Review: The Uncanny (1977)

It’s both catty and batty, but a fun watch, as long as you don’t take it seriously.

As a horror anthologies go, The Uncanny starts out strong, but it ends with a few eye rolls and a twist when it doesn’t exactly stick the landing in terms of storytelling prowess. The basic setup has Peter Cushing as Wilbur Gray, a superstitious feline-fearing writer who arrives at book publisher Frank Richards’ (Ray Milland) home one night and tries to convince him to print his book about a trio of cat-related homicides that happened over decades. Naturally, abundant skepticism abounds, but Wilbur does his best to back up his tales of terror with plenty of evidence that he relays in three episodes, the first of which in the best in the film, in my opinion.

Ever have one of those nights?

In London, 1912, Susan Penhaligon plays Janet, maid for an elderly woman, Miss Malkin (Joan Greenwood!) who’s rewritten her will and left her entire fortune to her cats, shutting out her only surviving relative, Michael (Simon Williams). Of course, Janet and Michael are canoodling and in cahoots to conspire copping that kitty from those kitties because what use do cats have for cash money, right? Let’s just say things go all sorts of wrong for Janet after she offs her employer and tries to get her paws on that will. Instead, the cats get their paws on her and munch on Miss Malkin in the process. Nicely done, overall with just a bit of gore where expected.

The next segment takes place in Quebec 1975, where a young girl named Lucy (Katrina Holden Bronson) is adopted after her parents die in a plane crash by a family that’s not much into cats at all. Lucy just so happens to bring along her black cat, Wellington along with a bunch of books and notes about witchcraft, which belonged to her late mother. Hmmm… you can guess what happens next (mostly). While her new father is initially accepting to Lucy and her cat, both her new mom (Alexandra Stewart) and stepsister Angela (Chloe Franks) are hostile to Lucy and want to get rid of the cat almost immediately. Angela even flies a radio-controlled plane after Lucy and Wellington in one scene (clearly a North By Northwest in-joke).

“Look, I pain-ted a cat!”

Anyway, their plan to have Wellington disposed of works and Dad shuttles the cat off to be “taken care of”. Lucy finds out, but Wellington returns (I guess he’s been eating 9 Lives) and you guessed it, it’s revenge time in a sequence that combines bits of The Incredible Shrinking Man and some interesting use of a spell which probably wouldn’t work outside of this segment (or, don’t try this at home, folks). The main issue here is yes, the child acting, where every line sounds over-enunciated and frankly, the adults aren’t much better. The funny thing for me was remembering Chloe Franks’ performance in 1970’s The House That Dripped Blood, where she shows a bit more range. At least she’s got a memorable ending here straight out out of an EC Comics horror tale.

“Ham, ham, ham, ham”

The final episode takes place in Hollywood 1936, where hammy horror actor Valentine De’ath Donald Pleasence kills his wife with a guillotine (he’s replaced the rubber blade with a real one) and convinces the studio to hire his new girlfriend Edwina (Samantha Eggar!) as a suitable replacement. Things go from bat to verse when we find out not only that Edwina can’t act to save her life, she’s an awfully awful screamer as well, not a good thing for a horror film. The cat angle comes into play when De’ath tries to dispose of his ex-wife’s cat, then finds out the cat is female and has had a new litter, whereupon he has the babies cruelly dispatched, setting up the revenge part.

Almost everyone camps it up here, to varying degrees of success. Pleasence channels a bit of Vincent Price and even wears a toupee (or is it two?) over his real hair at one point. The main issue for me is the episode seems as if someone gathered whatever spare costumes were leftover from another “period” film and crafted a script around them. When Edwina paraphrases Tweety Bird at one point and is briefly seen reading a modern comic book (likely the same one from the last episode), that “1936” thing gets a tad sketchy. David Ogden Stiers even shows up a few times, but its almost as if he’s acting in another movie, as he mostly plays it seriously while he’s onscreen. The most mind boggling thing, however, occurs right as the chapter starts and we see a photo of Pleasense as Blofeld along with his white cat, which probably cost the studio more to use than the entire episode to shoot. Granted, I did get a laugh at this intro, but I can see some not getting the gag at all in they’re not aware of the link.

“Does he, or doesn’t he?…”

The ending wraps things up for Cushing in a somewhat predictable manner, with kind of a circular, vengeful kitty squad sort of thing happening. Milland has a sort of last laugh (is he on the cat side here?) and the film clocks out at a tidy 88 minutes, which isn’t too bad at all. Your mileage may vary, of course. But on a foul weather weekend, this isn’t a bad choice at all for a double feature starter flick. Amicus lite, if you like that sort of anthology thing happening here.

-GW

The Death Dealer, Too

(Thanks, Lex121100!)

Okay, I’m back. Sort of.

It’s been a bit of a rocky ride dealing with a recent demise, especially with a few big companies more or less trying to skimp their way out of paying proper annuity settlements. But we’ll not say more about that at the moment save for there’s a lot of things percolating in the background that need eyes kept on. In the meantime. it’s just been a total stress-fest in the writing department, although I have a small army of reviews in assorted states of completion. They’ll get posted at some point.

