Review: The Terminal Man

the terminal manI hadn’t seen Mike Hodges’ somewhat exceptional The Terminal Man for over 40 years, so naturally, that film I derided that long ago for its awful TV edit was quite the gloomy, rewarding surprise as a revisit a day ago as a complete film. As a kid, I can recall vividly the scene where George Segal, wearing a messy blond wig, white suit and whiter shoes was beating a large triangular-headed shiny metal robot to “death” and how it made me laugh as I retold the scene to a few amused school friends.

As you can guess, I want to kick my younger self a bit now (not too hard, though) because it’s one of a number of haunting images the film has and it comes a few minutes after a shocking murder mostly clipped from the TV edit. Initially to be directed by its author, Michael Crichton (who the studio felt was changing his own novel too much for the film), Hodges was given the task of getting it into the depressing, downbeat sci-fi thriller it turned out to be, writing and directing the project himself. Amusingly, I came into the film as a fan of The Andromeda Strain. The film version of that had me go take the book from the the library that past summer and I blew through it a few times (it’s a fast, tense read and took under a day to blaze through non-stop the first time). So I didn’t get the less conventional manner in which some of The Terminal Man was structured. Well, the edited network version didn’t help much, that’s for sure.

terminal_man_ver3That initial derision from my younger self was also a definite case of being too young to grasp the film’s tone and my only exposure to Segal’s work being a few comedic and lighter performances. Seeing the film now reveals the range and rage on display, or an actor fully in charge of the character he’s inhabiting. As Harry Benson, a computer scientist prone to anger and seizures, he goes through an experimental surgery that has a tiny computer hooked into his brain to keep things under control.

Guess what? The early predictions of a successful recovery by his smug doctors? Yeah, they’re rendered into obsolescence when Harry decides to stop taking his meds and escapes from the hospital with the help of his girlfriend (Jill Clayburgh) who has no idea Harry’s implanted computer (which she has no clue about) is going to misfire quite badly. There’s murder and mayhem to follow, but the film doesn’t go to places it doesn’t need to outside of telling its particular tale, clocking in at a lean 107 minutes before it ends.

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Blu-Ray Review: The House of Seven Corpses

the_house_of_seven_corpses_mp“Trust me… dying’s easy! Living is hard”

And so is watching some movies, pal.

Upon finding yourself on the set of a horror film or hell, ANY film where someone starts reading from a musty old book written in an indecipherable language, Rule Number One is this: LEAVE. You want examples? Sure. Equinox, The Evil Dead, In The Mouth of Madness, The Beyond, Necronomicon: Book of the Dead, The Ninth Gate, and so forth and so on.  ALL of these flicks were initially rom-coms until someone on set decided to crack open a nasty, smelly old book they found, bought, pilfered or borrowed and all hell lit-er-al-ly broke loose.

Okay, not really. But you know you’re in for a deadly day for night shoot when there’s an old tome read and not much common sense exhibited by the cast once stuff starts going south. Sadly, 1974’s The House of Seven Corpses isn’t as good or fun enough a flick to watch as the above mentioned ones, wasting its tome (ha!) with too much “exposition” from annoying characters, John Carradine phoning in a performance from a better, scarier but campier film, and some slightly to moderately creepy undead that whittle down the cast and crew of a romantic comedy cheapie horror flick one by one.


It’s probably not a big co-inkydink that the film was produced by a company called Television Corporation of America, as save for a few moments, this looks and feels like a TV movie of the era. No, that’s not a complement.

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Arrow Video July Releases: Hot Summer Nights, Indeed

While there are only a mere three releases in July from Arrow Video through MVD Entertainment, they’re all worth nabbing thanks to being a nice set of eclectic films to watch. Amusingly enough, all are about women in trouble and/or various states of undress for plot purposes (of course). A classic sex comedy, a weird, unintentionally funny sex drama, and a killer Japanese film set that’s one of the ultimate revenge flick compilations of the era all await your eager eyeballs and shelf space.

