Sunday, January 31, 2010

Decoy (1946)

Dir: Jack Bernhard
Warner DVD

If you were to watch the short fluff piece that accompanies the movie, you would probably think you were in for a real treat. A forgotten cult classic if you will (how something can be forgotten and a classic, the world may never know). What you would actually get is one of the silliest, clunkiest film noir I have ever seen and as an added bonus, tons of fake diabolical laughter. The absolutely ridiculous story follows a gold-digging sociopath, played by the overly animated Jean Gillie, whose boyfriend is about to die by gas chamber and only he knows where four hundred thousand bucks they stole is hidden. She then gets the clever idea that she can find a drug that will counteract the poison gas and a doctor that she can seduce into reviving the guy. Guess what, both of those preposterous things happen! She also enlists another gangster type to help finance this scheme so they can grab the 400k for themselves. So, in the best scene in the film, the dope doc revives the dead crook a la Dr. Frankenstein, and the guy rises his fists to the sky screaming, "I LIVE!!!". Now if only the film had gone full sci-fi at this point and he would've become a zombie or C.H.U.D. then we would be talking about a certifiable classic, but no such luck. The convoluted story has our guy and gal crook talk this guy into getting plastic surgery and writing a map for where the money is in case he dies. After he agrees and writes down directions, they shoot him immediately, hysterical. The rest of the movie is filled with typical double-crosses as everyone tries to get the dough. Made by one the poverty row studios, this was probably picked up by Warners as a supporting feature, it's interesting that it is included on the same disc as Crime Wave since the screen writer of Decoy was one the stars of that movie, Ned Young (a victim of the Communist Blacklisting as well) and one hopes the only reason they were paired together since they have nothing stylistically or thematically in common.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Crime Wave (1954)

Dir: Andre De Toth
Warner DVD

An excellent noir film that starts with three escaped cons (Ned Young, Ted de Corsia, and a very young Charles Bronson) that are knocking over gas stations and diners, just stealing small bits of money so that they don't call too much attention to themselves. The first robbery we see them on turns out to be the last as a motorcycle cop pulls up while they are emptying the register. One of them shoots and kills him and gets shot in the process. They split up, giving the injured man some money to pay an underworld doctor, and hope to meet up later. The film now weaves in between the story of the escaped cons, an ex-con Steve Lacey (Gene Nelson, who went on to be a prolific TV director) that has been on the straight and narrow for years, and the dogged pursuer Det. Lt. Sims (Sterling Hayden) whose willing to do just about anything to catch these cop killers. The introduction of Sims shows just how intelligent a filmmaker De Toth is. He waits for an appropriate moment in the film to reveal who was the biggest star at the time, and when he is introduced, we see him milling about in the background of the crime scene. He doesn't come bursting onto the scene calling attention to himself, but when it comes down to business he dominates every scene he's in, because he's Sterling Hayden! The desperate men all meet up at the unsuspecting Lacey's home and pull him into a bank robbery where he is supposed to help them escape the country. Cinematography is top notch, the writing is tight with just the right amount of character beats to get a sense of who these people are in an economical running time, and the performances are solid all around.
The disc is part of a double feature with Decoy which was written by the actor Ned Young who played the con who gets shot in this film. There is audio commentary by Eddie Muller and James Ellroy. It's available in the Film Noir Box Set Vol. 4 or sold as a single disc double feature on Amazon.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hollywood Boulevard (1976)

Dir: Allan Arkush & Joe Dante
New Concorde DVD OOP

An interesting double feature with the aforementioned Myra Breckenridge and a comparative masterpiece as well. While the other disaster is a "satire" of classic Hollywood, this is an ultimately unsatisfying spoof on the low budget pictures being produced by Roger Corman in the seventies. Several props, clips and actors (Dick Miller, Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov)from other productions show up to help string together a story about a fresh off the bus actress (Candice Rialson) that wants to make it in pictures. She first gets conned into robbing a bank, which leads to work as a stunt woman, and ultimately a b-movie actress. This culminates into a murder mystery where actresses are being killed with no apparent motive. It's certainly more coherent and fun than Myra Breckenridge, but some of the best gags are sabotaged by the directors needs to drag them out to pad running time or in the worst example, they repeat gags as is the case with an extended rape sequence that happens twice and is not as funny nor as insightful as they hoped it would be.
The DVD is out of print and is certainly worth picking up for fans. It has commentary by the directors and a live performance by Captain Cody and His Lost Space Airmen.


