a contender.) I think FRWL is solid, but I also think it bogs down considerably during the train sequence prior to the undeniably fantastic fight sequence between Red and Bond. GF is more "fun" but it's also a lot sillier with glaring plot holes.