The Swinging Cheerleaders AV058First up: on July 5th, say hello to The Swinging Cheerleaders (MSRP $34.95, Blu-ray + DVD, MVD Shop or Amazon pre-order)

They gave it all for their team…


Jack Hill spent the seventies specializing in tough female characters. He made movies about girl gangs (Switchblade Sisters) and women in prison (The Big Doll House, The Big Bird Cage), turned Pam Grier a star with Coffy and Foxy Brown, and contributed to the Cheerleaders line of drive-in favorites with The Swinging Cheerleaders.


Kate, an undergraduate at Mesa University, goes undercover as a cheerleader for her college newspaper in order to expose ‘female exploitation in contemporary society’. But instead of oppression she finds love, friendship and a bigger fish to fry: corruption in the football team, headed up by the coach and his pals.


A favorite of Quentin Tarantino, who screened it at the very first Tarantino Film Fest, The Swinging Cheerleaders features a cast of cult favorites including Colleen Camp (Wayne’s World, Game of Death), Rainbeaux Smith (Caged Heat, The Incredible Melting Man) and future Playmate of the Month Rosanne Katon.


– Brand new 2K restoration from original film materials
– High Definition (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD Presentations
– Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
– Audio commentary by writer-director Jack Hill, recorded exclusively for this release
– Brand new interview with Jack Hill
– Archive interview with cinematographer Alfred Taylor
– Archive interview with Hill and Johnny Legend
– Q&A with Hill, and actors Colleen Camp and Rosanne Katon recorded at the New Beverly Cinema in 2012
– TV spots
– Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
– Illustrated booklet containing new writing by Cullen Gallagher (first pressing only)


But wait, there’s more!
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Random Film of the Week: Horror High

Horror High aka The Twisted Brain MPIt’s pretty cool to see a film you grew up watching a few times in the late 70’s and early 80’s pop up again thanks to it now being in the public domain and completely uncensored. That said, it’s too bad the low-budget cheapie known as The Twisted Brain on TV and Horror High when it was in theaters hasn’t been restored to a more fitting print. The version I have on one of the Mill Creek Entertainment box sets is in such ratty condition that it looks as if were clawed up by the transformed teenage monster out for revenge.

Still, even in that messed up print found on the DVD*, Larry N. Stouffer’s 1974 film still makes for some hilarious, bloody good fun. You’re not getting anything resembling a “best” genre film here at all. It’s just a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde variant meets I Was a Teenage Werewolf and that’s that. Continue reading

Random Film of the Week(end): Zardoz

(thanks, tubesoda!) 

zardoz_xlgHow amusing that I had a dream about Zardoz and TCM (Turner Classic Movies) just so happens to be showing it this evening (EDIT: Okay, at 2am Sunday). John Boorman’s wonderfully gorgeous and somewhat, okay, EXTREMELY bizarre follow up to the 1972 smash Deliverance was and is a weird mix of science fiction, black comedy and violence that baffled many critics and moviegoers of the time and while it’s a more popular cult film today with a loyal following, still has a polarizing effect on a few fronts. If anything, the film’s oddball mix of impressive and cheap visual effects and some stunning cinematography go a long way in holding one’s interest as the plot zooms all over the landscape.

From the killer opening sequence with a floating stone head issuing marching orders (“The GUN is GOOD! The PENIS is EVIL!”) to some well-armed men (well, the stone head is the one arming them with PILES of firearms), to one of those well-armed men (Sean Connery!) sneaking aboard that head to do a bit of surprising disposal work (how do you kill a “god”? Here’s one way if you need a hint!), Zardoz continually surprises, even when it’s getting too meta for its own good. Then again, that seems to be what Boorman wanted to do with this film. This is one of those experimental flicks that does an excellent job of making you pay attention right from the start and slowly draws you deeper into its odd characters and world. Granted, your suspension of disbelief is being kidney punched the entire way through, but such is art and films such as this one… Continue reading

Random Film of the Week(end): Killdozer!

I’ve never trusted machines much even though like most of you, I tend to take them all for granted. Heck, we built those stupid machines (and even built the robots that build most machines today), so it’s not like they’re going to NOT do what we want them to like a mistreated pet suddenly turning on its owner, right? RIGHT? Wrong. Granted, plenty of industrial and freak accidents claim some while humans using machines constructed for menial to major tasks to kill other humans has been a thing ever since man started inventing and building stuff. Someone gets mad enough or crazy enough and even the most innocent looking tool gets used to do someone in, usually in a pretty messy manner. If Lizzie Borden had say, an old rolling pin instead of an axe, she might have merely lumped up her parents and not hacked them to bits. Even with an axe, bad aim is still pretty deadly…

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Random Films of the Week: Some Unconventional Holiday Movies? Sure, Why Not?

