Blu-Ray/DVD Review: The Cat O’ Nine Tails

TheCatONineTailsIn a new interview included on this superb Arrow Video release, director Dario Argento notes he initially didn’t much like his second film, The Cat O’Nine Tails partially because it felt “Too American” Interesting, but in a way, I’d say he’s correct to a degree. That said, as a followup to The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, the film pushes some of the right buttons it needs to while providing a pretty impressive murder by onrushing train scene early on that’s still pretty awesome even when you find out how the trick was done.

That “Too American” comment is very likely about the two Americans playing key roles in this film, James Franciscus and Karl Malden. Both give solid performances in film that’s a bit slower in pacing than Bird was, but has a few tense moments that liven things up. Malden plays Franco Arnò, a blind former journalist who lives with his young niece, Lori (Cinzia De Carolis). The pair are out for a nighttime stroll when Franco overhears a bit of a conversation from a parked car they’ve passed. It later turns out a nearby genetics lab has been broken into and onto the scene the next day arrives Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus), a reporter who ends up bonding with Franco. The two men set out to solve the case, but yep, there’s a murderer on the loose connected to the theft and he’s got his sights set on not only the two men, but little Lori as well.

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Blu-Ray Review: The Apartment

The Apartment BRI’d forgotten Billy Wilder’s forever brilliant The Apartment was a perfect seasonal movie for those of us isolated types looking for a lift as well as anyone else who has cold and loathsomely lonely winters. Granted, the first time I saw it (I think I was maybe 10 or 11), I was too young to understand much of what was going on. During these darker days as I age none too gracefully, Jack Lemmon is sort of my spirit animal, so this five Academy Award-winning film has become a personal favorite.

Poor C.C. Baxter (or “Bud” to some) toils away at his data collection job at a huge New York City insurance firm, often keeping late hours with no overtime thanks to his nearby apartment being used as a hot spot for a trio of philandering company executives, Mr. Dobsich (Ray Walston), Mr. Eichelberger (David White), and Mr. Vanderhoff (Willard Waterman). Baxter is hoping to climb the corporate ladder a bit faster by doing this (yes, he even has a calendar to keep track of who gets his place and when). But he’s also so accommodating that he even cleans up afterwards and takes suggestions from his cheating superiors such as restocking his liquor supply and buying cheese crackers without asking for a dime in return. Things get even more complicated after the big boss Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) gets wind of Baxter’s bachelor pad and dangles a big promotion over his head if he can get access to the place for his own affair. Baxter agrees to the trade, but finds out that Sheldrake is romancing Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), the cute elevator girl he’s been chatting up.

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Blu-Ray Review: PULP

PULP_BRFinally seeing PULP was a bit of a revelation for me. This tonally almost polar opposite of 1971’s Get Carter brings together writer/director Mike Hodges, Michael Klinger and star Michael Caine in a pretty unusual black comedy/crime story, newly restored by Arrow Video with a few nice special features. You’ll also get to see Mickey Rooney in his underwear (eek!), some fine supporting roles from Lionel Stander, Al Lettieri, and Nadia Cassini, with a too brief appearance by Lizabeth Scott in her final film role.

Caine plays Mickey King, a writer of pretty tawdry crime novels who gets the call to ghost write the life story of Rooney’s pint-sized Preston Gilbert, a former movie star with organized crime connections that come back to bite him hard. With his cheap, bland corduroy suit and middle-aged dad body, King still gets by with the ladies and his writing is so terribly risqué even the male owner of the typing pool churning out his latest novel slips him his home number. Mickey is thrust into the film’s events after he gets that Gilbert gig and things start falling apart as a few bodies fall before the credits roll.

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Blu-Ray Review: BAT PUSSY

batpussyBDSo, let’s talk (or at the very least, read) about porn for a hot minute. It exists and has existed for centuries (cue up appropriately humorous yet historically inaccurate clip), so like it or else, you’re bound to stumble across it in some form or another.  Some sort of cosmic and karmic justice was certainly in play after I saw the disappointing Justice League, as when I arrived home there was a copy of BAT PUSSY fresh from AGFA sitting in my mailbox, purring away like a brand new Mother Box. Ping, ping, ping….