Myra Breckenridge (1970)

Dir: Michael Sarne
20th Century Fox DVD

An infamous fiasco based on the Gore Vidal novel of the same name. Raquel Welch stars as the post-op tranny mentioned in the title. She shows up at her Uncle's (John Huston!?!) acting school to... well, I'm not quite sure. In fact that's just one of the many problems you're confronted with sitting through this one. It appears to be a satire, but is never funny. Not once did I have to hold back a chuckle or concede to a genuine laugh. It's supposed to take shots at the film industry but just comes across as downright hateful. It constantly cuts to classic film clips, often featuring Laurel and Hardy or Shirley Temple, that are used to emphasize a double entendre. The material would appear to lend itself to an open minded stance on homosexuality but the film comes across as extremely homophobic and the two sides of the Breckenridge character are completely at odds. The supporting cast shows off a plethora of embarrassed aging celebs, like; Mae West, Jim Backus, John Carradine, and film critic Rex Reed appears as the pre-op version of Myra, Myron.
Extras on the disc include a 20 minute episode of "Back story" all about the contentious making of the film and some pretty honest testimonials about how hated it was. Welch gives audio commentary where she sighs heavily at the on-screen depression.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Blood Beast Terror (1968)

Dir: Vernon Sewell
Netflix streaming

Supposedly Cushing said this was his least favorite film that he had ever made and right off the bat I have a hard time coming up with one to challenge that. Not to say this is terrible because any film Cushing is in is immediately made better. He plays it straight in the face of one of the cheapest and campiest monsters ever committed to film, it's just a person in tights, a rubber moth mask, and big fake wings. The story is about a police inspector (Cushing) that is investigating the deaths of several college age young men that all occur near the home of a local wildlife expert. It's filled with red herrings and feels like it drags quite a bit in the second half, but it's nowhere near the painful experience that Sewell's Burke & Hare is.
The Netflix on demand version looked fine and was most likely taken from the Image DVD. They did retain an anamorphic 1.66:1 aspect ratio for the streaming exhibition which was a nice touch.


Deep End (1971)

Dir: Jerzy Skolimowski
TCM Broadcast

This aired on TCM's Underground recently along with Skolimowski's The Shout. Unfortunately my DVR crashed and burned before I had a chance to watch that one. I lost around twenty recorded movies this weekend but i digress. To get to the point at hand, Deep End is about a teenage boy, Mike, that takes a job at a bath house/indoor swimming pool and becomes obsessed with a slightly older female co-worker, Susan. He's an awkward guy that spurns the advances of the lonely older women that frequent the bath house. He seems to hold virginity in high regard, an idea reinforced when Mike (John Moulder-Brown) believes that Susan (Jane Asher) is promiscuous and thinks he even sees her likeness on a poster at a brothel. This is when his stalking turns to belligerence. He slashes her tire, insults her, and generally becomes a real creep. Certain events lead them to be alone and when Mike finally realizes that Susan has no interest in him, he strikes the final blow. It's an interesting film if ultimately not memorable and none of the characters are likable in the slightest making it something I doubt I would revisit. Skolimowski is a restrained and patient director, I would just rather see it applied to different subject matter.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Halloween II (2009)

Dir: Rob Zombie
Sony DVD

Zombie tries to do something a little different with this sequel, than he did in the initial remake, by introducing stylish dream sequences. In fact the film turns into a parade of endless dream-like internal monologues that seem to be shared psychotic visions between the killer Myers and his sister and focus of his obsession, Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton). These sequences show up far too often and look like a 1998 music video. When that's not going on, the film looks like every other slasher film these days. It's under lit, grimy, and brutal. Too bad there was no time during it's 2 hours (!) to insert some scenes where we learn anything about the characters to make us feel bad about the victims, but just like it's predecessor, it's focused on showing us what Myers is going through. It also introduces a fact not mentioned in part one, that Myers is obsessed with white horses. Your guess is as good as mine. As near as I can figure it's just a reason to visually quote (read: steal) shots from Twin Peaks. Another visual inspiration seems to be The Shining and with several verbal and visual references to classic horror films, we know Zombie has at least heard of a good movie, but what did he get out of them? The movie springs to life for a few moments when Malcolm McDowell's Dr. Loomis turns up on a talk show and Weird Al Yankovic steals the movie. This was the only moment during my viewing where I believe I gave the intended response by laughing unlike the rest of the time where I laughed due to embarrassment.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The MacKintosh Man (1973)

