Archive 2005     Archive 2006     Archive 2007     Archive 2008    Archive 2009    Archive 2010

2011


Verson Jetorix watched:

BLACK MOON (34)
No voodoo classic but this is a fun man's adventure with rock-jawed Jack Holt and beautiful ingénue Fay Wray fighting the heathen masses down in the Caribbean.  Some nice photography and dread-filled atmosphere keep things interesting.  Recommended for fans of creaky late night exotica.
 

 

THE LAW AND JAKE WADE (58)
Excellent road western with ex-badman Robert Taylor and current badman Richard Widmark on the trail for the loot Taylor buried in a cool metaphoric ghost town.  John Sturges knew what he was doing and so did cinematographer Robert Surtees; this is one great looking oater.  Widmark's gang includes Henry Silva and DeForest Kelly.  Highly recommended.

 

 

PAROLE, INC. (48)
Cheapo Eagle Lion crime flick has fed Michael O'Shea going undercover to bust a crooked parole board.  No great shakes except for the full on brutality of the beatings our hero takes and for the fact that the top two criminal types are played by Turhan Bey and Evelyn Ankers!  Worth it for them.

 

 

THE TRIP (10)
Two real-life actor/comedian/friends (Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan) sort of play themselves (not really) on a week-long road trip to review fancy restaurants in the north of England. I thought it was great, laughed a lot, but you gotta like these guys cuz it's pretty much them for almost two hours bickering, doing impressions, and driving around in some beautiful scenery eating beautiful food. Recommended for fans.
 

 

COLOSSUS OF THE ARENA (60)
The widescreen enhanced version from Sinister looks great but I don’t think the film will land on anyone’s fave rave list because of it. Mark Forest stars as Maciste who foils a plot to kidnap a princess and put her sister (and her dastardly lover) in power. The hook here is that a group of killers is assembled as traveling gladiators and work their way into the castle to steal away the princess. So there are plenty of familiar faces like Dan Vadis, who would go on to his own peplum starring vehicles. The visuals are nice, especially costumes and sets, but stuff like endless bar fights and lame comedy (involving a monkey) tend to detract.

 

 

COLLECTOR'S ITEM (85)
Read about this one way back in Video Watchdog #67 in 2000. I think VW gives this erotic thriller a liitle too much credit but it does have its charms, like Laura Antonelli, Florinda Bolkan, and Blanca Marsillach. The DVD appears to be a straight tape conversion so image quality is severely lacking but there is a good deal of skin and degradation to tide one over. Since Tony Musante is trapped by a mother/daughter combination and punished for his sins, this would be a perfect double bill with Singapore Sling.

 

 

MUTINY IN OUTER SPACE (65)
An alien fungus is accidentally brought aboard a space station and death follows along shortly. Early indy sci-fi sports shadowy photography to mask budgetary constraints and a handy subplot about the station's commander losing his space marbles. Recommended for fans of Saturday afternoon space operas.

 

 

9 (09)
Animated dystopian fable with outstanding production design tells of the aftermath of the battle between humans and their machines. 9 (and 1 thru 8) was created by the same man who made the first sentient machine and led humanity to its end. These little creatures have been given the power to restart civilization, albeit without either entity that destroyed it previously. Despite questionable plotting this is an amazingly creative work of animation art worth the time of any form or genre fan.
 

 

THE SPIRITUALIST (48, encore)
So nice to see this spooky melodrama photographed by John Alton as it was meant to be seen.  After years of inky VHS copies and public domain DVDs, this restored Paramount DVD is a beauty.  Recommended.
 

 

NIGHTWATCHING (07)
Peter Greenaway's version of the events surrounding the creation of The Night Watch, one of Rembrandt's most famous paintings, a commission which the artist was resistant to undertaking.  Similar to PG's The Draughtsman's Contract, a murder mystery is at the heart of the proceedings, and sexual improprieties taint the corners of the gorgeous tableau.  The film looks like a moving Rembrandt, lit to perfection, and scored with equal grace.  It's long but interesting, with a captivating central performance by Martin Freeman.  Recommended for long time fans.
 

