Loving The Alien: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

 

The best film directors are master manipulators who can magically transform an entire theater audience into a group of happy to sappy sapient lemmings or wide-eyed marionettes easily controlled from start to end credits. Their best films have the masses cheering the heroes, hissing at the bad ones, empathizing with the downtrodden and generally feeling whatever emotion a scene calls for. Yes, there are exceptions to this non-rule (too-likeable villains, swapping out all attempts at sympathy for more explosions and eyeball rolling plot twists you can see coming 20 minutes before they occur). But when you get right down to it, you know your cinematic needs are being taken care of when certain directors are at the helm.

Or, as an old friend once said:

(thanks, svofski!) 

In other words, this is a Spielberg film, folks.
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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: GOG

gogWhile the three films in Ivan Tors Productions’ “Office of Scientific Investigation” (OSI) trilogy haven’t gotten the name recognition or massive fan bases of certain other more well-known franchises, each stands out as a fine example of Tors’ commitment to bringing a more scientific and human touch to the genre. While not going for camp or cheap thrills, the films make for a look into Tors’ heavy interest in pure science fiction with independent films he got made on his own terms.

Beginning with 1953’s The Magnetic Monster, 1954’s Riders to the Stars, and GOG, also released in 1954, the three films trade in the era’s familiar “B” movie antics for drier, more “realistic” hard science mixed with speculative elements. While some action scenes take place in all three films, outside these sequences things are done with a more sedate, almost documentary-like presentation of their assorted plots.

Additionally, all three films can be watched and enjoyed fully in any order, as they tell stories that are connected by a few threads, but don’t contain the same characters. Chief among these threads is men (and women) of science trying to make advances in the field for the future with dramatic (and sometimes unfortunate) results. Or: you can’t make a science-flavored omelette without breaking a few scientist-shaped eggs…
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Random Film of the Week: Hundra

Hundra DVDIs Matt Cimber‘s 1983 sword and not an ounce of sorcery flick Hundra a “great” movie?  Well, that depends on one’s perspective on these sorts of fantasy movies. If you go in with “epic” level  expectations from what’s basically a very straightforward and competent “B” movie with a nice mix of action and humor, that answer might be “nope.”

On the other hand, it’s not bad at all if you bust out the popcorn and fizzy adult beverages and don’ forget to grab a few like-minded friends who enjoy stuff like Xena: Warrior Princess or other fun shows or films with strong female leads. In that case, you’re in for a pretty solid time in front of the TV, warts and all.

(Thanks, Cinema Epoch!)

Laurene Landon‘s striking looks and gung-ho athletic ability (she did her own stunts) outstrips her less than dynamic acting talents here. But her raw performance really works well for the film’s purposes because she’s playing a wild female warrior type in search of a man to impregnate her so she can restart her slain nomadic tribe’s lineage.

“Say whaaaaaat?” Continue reading

The Sword & Sandal Blogathon Kicks Sand in My Mojo-Stopper’s Face

ss7 

Stuff is still slightly bumpy here on a few key levels (I’m having the worst luck with tech in this crazy year of stuff breaking or vanishing), but from the heavens comes some inspiration. THANKS, Debs!. I’ll be doing covering Hundra, Matt Cimber’s underrated 1983 fantasy flick that features an exuberant performance from Laurene Landon in the title role. Keep an eye peeled… or I’ll do it for you, grrr!.

Back in a bit.

Random Film of the Week: The Pirate

The Pirate MPEvery movie fan (this writer included) has a case of “Hollywood Blinders” they slap on for certain films they love because without them, thinking of anything abnormal taking place behind the scenes ruins much or all of a particular movie’s strengths. This little review just so happens to be about one of those films some outright adore while others don’t take to it all that well.

While its comic book colors and highly exuberant performances make Vincente Minnelli’s 1948 musical The Pirate a mostly to extremely fun to watch slice of Hollywood entertainment, it’s the behind the scenes stuff that makes the film somewhat problematic as a classic one can fully enjoy unless you ignore certain elements. For this particular film, those Hollywood Blinders take the form of an eye patch (or bandanna or even a big felt pirate hat if you like watching your colorful, imperfect musicals with two working eyeballs).

The pairing of Gene Kelly and Judy Garland should have been a wonderful one and in fact is when the film hits most of its high marks. But thanks to the studio system’s lousy treatment of her from the beginning of her career, Garland’s star was far from shining bright during the troubled production. The results are amusing and impressive at times, but it’s also a somewhat flawed film with a too quick finale that pops in as if the cameras were running out of film and something needed to get shot or someone had to walk the plank.

(thanks, SuperVintageCinema!) 

Garland’s assorted troubles (including a nervous breakdown that kept her off set for an extended period) thankfully don’t show up in the finished product. But it’s clear that the wide-eyed gal next door who played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz less than ten years previously was a wider-eyed and far more troubled soul on a downward spiral to a much shorter life than she deserved. Toss in a fantastic Gene Kelly dance sequence with The Nicholas Brothers that seemingly got them pushed out of the movies (and Hollywood) for a few years too long and you end up with a film best seen with those Hollywood Blinders on. Nice and tight, now.  So, buckle your swash and slap on that eye patch, folks. There’s a storm a-brewin’ on the shooting stage and you’re getting shanghaied and strapped into your seats for a wild ride… Continue reading

Random Film of the Week: High and Low

High and Low 24_BD_box_348x490_originalBased on the 1959 crime novel King’s Ransom: An 87th Precinct Mystery by Ed McBain (Evan Hunter), Akira Kurosawa’s 1963 film Tengoku to jigoku (Heaven and Hell or High and Low to western audiences) is one of those great police procedural films that’s a must for crime drama fans. With perfect casting, a gripping story of a kidnapping gone wrong thanks to a case of mistaken identity and the rush to find the kidnapper before things go further south, Kurosawa’s film is a multi-layered masterpiece worth seeing multiple times.