Director: John Huston
Warner DVD

This is an intelligent spy actioner starring Paul Newman and to talk about the specifics of the plot would really be doing the film a disservice. Huston unfolds the story without forcing details down your throat. For the first hour I felt like I was constantly one step behind but really appreciated the intellectual approach to storytelling. The need to knows are that Newman steals some diamonds, goes to prison, escapes, and tackles with a corrupt official. It takes on the feel of the early seventies as Newman's character turns out to be pretty cynical and self-serving. Huston keeps us guessing and spins the yarn in an economical way keeping the run time under a 100 minutes. Newman plays Newman just fine even though he does affect an Australian accent in parts.


The Hurt Locker (2008)

Dir: Kathryn Bigelow
Summit DVD

The thing I liked about this one was that it was a character study set during a war and not necessarily a war picture. It's about a bomb disposal unit in Iraq led by Jeremy Renner's self-destructive Sgt. James. Renner plays it with a detached cool but keeps it likable enough through the first 2/3's. It's at this point that the character seems to lose his way, and so does the film. The complete disregard for life starts to get to him and his two assistants and they start to take unnecessary risks. It leads the story to places that ultimately wasn't as interesting or as tense as the rest of the movie. I was also not completely sold on the direction as Bigelow uses a verite style for most scenes but then mixes in some stylish slo-mo shots during explosions. Hand-held is getting a little old at this point and those parts looked like every other movie coming out these days.


Attack! (1956)

Dir: Robert Aldrich

I have to believe that the title of this film has held it back from being considered one of the greatest war pictures ever made. It follows the Fragile Fox company as they are sent on different missions during World War II that never go well since they are led by the cowardly Capt. Cooney (Eddie Albert). It's an interesting premise that this Captain can't fit in anywhere. His superior (Lee Marvin!) knows he's a liability and doesn't want to send him up to a desk job and his company (led by Jack Palance) is ready to revolt against him knowing that each mission may lead to death by incompetence. It's a film that's beautifully shot and directed with stark black & white photography. The dialog is intelligent and restrained with Buddy Ebsen delivering one of the all time great lines, "If ever a man deserved to die it's that putrid piece of trash lying there on the ground." Palance is also a force of nature that takes on a tank by himself using a bazooka and a grenade!! This one has it all, the futility of war, despair, compromise, and more importantly, not-compromising.


Monday, January 18, 2010

9 (2009)

Dir: Shane Acker
Universal DVD

2009 saw a lot of animated films released and (since I have kiddos) I've seen most of them. Frankly, most were better than I expected. This one was the most grown-up of the bunch released and definitely had some moments that were pretty scary for youngsters. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where the machines have risen up against us and destroyed pretty much everything and everyone. The only thing left of humanity are 9 living rag-dolls created by the scientist that also created the machines that killed us. One of them (#9 voiced by Elijah Wood) accidentally turns the semi-intelligent murder-bot back on and the dolls have to figure out how to defeat it. The action is tense and well staged but I wasn't too thrilled with the denouement. There's not a lot of character development but that's just fine considering there's not really any characters. I thought the character design on the good guys was outstanding and I really appreciated the world Acker created.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Seconds (1966)

