(Not So) Random Film of the Week: Smash Palace

Smash PalaceThanks to a few oddball decisions (some made by people connected with his first film) Roger Donaldson’s second feature film, 1981’s Smash Palace almost didn’t get made. I’ll let you go check out the excellent making of feature on the Arrow Academy disc for the full story, but let’s just say everything worked out in the end and we have a strong followup to Sleeping Dogs to chat about for a spell. Donaldson’s film is a wrenching, raw look at a marriage fallen apart thanks to a lack of communication and what happens when decisions made by the adults in the room spiral past the point of reasonable discourse.

Al Shaw (Bruno Lawrence), a former race car driver looking to restart his career is married to Jacqui (Anna Marie Monticelli), a former nurse he met while recuperating in France after an accident that took him off the track. They eventually wed and moved to a remote spot in New Zealand where Al runs the titular wrecking company. Jacqui despises the run-down location and dull (to her) lifestyle, berating Al for not taking  a solid ongoing offer to sell the business. Despite the tension, love for couple’s daughter, Georgina (Greer Robson), or Georgie, keeps things mostly in check. Unfortunately, Al’s best friend, local cop Ray Foley (Keith Aberdein) catches Jacqui’s eye and ear (Al talks a lot, but tends to ignore his wife because he’s happy in his work) and the two get romantically involved. When Al discovers this, he lashes out (in a hard to watch scene) and yes, Jacqui leaves him for Ray, taking Georgie with her.

 

(Thanks, Arrow Academy!)

 

Things go sideways and downhill from that point on even though Al gets back on the race track with a car he spent a year building. Recklessly, he makes a series of somewhat terrible decisions, some of which where his hand is forced and others where he just reacts out of pure but flawed human instinct.

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Blu-Ray Review: Madhouse (1981)

Madhouse_AV094Ovidio G. Assonitis’ 1981 horror flick Madhouse (aka And When She Was Bad and There Was a Little Girl and not to be confused with 1974’s Madhouse) is a good-looking but ultimately disappointing genre flick that throws a few interesting ideas around but doesn’t quite know how to fit them all together. But man, does it make a killer opening impression as well as pack in a few unsettling kills. That said, it’s easy to see why the film has its following despite some oddball flaws that keep it from being truly great.

That haunting opening still packs a wallop, though. As a creepy lullaby plays, one young twin gently rocks another in a darkened room before suddenly stopping to smash her in the face with a rock or brick of some sort. It’s definitely jarring, but actually has nothing to do with the film unless it’s meant to set the overall mood.

Yes, we find out that one sister had indeed been incessantly mean to the other throughout their childhood. But it’s Julia (Trish Everly), now a teacher for deaf children who was the victim of her sister Mary’s (Allison Biggers) cruelty. Julia’s got flawless skin and not a scratch on her face or body, but she’s bearing plenty of fears thanks to her sister making her early years a living hell. Given that there’s no mention of her receiving any sort of plastic surgery (she also mentions Mary’s dog used to bite her frequently), that opening seems open to interpretation.

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Comin’ At Ya! is Well, Comin’ At Ya! in 2016 Thanks to MVD Entertainment

Comin at Ya BR Comin at Ya DVD

 

Hoo boy. If you’re old enough to recall the 80’s revival of 3D movies, like me, you paid your five bucks to see this one. Finally after years of fans clamoring for the cheesy classic Comin’ At Ya!, it’s back and much better looking thanks to distributor MVD Entertainment Group, writer/actor Tony Anthony (or Roger Pettito) and Sternco 3D. The 1981 R-rated spaghetti western helped set off the short-lived but somewhat successful venture by major and minor film studios into making 3D movies using newer polarized lenses that were light years ahead of the old red/blue (or red/green) anaglyph 3D from the 1950’s.

Set for a January 26, 2016 release on separate 3D Blu-Ray ($24.95) and DVD ($19.95) discs, both will also contain a flat 2D version of the film. A digital donload of the film is also in the works with a price point to be announced.

The new home video version of Comin’ At Ya! was supervised and produced by Tony Anthony himself and Tom Stern (In God’s Hands), through his company Sternco 3D. Sourced from a new 4K master, Comin’ At Ya! boasts a frame by frame digital conversion of the polarized over-and-under format of the original print, sourced from a brand new internegative into the MVC 3D format and new 5.1 surround sound.

While it may not spike another 3D revival on home video, it would be awesome to see the spectacularly goofball Raiders of the Lost Ark pastiche, Treasure of the Four Crowns also get this treatment. As usual, we shall see. But for now, expect your TV to get an eye-popping slice of nostalgia next month.

Random Film of the Week(end): Bloody Birthday

Bloody Birthday MP 2If you’ve never had children and are thinking of bearing your own brood, watching a film like 1981’s Bloody Birthday just might put you off the idea for a while. Like forever. This sort of obscure horror flick isn’t anywhere near as gory as many of the more familiar 80’s “B” movies at all. But the overall tone is more than a tiny bit disturbing as the film is more or less an unfiltered version of The Bad Seed without the tacked-on Hollywood ending.