 

THE LAST BIG THING (96)
Clever and somewhat audacious pop culture satire follows around anti-hipster Simon Geist who is eternally annoyed at the vacuous LA at the turn of the millennium.  He sets up interviews with up-and-comers for a nonexistent magazine called The Next Big Thing and berates his subjects, until he meets a "self-aware" model who convinces him to to make an anti-music video.  Things pretty much go downhill from there for Simon, much to our enjoyment.  Mark Ruffalo has a sizable role as an actor who gets caught up in Simon's world.  Recommended for hip anti-hipsters.

 

 

DESERT OF THE TARTARS (76)
A captivating existential epic from the Italians.  A young lieutenant joins a remote fortress on the frontier.  Isolated, the men are imploding, haunted by an enemy that may never appear, that may not even exist.  The top notch cast includes Vittorio Gassman, Guiliano Gemma, Jean-Louis Trintignant, and Max von Sydow.  Definitely worth your time.

 

 

THE VENETIAN AFFAIR (66)
Robert Vaughn breaks away from the camp Man From UNCLE mystic. Or tries to anyway.  The spy vogue, as the 60s began to wain, was to present espionage as a jaded escapade, entirely cynical to the politics driving the machinations.  Vaughn is the tired spy getting by on coffee and booze who is required to give up his soul to deliver a meaningless enemy to "justice."  Confusing spy nonsense of the highest order.  Just enough Venice location work to keep us convinced, a cast who shortcuts the audience identification, and viola! chic spy shenanigans.  BUT Boris Karloff has a great cameo turn. Recommended for the milieu, the cast, and the chutzpa.
 

 

HYSTERIA (64, encore)
One of the best Robert Webber movies, this Hammer production is directed by Freddie Francis.  Dig the wall-to-wall jazz and the happening penthouse bachelor pad where amnesiac Webber tries to put the pieces together at the same time that someone else is trying to scramble them!  You know what's coming but it's the journey that counts.  Nice wide b&w photography too.  Recommended for the psychological thriller fans among us.

 

 

THE SLIME PEOPLE (62)
The slime people come from beneath and set up a machine that builds a dome out of fog so they can make the atmosphere palatable for them. Their aim is to eliminate us and claim our world above as their own. Little do they know they’re up against Robert Hutton (who also directed) and a small but effective band of survivors. Pretty fun little cheapie that benefits from some cool monster suits, lots of fog, and a quick pace.
 

 

STRIKE ME DEADLY (63)
About a third or so of Ted V. Mikels' b&w debut is excruciatingly bad but the other two-thirds is well-photographed suspense and action scenes.  A young newlywed working for the forest service sees a murder and the murderer sees him.  The chase is on.  This modern day western is worth seeing for the good stuff and the Mikels interview included on the disk is just as entertaining.
 

 

Sauna (08)
1595.  A small party of post-war emissaries from Sweden and Russia head north to draw the border between the now-peaceful countries.  What they find is even worse than being in Russia and Sweden in 1595.  Exquisitely nasty, cerebral Finnish horror.
 

 

GRIMM (03)
Dark and funny re-imagining of Hansel and Gretal as Dutch teenagers abandoned in the forest who must make their way to an uncle in Spain who turns out to be dead.  Their adventures lead them through strange and dangerous sexual encounters, and eventually they hide out in Almeria amongst the old ghost towns of the spaghetti westerns.  A tasty curio.
 

 

CRACKS (09)
Isolated girls school, Britain 1934.  There's a certain order to things in a clique headed by sexy rebel teacher Eva Green.  Then an aristocratic Spanish student arrives.  Mystery, humor, sensuality... murder.  Feature rookie Jordan Scott (Ridley's daughter) delivers a savory visual treat that only falters on a couple of accounts.  Recommended for more than one reason.
 

 

ASSIGNMENT TO KILL (67)
Widescreen technicolor nonsense about industrial espionage or something.  But the bulk of it is shot in swinging Switzerland circa '67 with a high profile cast, some nice photography, and the occasional dose of suspense and violence.  Mindless Euro-fun for a Saturday afternoon.  Herbert Lom stands out in villainous mode.
 