Dir: John Frankheimer
Paramount DVD OOP

I would consider this an essential in existential cinema. My definition of that would be any film that has an important component to someone's identity taken form them (IE; face, name, memory...) and then finding what decisions those characters will make knowing that a regular set of consequences no longer pertain to them. In the case of Seconds, the main character has his face changed through surgery and is given a new name and identity so he can shirk all former responsibilities and start fresh in what he considers a dream life, in this case as an artist. Here is the ultimate in mid-life crisis. The premise here is that a company exists (through word of mouth only, you must be sponsored) that will do everything you would need to start a new life. This comes with a price of course, not only monetary as our protagonist finds out. When an old, and supposedly dead, friend of Arthur Hamilton's (John Randolph) contacts him, he decides to take the offer and becomes Tony Wilson (Rock Hudson). He has difficulties settling into a new life and seems riddled with guilt and loneliness for a family he paid little attention to. He decides he can't go on being Wilson so asks the company for another identity. And then there's an ending and I won't spoil it for you. Frankenheimer tells the story with a surreal, unnerving use of camera. There are strange camera movements and optical effects throughout that make it a stylish as well as heady experience beyond most other films ever made. The only major flaw is an unfortunately dated sequence where Wilson goes to some kind of love-in or renaissance fair that feels completely out of place with the rest of the movie.
The DVD is now out of print, expect to pay collector's prices at this point. I received the disc from Netflix with not much wait. It is worth owning though as there is Frankenheimer commentary, hopefully it will get a blu-ray release.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Because no one demanded it!

How can I be the only person not giving their thoughts on the best of the decade? So, here I go with the 25 movies of the decade I give a crap about. It's mostly in order but orders are subject to change, daily.

25) Slither (2006)
Dir: James Gunn
Fun, funny, and gross. Fillion has impeccable comic timing.

24) Ong-bak (2003)
Dir: Prachya Pinkaew
Knee to the head FTW!

23) The New World (2005)
Dir: Terrence Malick
I don't know why I had such low expectations for this, but it was, of course, totally mesmerizing.

22) Vera Drake (2004)
Dir: Mike Leigh
Leigh gives us the straight talk on abortion, not a fun two hours.

21) Kairo (2001)
Dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Eerie and existential, booyah!

20) The Incredibles (2004)
Dir: Brad Bird
One of the best super hero movies in a decade full of 'em. Emotional and exciting with a great score.

19) Once (2006)
Dir: John Carney
Great scenes of people just making music.

18) Do You Believe in Miracles? (2001)
Writer: Bernard Goldberg
I dare you not to cry! Greatest sports story ever.

17) Le Moustache (2005)
Dir: Emmanuel Carrere
If you see no other movie about a mustache...

16) Battle Royale (2000)
Dir: Kenji Fukasaku
Killer teens with weapons on an island mixed with educational system allegory? Uhhh, yeah.

15) Waking the Dead (2000)
Dir: Keith Gordon
A truly authentic love story. And Gordon is a personal fave.

14) The Prestige (2006)
Dir: Christopher Nolan
Bowie as Tesla, come on!

13) Childstar (2004)
Dir: Don McKellar
Sharp, insightful, funny. More movies Mr. McKellar, please!

12) Lost In Translation (2003)
Dir: Sofia Coppola
Bill at his finest.

11) Eureka (2000)
Dir: Shinji Aoyama
One of my favorite theater going experiences ever. Not knowing what to expect, not sure what I got. But this proves that walking in to see anything at a small theater can pay off.

10) Ararat (2002)
Dir: Atom Egoyan
I learned a lot about Armenia and Turkey while being emotionally devastated.

9) Brother (2000)
Dir: Takeshi Kitano
Maybe not his best overall, but still hits all the right "beats". (sorry!)

8) CQ (2001)
Dir: Roman Coppola
It's like if Bava shook hands with Godard and neither knew what to say.

7) Spirited Away (2001)
Dir: Hayao Miyazaki
One of my favorite animated films ever. Everything good about Miyazaki times 1000.

6) Ghost World (2001)
Dir: Terry Zwigoff
Easily identifiable.

5) Brand Upon The Brain (2006)
Dir: Guy Maddin
Teen detectives at a lighthouse/orphange with cross-dressing, cannibalism, and a youth serum.

4) American Splendor (2003)
Dir: Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini
One of the only biopics I've ever liked. A fresh take on a really original voice in comics.

3) The Man Without A Past (2002)
Dir: Aki Kaurismaki
Dry since of humor, one of the best filmmakers ever.

2) The Dark Knight (2008)
Dir: Christopher Nolan
I love Batman, suck it.

1)There Will Be Blood (2007)
Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
It makes me giddy every time I watch it. "I drink your milkshake" indeed.