The funny thing is from the opening moments you’d think the film was going to be somewhat supernatural in nature. But it’s not at all (which turns out to be a really good thing). In 1970, three babies are born to three different mothers at the same hospital during a solar eclipse and ten years later, all three end up as evil pre-teen murder machines. Who just so happen to live on the same block or at least within walking distance of each others homes. Yikes. The kids, Debbie (Elizabeth Hoy), Curtis (Billy Jayne), and Steven (Andy Freeman) manage to whittle down the population of Meadowvale, California while remaining undetected because who’d see such innocent little darrrrrrlings as a trio of mini-Manson family members? Well, perhaps Debbie’s dad, who happens to be the town sheriff? Nope. He’s more clueless than a headless Sherlock Holmes. Faster than you can say “There goes the neighborhood!”, well… you know the rest of that one, right?

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A Birthday? Greeting of Sorts.

Happy Birthday to Me MP 

It seems that yet another year has passed and I get to wake up and trip over stuff on the way to the bathroom before my morning coffee before dinking around as normal because I don’t run out naked and yell at the top of my lungs that it’s my special day. Whee. Actually, I was thinking yesterday about the best advice I’d ever gotten on my birthday (as that’s the most important thing you get after a certain age, folks) and I laughed because it was from a really drunk guy outside a bar I was walking past a long time ago. I’d just run into a friend leaving that bar who wished me a happy birthday and as I’m thanking him, that drunk popped up from the doorway he was in and yelled out to me “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MAN!”

As we didn’t see him there until he yelled, the two of us pretty much jumped out of our skin as he grinned like a rather too happy Cheshire Cat. As we was putting ourselves back together I nodded out a thanks to my new “friend” who then decided to offer me some advice. “If you ever try anything you don’t like, man… make sure to do it TWICE (pause…) because YOU NEVER KNOW!” I gather he was speaking from too much experience in trying all sorts of things more than twice, but his words did stick with me from that point on. Granted, I haven’t tried a lot of things ONCE yet. But I guess that’s another reason people celebrate their birthdays. Eh, it’s been a fairly quiet day here so far. I had to work on my laptop (as in getting it back to working) and that turned out well enough that I’m doing this late post. I also see I got a lot of facebook greetings, so I’ll need to respond to those at some point. Well, some of you can consider this post a general response for now. I’ll take care of you all personally via fb reply in a bit.

For now, I need to stick my head in the oven and get that chicken I put in there out to cool. That bird is going with some rice and black beans I made and after that, I’m going to run like the wind (or walk quickly, as I hate running) down to Starbucks because I’d forgotten until just now that I get a free beverage on my birthday and I may as well take advantage of that. Of course, they’ll toss me out before I order because I never buy anything like the over-sweetened fancycchinos they sell to the masses who just don’t want an ordinary cuppa joe and my brain will lock up looking at the menu. Eh, I’ll just tell the barista I’m trying something new and it may need to be twice before the night is through. Yeah, I lead a reltively dull life these days, people. I’m saving my energy for potential future naps.

More From The Vaults: Found Object Fridays

Hey there- here’s some more random stuff I unearthed from the vaults while my PC was out of action for a few days earlier this week. I ended up making more of a mess “cleaning up” than I did when I left all those bins and boxes alone. But I did find some nice things I knew I’d kept for assorted good reasons. Enjoy the quick trip down memory lane!

Kurzrok Casper
 

If I recall correctly, this sketch was gotten in a rather oddball reverse double back-flip manner at a Creation Con back in 1981 or ’82. I was minding a friend’s table at the show while displaying some of my (lousy) artwork and a man walked up and started looking through my stuff. We chatted for a bit about comics and when he told me his name was Al Kurzrok, I was thrilled because I remembered the outstanding lettering he did for Marvel on Doctor Strange back in the late 60’s. When I noted that to him and asked for an autograph, he asked me for a sheet of paper and did this quick sketch. That was a big day-maker for me back then.

Outland Press Kit 

Heh. Back in 1981, a dot matrix printout sure looked “futuristic”, so here you go: The press kit for Peter Hyams‘ sci-fi flick OUTLAND. The film is basically High Noon in outer space with Sean Connery playing the Gary Cooper part. High Noon is a better film by far, by the way. That said, it does have some suspenseful moments (and a few exploding heads, eww), Frances Sternhagen gets the best part and lines in the film and there’s a great Jerry Goldsmith score worth tracking down.

All that and like many of Hyams’s best films, there’s a nice foot chase that perks things up at just the right moment.

Outland Press Kit 2 

I have a lot more ancient history here, but I’ll pull the plug on this installment before I end up making an even bigger pile of stuff in the home office. No need to have to sleep curled up in a closet because there’s way too much stuff on the bed and floor, right?

