(Not So) Random Film of the Week: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

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Par for the 007 course, that action-packed poster art is a busy hoot of improbability on display, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying a pretty solid flick.

For some strange reason, I’d thought I’d already reviewed this most interesting entry in the long running James Bond film series, but nope, I hadn’t. It’s my favorite film in the franchise for a few reasons and had an ending that’s brilliant for its being completely unexpected for a series known for its figurative “happy endings.” Granted, the film received automatic hatred for decades thanks to it not being a Sean Connery Bond, and some overly harsh criticism of George Lazenby as 007 even though his performance is quite good. Having first seen it as a kid on network TV as a heavily edited version presented out of order and split into two parts over two weeks (WABC was the big and only Bond channel here in NYC for years, so we were stuck with their awful recut versions), I fell right into the story and Lazenby’s more sensitive take on the character despite the clumsy reworked hack job. Okay, okay, Diana Rigg also was a big draw, as I was a huge fan of The Avengers TV series (which REALLY needs a North American Blu-Ray set!) and her always thrilling Emma Peel character.

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I actually had an appropriately witty yet respectable caption for this, but seriously forgot what I was going to type.  A good thing, as pictures like this speak for themselves.

 

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Blu-Ray Review: Pit Stop (The Winner)

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That’s a hell of a commute if ever there was one…

Pit Stop AV016Busted-up junker cars slamming into each other on a crazy figure eight racetrack may seem like a one-note film idea with limited appeal. But Jack Hill’s 1969 “B” movie Pit Stop makes for quite a spectacular ride for more than the crash-crazed car fiends out there. For a low-budget black and white quickie shot in the late 60’s, Hill gets some major mileage from from his cast that includes Richard (Dick) Davalos, Sid Haig, Brian Donlevy, Beverly Washburn and Ellen Burstyn.

Once again, Arrow Video brings an excellent director supervised and approved HD remaster to the table packed with bonus features that make this one a fantastic addition to any film collection. For all the high-speed action and off-track thrills, there’s a nifty little tale of a man who manages to win it all yet lose everything important by the end.

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Blu-Ray Review: Cemetery Without Crosses

Cemetery Without Crosses AV014Yet another stellar Arrow Video release through MVD Visual, Robert Hossein’s 1969 western Cemetery Without Crosses is a great, grim and gloomy slow-burner of a revenge tale that’s short on dialog but delivers its message almost flawlessly.

Hossein (who also stars in the film and co-wrote it with Claude DeSailly) makes his take on the spaghetti western a memorable one with some excellent set pieces and a mean set of twists that make the film worth repeat viewing. This is one of those films with no real “likable” characters to root for – you’re dropped into a little spot in their personal hell as an audience and get to see what happens as things play out. Par for the course, Arrow also delivers the goods when it comes to a quality HD transfer and some fine special features. Continue reading

Random Film of the Week: Future Women

The Girl From Rio 1969 MPHey, I love looking at naked ladies in bad movies as much as the next guy or gal who loves looking at naked ladies in bad movies, but a film like the incomprehensible mess that is Future Women (or The Girl From Rio, Rio ’70, City Without Men, The Seven Secrets of Sumuru, Sumuru: Queen of Femina, and of all things, Mothers of America) makes me want to shift that hobby to watching paint dry or grass grow instead.

Directed by cult schlockmesiter supremo Jesús “Jess” Franco and seemingly edited by a team of eyeless chimps who probably dropped the film into a blender (and who also did some of the wretchedly amusing “special” effects), this is one of those lame Bond copycats that gets nothing right because its source material never should have been altered into the 007 wannabe nonsense-fest that will have your brain running out of the room about halfway in. But yeah, it’s got a bunch of naked and half-naked ladies and is kinda sorta of based on a story by Sax Rohmer , so there’s that. Continue reading

Memo to Sony: make.believe You’ve Got Some Backbone.

The Interview (Sony Pictures 2014) (Custom) Hmmm. As stupid as this whole Sony hacking thing has been to try and avoid, now we’re at the stage where things get even weirder because it now has to be followed. Sony Pictures has decided to kill The Interview, pulling not only the film’s premiere this week, but the actual Christmas launch entirely. Of course, the company is being called out and called all sorts of names by other media companies. “Holy irony of ironies and if it were them, what would THEY do, Batman?” Answer: “Probably the same damn thing, old chum.” More on that in a second.

Anyway, things have gotten so wretched that even George R.R. Martin has chimed in with a LiveJournal post (wait, people STILL use LiveJournal?) chiding “Regal, AMC, and every other major theatre chain in the United States” along with Sony for caving hard over threats of potential violence and other protests had the film been screened anywhere in the U.S. of A. Good on you, George! Please don’t kill me off in a response, sir.