Gun Crazy (1950)

Director: Joseph H. Lewis
Warner DVD

This a sort of Bonnie & Clyde story of two wacky kids in love that have one major thing in common, they are GUN CRAZY! The story starts with Bart (Russ Tamblyn!) as a young boy growing up parent-less, being raised by a sister. He finds he has an unnatural attraction to guns but after killing a baby chick, discovers that he can never point a gun at a living thing again without getting the shakes. Then, at a carnival, he meets Annie (Peggy Cummins). She is the resident trick shot artist, they are attracted to each other, and he joins the carnival to be close to her. After they are fired from the carnival because of a jealous boss, Annie talks Bart (the grown-up version played by John Dall) into pulling some armed robberies. He's reluctant, but she wants the glamorous life. As things start going bad, Annie talks Bart into one last heist at a meat packing plant. Things really go wrong and the pair are on the run. Lewis pulls off some great tension during the build up to the robberies, particularly in the use of putting the camera in the backseat for extended sequences of the two looking for places to park, escape routes, etc. It has a very natural feel in the way they banter back and forth. The film is also of note in how closely it relates violence to sexual thrills. The couple seem to only be able to get intimate after they use their guns. A well made noir with a screenplay secretly written by Dalton Trumbo.


Monday, January 11, 2010

O'Horten (2007)

Director: Bent Hamer
Sony DVD

This is a "deliberately paced" character study about a Norwegian train conductor who, on the last day before retirement, misses work and wanders around. This is a man who lived his life by train schedules and is now figuring out what to do with time that is his own. There are a few touching moments as Horten tries to connect with people (obviously something new to him) and it has a dry sense of humor. It's really a pretty simple affair, but it was nice to see a film whose main characters are of retired age.


The Brothers Bloom (2008)

Director: Rian Johnson
Summit DVD

Rian Johnson's second feature continues to show his fondness for classic Hollywood fare mixed with modern storytelling flourishes. Where this differs from his debut, Brick, is that it is much more playful in tone. It follows two orphaned brothers that grow up to be con men. One (Mark Ruffalo) loves the life and the other (Adrien Brody) doesn't. He wants what he calls an unscripted life. The Ruffalo brother talks him into one last con (or their wouldn't be a movie) where they are to swindle a rich, beautiful, odd-ball, recluse played by Rachel Weisz. She is not what they expected and there are twists and turns, and everyone (sorta) gets what they want in the end. When the film was initially released terms like precious and quirky were bandied about and that's not generally a good thing. And while I can see those things in it, it never gets too cutesy. The characters are charming enough and there was something alluring about the world they inhabit, all steam ships, old architecture, and bicycles. There is also an interesting idea going on with the philosophy that, "Life is but a stage..." as we the audience may pontificate that we are all con men (or women) lying to ourselves about our own lives, at least to some degree.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Evil Face (1974)

Directors: Sergio Garrone & Yilmaz Duru
Mya Communication DVD

Here's one completely lacking in everything. A total waste of time. Klaus Kinski stars (but is dubbed!) as a mad scientist doing skin graft experiments in a storyline completely stolen from Franju's Eyes Without A Face. There's long sequences of people walking and liquids dripping as they try to stretch out to a 90 minute run time. The print is awful and looks like it was ported over from VHS. Skip it.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Innocence (2004)

Director: Lucile Hadzihalilovic
Homevision DVD

This is a difficult film to process, but in a good way. It's a tense film where we never see anything bad actually happen. It's a horror film without horrible things. The film evokes these feelings through tone and composition, but mainly it achieves it's uneasy quality by using it's audiences own expectations against them. The story takes place in an all girls school where young females are watched over and taught by adult females, mainly to dance ballet. As we watch these children in their "innocence" we can't help but to project our own fears onto what we know the real world is like. Their world is completely devoid of money, social standing, and sex, the things most people worry about daily. And the school they are in seems incapable of preparing them for the world. The style of the film adds to nervousness as well. It is made with minimal camera movements, little dialog, and running water is the most memorable score aspect. Water being a recurring theme throughout, it's the first and last short of the movie and water is often used as a symbol of feminine power, which these girls do not understand yet. It can also be a surreal experience, like when a new girl arrives at the school she does so in a coffin and the older girls must journey through a grandfather clock to perform recitals for men hidden in shadows. The cast features Marion Cotillard and Corinne Marchand (the title character in Cleo From 5 to 7) but other wise is made up of non-actors as young as seven. The disc contains a lengthy interview with the director and a slide show with commentary by the youngest cast member.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Girl Boss Revenge: Sukeban (1973)

