(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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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs ArrowBased on the novel Smith’s Dream by C.K. Stead, director Roger Donaldson’s 1977 film Sleeping Dogs is not only a remarkable first feature film, it’s shockingly prescient on a number of fronts. Before I get to the film proper, I’ll note that I chose neither this nor Donaldson’s outstanding second feature, 1981’s Smash Palace because of their implied or direct relevance to some of today’s often depressing news. My movie backlog is just so huge that I decided to grab two films off the top of the stack and these Arrow Academy releases were right on top of that stack. Boo-yah, I guess? Additionally, I’d heard good things about both a while back from a few people who didn’t spoil the stories for me other than to note that both were important films from New Zealand that would be well worth watching. Those people were correct, as these two films are simply superb despite their less than Hollywood budgets.

The government in New Zealand is under chaos after oil talks break down, gas is severely rationed and it seems civil unrest is brewing partly as a result of a rather stubborn prime minister determined to keep the peace (or what he sees as peace) at any cost. Meanwhile, rudderless after breaking up with his wife, a man named Smith (Sam Neill) is driving down a highway when he spies a small island in the distance. At a tiny village’s tinier restaurant, he inquires about the ownership of the island and is given directions to a house owned by two Maori men and is told to bring a bottle of whiskey with him. Smith trades the bottle for the island and run-down house on it, but the motor boat he needs to get there? That costs him his car. Well, at least he gets a free cute dog out of that part of the deal, as it’s forced on him during the trade.

 

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Trilogy of Terror: Your Triple Case of Nightmare Fuel TV is Here

As I’m er, vintage enough to have been around to see it when it premiered back in 1975, it’s just great to see Dan Curtis’ Trilogy of Terror getting a snazzy 4K version and unleashed on the masses by Kino Lorber. This flick put me in a sleepless zone for a while, but it also became one of my favorite scary films that’s lingered in the memory in terms of nailing a particular set of moods and generating a superb amount of tension.

While I kind of wish this restoration would have included Curtis’ nowhere as impressive 1996 followup, Trilogy of Terror II, I’ll take what’s here for the pure scare factor and still somewhat timely Richard Matheson stories. Kino sadly has no new trailer up, but this tiny snippet from the final episode of the anthology, “Amelia” is all you need to know about what’s coming your way when you place that order. The rest of what’s on the disc is listed below the jump.

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: The White Buffalo

It’s that time again, folks (Dangit, we need a THEME SONG):

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Go get that popcorn going, this one’s quite a doozy.

The Whire Buffalo (Kino)While it’s not that much of an “obscure” film these days thanks to a few DVD and Blu-Ray disc releases over the years, J. Lee Thompson’s wild fantasy/horror western The White Buffalo goes way the hell out of its way to be as surreal as possible (well, within the confines of a Hollywood studio film, circa 1977). If you’re allergic to allegory and go in expecting it to be a more typical manly-man weekend special Charles Bronson flick, it may likely baffle you with its mystical and more surreal elements even though it definitely delivers the goods on the action front.

If anything, this Dino De Laurentis produced follow up to 1976’s (not quite as classic as the true classic) remake of King Kong suffers from too little scope due in part to a lower budget that, combined with a script that’s not fully fleshed out in spots, doomed it to death by a thousand critics slicing away with pen-knives and audiences who likely were expecting a more commercial flick. Today, it’s a different story as the film has garnered a bit of a cult following, warts and all.

Bronson and Buffalo

One of these hairy dudes is Bronson, the other looks more like a hippie jackalope. Uh, wait. a sec…

Still, it’s an excellent showcase for Bronson, as he completely inhabits the role of an ailing James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok (or, James Otis as his alias here), who, after having recurrent nightmares about the titular creature terrorizing his mind, sets out to kill the beast but good. His competition for the prize: Crazy Horse (Will Sampson), whose infant daughter has been killed along with many of his tribe after a bloody rampage by the seemingly unstoppable, mountain wrecking, avalanche-causing monster.

