Random Film of the Week: Shin Godzilla

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They’re going to have a meeting about having a meeting, most likely.

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Sometimes, a kick to the Shin works.

Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi’s Shin Godzilla is, for all intents and purposes, more of a grand live action anime because it translates much of its visual style and energy rather successfully from some of both of its creators’ previous well-known animated works. It’s also a sly poke at Japanese government bureaucracy where every decision has to go up a few ladders and lengthy meetings are constantly being held even as a horrific, mutating monster makes its radioactive presence known.

As a reboot of the classic franchise it works excellently in delivering a new and more terrifying Godzilla that mutates from a googly-eyed giant, arm-less gilled beast that flops and slides along because its body can’t hold it up, to a 400-foot tall nuclear blasting fiend that requires a lengthy cooldown after it uses its powers. This isn’t a Godzilla who’s a kid-friendly lizard who punches other monsters in the face and goofs around. Nope, the film takes it back to the more horror-laced 1954 original in terms of tone, laying on a modern plot where every decision made needs discussion and division heads and other leaders change into fancy jumpsuit ensembles just to look official while executive orders are issued.

(Thanks, Funimation!)

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Random Film of The Week: Starship Troopers

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“This soldier threw a knife that from twenty feet away that somehow landed in his own hand. That’s a damn PASSING GRADE for sheer ingenuity!”

starship_troopers_ver2Someone call up Guinness, please, because I can very likely tell you of the world’s shortest class trip that doesn’t involve anything dangerous happening. Back in 1997, I went to see Starship Troopers on its release day, opting not to take the subway to what I thought would be a crowded city theater, but supporting a local theater here in the Bronx. I got my ticket early for the first showing at the formerly wonderful Loews American, sadly, now a Marshall’s (Boooo, but at least they kept the beautiful ’40’s era statues on the rear of the theater intact), and waited for the film to begin.

I noticed as the lights dimmed that there were two rows of seats on the right side that were empty, but there was one guy who looked like he was from the theater waiting for someone, as he kept looking back as the exit from a seat behind the empty rows. I recall shrugging, then getting glued to the screen as the film began. The theater wasn’t quite full, but those rows stood out. The movie started and during the boot camp scenes, a group of kids guided by two teachers and and an aide marched into the theater, and took their seats. Those kids were I’m guessing, based on height and dress, were about nine or ten years old.

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Some kids are scarred for life and they never even saw a an alien bug rip someone in half.

As soon as the co-ed shower scene kicked in about two minutes later, yep, those kids were rather rapidly lined up and shuffled out so fast that it was like a Benny Hill sketch, Yakety Sax and all. Some in the audience let smattering applause and few quick and mean comments were tossed at the exiting teachers who thought this was a good idea before we all went back to concentrating on the screen. I shook my head because I guessed that somewhere a few weeks or months earlier, some adult in that school likely saw an ad or trailer this was coming out, decided they wanted to take those kids along because “Pew-Pew, it’s gonna be like Star Wars!”, never read any Robert Heinlein, went and got the trip approved, getting clueless parents to sign permission slips that allowed their kids entry to an R-rated film.

This trailer, by the way, is excellent… but misses a few important points (and how!):

WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?

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Random Film of the Week: Gold Diggers of 1933

(Thanks, Classic Fun!)

gold diggers mpFor too many reasonable to reasonably odd reasons, after all these years, I’d never seen ALL of the Mervyn LeRoy/Busby Berkeley film extravaganza that is Gold Diggers of 1933. I’d seen the fantastic beginning many years back as a kid, but it was late at night and I fell asleep at some point, waking up to some other film playing. Another time, the film was on but I missed about half of it and I hate sitting down to watch half a film, and the back half, as that.

Years later, it was on rotation on TCM by this time, so I figured I’d always catch it at some point. By then, I’d seen 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, and a few other similar musicals, so I thought it would be along the same thematic lines. It is to some extent, very much like the others: a simple plot but elaborately made escapist film for the masses.  With its fantasy of three pretty young ladies in a Depression-era New York City finding love and wealth despite their showgirl roots and assorted shenanigans via a case of mistaken identity that stretches credulity as it should in a film like this, it was gong to be as light and breezy a time as could be, I thought.

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He’d buy that for a dollar: Aileen MacMahon, a lucky Guy Kibbee and Ginger Rogers, who. despite her charms, doesn’t get the guy here.