There was also a Blu-Ray screener of PULP in that padded cell envelope, but that’s not porn and it’s a more fun to watch film I’ll get to in its own review (it’s another winner from Arrow Video, if you really need to know in advance). As I wasn’t expecting this (I’m on the list to get a few screeners, but didn’t get a press release for this one), I was definitely surprised. That said, I didn’t watch it right away thanks to being mentally worn out from that silly comic book film and its too funky flaws.

Something like a dozen hours later (and way too early in the morning for this sort of thing), I finally sat down to watch it with my thinking cap off and an open mind. Which lead to me ending up wearing a second pair of pants, a tinfoil cap, and needing to pop my eyeballs out with a plastic spoon and soak them in peroxide afterwards. Let’s just say this film won’t excite anyone unless they’re really weird, you won’t go blind from watching this (although you may wish you had) and you’ll probably avoid sex for a few weeks just out of sheer horror from the 55 minutes of this slice of restored to 2K cinematic history. Paradoxically, you’ll somehow very likely fall off something from laughing and cringing simultaneously while calling up a friend or two with a cryptic “Oh, you HAVE to see this!” blurting from your lips. Yes, this film has that kind of effect.

NSFW trailer below the jump (but it’s language, not nudid-ity that’s going to tingle your ears, folks!)

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Movie Review: Justice League

Justice League MPIn its current state, Justice League both looks and feels like an incomplete film that should have gotten its release delayed simply in order for the creative team to make a more entertaining (and more polished) experience. As it stands, this hunk of colorful, expensive fluff will no doubt still make a good chunk of its money back and also get a home video release about three months or so from now in an “extended cut” that, like the extended disc versions of Suicide Squad and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice should have been the version people are paying to see in theaters. Well, not that longer versions of either helped much thanks to their plots being way too full of hard to fill holes.

That said, the first thing that popped into my head as I was watching this somewhat disappointing film unfold was a wonder if the film was even storyboarded (ironic for a comic book flick, right?). As it stands, it’s almost as if someone cut out pages from a few dozen DC Comics, pasted them to some comic art paper, whited out the word balloons and had a few writers add dialog before rearranging everything. While the end result is indeed still watchable, it’s not very good at all when compared to other films of this type. Although, after some reflection I’ve decided it’s decidedly “entertaining” if you shut off your brain and take in its more comic book-like moments and not take anything at all too seriously (which, sad to say, some fans won’t tale kindly to hearing). That said, it’s running time of 120 minutes seems oddly enough, too short for a Zach Snyder film. Weird, but yeah – the film is actually too short because it packs in way too much character info in during that two hours and kind of overlooks its main villain in the process.

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Random Film of the Week: Attack of the Killer Donuts

Attack of the Killer Donuts MPSome of the more jaded folks who whine online about every film they see needing to be some form of “great” won’t appreciate that films like Attack of the Killer Donuts exist at all. But if you’re alright with campy high-calorie horror  packed with intentionally eyeball-rolling humor and the occasional (mild) gross-out gag, this one’s for you, sprinkles and all. That and this is a film that clearly knows its place in the cinematic food chain. You’re getting a well made for its super low budget flick with a cast that’s all in for what it throws at them, a mix of practical and CG effects that get the job done and an overall 80’s vibe that works pretty well despite a few flaws.

Then again, you can’t expect a film that cheerfully rips off elements from Re-Animator and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes to be perfect. But you’ll laugh in the right places for sure if you’re into that sort of gleeful (yet necessary) thievery. Dandy Donuts is already a pretty crappy joint to get terrifically terrible coffee and donuts of reliably questionable quality from. But when their fryer oil is accidentally tainted by a reanimation serum created by a not all there mad scientist, it’s up to Dandy’s two hardest workers, a friend and that mad scientist to put a stop to the murderous pastries.