In a kooky way, it’s more or less Ahab (from Moby Dick) meets Quint (from JAWS), but I don’t want to get too far with the literary or cinematic references even though the film is based off the novel by Richard Sale (who also wrote the screenplay). Let’s just say not every idea gels here, and to quote the late Milton Arbogast,

“You see, if it doesn’t jell, it isn’t aspic, and this ain’t jelling.”

That said, when it does gel, it’s like that time you used three boxes of gelatin and too little water and got something sweet you could bounce a silver dollar off of and have it hit you in the eye (ouch). Painfully palatable is a good description.

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Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE: 4K, 3 Ways, On the Way in November

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If I’m not mistakes, we got a load of these posters in the NYC subways as well when the film was initially released in the US. I’d kill for a few to sell off now. Uh, figure of speech, that.

 

Yum. If you’re an old coot like me (or old enough to remember), this pair of TV ads for Lucio Fulci’s horror masterpiece, ZOMBIE. Hey, even though I was 15 at the time, they both kind of sunk into the memory like a… well, like a zombie munching on some fresh brains. I didn’t actually see the film until a few years later thanks to a friend who had it and a bunch of other horror flicks on a VHS tape he’d put together and, yeah, it was worth the wait.

Between the jump scares and general relentlessness when things got going, Tisa Farrow (Mia’s sister) getting it in the eye like Moe Greene, but slower and with a rather pointy piece of wood (ouch), a zombie versus shark scene (no pirates, sorry… but that’s a real shark!), and the classic line delivery early on: “Hey, watch out for the sail!” that kind of starts off this gore-fest in the most comic of manners before things get grim. Yes, there are slow stretches, but the film delivers all the goods when it counts from the icky to the just plain weird (conquistador zombies, ftw!).

 

 

Anyway, the fine folks at Blue Underground and MVD Entertainment Group are releasing not one, not two, but THREE 4K cover variants of the film, newly remastered in 4K and set to crawl your way on November 27, 2018. Actually, there are a whopping SIX variants total when you add in the older 2K BR and DVD versions on the BU site listed here, here, and… wait a sec… HERE. Collect ’em all!

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Oh, The Horror! Severin Films Remasters The Horror of Party Beach

(Thanks, SeverinFilmsOfficial!)

 

HoPB_MPYes indeed, it’s a hot summertime thing from 1964 and it’s BACK. Well, it’s back on August 28, 2018, but you can pre-order this slice of not too scary sea life NOW.  Now, don’t get me wrong, people. The Horror of Party Beach is kind of bad. How bad? Well, I did a review a few years back noting it wasn’t all that good, if that helps. That said, in retrospect, its heart is definitely in the right place, the film is actually terribly funny and campy as hell, and will indeed make you laugh if your funny bone is in good working order.

I’d prattle on some more, but YOU, dear reader? You have some pre-ordering to do if this spiffy new 2K restoration floats your particular boat. Get the bundle! Or get the Blu-Ray by itself! Or get the DVD if you don’t have a BR player yet! You can also get the enamel pin and/or Beach ball from the bundle separately and make believe you bought the bundle (er, if that’s your thing).

Uh, if you only have a VHS or (eek!) Betamax player, you’re kind of out of luck, sorry!

-GW

(Not So) Random Film of the Week: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

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Par for the 007 course, that action-packed poster art is a busy hoot of improbability on display, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying a pretty solid flick.

For some strange reason, I’d thought I’d already reviewed this most interesting entry in the long running James Bond film series, but nope, I hadn’t. It’s my favorite film in the franchise for a few reasons and had an ending that’s brilliant for its being completely unexpected for a series known for its figurative “happy endings.” Granted, the film received automatic hatred for decades thanks to it not being a Sean Connery Bond, and some overly harsh criticism of George Lazenby as 007 even though his performance is quite good. Having first seen it as a kid on network TV as a heavily edited version presented out of order and split into two parts over two weeks (WABC was the big and only Bond channel here in NYC for years, so we were stuck with their awful recut versions), I fell right into the story and Lazenby’s more sensitive take on the character despite the clumsy reworked hack job. Okay, okay, Diana Rigg also was a big draw, as I was a huge fan of The Avengers TV series (which REALLY needs a North American Blu-Ray set!) and her always thrilling Emma Peel character.