 

DOCTORS' WIVES (70)
I read about this in Bad Movies We Love, and it is bad alright.  It's basically a TV movie, directed by a TV movie specialist, populated with primarily TV actors (Gene Hackman seems distinctly out of place), with an extra goose of sensationalist elements like sex talk and minor nudity.  Top-billed Dyan Cannon lasts about 10 minutes into the movie (a near "Kinski") before she's killed by her husband en flagrante (is that her ass?) with one of the doctors in the clique.  Let the drama begin!  Not boozy, druggie, or sexy enough for our taste (and yes, I'm talking to you), but it does contain some of the most florid, brazenly silly dialog in recent memory.  Faves: "You can do a blind probe on me any day" and the band name "The Purple Indifference."  Scott Brady plays... a cop.
 

 

LAKE PLACID (99)
Fun monster movie, savvy and respectful of convention, with a game cast.  Recommended for fans of Tremors, et al.
 

 

KILL THE IRISHMAN  (10)
Based on a true story about the Cleveland mob in the 70s and the rise of Danny Green who didn't get along with the Italians very well.  Lots of things blow up in this violent, stripped down epic, plus the cast of supporters alone is well worth your time.  This reminds me of those low-budget gangster pics that proliferated after The Godfather came out. Recommended.
 

 


 

SOMEWHERE  (10)
Sophia Coppola's tone poem about fame, emptiness, and redemption is rewarding enough taken on its own merits.  Fans of Lost in Translation will appreciate it but others may insist "nothing happens."  It does.
 

 


 

A SOMEWHAT GENTLE MAN (10)
Stellen Skarsgard is great as an aging gangster fresh out of stir for murdering his wife's lover who meanders his way to a just revenge.  Nice low-key Norwegian crime.

 

 


 

BUNNY AND THE BULL (09)
I laughed my ass off.  And it was good too.  A mind-bending tour of a bended mind.  Highly recommended for those of a certain depth.
 

 


 

TRON: LEGACY (10)
Two decades later, we're all so much wiser and capable, aren't we?  Okay, there's respect here, and I respect that.  Tron: Legacy aims low, as far as story and characters go, but there's a subversive sting and stoner sensibility that threatens to completely (and happily) encompass the proceedings.  One of the nitpicks I had is that T:L attempts to make the computer world a rationalized, acceptable reality for our feeble brains, whereas there was nothing realistic about the computer world of Tron.  Part of the attraction (and the point, I believe) of Tron was the complete unreality of the computer world; no matter how you tried to rationalize the matrix of Tron, you couldn't quite grasp the dreamy, unfamiliar reality, a quality that escapes this re-imagining.  Bridges is, of course, great, the real one I mean.  And there are truly outstanding visuals on display, including some Pink Floyd-worthy fascist images.  T:L manages, quite unintentionally I'm sure, to achieve the pleasing artificiality of an Aeon Flux (a compliment, by the way).  So this extrapolation of the myth is absolutely recommended for fans of Tron, but it cannot hope to capture the naive beauty of the original.  I used to exercise the only language option on my old DVD of Tron, and watch it in French just to enjoy the spectacle.  I would watch Tron: Legacy in French, just maybe not more than once.
 

 

DANTE'S INFERNO (07)
A modern take on the classic tale via stick puppet animation.  Creative, interesting, and funny, this is worth a look by animation fans.  And fans... of the levels... of hell.
 
 

THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF (01)
This stylish French period piece horrific political allegory bites off more than it can chew.  Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci are the supporters trying to keep this afloat.  Ok once.
 
 

PORTRAIT IN BLACK (60)
Overwrought trashorama chock full of cool modern art and scenery-chewing by Lana Turner, Anthony Quinn (before he was an over-sized Greek), Lloyd Nolan, Sandra Dee, and John "The Sax" Saxon!  Infidelity, murder, lies, and much innuendo; what's not to like?  Cheap popcorn required.
 
 

SALT (06)
Occasionally-sexy-but-much-more-often-self-consciously-arty-and-annoying Diabolique riff.  You're wasting my time!

 
 

CATLOW (71)
Sam Wannamaker's spaghetti-lite is mainly entertaining for it's semi-interesting cast of B players (Yul Brynner, Richard Crenna, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Corey, Dahlia Lavi) and tunes by Roy Budd.  If neither of those trips your trigger, than you won't find much to root for in this standard fare.
 
