Monday, August 26, 2019

Fool's Views (8/1 – 8/16)

Oh, sweetie, I told you SPF10 wasn't strong enough....

Greetings, my fine feathered friends,

Well, I don’t have nearly as involved an intro prepared as last time, so you can just relax. August has been a fairly uncomplicated month thus far, enlivened by a brief sojourn to our neighbors to the North where we took in the decidedly unconventional pleasures of The House on the Rock near Spring Green, WI. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you owe it to yourself to do a little research into the joint. The backstory is as fascinating as the exhibit itself, which includes the largest indoor carousel, a self-playing orchestra, and a 200-foot “SharkWhale Fighting Giant Octopus” tableau accompanied by the tune of “Octopus’ Garden,” and that’s just the tip of the proverbial crazycake. (There is a proverb about crazycake, isn’t there?)

In keeping with the randomness of our Wisconsin weekend, below are the assorted features viddied during the first two weeks of August, with a bevy of international horror leading the pack. (Apologies in advance: I also spilled a lot of virtual ink on the unofficial Bond spoof Casino Royale, which Daniel and I watched as a palate-cleansing act of completism before diving headlong into the Roger Moore era, but, be fair, there is a lot to say.) I also weighed in on Tarantino’s latest, because I’m sure my opinion was what missing from your day.

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



Blood Paradise (2018) d. Barkenberg, Patrick von (Sweden) (1st viewing)


The Dark Side of the Moon (1990) d. Webster, D.J. (USA) (1st viewing)


Night Killer (1990) d. Fragasso, Claudio (Italy) (1st viewing)


Robowar (1988) d. Mattei, Bruno (Italy) (1st viewing)


The Valdemar Legacy (2010) d. Aleman, Jose Luis (Spain) (1st viewing)

The Valdemar Legacy II: The Forbidden Shadow (2010) d. Aleman, Jose Luis (Spain) (1st viewing)

This was one of those occasions where I had one friend liking a film and another taking the opposite stance, so I felt obliged to sit down and make up my own mind about it. As is often the way, the truth for this viewer lies somewhere in the middle. On the plus side, writer/director Aleman’s adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shunned House (as well as other aspects of the famed author’s works) definitely has potential, with handsome production values, solid performances, an intriguing storyline, and one of Paul Naschy’s final performances. On the downside, it goes on waaaaaaaay too long (so long, in fact, that it ends up being two movies), blatantly borrows from other successful cinematic efforts (Saw, The Descent), and ends up relying on too much computer generated “less than special” special effects for its grand finale. Honestly, as much as I appreciated the ambition and old-fashioned horror approach (at least early on), it would have been much better had they tightened the script and delivered a single feature.


Climax (2018) d. Noe, Gaspar (France) (1st viewing)

The great provocateur returns with his latest chronicle of People Behaving Badly, another whirling dervish of a film that is equal parts rollercoaster and gut punch. A group of dancers congregate for a social gathering after a successful run of a new performance piece, only to have things spiral out of control after someone spikes the punch with LSD. Shot in just over a week, with most of the dialogue improvised by the cast, we progress from a sharply choreographed opening number to a free form descent into Hell, and it’s both thrilling and horrifying. In other words, it’s a Noe film.

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) d. Jenkins, Barry (USA) (1st viewing)

Regina King picked up the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this sublime, no-nonsense adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel following a New York family’s struggles to prove a young father-to-be’s innocence against charges of rape, but the entire ensemble is brilliant. Deserved a whole lot more love from the Academy, i.e. this should have been nominated for Best Picture instead of Green Book.

Randy is Sober (2012) d. Olb, John / Ots, Peter (Australia) (1st viewing)

Having fallen hard for The Purple One’s brilliant comedy special Randy Writes a Novel, it was only a matter of time before we tracked down more of his output (assisted ably by some bloke named Heath McIver who never shows his face but is working some SERIOUS magic under the covers). This comes courtesy of the Warehouse Comedy Special television series, and while not as fully formed as Randy’s 2018 effort, there are still plenty of belly laughs and sharp social commentary and observations to be found. Recommended.

Robin Hood (1973) d. Reitherman, Wolfgang (USA) (4th viewing)

Another top-notch effort from the good folks at Disney, with members of the animal kingdom stepping into the roles of Sherwood Forest’s favorite bandit and his various friends and enemies. Robin (Brian Beford) is a fox, Little John a bear (basically a retread of The Jungle Book’s Baloo for Phil Harris), Friar Tuck a badger (Andy Devine), Prince John a lion (an exquisite Peter Ustinov) and his serpentine advisor Sir Hiss (Terry-Thomas), and so on. Roger Miller (playing the rooster minstrel Allan a Dale) provides the memorable musical interludes, and director Reitherman (who also helmed 101 Dalmations, The AristoCats, and The Rescuers, among numerous other short subjects for the studio) keeps the action lively. Oo-da-lally.