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I actually had an appropriately witty yet respectable caption for this, but seriously forgot what I was going to type.  A good thing, as pictures like this speak for themselves.

 

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(Not So) Random Film(s) of The Week: The Thing (1982)

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With his trusty bottle of J&B to keep warm, R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Vance Norris (Charles Hallahan) try quite unsuccessfully to make snow angels.

THE THING sfSo, what did YOU do during last week’s too damn hot weather? Me, I dragged my slightly sickly self out in that nasty, unbearable heat to go sit in a nice, well-chilled home with seven other people with the express purpose of making some of them scream. No, I didn’t do my *legendary* crowd-pleasing Chippendale’s act, people (wait, I have a Chippendale’s act?). I simply put a very old plan into action I’d successfully executed a few times in the distant past in introducing a fine horror film to some friends who had either never seen it previously, have only seen a heavily edited for TV version or yes, just disliked scary movies.

Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed that I’ve actually previously reviewed an older DVD version of the 1982 John Carpenter film and I’ve also deconstructed the 2011 prequel which I found okay, but lacking in some respects (I think the studio meddled a bit too much with the film, turning it into less than what director Matthijs van Heijningen intended to be a more solid horror experience). Now, I didn’t just show up unannounced, tie seven people to assorted furniture and force them to watch the movie, so there. Nope, as a matter of fact, I was actually asked to host a little screening party by a friend who borrows movies from me on a semi-regular basis.

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Blu-Ray Review: Killer Klowns From Outer Space

Killer Klowns BRIf ever there was a film where the title tells you everything you need to know while also telling you it’s a film you kind of need to see out of sheer curiosity, it’s Killer Klowns From Outer Space. yeah, yeah, I know a lot of you hate clowns in real life and nope, this film probably won’t be the one to endear you to the red nose and greasepaint cause. That said, if you love great practical effects, practical jokes, bits of stop motion creativity, 80’s gore FX and one damn catchy main theme song, this one has all those and more.

Arrow Video has once again pulled out all the stops with this restoration, adding a ton of special features that add to the big top thrills and chills. If you’ve never seen this one before, it’s worth checking out because it’s great for a few laughs and still works as one of those films that didn’t need a sequel (although there have been a few rumblings about one over the years).

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Blu-Ray Review: Scalpel

Scalpel BRJohn Grissmer’s 1977 film Scalpel is a pretty neat psychological thriller that also works as an entry level ‘light’ horror flick for those skittish types not quite ready for gore galore, but who won’t mind a tiny bit of depravity in the plot.  Arrow Video has not only put out a stellar restoration, they also got respected cinematographer Edward Lachman to supervise am equally gorgeous second transfer that’s been color corrected back to his original theatrical version.

While there are some flaws in the storytelling, it’s a solid enough film to recommend thanks to the no-nonsense performances and relatively brief 95-minute running time.  Having the choice to see both versions on a single disc along with some very nice bonus features makes this yet another Arrow you’ll want to add to your quiver.

When plastic surgeon Dr. Phillip Reynolds (Richard Lansing) encounters a badly beaten stripper with a completely ruined face, he comes up with a plan to reconstruct her to look exactly like his missing daughter (Judith Chapman) in order to claim the $5,000,000 inheritance denied him, but given to her by her grandfather.  He’s also got more disgusting designs on his mind, but you’ll have to see how that plays out.  After the young woman is out of surgery and healing up, Reynolds takes her out of the hospital and to his home, eventually telling her his plan and offering to split half the money with her.  After some weeks of coaching, the girl is ready for her close up with Reynolds’ extended family.  While their ploy succeeds to some extent, things get a wee bit complicated when Reynolds real daughter (also played by Chapman) shows up shortly thereafter. Oops, and yep, the plot thickens.

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