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Random Film of the Week(end): MAROONED

maroonedWhile Alfonso Cuarón’s GRAVITY is raking in its massive weekend box office bank and garnering all sorts of critical accolades and yes, awards potential, I thought I’d crack open the vaults and take a look at the first major Hollywood hit about a crew of astronauts lost in space. Granted, the doomed crew of 1950’s Rocketship X-M got lost, ended up somewhere scientifically implausible and came back down to Earth in the worst way possible first. And yes, yes… the crew of the Discovery from Kubrick’s epic 2001: A Space Odyssey don’t quite count because they were done in by a very confused computer in such a low-key manner that by the end their deaths are forgotten in that film’s grander cosmic scope.

But John Sturges’ 1969 film (which won an Academy Award for its visual effects) has the benefit of some much better actors performing in lead and supporting roles, although the film’s science and yes, now dated “by today’s standards” visual effects don’t hold up all that well these days.  It’s worth a viewing these days when it pops up on TCM just to see how Hollywood was trying hard to make a timely sci-fi film while chasing (and not coming close to) the higher level of quality Kubrick and his team of SFX technicians spent years crafting…

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Dexter’s Finale In A Nutshell: Monty Python Did it MUCH Better in 1969…

(thanks, Chadner!) 

Oh, brother… I haven’t been so annoyed at a season of any TV show in ages. Granted, in the grand scheme of things, Dexter has its ups and downs, but this final season was so wretched that I had to post something about it in a mini-rantless post. Too many new characters (and way too many serial killers) were introduced only to be killed off, forgotten about or tossed into the last few shows as terrifically poor plot advancement as the episodes dragged out. And so forth and so on until that woeful finale where Deb finally gives up the ghost. Spoiler: she got shot (AGAIN!), but expired from an off screen affliction related to the coma she was in and Dexter shutting off her life support at the hospital, then carting her body off during the daytime during a not well shot chaotic scene as a big hurricane was brewing up. Bleh. I guess his killing clothes make him invisible to onlookers or something. Anyway, he ends up leaving his kid in Argentina with the escaped female serial killer he was sleeping with last season (don’t ask!) and he fakes his death (Kenny Powers did it better!) only to pop up in the Pacific Northwest as a lonely bearded lumberjack sitting in his creepy cabin as the show fades out forever. Yuk, bluck, What the F#@k?! Yeah, well… good thing I have a sense of humor (and YouTube)…

Random Film of the Week: The Honeymoon Killers

(thanks, neondreams25!) 

the honeymoon killers bWhile it’s not a horror film, Leonard Kastle’s The Honeymoon Killers manages to be a fairly intense drama/black comedy mix that gets your attention with its true crime story, stark black and white photography and excellent performances from the two leads. This is a film that gets under your skin right away with Gustav Mahler’s intense music setting an oppressively dreary tone for the story of Ray Fernandez and Martha Beck, aka The Lonely Hearts Killers, as they go about their nasty work of lightening the landscape of too-trusting mostly elderly ladies looking for love in all the wrong places.

Kastle, in his first and only studio film, managed to make an instant classic that’s also a fantastic low-budget flick as well as a pretty grim viewing experience if you’ve never seen it before. That said, there’s also a bit of very dark humor to be found here and the movie is a pretty compelling viewing experience thanks to the near constant level of suspense tempered with a near constant sense of dread…

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Random Film of the Week(end): The Chairman

(thanks, Night of the Trailers!)

the chairman One of those films that some overly reactionary folk will take WAY too seriously if they ever see it (or already have if they remember seeing it on TV), 1969’s The Chairman is an intriguing mix of drama, action and spy flick that despite a huge chunk of ambition and a nice sense of scale, really doesn’t do much other than shake the pot it’s in before burning up from its good idea/bad ideas never quite blending correctly.

Granted, seeing Gregory Peck play an egghead genius type sent to communist China by the US government to retrieve a special enzyme that can grow crops in any type of soil (cue evil Monsanto theme if there is such a thing) is both the most interesting and most baffling thing about this one. But don’t let that poster fool you too much into thinking Peck will fight Mao in a one on one battle or anything. They meet, but it’s a meeting of wills here – Peck’s got plenty of other stuff to worry about before and after that little engagement, however…

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Random Film of the Day*: The Valley of Gwangi

*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 owes him more than they can ever repay…

Gwangi 1969’s The Valley of Gwangi is a bit of a bittersweet classic for many fans of Harryhausen’s work. By this time, stop motion animated fantasy films weren’t drawing the audiences they did ten years earlier, so this film didn’t get the promotion it deserved. It wasn’t the first cowboy meets dinosaur flick at all – that honor goes to 1956’s The Beast of Hollow Mountain, produced by Harryhausen’s mentor, Willis O’Brien.

While that older film’s effects weren’t done by O’Brien (and despite a few cool scenes, it showed), Harryhausen’s vision for the project (which O’Brien had wanted to do for decades) links the two masters together thanks to some incredible animation that ended up being the final dinosaur film he worked on in his career…
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