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Review: Texas, Adios (Blu-Ray)

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“It might be Mark’s store… but its MY town…”

texas arrowMarketed as a a Django film in some territories, Ferdinando Baldi’s Texas, Adios definitely isn’t one. It has more in common with earlier western formula and pretty much sticks to its guns (ha!) throughout as a solid film that’s not as stylized as other spaghetti westerns, yet it’s unmistakably one that tries to be as American as possible. It’s a bit more violent than the older oaters, but it’s perfectly acceptable by today’s standards. Franco Nero makes for a decent single-minded hero when all is said and done, there’s not a love interest in sight, and the film gets a bit ruthless when it needs to make some points. Just don’t count the times no one reloads (unless the plot calls for it, guns seem to run on rechargeable batteries here).

Nero plays Burt Sullivan, a sheriff in a small town who travels to Mexico to bring a man named Cisco Delgado (José Suárez) back to justice in one piece. He’s got a strict moral code in effect, but he’ll absolutely kill anyone else who tries shooting him, of course. Cisco happens to be somewhat of a big deal feared criminal there, what with being a well-dressed meanie with a big villa, a ton of henchmen, and quite the cruel streak. Sullivan wants him alive because he killed his father many years ago also he can see him hang or be jailed in America. Naturally, Cisco very steadfastly has no travel plans to leave Mexico. Must be the weather and assorted torture he’s fond of exposing those he disagrees with that keeps him happy.

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“Look, I know you’re a bit tied up at the moment, but, ma’am, you can’t sleep here!”

Sullivan’s brother, Jim (Alberto dell’Acqua [under the unwieldy moniker “Cole Kitosch”, which sounds like a designer of expensive clothing you’d never wear]) tags along and we find out that Jim’s got something not even he knows is a secret. I’m keeping that secret a secret because it’s a nifty twist that kicks the plot above its level (and adds some poignancy to the affair), but really isn’t much of a surprise if you’ve seen other films that have similar themes

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Review: Terror in a Texas Town (Blu-Ray)

Terror in a Texas Town coverI sure wish director Joseph H. Lewis got more a lot more respect these days. Granted, his career spanned 41 mostly B-movies spread across different genres that it was hard to shoehorn him into a box (but that’s a good thing for those who love variety and surprises). You could say he was a journeyman with quite a vision, as some of his films were memorable and considered classics by those some film lovers who’ve seen his work and appreciate it. He took some chances in his time in the director’s chair, but also made the some pretty generic titles between the brilliant ones.  While some of the results might have gone over the heads of some viewers at the time, it’s worth tracking down some of his work to see a quiet master in action when the results were really good.

In 1958, Lewis planned to retire from movies and go to TV, but opted out to make one final film, the B-quality, but memorable for a few reasons western, Terror in a Texas Town. While it’s no epic (hell, it opens right off the bat with part of the ending sequence and also uses some ancient stock footage a few times, clearly as a means to kill time and save money during its tidy 81 minutes) and the story is a bit weathered (until you know certain things about its genesis), it’s worth a watch because it’s an intriguing B-grade flick on a few fronts. Is it a “good” movie? Well, one could say where it counts it is despite its budgetary limitations.

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“No, I don’t like your tie. Besides, I’m married to the man who’s going to try and kill you, sooo…”

Sterling Hayden plays George Hansen, a Swedish immigrant, who after almost 20 years at sea, comes to America to live and farm alongside his dad, Sven, who’s been waiting for him to arrive. Unfortunately, Sven is murdered in cold blood while trying to defend his land from Crale (Nedrick Young) the steel-fisted and black-clad killer hired by McNeil (Sebastian Cabot) who it turns out, would probably rather have paid Sven off or burned him out instead of having him killed. But, gone is gone, McNeil gets his ill-gotten land and Crale quite enjoys what he does. Protests from his weary wife, Molly (Carol Kelly) who warns Crale the law could close in any moment, go ignored by Crale and it seems he’s due for a fall at some point. He’s not exactly in his prime and his former gun hand was shot off and replaced with a steel one (it’s too bad more isn’t made of this, though). McNeil’s plan is to grab all the land in the area for its newly found oil and the film opens (after the titles) with a literal barn burning as a elderly couple gets one of McNeil’s less violent choices of treatment.

(Thanks, HD Retro Trailers!)

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Review: Black Sunday/Mask of the Demon (Blu-Ray)

(Thanks, FulciLives!)

Layout 1Say, did I ever tell you all the story of the time a few decades ago back in the 80’s when I learned how to brine a chicken thanks to a pair of very helpful Satanists looking for Kosher salt at a grocery store? No? Well, that’s not why we’re here, so I won’t go into it other than to say I didn’t know they were into that stuff, and hell, I’m an atheist anyway. The chicken? It was excellent by the way. Still is, whenever it’s made.

Uh, speaking of “anyway”, Let’s move on.