Silence (2016) d. Scorsese, Martin (USA) (1st viewing)

Scorsese and Jay Cocks toiled together adapting Shusaku Endo’s novel to the big screen, a fascinating examination of whether renouncing one’s faith in order to save one’s skin is actually God’s will, but then Marty bungles the whole thing by hiring an American (Adam Driver), an Englishman (Andrew Garfield), and an Irishman (Liam Neeson) to play three Portuguese priests when not a one of them can do anything resembling a Portuguese accent. (To his credit, Neeson doesn’t even try.) Gorgeous cinematography and chewy subject matter, but wow, it’s a struggle at times.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) d. Howard, Ron (USA) (1st viewing)

I’m not the SW fanatic that some others are, so I was pretty lackadaisical about seeing this one, and in finally catching up with it, I was entertained well enough even if it never really feels like a true prequel to the 1977 classic. It feels like people dressing up and cosplaying on a multimillion dollar budget. At this point, I just can’t take any of it too seriously, and to their credit, it doesn’t feel like the cast and crew are either. It’s light and breezy and action-packed and carries the emotional impact of a jar of peanut butter and I can barely remember anything about it and sometimes that’s okay.

Vice Squad (1982) d. Sherman, Gary (USA) (2nd viewing)



Moneyball (2011) d. Miller, Bennett (USA) (2nd viewing)

I know, I know, most people would have immediately thought to pop Inglourious Basterds into the player having just seen QT’s latest effort but a) I’m not a huge fan, especially since Brad seems to be acting in a different film from everyone else, and b) his Oscar-nominated turn as Oakland As manager Billy Beane sees him in that same ultraconfident mode as Hollywood. What Pitt does better than pretty much anyone else out there is SAY THE LINES AS THOUGH HE REALLY, REALLY MEANS THEM without expending a lot of emotion. Even when he doesn’t know what to do, he is supremely decisive about stating his indecisiveness, and I dig that.

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019) d. Tarantino, Quentin (USA) (1st viewing)

Now, with regard to the new film itself, yes, I have a number of quibbles: 1) It’s way too long and self-indulgent (one of the reasons I don’t live in L.A. is because I don’t want to spend half my life driving around in cars, so I really don’t need to spend half a movie driving around in cars, especially when said driving is not forwarding the plot at all). 2) The television Western that DiCaprio’s character is shooting looks nothing like a television Western, not in terms of look, dialogue, or camera angles, which is odd considering Tarantino’s jones for mimicry. 3) Yes, the Bruce Lee sequence is silly and potentially insulting to the Dragon’s legacy. 4) I don’t really end up investing emotionally in any of the characters outside of the fact that I’ve just spent two hours with them and I’m curious to see where things end up.

Now, all that said, as has been the case with pretty much every movie since Kill Bill Vol. 1 (which is when his penchant for self-indulgence went over the deep end with no one strong enough left around to say, “Quentin, enough”), I was entertained overall and there are numerous moments scattered throughout that will stay with me. Is it a masterpiece, as some people claim? Not for me. Is the final reel’s violence warranted? Yeah, I’d say it is. I also found it a satisfying retroactive revenge fantasy that leaves one wondering, “What if…”, and we could probably use a few more of those. As my friend Kevin Matthews would say, 7/10 (even though he only gave it 5/10).


Casino Royale (1967) d. Guest / Hughes / Huston / McGrath / Parrish (UK/USA) (1st viewing)

With Bond fever sweeping the globe, it must have seemed like the perfect time for producer Charles Feldman (who owned the rights to Ian Fleming’s first 007 novel, or at least the title thereof) to unleash a “psychedelic send-up” of the famed secret agent upon an unsuspecting world. Working from a handful of story ideas, Feldman hit upon the grand notion of recruiting five different directors to helm separate sequences which would then be strung together in the editing room for a rip-roaring wackadoo buffet of guns, gadgets, and gorgeous guys and gals. The directors in question were Val Guest (best known for the Quatermass movies with Hammer films), Kenneth Hughes (who would oversee another Fleming adaptation the following year, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), Oscar-winner John Huston (who promptly cast himself as Bond’s boss “M” in a perfectly awful red toupee), Robert Parrish (who had just directed Peter Sellers and wife Britt Ekland in The Bobo), and TV producer/director Joseph McGrath. To no one’s surprise, the grand disparate experiment was a disaster, and Guest was entreated to script and shoot additional material to stitch the unwieldy beast together.