I suppose I should/could just be like others who post daily or more frequently and try to blank out the current nonsense in favor of a more rosy outlook, but it’s a bit tough what with all these follies going on in the periphery. That and, hell, every time I see someone here not wearing a mask or carrying one in their hand or a pocket then slapping in on as they walk into a shop, I want to dress up like El Kabong and give them a quick guitar lesson. But I don’t, as dressing like a cartoon horse and bashing folks on the head with a gitbox would probably be too sensible a solution and we just have to keep things crazy here in the US just because.

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Review: Nightmare at Noon (1988)

Home, James

So, if good guys wear black, I guess, uh…

NAN.BR.Cover.72dpiWhile it’s absolutely packed to the hilt with stunts, thrills, and explosions galore (and how!), Nico Mastorakis’ 1988 flick Nightmare at Noon isn’t exactly the brain food of action movies. In fact, if you go in expecting even a decent plot to speak of, your brain may beat you somewhat senseless about two minutes in and turn itself off so it can enjoy the wild ride without you gargling on about what small amount of plot there is. Basically, if you miss the opening credits, there goes the story, and there’s not much there to begin with (and even less if you’re looking).

All you need to know is a secret scientific agency (or not so secret, as they roll around in two black custom vans with their agency’s name on them!) has chosen a small US town to experiment with some nefarious goings-on and it’s up to a handful of gun-totin’ tourists and local heroes to make things right.  So you get Wings Hauser, Bo Hopkins, and Kimberly Beck starring with George Kennedy and Kimberly Ross versus that town full of newly green-blooded raging townspeople and a bunch of well-armed bad guys. A strangely silent Brion James kicks the flick off as the mysterious Albino, but despite all his evil machinations, his total lack of dialog actually hurts the film despite the nearly non-stop action that follows. I gather he was paid enough for bleaching his hair and wearing some contact lenses to make him look albino and decided to charge by the word for dialog or something?

(Thanks, ScreamFactoryTV!)

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Post Toasties

I’d really rather not waste such a good song on such a terminally bad person or group of people, but so it goes. Your tune for this Monday, which I hope is going as well as it should, rose colored blinders on or not:

(Thanks,TheGodfathersVEVO!)

So, we’re officially at this stage of the game now. Morbid humor as a reality check in some areas here, but it’s more a dry, hoarse chuckle from a very tired people at this point because we’re all tied to the couch as loud Uncle Bob starts setting up the old slide projector and has revved up some really bad Borscht Belt jokes to go with the carousel of everlasting pain:

(Thanks, Browingate!)

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Trouble (Living With It)

(Thanks, Thomas Barnett!)

So, the latest advice from the government is more or less let your abuser move right on it and sure, too many of you will possibly suffer the negative consequences. But hey, we’ll tell you you’re 99% safe and the economy is more important than staying alive because you can’t live without a little sacrifice. Or a lot of little sacrifices that add up to be a lot more. Maybe. My head hurts at all this sheer negligence going on, especially when a more urgent and actually powerful federal response would have worked better from the outset, but nope. It’s been hands off and putting people who have no scientific knowledge or care to grasp it “in charge” of not keeping millions of others safe. plus muzzling or talking over the science-minded folks when they speak out publicly, along with promoting the brick-headed, stubborn ones who are afraid of rocking a slowly sinking boat and its erratic Captain Queeg.

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Broken Machines

(Thanks, AustroPopArchives Vienna!)

So, we had a death in the family a few months back we all recently found out about (last week), which means it’s been a bit busy here with all sorts of shock and paperwork to tackle and quite a few ‘i’s to dot and ‘t’s to cross. Fortunately, the deceased was a very excellent record keeper, so most affairs are in good order and although there are a few important things to tackle for the near and far future, I think we have much of the important things covered.

Courts are all still closed here, so there’s the matter of waiting for a few important papers which need filing, so the waiting is the most annoying part. Well, next to figuring out a too smart Smart TV that was inherited that has a few subscriptions that need shutting down. After connecting the TV, it automatically started playing a film that wasn’t even chosen or someone who wasn’t me as I was walking into the kitchen to get some coffee pressed a button on that arcane backwards-designed remote it has (I need to go look up an online manual, stat!) and a movie no one ordered started up. While I was trying to figure out how to shut it down, this scene was playing in my tired head:

(Thanks, TheBoilingFrog!)

Anyway, I need to help out a family member in securing a few benefits and go through a few too many accounts and passwords as we play Match Game for a bit. I’ll be back in a bit or sooner if most things go smoothly as most seem to be so far. I just need to figure out that remote that has a list of pages of services and which services need that OFF switch. I have enough Blu-rays and DVD’s here to keep me busy for some time and nope, I just can’t afford more digital services than I can ever watch in a lifetime.

Wear a mask, people.

