Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Fool's Views (4/16 – 4/23)

"I'm alright. Nobody worry 'bout me..."

Howdy folks!

I wish I May, I wish I Might, post these Views before the fall of Night…..

This week’s offerings were kind of all over the place, with the Arrow Blu-ray stack, Chicago Public Library’s streaming platform Hoopla, the doc’s personal DVD collection, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and blood brother Dan Kiggins’ proffering their capable services. From cursed films to Argento’s origins, from worlds of water to Elvira’s cuttting comments and curves, we’ve got a little bit of something for everyone.

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



The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) d. Argento, Dario (Italy) (3rd viewing)

While we weren’t able to meet under the same patch of sky for either the viewing or the conversation, Scuola Argento was able to resume classes via Zoom, with myself, Ian Simmons of Kicking the Seat, and Bryan Martinez of The Giallo Room trading quips and queries in equal measure and, lucky you, the madness has been captured in podcast form for your listening pleasure. Try to contain yourself.



Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988) d. Signorelli, James (USA) (2nd viewing)

As someone who grew up in the 1980s, I was well aware of the curvy horror hostess with the giant beehive and the enormous… talents, even if I wasn’t wild about her penchant for breaking into the film and offering up not-that-funny quips. (Excuse me, I’m trying to watch the movie!!!) But when I heard they were trying to build a feature around her quirky charms, I was intrigued, especially since Pee Wee Herman had landed a huge hit with his big screen venture, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, as directed by Tim Burton. The transition of a cult TV hero finding favor with the general moviegoing public was a rarity, but clearly it was not an impossibility.

Unfortunately, Elvira’s (aka Cassandra Peterson) particular brand of dum-dum humor, puns, and sexual innuendo were a more difficult nut to crack, especially with journeyman director Signorelli at the helm as opposed to an innovator like Burton. The flimsy plot of Elvira inheriting a mansion in an extremely conservative New England village doesn’t offer enough fertile ground and the naughty talk feels forced and awkward. I adore Peterson as a person, having met her numerous times at conventions, and I came to appreciate her scantily clad alter ego in measured doses (having become acquainted with a number of splatter flicks courtesy of the 1983 VHS compilation Filmgore, which she hosted), but as a feature this just never really fires on all cylinders. Nevertheless, for adoring fans, Arrow Video has released a gorgeous high-def presentation with extras-a-go-go, including a feature-length (!) making-of documentary. Check it out right HERE!


He Never Died (2015) d. Krawczk, Jason (Canada) (3rd viewing)

More supernatural dark comedy than full-blooded horror flick, Henry Rollins (who also exec-produced) is perfection as an immortal so completely over his own existence, yet consistently caught up in trouble with hoodlums and thugs and forgotten offspring. Steven Ogg and Jordan Todosey offer fantastic support respectively as a small-time kingpin and a wayward wild child, while Kate Greenhouse’s frustrated and eternally nonplussed waitress steals our hearts with her every stifled exhalation of hope. Kudos to writer/director Krawczyk for creating memorable characters and banal situations for them to richly inhabit. Continues to hold up after multiple viewings. Followed by a semi-sequel, She Never Died, in 2019, with Krawcyk penning the script and Berkshire County’s Audrey Cummings in the director’s chair.

What We Do in the Shadows (2014) d. Waititi, Taika / Clement, Jemaine (New Zealand) (2nd viewing)

Expanding their 2005 short film to a feature-length mockumentary, Waititi and Clement wrote, directed, and starred in this charming, sly, and often gut-busting observation of a quartet of vampires living in a modern apartment flat. Sly ladykiller Viago (Clement), fussy neatnik Vladislav (Watiti), bad boy slob Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), and ancient Nosferatu-type Petyr (Ben Fransham) spend their days sleeping in closets and crypts, their nights hanging out at the local blood bar, mixing it up with werewolves (“not swearwolves”), and fighting over whose turn it is to do the dishes. Delightful and droll, with geysers of blood punctuating every other punchline.


Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made (2018) d. Amito, David / Laicini, Michael (Canada) (1st viewing)


Fury of the Demon (2016) d. Dulage, Fabien (France (1st viewing)



Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017) d. Kasdan, Jake (USA) (1st viewing)

Apparently this got terrible reviews from the critics, but I’ll be darned if I didn’t have a fantastic time. Marvelous comic timing from all involved, and great action sequences. I had to laugh reading that some parents were put off by the “blatant sexual references” with regard to one teenage girl character’s fascination with her online avatar (played by Jack Black) having a penis. My pearls!

Waterworld (1995) d. Reynolds, Kevin (USA) (2nd viewing)

Despite aspirations toward The Road Warrior on the high seas, some incredible action sequences, and astonishing production design, this notoriously big-budgeted summer tentpole never really takes flight as the well-oiled popcorn burner it wants to be, weighed down by its own self-seriousness and a dour central performance by Kevin Costner (who ultimately made Reynolds so crazy that he walked off the movie). It’s a handsome looking beast, but Peter Rader’s much-fiddled-with script and the hambone acting across the board (Dennis Hopper in full autopilot Crazy Dennis mode, Jeanne Tripplehorn’s too clean and too contemporary feisty femme, Michael Jeter loony tooning for all he’s worth) sink the ship. It’s not the disaster the reviews made it out to be, but it’s no unsung masterpiece either. Released as a three-disc (!) blu-ray package from Arrow Video, complete with the extended director’s cut and the extended/edited television version.



It Might Get Loud (2008) d. Guggenheim, Davis (USA) (1st viewing)

Three generations of electric guitar legends (Jimmy Page, The Edge, Jack White) discuss their upbringings and introductions to music, both in talking head fashion in separate corners of the globe and then together for a rap/jam session in Burbank. Enjoyable, but somehow not more than the sum of its parts, which is surprising coming from Oscar winner Guggenheim (Waiting for Superman, An Inconvenient Truth).

Maelstrom: The Odyssey of Waterworld (2018) d. Griffith, Daniel (USA) (1st viewing)

Feature-length documentary on Arrow’s recent Blu-ray release allows one to appreciate the film’s finer aspects (stunt work, production design) without being distracted by its less-than-stellar attributes (script, performances).

Too Macabre: The Making of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (2018) d. Weber, Sven Thomas (Germany/UK) (1st viewing)

A labor of love about a labor of love. You wouldn’t think that there was enough material (or demand) to justify a feature-length documentary about the making of a box office dud about a cult horror hostess, but these are the strange days we’re living in. Truth be told, I enjoyed this more than the movie that it’s celebrating, so take that for what you will.


The Tale of Zatoichi (1962) d. Misumi, Kenji (Japan) (1st viewing)

The Tale of Zatoichi Continues (1962) d. Mori, Kazuo (Japan) (1st viewing)

The first two films about the titular blind swordsman (Shintaro Katsu), wandering the earth looking for a place to relax and practice his masseur wares, but wouldn’t you know it, people keep coming at him. The first installment is a riff on the Yojimbo legend (Kurosawa’s film came out the previous year), with Ichi playing two warring tribes against one another while forging a bond with another doomed hired sword, Hirate (Shigeru Amachi). The follow-up sees him facing off against his estranged brother Yoshiro (played by Katsu’s real-life brother Tomisaburo Wakayama) when he goes back to visit the town a year later. The only two Zatoichi films shot in black-and-white, they were such successes with the public that 24 additional films followed over the next 11 years, as well as 100 television episodes, always with Katsu in the lead! (No points to the marketing team, though. The Tale of Zatoichi Continues???? Seriously???)

2020 Totals to Date: 146 films, 104 first time views, 45 horror, 2 cinema


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