Blu-Ray Review: The Zodiac Killer

Zodiac Killer BR Ha. Way back in 1970 or so, someone should have told newbie director and pizza shop maven Tom Hanson that the Zodiac Killer has a far better chance to be caught alive during a screening of Dirty Harry than dead asleep at Hanson’s eyeball-rolling (yet pretty potent on occasion) The Zodiac Killer. While the film has some genuinely scary moments in replicating some of the more infamous murders, it’s also loaded with chuckle-worthy performances and a couple of hilarious made-up deaths that might have you choking on your popcorn.

Make no mistake, ladies and gents. This isn’t a “great” film by any means. But thanks to AGFA and Something Weird Video, we have a nice 4K restoration that still retains a certain grainy, grimy charm. Well, about as “charming” as you can get in a film explicitly meant to taunt and catch a notorious serial killer.

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Dirty Harry Gets Lucky: Writers, Here’s How To Introduce Your Hero (#6 Of A Bunch)…

(thanks, elinokiprios13!) 

Yeah, this one still works quite well, as does the entire film. Sure, Dirty Harry rubbed (and still rubs) some the wrong way for a few reasons, but there’s NO denying director Don Siegel and star Clint Eastwood knocked it out of the park. Before the series descended into self-parody and too many one-liners and dopey situations (see The Dead Pool… or please don’t unless you love to cringe and laugh at the same time), we got a deadly serious Harry delivering one of the all-time best zingers in any film ever. Granted, Harry’s response to the injured would-be bank robber IS a bit over the top (Any cop doing that crap and getting seen doing it would be off the force, I’d bet), but that Scorpio killer is completely off his rocker and the film shows you clearly that despite Harry’s rather rude behavior, that old-time justice has its way with that creep. Still, I wonder how that would be played now? And NO, I don’t want a remake.

Amusingly enough, I wrote up a joke plot outline for a FINAL Harry flick many years back that had an aged and very retired Callahan out camping and fishing somewhere in the woods and a few people with grudges against him (for stuff he’d done in previous films) trying very hard to kill him (and failing miserably for a few reasons). It got wiped in a hard drive crash with a bunch of other ideas and I don’t want to even attempt to recreate it now. Still, back them I thought it made sense and the ending was pretty funny and final for the character and the few people that get to read it seemed to agree in a “too bad NO one will ever turn this into an actual script” manner…

Shaft “Let The Music Do (Most Of) The Talking” Intro: Writers, Here’s How To Introduce Your Hero (#5 Of A Bunch)…

(thanks, FarOutFunky!) 

Issac Hayes won a very well-deserved Academy Award for this funky theme to Gordon Parks’ still impressive action film that’s about as far from “blaxploitation” as it gets because the material is played seriously and every actor on screen was committed to make the project work as an action film and a still solid crime drama. I’ve seen this way too many times to count as well as some making-of features on that explosive main theme and the film that show how tight the production was and how the end result still stands up as a killer flick for the ages. I also love this intro because it’s got those actual grimy Times Square locations that are ALL gone these days. I can remember too many movie theaters lining both sides of Broadway and those side streets and while MANY were porn houses, a lot were playing first-run to oldies in single to multiple features in a SINGLE theater! Yes, there were no megaplexes back then running twenty plus flicks – unless you knew what you wanted to see, half the thrill of going to the movies was strolling up and down looking at marquees. Granted, the chances were good if you dress like a mark and acted like a total tourist, you’d be tailed around by creeps. But hey, those were the days of thrills nearly every step in that seedy area, kids…

Random Film of the Week(end), Too: The Night Digger (The Road Builder)

(Thanks, Night of the Trailers!) 

the night diggerI used to get The Night Digger and The Night Visitor confused when I was younger, but that’s since been rectified (and nope, I’ve been fortunate enough to NOT confuse any of them with The Night Porter). Both films are from 1971 and bother are psychological thrillers, with the former film being the more “horror” oriented one on a few fronts. However, neither is a straight up slasher flick and both have elements that make them superior to typical genre entries.

Here, Patricia Neal gives a powerful performance as Maura Prince, a woman living with and caring for her blind mother Edith (Pamela Brown), with both women falling prey to the charms of the handsome young Billy (Nicholas Clay) who rides up one day on his sleek motorbike and asks for a job. He’s not just good with his tools, folks… he’s also a violent sex criminal and murderer who has a handy way of disposing of his victims. In a bizarre twist (one of a few the film socks you with), the film turns into a very strange love story where you may find yourself rooting for that emotion to take hold and win over all, but there’s that air of inevitability and gloom thanks to the plot turning as it does and a beautiful and haunting Bernard Herrmann score that will raise a few hackles (if you haven’t gone and shaved them off like the kids do with their hair in certain spots, ewww)…
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Random Film of the Week(end): The Night Visitor

(Thanks, vivendientertainment!) 

the night visitorAs a child, the poster to Laslo Benedek’s The Night Visitor used to scare the heck out of me, but when I finally saw the film after it popped up on TV a few years later, I wasn’t frightened all that much. Granted, it took a few more viewings as I got older to really appreciate what’s here and it’s a nifty little thriller worth tracking down (it’s been out of print for years on DVD). While it’s not the best nor most coherent suspense flick out there (calling it a “horror” movie is a bit of a mistake), the casting is solid (Liv Ullman, Max von Sydow, Trevor Howard, Per Oscarsson), the script has its moments and you may even get a surprise or three as this creepy little tale plays out.