Topkapi_steal bigSo, I was sitting around with a few friends a few weeks back talking about movies and such when the subject of Christmas and holiday-themed movies came up and yes, everyone agreed that It’s A Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story and a few other classics were all going to be watched at some point during the Season of Greetings. Interestingly enough, a few very unconventional titles got mentioned during this conversation to the point that I decided to toss a few of these films at you in a post and see what you think.

For some strange (well, not so strange) reasons, there are a lot of very non-holiday films on some people’s Holiday viewing schedules with most set during the winter or with cold weather as a big part of their plots (but not always). Anyway, as I see you’re wearing those dodgy jammies and overly fuzzy slippers you got yesterday as gifts and have that cup of “eggnog “at the ready, let’s get started with three or four for now and pick up some others in a future post…

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Snoopy Was A Part Time Sleuth? Who Knew?

snoopy mystery

Well, well, well… and here I thought he was just a WWI Flying Ace, a failed author, a former owner of a multi-level underground doghouse fit for a billionaire (until it burned down!) and a few other cool things. My dad had this tote bag in storage with a bunch of other stuff and it’s a pretty cool find as I’ve never seen it until now. I did some quick research as I was typing this post and apparently there was indeed a TV special called “It’s A Mystery, Charlie Brown” – nice! I think it was also done as an illustrated book, but I’ll need to dive deeper into that research at some point.

(thanks, PeanutsOnline!) 

Granted, as old as I am, I probably SHOULD know this already, but I haven’t seen EVERY single Peanuts special and hey, I don’t have catching up on the ones I missed high on my to-do list. Actually… as I’m sitting here thinking about it… I do vaguely recall seeing this one, but it’s been over thirty years since so my memory is supremely hazy about those days. Anyway, the mystery of yet another old item is solved. 30 boxes of stuff to go. Yikes. Anyone want to help out here?

Random Film of the Week(end): Mr. Majestyk

Mr. Majestyk Goofy name of its main character aside, thanks to a snappy Elmore Leonard script, solid direction from Richard Fleisher and some enjoyable performances from its cast, you can’t not love Charles Bronson as a hard-nosed yet quiet Vietnam veteran turned single-minded melon farmer who simply wants to get his crop in while some people want him deceased for a few too amusing reasons.

The poor guy just wants to hire his labor from an eager pool of migrant workers of mostly Mexican descent, but a local hick/thug named Kopas tries to force his more local drunkard/bum laborers on Majestyk’s melon farm with the usual threats. Of course, Majestyk isn’t having any of this (just the thought of drunks picking melons is amazingly amusing), so his military training gets put to use, some asses are kicked and the former future vagrants and their “boss” get sent packing. The man’s got melons to pick and all fools are suffered VERY lightly…

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Random Film of the Week(end): The Conversation


the conversationIt’s not surprising at all to me that everything we do on the internet or on the phone is monitored and for the most part, the average Joe and Jane is too caught up in not paying attention to this as an important issue and continues yakking or clicking away because they don’t see sanctioned invisible nosiness as a problem until it stomps on their big toe while chasing someone else.

That or there’s an “Oh well, what can you do?” attitude that’s only changed when they find out how bad things really are before case of mild online petition signing and outrage slides back into apathy as soon as that new Kardashian photo or cute cat video pops up in your inbox. Yeah, you know that’s you in there somewhere… I’ve got the transcripts if you want to come check them out sometime…

Anyway, The Conversation may (and should) make you even more paranoid as you’re watching it, but feel free to feel delighted as well as its eavesdropping surveillance whiz (Gene Hackman in one of his best performances) has his world fall apart around him while he plays catch-up with his conscience. For me, this is my favorite Francis Ford Coppola film because it’s still as timely, smart and ultimately depressing as it was when it was released almost 40 years (!) ago.

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