May the 4th Needs a Fifth, I Think

Yeah, yeah. I kind of don’t like the over-celebrating thing when it comes to some stuff I appreciate, but that’s the way things are these days. Still, a little tribute is in order to a film that deserves it (well, in its original format), so here’s mine.

Perspective from an old fart who knows stuff: There was not a hint of internet nor the sort of over-speculation we suffer though today way back in 1976 when I was sitting in a movie theater and saw this teaser for the first time:

(Thanks, thecoolman!)

I vaguely recall being really curious about this upcoming film because it looked completely different than anything I could recall seeing (hey, I was only 12 at the time), yet it seemed really familiar in a few ways to stuff I’d seen on the local PBS station. At that point, I had zero idea of what a homage was or a way to grasp that George Lucas was borrowing from the past to create his own futuristic adventure (what was curiously, set in the distant past). Anyway, I noted the non-date and filed the film away in the memory banks as something to look forward to seeing. Those school friends I knew were either not interested at all or worse, had a low opinion of sci-fi films that extended to books and comics of the period. So only a rare few of the kids I knew even cared about this film before and to some extent, after it was released.

The most amusing modern thing in regards to this teaser is the Official Star Wars YT channel has an (intentionally?) embarrassing low quality teaser while other non-official sites have not only better quality ones, but one that’s been redone to include footage found in the actual release print. Granted, while MUCH prettier, I find that clip problematic because it’s redone history that erases the fact that the teaser was supposed to be cruder thanks to the film still being nowhere near completion a about a year out from its eventual release date. Sure, film fans didn’t know this and other that tiny bits (VERY tiny) of information dropped in a few sci-fi mags of the era. But that all changed as 1977 rolled around and more info as well as the successful Star Wars comic book appeared. I avoided the comic for a while, but eventually collected most of its run over time, enjoying a good deal of what I was reading (including stuff now FAR outside the current canon)

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Random Film of the Week: Corruption


As mad scientist flicks go, Corruption is something of a forgotten classic in its own crazy manner. You get the great Peter Cushing out of his usual period piece horrors playing a successful plastic surgeon in a more modern 60’s setting, some surprisingly shocking (by mid 60’s standards) content and a laser gone haywire in a finale that may elicit some chuckles from forward thinking Star Wars fans. If you’ve ever wanted to see Cushing go full-tilt, over the top into scenery chomping territory, this one won’t disappoint one bit. While there are some slow expository moments here, the overall film is an interesting slice of horror that while not wholly original, ends up being pretty memorable on a few fronts.

(Thanks, groovemaster!)

After the swingin’ credit sequence, we meet Cushing’s Sir John Rowan and his pretty younger fiancée Lynn (Sue Lloyd) at a pretty raucous party. While the good doctor struggles with the mingling, Lynn, who just so happens to be a model, is in the middle of an impromptu photo shoot when Rowan rushes up to stop the snapping away before his squeeze loses all her clothes. Before you can say “Watch out for that hot studio lamp!”, Rowan accidentally knocks said lamp over and it lands on poor Lynn, burning half her face. Ouch! Fortunately, she’s engaged to a very capable plastic surgeon, right? Unfortunately, conventional surgery won’t work this time, so Rowan decides to use Lynn as a guinea pig to try out a little something he’s been working on in secret.

If you’ve seen Georges Franju’s Les yeux sans visage (Eyes Without A Face), you can probably guess things up to a point, For everyone who hasn’t, Répétez après moi, s’il vous plaît:

“What could POSSIBLY go wrong?”(dot dot dot) Continue reading

Blu-Ray Review: Massacre Gun

massacre gun Arrow_MVDYasuharu Hasebe’s brooding but action-packed Massacre Gun (Minagoroshi no kenjū) is a great example of the Japanese gangster film that’s well worth a look. Starring chipmunk-cheeked Jô Shishido (he has plastic surgery to look that way), the film packs in plenty of beatings and shootings into its 91 minute running time while maintaining its not so sunny outlook for just out everyone in its cast. Then again, when the “happiest” looking guy in the movie is the angry one with the titular firearm you know you’re in for a wild ride.

