Blu-Ray Review: Blood Feast/Scum of the Earth

Blood Feast_AV107So, officially (to me, at least) Blood Feast isn’t a “Halloween” movie at all – it’s more of a big, plump Thanksgiving Day turkey surprise. Under-cooked enough to give you a terrible gut-ache, but stuffed with tasty treats for those willing to push on and make it to that pumpkin pie and ice scream. And yeah, you’ll scream maybe a few times too many if the late H.G. Lewis’ classic 1963 gore-fest isn’t up your alley, but it’s the film’s campy pull wrapped in that grue brew that makes this one entertaining.

Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold) just so happens to be the caterer chosen by wealthy suburban mom Dorothy Fremont (Lyn Bolton) to cater a party for her pretty young daughter, Suzette (Connie Mason). Little does Mrs. Fremont know she’s hired a somewhat criminally insane man with a bit of a strong desire to chop up a bunch of nubile young ladies and use their body parts as sacrifices in order to resurrect the Egyptian goddess, Ishtar. Mua-ha-ha-haaa! I’m telling you, though – those damned eyebrows Ranses has would make me NOT want to hire him because they look like chalk-outlined squished caterpillars on his face. Now, go drink some recently cooled molten iron to coat your stomach while I spill out some more gory details on this gem.

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Random Film of the Week: Topkapi

Topkapi_DVDHaving had items stolen from me in the past, I’m not at all a fan of thievery as a *proper* lifestyle choice (grrr!). That said, it’s hard to pass up a good (fake) crime caper and Jules Dassin’s  wonderful, amusing 1964 film Topkapi has been a favorite of mine for decades ever since I saw it as a kid. There’s just something magical about Dassin’s work here. It was his first color film and boy, does he blow the doors out right from the near seizure-inducing start (you’ll probably wince/squint a few times with all those color filters and such coming at you full tilt), and it’s also a film that gets you grinning from start to finish.

It’s more or less the flip the switch to comic tone version of Dassin’s bleak but brilliant 1955 film Rififi with a more varied cast and an even better lengthy heist scene. It’s also a film that’s since inspired a few directors to steal liberally from it (to varied effects), but that’s another discussion for another day. Here, you get Melina Mercouri, smoky voice and all as the lovely Elizabeth Lipp, who has the grand idea to steal a jeweled dagger from Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. She seeks out an ex-lover (Maximilian Schell) who just so happens to be a thief of some renown and the pair plan out their caper with the intent to use nothing but amateurs unknown to any authorities who come sniffing around after the crime has been committed.

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Random Film of the Week: Tōkaidō Yotsuya kaidan (Ghost Story of Yotsuya)

Tokaido Yatsyua kaidanI don’t believe in ghosts at all (an unapologetic non-flaw of mine), but I do believe in a good ghost story when it works flawlessly in delivering the spine-chilling stuff that leads to a restless night. That said, Nobuo Nakagawa’s 1959 masterpiece Tōkaidō Yotsuya kaidan (Ghost Story of Yotsuya) is one of the more frightening horror films I’ve ever seen. Given that it’s based on Japan’s most popular ghost story (written as a kabuki play and originally performed in 1825), Nakagawa’s film is memorable on a few fronts, melding its stage origins with the director’s perfectly placed camera as he brings us a tried and true tale of murder and vengeance, Japanese style.

You may initially feel sorry for rōnin Iemon Tamiya (Shigeru Amachi) as he begs for the hand of Iwa (Katsuko Wakasugi), but that feeling will vanish about a minute later after Iemon kills Iwa’s father and retainers and his scheming lackey Naosuke (Shuntarô Emi) disposes of the bodies and comes up with a perfect alibi. He later goes to visit a grieving Iwa, but she and her sister Sode (Noriko Kitazawa) want revenge on the man Iemon claims murdered her father. Of course, this doesn’t happen and instead, a respectable samurai named Yomoshichi (Nakamura Ryozaburo) who had a chance with Iwa is tossed off a waterfall thanks to Iemon and Naosuke wanting the two women for themselves. Clearly, Iemon and Naosuke are right bastards, ladies and gentlemen.

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Blu-Ray Review: The Big Knife

The Big KnifeAA014One of those interesting “message” pictures of the 50’s, Robert Aldrich’s 1955 filmed version of Clifford Odets’ 1949 play The Big Knife works pretty well as a sort of riff on Sunset Boulevard, packing in mostly solid performances from a fine cast. Yes, there’s a certain “stagey” feeling to the film as well as a few scenery-chomping bits colliding like lumbering wrestlers in a busted ring. But it works well enough to leave an impression with a few memorable “noirish” scenes that make for a powerful viewing experience.

Jack Palance (trust me, just roll with it and it works) is Charles Castle, hot Hollywood hunk with a particularly pernicious problem. He’s set to sign a seven-year contract extension with studio head Stanley Shriner Hoff (Rod Steiger in full tilt gloriously nasty mode), but his wife Marion (Ida Lupino) has had it with Charlie’s womanizing ways which obviously threaten their somewhat busted marriage and properly raising their young son. As the film begins, the harried couple is estranged and already living apart, but Charlie is constantly working “hard” on keeping the rubble of their happier days somewhat upright. Charlie also finds out Marion has an open marriage proposal from Horatio “Hank” Teagle (Wesley Addy), something that annoys him to no end because he’s something of a hypocrite.

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Blu-Ray Review: The Love Of A Woman

TLOAW_AA015I’d never heard of director Jean Grémillon (1898–1959), but thanks to Arrow Academy, I’m now well-schooled in one of his great films. While not flawless, The Love Of A Woman works just about perfectly if you’re a fan of the pot-boiling tear-jerker romance genre. Granted, it also works fantastically as an example of fine film work as Grémillon was a master behind the camera and there are some striking images here to behold.