I’m Just An Idea Man, Ma’am…

Stuff I think about while traveling around #452. I have no time, money or patience to do any of this, so I kind of bop about hoping someone asks me out of the blue for a good or weird idea. Like this one:


 
How come some really creative BioShock fan (and they are legion) hasn’t rewritten the lyrics to “Rapture” by Blondie and gotten together with like-minded folks to make an appropriately themed music video? I mean, the song is lying there waiting for references. “Fab 5 Freddy” can get a Big Daddy switcheroo, I’m sure one can easily work the Little Sisters in there, the assorted powers and yes, given the location of that game IS a place called Rapture, it should inspire those who know the game inside and out to get in on this one if someone decides to shoot a decent video. Of course, it has to be not for profit, as I can see the cease and desist letters dropping from the sky already…

Well, if you’re reading this and do attempt this feat of daring and potential tangled legalese, keep me posted. I need a decent bit of amusement these days and hey, you can always say you stole the idea from me when the lawyers come a-knockin’ at your door. More terrible ideas to come – stay tuned…

Review: DEVO – The Men Who Make The Music/Butch DEVO & The Sundance Gig

MVD6055DFun fact: There are three live performances of “Uncontrollable Urge” on DEVO – The Men Who Make The Music/Butch DEVO & The Sundance Gig from 1978, 1996, and 2003 respectively and both the dynamism and choreography haven’t changed a bit. Granted, the younger DEVO was a slimmer, trimmer band way back when that first LP was released, but the more spud-like shapes of the band-mates doesn’t slow them down one bit when it comes to delivering what’s still one of their most memorable hits.

If you’re new to the band or maybe not so new but haven’t yet seen them live, this set of eyeball and ear searing old stuff will show you DEVO’s originality and rather special craft that’s kept fans around through think and thin. With a new tour and cool crowdfunding project happening, MVD is helping bring these guys to a new audience that needs to listen to something other than the radio-ready junk that sells in lower and lower numbers each year…

MVD Visual has done up a VERY entertaining DVD here that’s a combination of the long out of print 1981 VHS tape (DEVO – The Men Who Make The Music) and a complete 1996 reunion concert given at that year’s Sundance Film Festival along with two bonus DEVO clips from a pair of MVD’s other DEVO video discs. The Men Who Make The Music is a bizarre “documentary” of sorts that combines six 1978 concert tour clips, the two videos from 1976’s “The Truth About De-evolution” and three music videos (from the band’s first LP) as it spools out the story of the band dealing with music industry pressures of the time. In all the weirdness, I’m gathering the band may have been having some issues with Warner Bros. Records trying to control it to some extent… or perhaps this was all done as a send-up of this sort of thing common to the industry. In any event, it’s a hoot to see the young spuds, Booji Boy and General Boy “face off” against Rod Rooter and pretty much not follow his dopey orders to stick with those yellow jumpsuits. Continue reading

Random Film of the Week: Happy Birthday To Me

](thanks, oldhockstatterplace!) 

happy_birthday_to_meI actually don’t do much on my birthday other than pore over whatever greetings sent my way (and this year has been good for people sending well wishes), while trying to stay out of trouble (so far, so good). It’ll be a light dinner (wait, pizza is light? It is when it’s your birthday!) and a glass of Chianti later tonight and maybe a movie or two, one of which may or may not be this 1981 slasher flick with the somewhat loyal cult following.

I’m aged enough to have first seen this one back in 1981 when it was initially released and while it’s got some effective, offbeat murders and a few cast members of note, it’s far from the best the genre has to offer. That said, it is fun to put together the plot’s parts and uncover the killer as you go, even though the film seems to want to surprise you with a twisteroo near the finale that may or may not make you want to stab someone…

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Part Of My Weekend Plans Are Set…

Black Saturday of the Lost ArkYeah, yeah, yeah… TCM shows this a few times a year, but sometimes it’s just nice to own a movie if you happen to not want to rely on a channel (or worse, a streaming video service) to deliver the goods. There’s just something lovely and delicious about popping a disc into a player, sitting back and letting the film in question do its stuff and Bava’s horror classic certainly has PLENTY of stuff. I just find it amusing that as absolutely gorgeous as Barbara Steele was (and is, as she’s still with us, last I checked), in a number of her films, she’s buried under makeup that makes her look pretty horrific. But hey, that’s one reason she’s loved by many fans of classic horror flicks I guess.

As for Raiders, it was $2.50 new, I needed another copy and didn’t care if it was on Blu-Ray or not. I actually hadn’t seen it in a while and HATE watching it on AMC because of all those dumb interruptions and the picture quality is terrible to my eyes. One actually needs NO excuse to own this film, as it’s something you can pop on and loop all day as background noise while you’re doing stuff around the house. “I dunno, I’m making this up as I go!” may become your mantra after a day of this film, that’s for sure…