Director: Norifumi Suzuki
Media Blasters DVD

This one is pure exploitation. I've never seen this many women get beaten in a ninety minute period and I'm from Texas. It starts as brutal, shifts to silly, and ends at disturbing. And I don't mean that as a compliment. This one was a bit of a chore, I had a hard time figuring out who we were supposed to be following as the story shifts constantly between too many characters. It's about an all girl gang, at war with another girl gang, also at war with yakuza who force women into prostitution, and some people want revenge... I guess. There's also a sleazy filmmaker character that shoots porno's but says that's how all the greats start out. Could Suzuki be referencing himself? How clever. In all seriousness, the best sequences in the film happens when art and violence meet in one of the (many) fight scenes as the brutality takes place in front of the Mona Lisa and the accompanying score is filled with ominous woodwinds. Most of the score is quite excellent really, much better than the movie deserved. Ultimately a forgettable entry from an exciting time in Japanese cult cinema.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fritz the Cat (1972)

Director: Ralph Bakshi
MGM DVD (Avant-Garde Cinema Collection)

A big deal has been made about this being an x-rated animated film, but once you get past what could be considered a gimmick, you have to ask, is it good? The simple answer for me is, not really. I found it such a cynical take on the counter culture movement of the late sixties/early seventies that it was just depressing, not scathing or humorous. This is set in the middle of long sequences where cartoon animals have sex and do drugs and where pigs are actually the cops (in your face funny!). I get it, this ain't your Disney cartoon. Unfortunately it doesn't have much to offer as the narrative is disjointed, the message seems confused, and the whole ordeal is hopelessly dated. There are some interesting nuggets of truth sprinkled throughout, it just needed consistency. I think the story behind the film would have been more interesting, but alas, MGM gives no special features to a release that many people feel had some real impact on animated films.


The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)

Director: Sidney Lanfield
TCM broadcast

Just like Karloff's Frankenstein or Lugosi's Dracula, Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes is the image that is most conjured up when the name is mentioned. This is the first of fourteen films in which Rathbone would play him. It's a well done adaptation that moves along briskly enough and has some well staged scenes out on the moors covered in fog. Watson is played a little too much for laughs in my opinion and some of the other characters seem to sit lifelessly on the screen, but an enjoyable watch nonetheless. The only real problem I had with it is that I couldn't help but compare it to the Terence Fisher version made for Hammer Films and starring Cushing, Lee, and Morell which I find to be better in every way. Admittedly I am biased as I find it hard to imagine a better combination of people working on a film together.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Black Angel (1946)

Director: Roy William Neill
Universal Noir Collection DVD

Even though I guessed what was going to happen at the end, I really enjoyed watching this noir based on a Cornell Woolrich story and directed with style (one shot up a building a through a window is particularly impressive) by Neill. He made over a 100 films during his career including several of the Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films. Dan Duryea is well cast as a co-dependent, alcoholic, who's estranged wife has been murdered, that teams up with a woman, who's husband has been convicted of the murder, to find the real killer. They set their sites on Peter Lorre and go to work for him to try and find evidence to back up their theory. Broderick Crawford is also along for the ride as the homicide cop investigating everyone. It's not nearly as cynical as some others of the genre, but could have been if the ending had been played differently. The disc is good but has no features.


Trapped (1982)

Director: William Fruet
Code Red DVD

Here's an amusing bit of hickslpoitation starring Henry Silva as a blood thirsty hillbilly in charge of a small community in the hills of Tennessee that don't take to kindly to strangers. Especially outsiders that sex up their woman-folk. After Silva tars and feathers a chubby Romeo he found on top of his wife, he and his posse chase him into the woods and kill 'em. Unfortunately for all involved, the murder is witnessed by four smarty-pants college kids out for a weekend hike. Their leader (Cronenberg regular Nicholas Campbell) had just stated in a previous scene that he cannot see any circumstance under which he would commit murder. So you can pretty much guess where the next sixty minutes is going as we find out exactly what it would take to turn this liberal, book readin', pussy into a man. Turns out all it takes is some creepy backwoods hicks with rape on their mind. You'd think Deliverance would taught these kids a lesson, go figure. Director Fruet knows his way around the genre and delivers the goods without being overly exploitative. It's probably smarter and more serious than a picture like this desrves to be. It's well shot by another Cronenberg collaborator, Mark Irwin. Code Red's print looks fine but the sound is a bit muddy. Trailers round out the only extras.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Hangover (2009)