-GW

The Moment of Truth (and Dare)

(Thanks, Jay Partridge!)

I’m sure that I noticed exactly when people stopped taking the idea very horrid fact of a still thriving pandemic a whole lot less seriously here where a few too many people have died from it or assorted complications arising from it. By my estimation, it was about two weeks ago, give or take. I know this because I live across the street from a car wash and in the past few months, it’s been busy there, but mostly quietly so. About two weeks back, a sudden blast of loud music woke me from seven floors up. It was some person who drove up and yes, was blasting their music for all to hear too early in the day.

I was of course, annoyed by this, but I did take it as an alarm clock of sorts as I’d overslept (again) and dragged myself out of bed. A pot of coffee/chicory blend went to brew up and it was decided to kick off another Groundhog Day of mostly staying indoors and side-eying both the news and my backlog of work to do.  It’s harder to concentrate on fun stuff with actual life now a lot less fun, but it is sort of a necessary non-evil these days. To be honest, I liked the solitude for the most part except the MIA partner in crime part. But that’s part of the job description when you have a new virus, a new potential thing to kill you added to all the other things than may or may not set your expiration date to SOONER THAN YOU’D CARE FOR. “Did you hear? That guy died when he slipped in the shower while trying to dodge the plague!” makes for a rather poor epitaph.

Well, a funny one, but still poor.

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Package Lander II: The (Not) Quickening

(Thanks, tarash oniani!)

So, in the middle of this more very urgent chaos taking place, I have 19 pounds of someone else’s medical supplies here. They’ve been here over a week and it’s FedEx’s fault for “just doing their job”. Hi, FedEx. Anyway, here’s the deal: someone ordered whatever is in this box and had it shipped here, but they seem to have mixed up their address with mine or the person who took the order scrambled the numbers or couldn’t read someone’s handwriting properly. I say this because just over two weeks back, I got two large boxes bundled together that for the same person.

After about 45 minutes to an hour spent going to the FedEx website which constantly sent me to an automated call line no matter what I tried, I held on for a live operator and explained the situation. The problem seemed to be solved when he said the box would be retrieved (which took a few days), but guess what?  It wasn’t.  A week or so later, another large box labeled medical supplies arrived and was left at the door before I even had the chance to open that door and explain to the driver this wasn’t the correct address. FedEk was called again, and almost 52 minutes of looping muzak later, someone said they would be picking up the box… and that was what, almost a week ago?

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: No Blade of Grass

no blade of grassSo, I lost a coin toss with myself a few days ago and ended up watching a pretty dark film from the lower end of the bucket list. Reasons, I guess. I also guess I should put a trigger warning here, as this one’s something else.

Grim meets garish (plus tax where applicable) in Cornel Wilde’s 1970 apocalyptic survival shocker No Blade of Grass, which is very likely not a film you want to see if you’re holed up in quarantine for a spell. Then again, it’s a film that’s brutal to watch under any circumstances, with its kind of timely by today’s calendar plot and Wilde’s decision to linger on some scenes that are a bit too exploitative and counteract whatever strong ecological message he was trying to send.

Then again, the source material wasn’t exactly a pleasant story either. Still, Wilde (who co-wrote, directed, and produced the film) gets his powerful message across from the opening moments, using a sledgehammer of assorted mostly stock imagery of polluted water, air and land, plus what seems to be clips of a dying emaciated child to let you know business is meant in all that intensity of the opening moments. I think there was a nuclear explosion in there somewhere as well, but I might have been busy trying to find my jaw, which was under the sofa when it fell off and rolled under it. I need to vacuum more, it seems, as my chin was a bit dusty when I located it. Uh, so mind-blowing and downbeat opening, plus a reach for a finger pistol depressing tune (sung by Roger Whittaker!) as a main title? Check.

(Thanks, The Film Archives!)

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Long Tall Sally, the He-Men and Way Outer Space

(Thanks, Reflex Gaming!)

In terms of retrospective career highlights, I’ll let the music historians do their thing far better than I. I just wanted to do a very quick post to note two films that featured Little Richard’s music in key sequences. 1987’s Predator has that key introduction to Arnold and company and the scene is funny as heck because of its burly mcbeefcake manly men riding that choppa listening to” Long Tall Sally“, which is not at all what you expect them to be listening to, but there it is, and it works perfectly.

(Thanks, katananja!)

Two years earlier, Joe Dante’s surreal sci-fi flick Explorers featured Richard’s performance of “All Around The World” sung by a comical looking space alien. That may be Robert Picardo in that suit, as he’s credited for the film as that alien. A cover version of the song was done by Robert Palmer and appeared on the film’s soundtrack, accompanied by a music video:

(Thanks RetroVault2!)

Ah, the days of actors in well-crafted slimy-looking rubber suits and good ol’ practical effects, right? The film also had a great Jerry Goldsmith score and is worth a look if you like a bit of mid-80’s nostalgia and one of those flicks that’s a bit of fluffy popcorn fun.

-GW