Still scary and somewhat phenomenally timeless, Mario Bava’s classic “first” film La Maschera Del Demonio/The Mask of Satan (aka Black Sunday in the US) starts off unsettling and keeps the frights coming until the end. Bava’s direction and art direction here are generally superb, although yes, there are a few plot holes you can drive a rattly (or rat-filled) old Fiat through if you follow the story too closely. But taken as a whole, it’s still a work of brilliance that many films have paid homage to over the decades since its release.

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“Where the hell is my coffee? I just woke up after 200 years!”

Very loosely based on The Viy, Nikolai Gogol’s horror tale from 1835, the film revels in its high Gothic style, early use of gore effects and the stunning Barbara Steele who plays both the evil Asa Vajda and 200 years after her demise, her relative, Katia Vajda. It’s a revenge story of sorts, as that witch and her soulless-mate Igor Javutich (Arturo Dominici) are separated and then executed in a most bloody fashion for their crimes and yes, there’s a bit of a promise of defiant revenge from the witch. 200 years later, it’s young Katya who’s target of a newly revived Asa’s demonic ways and in tandem with the revived Javutich, things get ugly for a few people after that curse literally comes to life. Wait, or is it figuratively? I forget.

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Vincent Price wants his stage wig back when you’re done, pal.

Interestingly, the film links Satanism and witchcraft to devil worship as the same thing, which is about the sole flaw that sticks out (well, I’d guess it was seen as the same in the 1630’s, but I’m a terrible time traveler, getting too sick from the trips to pay attention and all that).

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Review: Torso (Blu-Ray)

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“Hello, I’m your masked and gloved fashionable scarf-wearing killer. Today, I shall be your GUIDE. Then I’ll have to kill you, of course.”

Torso Arrow(Lectures): Sergio Martino tells an interesting story about the film’s originally planned title in an excellent interview on this lushly produced Arrow Video disc. The film’s  producers wanted something more salacious to sell tickets, so they chose to pump up the sexual violence aspect with what they saw as a fitting title, I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale (The Bodies Bear Traces of Carnal Violence). where as Martino wanted to use I corpi non mostrano tracce di violenza carnale (The Bodies Bear No Traces of Carnal Violence) here after his working titles like Rosso come l’amore, nero come il terrore (Red Like Love, Black Like Terror) were rejected early on. The Torso moniker (Carnal Violence was a title created for the export release) was a choice from the film’s US distributors, by the way,  In the States, Joseph Brenner Associates worked up a new title opening, chopped out 4 minutes of footage seemingly for some gory content and likely to make the film a run a compact 90 minutes (more butts in the seats at the end of the day), changed some music cues (the great Guido & Maurizio De Angelis score was fine, thank you), and there you have it.

*Ahem* I’m starting this review much like the film does (with an intentionally dull lecture after a sexy-ish opening) as a little joke because I’ve heard some kooky grumblings over the years at how the film gets off to a slow start for about 20 minutes or so. Nonsense, I say. Torso works as an effective and disturbing popcorn flick you’ll want to gather a few like-minded giallo-loving friends up to see. Yes, those friends will have to like some copious female nudity, icky flashes of gore in two of the early murders and nearly every male in the film portrayed as a leering goon of some sort (there are some regular guys here, but as background noise or padding out the lovely Perugian scenery). But this is a film where you’re getting almost exactly what you expect from with a title like this.

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Ooh, pardon me while I do some gift-giving. “Hey, nice lady, I got you a scarf!” Oops, I kind of got carried away in my excitement. That’s Patrizia Adiutori doing a great job playing dead, by the way.

After the murder of some friends by the above mentioned killer (Hello!), four college students decide to hoof it over to a secluded villa, only to have the killer and a few other suspects trail them. While that’s pretty much the plot here, Martino makes things quite tense as well as very 70’s sexy (well, as far as the ladies are concerned). The film tosses a few potential suspects your way as it goes on, so you’re always on the fence as to who the killer might be. The killer not only has a penchant for he ladies, he turns out to be an equal opportunist, as the bodies pile up and more are claimed by a few means.

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Review: The Pyjama Girl Case (Blu-Ray)

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La calma prima della tempesta: Ray Milland as Inspector Thompson does a bit of gardening (sans FROGS to interrupt him).

The Pyjama Girl Case coverLoosely based on a true story (that’s still a tad unresolved), Flavio Mogherini’s 1977 film La Ragazza Dal Pigiama Giallo (aka 1978’s The Pyjama Girl Case) is a pretty depressing flick to sit through when all is said and done. It’s skillfully edited to spool out two tales: one of a retired police detective (Ray Milland) coming back to work on the trail of the person who murdered and mutilated a woman, and the second is the story of Glenda (Dalila Di Lazzaro), a Dutch immigrant who comes to Australia, gets a job as a waitress and later ends up a victim of a particularly horrifying crime.