 

ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT (41)
Well-heeled gangster "Gloves" Donahue (Humphrey Bogart) discovers a nest of Nazis in Brooklyn, led by Conrad Veidt. A lark, really, to turn a Warner's gangster pic into patriotic rhetoric. Watching Bogey's always a treat and the cast of supporters is outstanding: Peter Lorre, Frank McHugh, Judith Anderson, William Demarest, Jackie Gleason, Phil Silvers, Wallace Ford, Barton MacLane, Martin Kosleck. Old home week!
 
 

JOY HOUSE (64, encore)
Revisited this Rene Clement classic and was surprised at how well it holds up.  Beautiful widescreen photography, a funny and clever script, a dreamy lead cast (Jane Fonda looks especially delicious here), interesting bad guys, and a terrific jazz score by Lalo Schifrin.  Clearly a keeper.
 
 

I BURY THE LIVING (57, encore)
Revisited this old favorite and found it still surprisingly effective.  Richard Boone's fatalistic performance as the businessman burdened with the power of life and death carries this little gem past its weak explanatory ending.  We know better.
 
 

LORD LOVE A DUCK (66)
This would-be counter culture comedy bares a fang every now and then and is just as often very funny.  Set in an LA high school, part of the appeal is the circa 1966 ultra modern homes of the hills and a cast of interesting principles; Roddy McDowell, a delicious Tuesday Weld, and standouts Harvey Korman and Ruth Gordon.  Shot in b&w to make a statement, the choice ultimately mutes the impact of this sometimes-savvy time capsule.  Music by Neal (Batman) Hefti.
 
 

THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE (70)
Sometimes I think our great artists are given a forum, however unexpectedly, to reveal to us their greatest failings and, therefore, their greatest successes.  Coming after the unrecognized masterpiece of RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY, the critical failure of MAJOR DUNDEE, and the unparalleled critical and popular success of THE WILD BUNCH, Sam Peckinpah made a self-conscience and occasionally brilliant misfire.  The better to see you with my dear.  The bald truth is that a true artist can only be hampered by success.  Peckinpah would continue to amaze and confound (STRAW DOGS, THE GETAWAY, PAT GARRETT) but never again would he lay himself bare as he does here.

 
 

MADHOUSE (81)
Italian production shot in Georgia with US cast remains a curio at best.  One psycho twin (and guest killer) plot to do in the other kindhearted twin.  Ponderous with the occasional flash of creativity.  Can't recommend it.
 
 

SCHULTZE GETS THE BLUES (05)
In the tradition of O'HORTON, Schultze retires (from the salt mines - literally - in Germany) and searches for meaning in his life.  Unlike Odd, he finds his musical heart (he plays the accordion) in the American south and Zydeco music instead of his traditional polka.  Both films have curious endings, SCHULTZE being the more Felliniesque, and less satisfying, of the two, but Odd's nighttime universe wins out over the swamps of Louisiana.
 
 

TIGER BAY (34)
Anna May Wong plays the owner of a tavern in a South American cesspool who suffers under the thumb of a group of thugs running the old protection racket. An international cast, interesting sets and photography, and a hilariously sad ending dictated by the puritanical production code make this worthwhile.


 
 

MONSTROID (79)
This is the kind of no-budget monster flick that is endearing if it was made in the 50s and charmingly retro if it was made in the 60s but hopelessly depressing in the 70s. Corporate fix-it man Jim Mitchum brings all of his inherited talent down to Columbia to shut down the locals complaining about pollution and finds instead an overgrown Nessie-type monster filling his face with Latinos for lunch. Anthony Eisley is there to screw things up. Okay but tiresome.

 
 

SLOGAN (69)
Slight story about a director of TV commercials (the notorious Serge Gainsbourg) who forsakes his wife and child for an 18-year old model (Serge's soon-to-be lover Jane Birkin), and guess what?  The whole thing ends badly.  Sometimes okay with the occasional pop art flourish, and sometimes boring and pretentious.  Either way, it's very 60's and very French.  The Serge tunes aren't bad.

 
 

COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT (70)
Taut sci-fi thriller involving sentient, armed master computers in the US and USSR bonding to declare peace by ruling mankind together.  Nice.  No nonsense (or very little) approach and stark design keep things interesting until the de rigueur downbeat ending.  Recommended.

 
 

THE DUELISTS (77)
Ridley Scott's first feature holds up as not only a visual masterpiece but it also manages to capture the essence of Joseph Conrad's essential volume on honor, loyalty, and betrayal.  Top 100.  Top 50.