To detail the resulting plot would take far more effort than it deserves (I refer you instead to Michael Reuben’s expert distillation over at, but the overall gist goes something like this: Retired secret service Sir James Bond (David Niven) is called back into action to deal with a worldwide threat headed by the infamous Dr. Noah, eventually taking over the British secret service and changing all of the remaining 00 agents names to… James Bond (in order to confuse the enemy). He’s also reunited with his illegitimate daughter Mata Bond (Joanna Pettet) while baccarat expert Evelyn Tremble (Peter Sellers), with the help of Vesper Lynd (Ursula Andress), faces off against billionaire industrialist and part-time magician Le Chiffre (Orson Welles) in a winner-takes-all tournament held at the titular establishment.

By the time all the chips are counted, the proceedings have given way to a knock-down/drag-out brawl involving laughing gas, government agents, high society types, French Legionnaires, two dozen cowboys and red-face Indians, and cameos from Peter O’Toole, William Holden, George Raft, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Caroline Munro, Burt Kwouk, David Prowse, and Jacqueline Bissett. Woody Allen plays Niven’s flunky nephew Jimmy Bond, who figures prominently in the finale, and the gorgeous Daliah Lavi (star of Mario Bava’s The Whip and the Body) makes a strong impression as our lone female James Bond.

Sellers, who refused to appear on set with his co-star Welles, was ultimately fired mid-production after numerous diva moments, which made editor Bill Lenny and Guest’s final patchwork job all the more challenging. Despite being a critical disaster and a huge money-suck budget-wise, the passion for all things 007 ruled the day and the film ended up being the third-highest-grossing release of the year, behind official Bond entry You Only Live Twice and Disney’s The Jungle Book. While not a good movie by any definition, it remains essential viewing if only to watch the all-star plates spinning amidst Michael Stringer’s gorgeous production design and Burt Bacharach’s memorable score (featuring the Oscar-nominated “The Look of Love”).

Live and Let Die (1973) d. Hamilton, Guy (UK) (2nd viewing)

With Connery famously bidding saying “Never again,” it was time to find a worthy long-term replacement. Roger Moore had been approached to play the role on previous occasions, but this time, especially being a known entity Stateside thanks to his six-season run as Simon Templar in The Saint and with his recent run as Brett Sinclair in The Persuaders! coming to a close, the time was finally right. At 45, Moore was older than Connery, but still a physically capable actor with an abundance of charm, an air of refinement, and a knack for tossing off the increasing number of forehead-slap-worthy double entendres without flinching. In an effort to make the character his own, Moore and director Hamilton (back for his third go-round) decided to swap out the “shaken, not stirred” vodka martinis in favor of bourbon and cigars for cigarettes; additionally, we are given a truly rocking title tune (courtesy of Paul McCartney and Wings) that lets us know this is not your dad’s James Bond.

In adapting Fleming’s novel, Tom Mankiewicz offers up the fictional country of San Monique (standing in for Jamaica, which had already been used in Dr. No) as the source of heroin overseen by our master villain Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), moonlighting as disfigured gangster Mr. Big. As practical and pragmatic as he seems, Kananga also seems to rely quite heavily on the tarot card-reading skills of Solitaire (Jane Seymour) for all of his major life decisions. Surprising to no one, Bond hones in on the lady fair and uses her to infiltrate Kananga’s inner circle, stealing her heart and virginity in the process. But Bond being Bond, he also dallies with CIA operative Rosie Carver (blaxploitation star Gloria Hendry, absolutely dreadful), making for the series’ first interracial mash. Not a lot happens for the first 2/3 of the picture, to be honest, but once 007 gets stranded at an alligator farm by Kananga’s goons, things pick up considerably, climaxing with one of the most iconic 007 moments, the famous bayou-set boat chase/jump.

This installment also features one of my personal favorite supporting characters, Sheriff J. W. Pepper (Clifton James), his exaggerated outrage wrestling to express itself around an enormous chaw of chew, as well as Hammer star Madeline Smith (The Vampire Lovers) as agent Caruso, Moore’s first of many onscreen conquests during his 12 years in the role.

2019 Totals to Date: 286 films, 142 1st time views, 154 horror, 27 cinema


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