(Not So) Random Film of the Week: The Omen (1977)

“Never work with children or animals.” – W.C. Fields

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Hell is other people, indeed…

Now, I’m quite sure Gregory Peck very likely wasn’t thinking of this well-aged quote while shooting The Omen, but I get a chuckle out of maybe thinking he was because he surely goes through all nine circles of Hollywood hell in dealing with his demon-bred son with the quirky birthmark (Harvey Spencer Stephens) and a couple of dogs that get to attack him (and his stunt double) with relish (or whatever it is dogs use as a condiment. Maybe… Chow Chow Picalilli?).

If his character had lived to be in the inevitable and somewhat silly (but still kind of scary) sequel, Damien: Omen II, I’m sure he would have also wanted to kill a few mockingbirds (a murder of crows, if you will) if one of them had ever decided to give him the old “good luck” airdrop plop, but (uh, spoiler alert?). he doesn’t live to see that happen (end spoiler). I’d make an Atticus F(l)nch joke here. but I don’t want to push my luck.

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“Isn’t he a little angel?” Uh, not really. You’ll see…

Then again, there’s an air of bleak inevitability in Richard Donner’s film that pervades every frame and it’s not hard to see from the opening titles onward that Jerry Goldsmith’s sole Oscar winning score (more on that later) was predicting some very bad things to come. I was too young to see this back in 1976, but I recall a schoolmate telling me his parents took their four kids to see it and they were all traumatized to some extent, but it was all they talked about for weeks.  As the family was pretty religious, my guess now is that was one surefire (heh) way of keeping them in church.

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Random Film of the Week: The Sailor Who Fell With Grace From The Sea (1976)

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Just another day at the beach…

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This isn’t Altman’s Popeye, to say the least.

I first saw this film on network TV some decades ago and don’t remember much except that I later realized it was edited within an inch of its life, as when I saw it the next time in my teens on cable, the film had a load of stuff I missed plus stuff I understood better, but still missed because of the TV version’s heavy censoring. That said, I’m gathering that over that first network airing, the nudity was chopped out as much as possible and anything overtly sexual didn’t make the cut except for brief flashes. As for violence, I remember the infamous scene with the cat (more on that below) was also chopped down, but you still got the idea of how horrifying it was.

Anyway, flash forward to seeing the film again recently, and while The Sailor Who Fell With Grace From The Sea is both beautiful to look and quite haunting, it’s also going to be for some viewers (as I found out when I recommended it to some friends), a “pretty repellent film” when all is said and done. Two tastes that don’t taste great together for some, but at least the tagline on the poster is quite applicable. It’s got memorable performances, lovely cinematography, direction, and so forth and so on, so I can’t and won’t complain about any of that. I think the issue with some viewers is with the original Yukio Mishima story it was based on and the film not changing its tone into a more kinder one, although it shifts what some say are morally questionable characters and plot to a breezy, stunning English seaside setting instead of its original Yokohama location. But this wasn’t meant to be a film that bent itself to a particular set of generic movie rules.

(Thanks, MADWORLD1247!)

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Blu-Ray Review: J.D.’s Revenge

JDR_AV110Automatically calling Arthur Marks’ J.D.’s Revenge a mere “blaxsploitation” film before viewing the end result actually puts it in the wrong category because it works a bit more outside that box you’ve put it in. Sure, it’s got a mostly black cast, some violent bits, blood and some nudity to draw in genre fans. But it’s also a supernatural revenge flick that kind of makes sense despite a few plot elements that fall on their faces. I wouldn’t call it a “pure” horror film per se, but I can see some folks who tend to freak out over mysticism in their movies falling for the film’s attempts to frighten them whenever it gets the opportunity.

That said, you do have to feel sorry for poor Isaac Hendrix (Glynn Turman), a law student in New Orleans who ends up getting hypnotized while out on a night of fun with his wife Christella (Joan Pringle) and another couple. That hypnosis somehow summons up the spirit of the late J.D. Walker (David McKnight), a not so nice street hustler type with a scar on his face and a penchant for straight razors as a means of protection. J.D. wants in on Ike’s scrawny body so he can finally take revenge on the man who killed him and his sister, Betty Jo. Naturally, vengeful spirits tend to not care much about collateral damage, so Christella is the first victim to Ike’s possessed form as she’s in the wrong place when J.D. materializes and takes over.

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Blu-Ray Review: Werewolf Woman

WerewolfWoman_BRWith most exploitation films, it’s best to jump in cold and hang on for dear life because over-scrutinizing every frame can mean missing out on what a film really has to offer. Flaws and logic gaps are commonplace as many genre films tend to be rushed (or pay homage to earlier rushed flicks) and rely on copious nudity, sexual content, and/or graphic violence to make their points. Of course, that’s probably one reason why they’re so appreciated by those of us with time to spend watching as many as we can fit into out libraries. You know who you are, so wave that flag proudly, pal.

On the other hand, a film like Rino Di Silvestro’s 1976 Werewolf Woman (aka The Legend of the Wolf Woman, among other titles) demands to be scrutinized (warts and all) because under that copious nudity, et cetera is a film whose director fully believed in the subject matter (Clinical Lycanthropy) and yep, decided to tackle it head on as a full on exploitation flick. While it’s a film that’s got quite a nasty, depressing bite to it when all it said and done, you can kind of see through all the sleaze that the director was trying to slap some sort of psychological depth into the proceedings.