Director Todd Phillips
Warner DVD (unrated version)

This year's big comedy hit. This is a fun enough "romp" with comedy that pushes the limits of, what were considered to be at one time, good taste. It's a simple enough story, four guys go to Vegas for a bachelor party, accidentally roofie themselves, and then lose the groom in a wild night of debauchery that we never fully see. Unlike the comedies of someone like Judd Apatow, it never transcends it's genre to make it's characters more human, therefore making the situations less involving and reducing them to merely sight gags. I laughed but I've laughed harder at NBC's Thursday night line-up. No one moment stands out as one I would rush to tell my friends about, but the ever incredible Zach Galifianakis made it a movie I would probably watch again.


Malpertuis (1971)

Director: Harry Kumel
Barrel DVD OOP

The Overlook Guide to Horror's entry on this one gives away a lot of information. So much so, that I wonder if they were writing about the film at all or if they got all the info from reading the novel by Jean Ray. I also wonder about it's inclusion in a guide for horror films. While there are some fantasy and horror elements, it doesn't have the look, feel, or themes that are typical of the genre. To give away too much is really a disservice if you're interested in the movie at all. But I'll give it a shot, read on at your own risk of the dreaded spoiler! So, an androgynous sailor (Mathieu Carriere) gets off a boat in a town he grew up in, looks for his home which is now gone, gets in a bar fight, and is then transported to a different house in a pocket dimension after being hit on the head. There his sister and other relatives (including Orson Welles as his uncle) and servants are trapped and forced to live a bourgeois life for eternity, like a Bunuel wet dream. And one of them is a taxidermist. The narrative certainly lives in a dream state but ultimately felt tedious. Watching it I felt like this is a movie that could only exist in an art house in the seventies. It's unfortunate that the film wasn't better but Kumel's other effort from the same year (Daughters of Darkness), holds up much better.
Even though the DVD is only a couple of years old, it is already out of print. It's a two disc set with the first disc containing the director's cut in Dutch with English subs. The print looked great and there is also director commentary and two featurettes. The second disc has the shorter cut that was shown at Cannes and a 75 minute interview with Kumel. The price is getting bad on this one but if you're interested in the novel, film, or Kumel, it's worth picking up.


Special Effects (1984)

Director: Larry Cohen

While not every Larry Cohen film I've seen is great, they are all interesting. Case in point, Special Effects is about a film director(Eric Bogosian) on the outs that kills someone in a fit of rage and then decides to make a film about the incident using the real people in the victims life playing themselves in his film. It's a very compelling concept and the movie never feels formulaic. I was never 100% sure where we were headed. Unfortunately, the acting sometimes leaves a bit to be desired, a few of the one-liners are corny, and there are some lapses in logic that can be frustrating, but it's still an certainly watchable.


Under The Rainbow (1981)

Director: Steve Rash
Warner Archive DVDr

I am not making this up. Hitler sends a little person (Billy Barty) to a hotel in Hollywood so he can pick up a map from a Japanese agent (Mako). Also staying at the hotel, the actors playing the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, Carrie Fisher as their casting director, a group of Japanese tourists, and Chevy Chase as a secret service agent protecting a Duke and Duchess. Hi-jinks ensue and, of course, confusion abounds. So, now your asking yourself, "Why haven't I heard more about this masterpiece? Surely there are statues erected in it's honor!" Well slow your roll. While the the premise may be pure unadulterated genius, the final product is much less desirable. What we get is the broadest of broad comedy where every gag is telegraphed from BFE. It's painfully slow and Chevy seems to be working in a drama through most of the picture. But if you'd like to see Billy Barty Nazi salute Hitler right in the schnitzel, then this is the movie for you!