Shishodo stars as Kuroda, a hit man who turns on his employers after being sent on a job to kill his girlfriend. Kuroda fires himself after the work and teaming up with his brothers Saburo (Jirô Okazaki)and Eiji (“Tatsuya Fuji”, or director Hasebe’s acting persona) also wronged by the crime boss, set off to take down his empire. This trio of men setting out for vengeance on other men thing is a high risk gig and yes, the film has a very fatalistic tone running throughout that works heavily in its favor. Some Japanese gangster films tend to have running themes about codes of honor and men maimed or dying in as respectful a manner possible (well, given the violent ways in which they meet their ends). There’s a lot of that in Massacre Gun, but Hasebe’s fluid, innovative direction and use of a jazzy score make the film compelling even in its most violent moments. That and the film is amusing when it needs to be. Someone gets a nice surprise in the form of a booby trapped coffin and some of the sudden violence can be funny because it arrives when least expected and lasts longer than you’d think.

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Blu-Ray Review: Day of Anger

Day of Anger BRDVDWhen UK-based Arrow Video finally decided to launch in North America this year, it picked a trio of excellent films to kick off what’s going to be a wild run of classics and desired library additions. As all three films arrived at the same time, I had to flip a coin to choose which one to review first and Tonino Valerii’s magnificent 1967 spaghetti western Day of Anger (I giorni dell’ira) won the review draw.

This was one of those genre films I’d heard about for years but have never seen until this beautifully restored (from the original 35mm Techniscope camera negative) version and it’s very highly recommended whether or not you’re a western fan. Excellent performances all around, some stirring set pieces, excellent art direction and cinematography all wrapped up with a superb Riz Ortolani score that will stick in your head for days makes this one a must-see (and must buy if you’re a collector). Continue reading

Random Film Of The Week: The Graduate

(thanks, ryy79!) 

The Graduate MPIt’s actually quite funny, sitting and watching a favorite film with people who haven’t seen it before who initially end up not liking as much as you do. I’ve had this happen countless times, but I don’t think I’d ever had such an odd reaction from the last screening I did of The Graduate, Mike Nichols’ excellent, classic 1967 comedy/drama. What I saw (and still see) as one of the many films of that year that were minor to major revolutions in film making, my friend and his wife (who are a tiny bit younger than me) ended up being divided on a few fronts, making for an interesting discussion afterwards. I’d initially planned a straightforward review of the film, but watching these two people interact during and after the movie made me scrap that in favor of this article.

Is Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin Braddock merely a “spoiled rich kid, a stalker and a jerk!” or is he just “an elite everyman living a plastic life” like my friends debated (among other things)? If you look at the film with a modern eye, the answer is yes on both counts. However, that modern eye will miss a chunk of the film’s actual comedic value and even some of the most interesting elements of this classic. if there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s this: spinning things into a too politically correct version of a movie that needs to be seen as a sign of the times it was made in isn’t always necessary, but it makes for some perky bits of conversation… Continue reading

Random Film of the Week: The War Wagon

(thanks, captbijou!) 

The War Wagon_MPFrom the moment Dimitri Tiomkin’s bouncy western theme music kicks things off and “The Ballad of The War Wagon” plays out with its bouncier western lyrics (sing along, now!), you just KNOW you’re in for a good time. Directed by Burt Kennedy (Return of the Seven, Support Your Local Sheriff), this 1967 western paired John Wayne and Kirk Douglas as a pair of adversaries who team up to take down the titular gold-loaded, four-wheeled, well-armored horse-drawn vehicle (say that five times fast!) with the help of some friends is light and airy fun for an afternoon that’s worth a watch even if you don’t like westerns at all.

If your eyebrow is arching up a bit, fear not pardner! Just think of this gem as a variation on The Adventures of Robin Hood or a more modern heist flick with some of your favorite stars and that’s all you need to know to know you’ll come away from this one grinning. In fact, this is one of those films that works brilliantly because it’s supposed to be funny while also delivering plenty of action and dramatic moments to please genre fans… Continue reading

Humor: Oh, You Kid: I Got Your “Prisoner” Right Here…

(thanks, santipages!) 