When “wealthy” businessman Kingo Gondo (Toshiro Mifune) and the company he works for decide to snap up the National Shoe Company, there’s a divide between executives on how to close the deal. Gondo prefers the company stick to making well-made and reliable stompers for the masses but other big shots want shoes for all that are cheaply made and thus, more profitable because they’ll need to be replaced more often. With all the back and forth debating going on, Gondo has a master plan he’s hiding from his peers. He’s mortgaged everything he owns and plans to pull off a leverage buyout of National Shoes that would put him in charge for good and keep National doing what they do best.

Little does he know he’s being watched by a few pairs of far more evil eyes looking up at his “castle” from the lower depths… Continue reading

(Not So) Random Film of the Week: Humanoids From The Deep

Humanoids From the Deep MPIt’s pretty much a 60’s “B” flick dipped in the not for the kiddies gore and nudity of early 80’s slasher flicks. But on that level Humanoids of the Deep works. You’re pretty much getting The Horror of Party Beach and Creature From the Black Lagoon with a bit of actual horror, but the film is more notorious for its added in post-production scenes of icky, horny sea creatures molesting a few young actresses after whipping their bathing suits off. That caused a bit of a stir back when I saw this in 1980 with a few friends and I also recall a handful of people screaming and doing an exit dash at the film’s somewhat ALIEN-inspired final scene.

Back then I didn’t like the film all that much because of its extremes and that it felt like two different films crunched together at the expense of the better one. But over time it’s become something of a mash-up of intentional and unintentional comedy, eyeball-rolling “shock” scenes and yes, well-known cast members who didn’t realize they’d be starring in a rather mean-spirited exploitation moneymaker that would garner a loyal fan base. For me it’s more of a great guilty pleasure when I look at it now. Albeit with a big blood red caution buoy in the water if you’re squeamish or easily annoyed by gore and gratuitous nudity in a “roughie” manner.

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Yes, Rasputin Celebrates Hump Day HIS Way

(thanks, Sleaze-O-Rama!)
 

 
TGVB 2015 FondaI keep meaning to review Don Sharp’s 1966 flick Rasputin, The Mad Monk one of these days for the site or perhaps a blogathon or something. But I also keep forgetting to track down a personal copy so I can watch it whenever I need a good laugh. Waiting for TCM to show it again sometimes pays off in the long run because there’s a decent enough chance they’ll also show something suitably loopy.

 

This is one of those films that defies proper categorization because it’s kind of all over the map in terms of tone. It’s a biopic, a horror film of sorts, a gold mine of unintentional comic relief and of course, a showpiece for the great Christopher Lee. Yeah, I’d normally have done this up already (and most likely for The Great Villain Blogathon 2015). But it’s been busy as hell here what with the roof being repaired (again!), more work going to happen in the apartment (STRESS!) and some other stuff that’s keeping my productivity lower than usual.

That said, I’ll give ol’ Raspy a two word review for those of you curious types who need to know: SEE IT. You’ll very likely laugh yourself extremely silly and get your cringe on as well because the film can be a bit creepy on a few fronts.

Random Film of the Week: The Thief of Bagdad (1940)

(Thanks, ClassicTrailerGuy!)
 

TToB PosterStill one of the best and most thrilling fantasy films ever made, The Thief of Bagdad is a perfect movie that’s stuck with me ever since I first saw it as a child. After years of experiencing it in black and while, I didn’t even realize the film was in glorious Technicolor until sometime in the 1980’s when I finally saw it after a few years and fell for its charms all over again.

Considering at least three and as many as six people directed the film and production went from England to America due to a little world war breaking out, the film is even more incredible. Yes, some of you have seen this countless times, but if you know someone who hasn’t, it’s time to change that. Sit them down with this gem when it pops up on TCM or just plop down the cost of whatever this costs on DVD and prepare to be transported into a fantastic fairytale world… Continue reading

“Once Upon A Time…” Is Soon To Be A Well-Read (and Seen!) Verse Again…

FTB RapunzelWell, well welly-well well! It seems that there’s yet another blogathon I get to be a part of and yes, you’re invited for the ride as a reader OR writer if you want to huff and puff and show your stuff. Movies, Silently is hosting The Fairy Tale Blogathon from November 9-11, 2014, so zip on over there on your magic carpet to check out the rules and see what’s already been snapped up.

Given that the blogathon is open to such a wide range of films, TV shows and commentary on them, I’m betting a bunch of you can join in and post your own two gold eggs about a favorite fairy tale adaptation. I won’t reveal what I’m doing just yet, but if you’re clever enough and look in the right place, you’ll figure it out really quickly. Okay, the image on the left is a BIG giveaway and that’s all I’ll say.

Um, and they lived happily ever after, the end? I guess that’s how it usually goes in that sunshine, birdies and rainbows world some of you expect. Usually. But I say expect some surprises if you think ALL fairy tales end this way!