When Dr. Marie Prieur (Micheline Presle) decides to take over the job from a well-aged doc at the end of his career on the small island of Ouessant, she’s met by wariness from the locals and made fun of by a part of a crew of men working on the island. After a practical joke by the men on their supervisor, André Lorenzi (Massimo Girotti) ends up in a fight where the doc has to show up to fix a broken nose, Lorenzi begins calling the doctor incessantly asking for a date. After some nudging by a never-married older schoolteacher (Gaby Morlay), The good doctor agrees to André’s request, but their date is ruined after a local child falls gravely ill.

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Now, Where Was I?

Oh, right. Had some medical appointments this week and got a few more as a result. Whee. I need a vacation from all this poking and prodding, but it looks as if most of that quality time I’d prefer lazing about will be spent hanging out in waiting rooms listening to people griping about waiting. Feh. I’ll be replaying this cool kookiness on a loop in my head to drown that droning out:

(thanks, GoodOldDaysReturns!) 

I’ll try to get a few posts up this weekend, as the backlog is biting my butt hard and I do need to whittle down the pile of stuff somewhat.

Back in a bit.

-GW

Worst Assassins Ever (The Non-Blogathon!) #1: The French Connection

the_french_connection

A good cop? Oh, the irony of that caption. Or, a picture is worth a thousand words (or less)…

IF yours truly was ever going to host a blogathon, it would either be something like the ‘That’s NOT My City!’ or ‘Worst Assassins EVER!’ blogathon because both are topics that make me chuckle in films more than they’re supposed to. As a native New Yorker who’s heard from a bunch of friends over the decades about how certain films shot here (or places pretending to be here) range from inspiring (great!) to “It’s so unsafe there! Do you actually go out at night?” (lousy!), I can think of far too many made in (or outside) in NYC films to scribble about. As for terrible assassins in films, with assistance I could probably write a book on how the best of the best go from first in their class to dirt-napping klutzes thanks to inconvenient plot monkey wrenches needing them to forget how good they are in favor of making a series of increasingly terrible decisions that put them into the hall of shamefully comedic demises.

However, between being a bit more scattered than usual (“I want the hangings public” is my mantra of late) and not motivated enough to create all those GIFs, promo posters and banner art to pass out to potential contributors, I’ve decided to flip a coin for the name and non-host a stealth blogathon anyone can contribute to. Or not. Actually, this particular film popped into my head first because it fits both categories perfectly AND happens to be a great essential flick that’s still well worth a look. For those about to complain… don’t. I love this film to death, but repeated viewings over a few decades show it’s got a hidden comic gold vein running through it in the form of one the the most inept professional killers you’ll ever see. Continue reading

Some Father’s Day Memories (Sort Of…)

(thanks, Star Wars Malaysia!)
 

Sadly, my own daddy-o is no longer with us, so I’m having a quieter day of no celebration or awful hastily bought ties, cheap cologne and overpriced restaurant suppers here. Instead, you get a bit of my oddball humor with a few movie clips of some memorable and not so good dads you may or may not remember.

)thanks, Movieclips!)
 

Before you get the wrong idea, I’ve certainly got fonder memories of my father, folks. I just prefer to keep them to myself. That is all. Back in a bit and I do hope your own Father’s Day was excellent and happier.

(thanks, glows!)
 

Fred Dobbs, You’re Nuts In Any Decade!

(thanks, Danios12345!)
 

Ha. I just realized while watching The Treasure of the Sierra Madre for the zillionth time that the name Fred Dobbs appears in another memorable (but for the wrong reasons) film and is played by a great actor that livens up the proceedings significantly. That film would be 1980’s sci-fi horror(/unintentional comedy) hybrid (They Came)Without Warning and that actor would be the great Martin Landau. The Greydon Clark-directed cult flick is actually one of those great guilty pleasures worth tracking down because of its oddball cast (Jack Palance, Cameron Mitchell, Larry Storch, Neville Brand and a young David Caruso among others) and pre-Predator plot about an alien come to earth to do some hunting.

(thanks, metal4472!)
 

As I’m a bit off-kilter (and proud of it!) I’d do a back-to-back double feature with these two even though the tone is vastly different between the two films. Or you could go from the first film to Raiders of the Lost Ark with Without Warning and Predator for an all-day marathon of interesting genre flipping and blending. But I’ll leave personal programming choices all to you fine folks out there. Enjoy!

Mezco’s New Living Dead Doll Has Universal Appeal

Mezco creature instagram_1While Mezco Toyz has previously sold a cool 9-inch Creature From the Black Lagoon collectible figure in its Universal Monsters line, this upcoming Living Dead Doll version of the Creature blows that one out of the water. I’m betting a new penny this new doll sells out faster than the Universal Monsters one just because it’s cute and creepy perfection. Just look at it:

Mezco Creature from the Black Lagoon LDD

 

Featuring an all new body and face sculpt, this iconic scaled terror from the deep stands a full 10” tall and captures the intricate detail of the pre-historic gill-man; from his mysterious yellow eyes, to his claw tipped webbed hands. With nine points of articulation he is the most articulated Living Dead Doll ever, he’ll be able to take out any scientist who dares to come between him and his true love. He comes packaged in a full color, collector friendly window box.

This upcoming Creature From the Black Lagoon Living Dead Doll will cost $32 and ship out in July. Pre-ordering is highly recommended, as I can see LDD fans worldwide making room in a cabinet or on a shelf just for this new arrival. Yeah, that Gill-man will still slay you, man. But he’ll kill you with cuteness first before getting you with those fishy claws of his. “Dawwwww!” and “Gyaaaaaaah!” at the same time? I can do that.