Von Sydow plays Salem, a rather crafty resident of a supposed “escape proof” mental asylum who escapes a few times in order to exact some extended revenge on his sister (Ullman) and her husband (Oscarsson). Why? Well, not just because he’s nuts plus tax, kids. Salem was set up for a brutal murder by his brother-in-law and he’s not having the time of his life in that freezing hellhole. Of course, the fact that each time he escapes he’s in his underwear (Why? You’ll see, you’ll see) and he manages to make it back before its noticed he’s missing keeps the film going for a while as a local inspector (Howard) tries to find out what’s going on when some new murders start happening…
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Random Film of the Week(end): Death By Invitation

(Thanks, Vinegar Syndrome Films!) 

death by invitation_MPI’ve sat through no fewer than four films featuring witches and demons as a central theme over the past week and not all of them were good times, no siree, ma’am. Granted, 1971’s slow-moving sort of creepy Death By Invitation isn’t the best of the bunch and for modern horror fans with short attention spans or those looking for non-stop scares and CG blood gushing everywhere (blech!) this one may be Death By A Thousand Cuts.

That said, while it’s going to be more bore than gore to the younger ADD set, those who like slow-burning slightly cryptic fires should check this one out if only for Shelby Leverington, the sassy young thing playing the lead. Director David Friedman drags out this revenge tale that may only interest those who appreciate thinking a bit as they watch a film that pretty much sets up its entire plot during the opening moments and slowly gets to the point as it crawls along to the finish line…

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READS: Anyone Want A Big Deal, Big-Ass Movie Criticism Book from 1971?

NYTDOTF (1) Merry Christmas and all that stuff like that there! Okay,unlike the previous giveaway post this isn’t quite a freebie, but more of a trade of sorts. I’m clearing out a closet full of assorted things here and figure someone who loves movies might want this rather thick and heavy old tome. As you can see, it’s the 1971 volume of The New York Times Directory of The Film, which is 1243 pages thick and packed with reviews of the papers top ten films from the years 1924 to 1969 (but I think a few 1970 films get mentioned). Read on for more info!…

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The Four Horsemen Have Been Busy @ The Movies For Ages. You Should Be Very Pleased About That.

Four_HorsemenSo, Nick Powell over at The Cinematic Katzenjammer asked for contributors this month to write up a post or do something creative using The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as a starting point and any horror-themed movies that happened to fit one or more of their particular talents. I decided to have a bit of fun picking four films (one for each rider) and pointing to moments in each that to me, define the essence of their namesakes. They’re not all horror films, but if you’re in the right mood you’ll see the horror in parts of them.

Amusingly enough, the devil has gotten his due here as well. ALL of these were done up as Random Film of the Week entries at one point, but three were lost when I misplaced a USB thumb stick with a ton of other fresh content I’d done for the site a few years back when it was on Blogger. One good reason for me doing this post was to kick myself in the butt hard and get on to full rewrites soon of those three.

In addition, I’ll warn you now that the Fifth Horseman (Spoilage!) is on board. So if you haven’t seen any of the four flicks listed here… you’ve been warned in advance. Which is unusual in this day and age, as spoilers usually just spill out and all over you in the oddest of places. Hell, I heard the end of Gravity from you yakky lady babbling like a jerk on her cell phone in a grocery store a few days ago. I wanted to throw a large can of low-sodium black beans at her head, but I’d be typing this from a jail cell and it was the last can of that brand on the shelf and I needed it more than her head needed a two-pound can-sized impression in it.

Anyway, saddle up and get ready to ride (or duck behind something and hope you’re unseen)… we’re off! Continue reading

Random Film of the Week(end): Twitch of the Death Nerve/(A) Bay of Blood/Carnage

(thanks, CriterionDungeon!) 

TotDN_PosterOne problem some of us cranky genre fans have with most of today’s Hollywood horror movies is too many of them end up with ridiculous plots, under-written, one dimensional (as in terminally dumb) sometimes nude characters going through the same ridiculous motions that get them bumped off in even more ridiculous and bloody ways at intervals you can set your watch to most of the time. Not to mention stuff like some inane product placement that makes those parts of the film seem like ads dropped in between kills for stuff that would kill you if you consume too much of it.

Oddly enough, all this and more makes Mario Bava’s seminal gore classic Twitch of the Death Nerve (or (A) Bay of Blood, Carnage, or Blood Bath or one of many other titles it’s been released as) one of my favorite “B” horror films. Maybe it’s the blinders-on Bava fan in me that makes me like this one so much (some awesome shots aside, it’s far from his best work), or maybe it’s because the movie is actually kind of (alright, REALLY) funny in a very twisted way. The story is nuts with most of its assorted beautiful, handsome or unattractive characters motivated by their greed and/or assorted desires becoming random targets (and I mean random in some cases) of a killer (or killers) with their own agendas. By the end when the bodies are laid out all over the island, none of it makes any sense because the ending literally and figuratively blows away the remaining bits of the paper-thin plot.
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Random Film of the Week: Play Misty for Me

 

Play Misty for MeWith Arrested Development back on the block as a hot TV series (well, if you count not actually being on TV as part of a popular pay-to-stream service that’s 100% useless if your internet goes down), I figured I may as well celebrate the fact that I can’t see it (until someone wises up and gets a physical media collection out) by pointing you to this more than pretty decent 1971 Clint Eastwood-directed thriller that may have kicked off the whole “unhinged stalker hookup” sub-genre. OK, put that jaw up, stop doing that double take and pay attention – there’s a point here being made (I think).

AD’s Jessica Walter is in this one, younger, more attractive and save for the psychotically imbalanced character she’s so good at playing in this flick, she’d probably be a great partner for Eastwood’s late night DJ, Dave Garver. Of course, Dave’s not actually a completely nice, innocent guy here, but that’s another thing the film plays with as it tells the tale of lust gone bad…
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