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Taxi Driver Turns 40: “A Real Rain” Returns to Theaters Internationally in August

(thanks, Park Circus!)
 

This is beautiful news. That said, I hope that “international” re-release means we’ll see this here in North America. This is one of those films I’ve wanted to see on the big screen in a nicer print than I’ve previously seen and this trailer sure looks spectacular. We shall see. In my opinion, this is a film that needs to be bucket listed if one considers him or herself a movie lover.

George Crumb: Voice of the Whale – Soul Music of A Different Sort

And now, ladies and germs… it’s time for a little dose of culture for today:

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“I feel intuitively that music must have been the first cell from which language, science, and religion originated.” – George Crumb

George Crumb: Voice Of The Whale
coming to DVD on June 24th (MSRP: $19.99)

 

Robert Mugge’s 1976 portrait of renowned composer George Crumb featuring a performance of his composition “Vox Balaenae”

In 1976, “music filmmaker” Robert Mugge created his first music-related film. Titled GEORGE CRUMB: VOICE OF THE WHALE, it was a strikingly original, 54-minute portrait of Pulitzer Prize-winning and Grammy-winning composer George Crumb.

To celebrate the film’s 40th anniversary (it was first broadcast over PBS on June 6, 1978), MVD Visual is making available a newly remastered version on DVD, transferred to HD from the original 16mm film and lovingly restored. Now that you’re curious, go click this link to see a tiny bit of the film and if you like what you see, go order away at your leisure. Or faster than that if you prefer.

Blu-Ray Review: The Premonition (1976)


 

AmericanHP_AV043As with The Witch Who Came From the Sea, the second film in Arrow Video’s mostly great American Horror Project Volume 1 collection isn’t really a traditional genre flick at all. Robert Allen Schnitzer‘s 1976 film, The Premonition is more of a visually intense psychological thriller with a supernatural theme running through it.

Don’t go into this one expecting gallons of blood and guts all over the walls and floors, folks. The film is a more deliberately paced thriller with a somewhat complex “child in danger” plot that seems to have been rewritten over another idea for a competent family drama of the week TV movie. Continue reading

Humor: A Vote For Iris Steensma Might Start Some More Fireworks

“I got some bad ideas in my head.”

 

taxi_driver_ver2_xlgWhile it’s still an example of great American film-making and a must-see movie, I’ve been having a recurring dream of a Taxi Driver followup for quite some time. As in over 20 years of random story ideas hitting me in the dream-space or while strolling around NYC. The city has changed so much since the film’s 1976 release, but in a (not so) weird way certain elements have cycled back into that film’s bleak version of the city, citizens, and some of the politics around them.

Granted, it’s never (ever!) going to happen unless the stars are in order (on a few fronts, ha and ha-ha) and some other key people think it’s a good idea. It’s not (at all), but Hollywood has done far worse updates of other films (for better or worse… mostly worse in my opinion). Nevertheless, I’m getting this silliness off my chest and out of my head so I can clear up space in the grey matter filing cabinet. Continue reading

Random Film of the Week: To The Devil… A Daughter

To The Devil A Daughter MPSwiping bits from Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist while leaving a “Why the hell am I watching this again?” aftertaste, To The Devil… A Daughter manages to be a pretty bizarre and somewhat unintentionally 1976 funny horror film from Hammer Studios. From what I understand by poking around a few books and online, the UK film industry was in a bit of a mess when this mess was made and it shows in a few key areas. Granted, you do get Christopher Lee in a scenery-chewing performance for the ages (including a brief nude scene performed by a double!) and Richard Widmark making a payday and playing an occult writer turned cranky old action hero long before Liam Neeson.

Yes, you also get a too young Nastassia Kinski flailing about and screaming as if possessed (well, she kind of is) in her part as a fallen “nun” and trying too hard to keep up with the other more experienced cast doing their own screaming and flailing about. Yes, the film is also notorious for the infamous bloody baby demon hand puppet molestation and a shot near the finale of her fully nude. While some genre fans may groove on that little detail, for some new viewers those elements will just come off as creepy central.. and not in a good way, either. Continue reading

Back on Track! Mostly! Maybe!

(thanks, DukeBoy01

OK, in case you missed it, in yesterday’s episode I thought it was Wednesday and almost messed up an appointment I had today (the ACTUAL Wednesday) and tomorrow (the day after today, actually). SUSPENSE! Actually, I wasn’t entirely at fault, as the lady on the radio news station said it was Wednesday at one point, I got an email about an appointment that said tomorrow (today!) was Wednesday and that stupid dream I had after I fell asleep too late early Tuesday morning made it seem as if I’d gotten stuff done all day, gone home and went to sleep. So, yeah – I was more than shocked to find out around 7PM or so yesterday that my time traveling wasn’t real after all and nope, none of the work I’d done in my sleep carried over to the real world. Crap. I need to fix that one of these days. Or maybe not sleep at all whenever possible. Er, sorry about that train sized hole in your wall, folks. I was looking for something cool to catch your eye in this boring post and that was the first thing to come to mind…

Anyway, we now resume out regular broadcast, already in progress… (or: Man, I have a LOT of catching up to do!)