So, I’m walking about the other day and I pass some kids coming from school and overhear one of them saying to his friends that his mom is punishing him for some offense or another by taking away his gaming and online time at home. As I’m grinning while just ahead of them, I hear the kid say he doesn’t know why he’s being treated “like a prisoner” and IMMEDIATELY this intro came to mind. Oh, you kid… you don’t even KNOW what it’s like at all. AT ALL. Although, I’d laugh like a loon if he walked in the door to his home and a Rover was waiting to chase him right to his room away from the TV and computer. Those damn things always scared the heck out of me as a kid when I was watching the show every week and not knowing what in the world was going on, but not being able to look away.

And be glad I didn’t think of the opening theme and titles to HBO’s super NSFW show, OZ. Although, that might be more fitting under the most incorrect of circumstances. Stay in school, boys and girls… stay in school…

Random Film of the Week (Too): Point Blank

(thanks, MyDeathlok!) 

point blankForget that offbeat poster to the left, all the film’s stylish narrative tricks and fine ensemble cast doing some stellar work, folks. There’s one obvious moral to John Boorman’s Point Blank that seems to have escaped nearly everyone who dies in this film. That would be the following: If you owe Walker $93,000, stop talking so damn much, pay the man and stay breathing a bit longer.

Of course, this would make for a really short movie that’s probably not too entertaining, so the assorted bad men yak it up with excuses for not having his money while Walker (Lee Marvin), beats them with his wits, fists, a few well-placed bullets and assorted items in some of the sets. This is one of those “mature” late 60’s flicks where violence and refreshing vulgarity were emphasized as selling points and served the story being told. Although the storytelling here may require repeat viewing for those not used to narrative abstractions such as unusual editing, flashbacks and an ending that leaves a few questions lingering in the night air like the smell of gunpowder.
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Random Film of the Day*: One Million Years B.C.

*For the next week or so, I’m going to add a random film the great Ray Harryhausen worked on. The legendary special effects MASTER passed away on May 7, 2013 at age 92 in London and yes, the film world has lost a true giant as well as a fine and talented gentleman…

one million years b.c. posterWhen I was a wee bairn, I actually went to two different schools where some kids thought this 1967 film was based on actual facts and at least one really deluded kid thought it was a documentary. Seriously. My ears still spin in opposite directions thinking about that, but I digress. You’re either watching One Million Years B.C. for its faux historical value, Ray Harryhausen’s excellent dinosaur effects or Raquel Welch with a side order of Martine Beswick in that cave gal cat-fight sequence. Don’t deny it, now…

Anyway, I’ve always thought this films was pretty awful for a few reasons I’ll touch on below, but the camp value plus those always awesome looking and moving Harryhausen dinos make it very watchable and re-watchable, provided you take none of what you see at all seriously…
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Random Film of the Week: Deadlier Than The Male

(thanks, ohwhatamindblast!)

DTTM_MPOK, I know I haven’t been keeping you guys and gals up to date in terms of this feature, but that’s what happens when one tries the world domination thing – you end up with too much stuff on your plate and some things get dropped. Speaking of world domination and dropping things, this fun to watch James Bond pastiche from 1967 happened to pop into my head as a film I haven’t seen in ages that’s worth tracking down. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s great for a laugh or three and some excellent set pieces keep things quite cool. Even better, in terms of all the Bond spoofs on that landed in theaters during the period, it’s one of the more polished efforts.

Granted, Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond is NOT a spy, but an updated version of the classic British detective for the swingin’ 60’s set and thus, sure as heck looks and feels like a fun Bond knockoff. Richard Johnson ably plays Drummond as a Bond not so lite tough guy insurance investigator (that’s longhand for detective for hire) who’s good with his fists, pistols, a snappy quip or two and the ladies (not necessarily in that order). He’s put on the case of a dead oil company executive and soon finds out that there are some sexy female assassins (the drop-dead gorgeous Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina) and a mastermind behind the whole thing to deal with in his particular (albeit Bond-like) manner…

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