Even more horrifying are the police coming up with the idea to preserve and display the unidentified remains to the public (yes, this actually happened in real life for a whopping ten years) and painfully getting information though beating up a few suspects (not sure if it’s 1977 addition, but man, is it so not an OK thing to do even if a guilty party is eventually found). Nevertheless, Milland is clearly having a blast in his role, and Di Lazzaro is a lovely, tragic victim you want to see not a bad thing happen to. The film even makes you feel sorry for a suspect in her murder, but you’ll have to watch this to see how the director plays that out.

(Thanks, Blazing Trailers!)

In fact, save for Milland’s Detective Thompson who’s eager to take on the case, most of the detectives and investigators here seem to be all too happy (and incompetent) with finding the quickest means to end the case, even if it means one seemingly obvious suspect is discovered early on who’s a pure creep and not a killer. This adds an air of hopelessness to the narrative as the film plays out and you witness the results of haphazard work (save for the one man who should be home with his flowers). Granted, poor Glenda would still be deceased even through the shoddy police work, as Detective Thompson is only called after she’s been disposed of.

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Review: The Fifth Cord (Blu-Ray)

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Looks like a fine day for a murder, no? Pamela Tiffin as the “lucky that the killer isn’t targeting her here” sometimes girlfriend in The Fifth Cord.

THE_FIFTH_CORD_BDMurder most stylish, one would have to say about Luigi Bazonni’s (The Possessed) beautiful-looking giallo (brilliantly shot by Vittorio Storaro), The Fifth Cord from 1971. While the plot may be pedestrian, this is certainly one of the most fanciful-looking and visually well-conceived murder mysteries of the era if you’re into the artsy stuff and don’t mind a few plot clichés. The film has the basics you’d expect: a black-gloved killer with issues, a man who’s a suspect even though he’s got an alibi that’s more than solid, and a few suspenseful murders that have very nice scares (the ending is particularly frightening without being gory). There’s even a bit of tasteful nudity for the heck of it (also artistically shot and lit). I found myself captivated by the film’s visual style and way in which space is utilized throughout. This one’s a grabber from start to finish and yes, worth a watch for the art direction alone.

When boozy journalist Andrea Bild (Franco Nero) gets the call from his boss to investigate a man’s assault, he gets caught up in a series of serial murders after the killer promises to dispatch five victims before he’s done. All of the victims happen to be close to Bild in one way or another, so he’s a suspect (despite being drunk most of the time and out of place of the murders as the crimes continue). Speaking of out of place, the film does an outstanding job of presenting Bild as a man who seems to be lost in his surroundings but also angry at the powers that be who force him off the story at one point.

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Grabbing Walter White is kind of a bad idea, heh.

This one tosses a few suspects at you from the get-go, but the true killer is a slight surprise if you’re not paying attention. Fortunately, this is one flick you can’t look away from thanks to how awesome it looks (you still might not figure out who the killer is until the end, though). The film has enough twisty mystery, some odd sexual content as a plot point (hey, it’s important to the story!) and a bit of violence that’s nicely handled throughout (you can watch this without hiding behind that trusty blanket you tend to whip out in some cases. What, you don’t have a Horror Blanket yet? Shame on you!).

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Random Film of the Week: Waterworld

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Uh, hey pal… you’re not gonna DRINK that, are you?

WATERWORLD ArrowMovie memory #1764 (or so): sitting in a packed theater back in 1995 watching the opening sequence to Waterworld as Kevin Costner’s Mariner character urinates into a plastic container, then pours that pee into a dicey-looking filtration system and drinks the results. You’d best believe the bulk of the audience let out a collective “EWWWWWW!” and yes, there was one guy sitting somewhere in the back of the darkened theater who yelled out something about how ice cubes would have made that recycled beverage go down better.

“EWWWWWW!”

Flash forward to me watching the three (!!!) versions of the film in Arrow Video’s packed to the gills (heh) with bonus features triple-disc set and I kind of want one of those funky filter devices just so I don’t need to take breaks when I’m going through my film backlog. For all its expensive sets, Costner’s dedicated performance, some amazing stunt work and a completely and perfectly bonkers performance by Dennis Hopper as its main villain, the film is still flawed in that, “Where’s the beef?” manner when it comes to a few key plot elements. Granted, its ecology past peril theme is a bit more relevant it today’s climate (and yes, that’s a double pun, kids). But there’s no real “science” here if you’re looking for it. Hell,  if the Earth does lose its major land masses underwater as shown here, an overblown big-budget sci-fi action flick isn’t exactly where we’re headed in that watery future, glub, glub.

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