AotKD 4

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Random Film of the Week: The Hateful Eight

TH8Yep, I’m calling it now. The Hateful Eight is also a Thanksgiving movie you can pop in and clear your house with if you end up with relatives arguing about politics or sports when all they really need to do is show up and shut up when they’re stuffing their faces with whatever tasty treats you’ve prepared. Note to turkey preppers: get that frozen bird defrosted and/or in a brine NOW (as in don’t wait until Wednesday night to fuss with a frozen bird) so you can have it all ready to pop in the oven and done up right. You fresh turkey buyers have an extra day as long as that bird doesn’t go into the freezer.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. Yeah, you’ll be thankful for this film because you’re not going to find a more gorgeously shot yet hilariously amoral American film (well, one made by Quentin Tarantino) where you might go in expecting one thing but get exactly what you didn’t think you’d get. Let’s put it this way, if ever a title meant anything, it’s this film’s. Upshot nutshell: Eight not so nice (SO not so nice) people meet and otherwise interact in a cabin they’re trapped in during an epic snowstorm. Not everyone survives the experience. Nutshot upsell: Oh, boy is this film violent as hell. No one is spared from the talented folks at KNB Effects Group as they gore things up with some impressive practical effects. The film is about much more than than, although it kind of takes its sweet time in making its points.

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Blu-Ray Review: J.D.’s Revenge

JDR_AV110Automatically calling Arthur Marks’ J.D.’s Revenge a mere “blaxsploitation” film before viewing the end result actually puts it in the wrong category because it works a bit more outside that box you’ve put it in. Sure, it’s got a mostly black cast, some violent bits, blood and some nudity to draw in genre fans. But it’s also a supernatural revenge flick that kind of makes sense despite a few plot elements that fall on their faces. I wouldn’t call it a “pure” horror film per se, but I can see some folks who tend to freak out over mysticism in their movies falling for the film’s attempts to frighten them whenever it gets the opportunity.

That said, you do have to feel sorry for poor Isaac Hendrix (Glynn Turman), a law student in New Orleans who ends up getting hypnotized while out on a night of fun with his wife Christella (Joan Pringle) and another couple. That hypnosis somehow summons up the spirit of the late J.D. Walker (David McKnight), a not so nice street hustler type with a scar on his face and a penchant for straight razors as a means of protection. J.D. wants in on Ike’s scrawny body so he can finally take revenge on the man who killed him and his sister, Betty Jo. Naturally, vengeful spirits tend to not care much about collateral damage, so Christella is the first victim to Ike’s possessed form as she’s in the wrong place when J.D. materializes and takes over.

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Blu-Ray/DVD Review: Satan’s Cheeerleaders

SC_VCI9032If you’re of a certain age (mine or slightly younger), you’re probably not watching Satan’s Cheeleaders for the acting (which is hammy bologna on white bread) or the old movie stars slumming for their paychecks. You’re very likely watching this slice of American cheese for the titular cheer squad and maybe to see where this Satan stuff goes with a cast partly made up of well-known actors close to the ends of their careers and partly made up of new to the business nubile tart types and a few unsexy dudes who pop up that are supposed to be on a college football team.

Well, friends – you get a proper dosage of tame 70’s nudity, but nothing at all indecently overexposed, a paper-thin plot that doesn’t hold up to a soft breeze and some muddling around with mysticism before a somewhat crummy finale that leaves a few things hanging. The sole notable things here are those slumming for paychecks stars (John Ireland, Yvonne DeCarlo, John Carradine) who have not much else to do except hit their marks and react to whatever they need to react to. That said, the film seems to aim for more of a campy feel that keeps things light and airy (or air-heady), and that’s fine with me.

Well, to a point.

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Blu-Ray Review: Whisky Galore!

Whisky Galore_AF004If the great Ealing Studios’ 1949 version of Whisky Galore! didn’t exist, director Gillies MacKinnon’s excellent 2016 version would be an even better film than it is. That’s an odd compliment, I know. But the original film’s boozy aroma lingers heavily in the corners of this newer version, smiling down on MacKinnon’s capable cast as it plops down on a bar stool with a sigh of contentment. This newer film has a fine cast and some absolutely gorgeous cinematography (it’s enough to make you want to consider a move to wherever in Scotland it was shot just for the rocks alone), as well as humor that goes down smooth with a bit of water added.

While not exactly laugh out loud funny through and through, there’s one early scene that had me doubling over with a good belly laugh. As soon as it’s announced that the small village is completely out of whisky, one old chap gets up, walks out of the pub he and his friends inhabit daily, walks over to a his home and promptly drops dead outside as it begins to rain. For some reason, I found this hilarious as well as the following scene where his friends gather around his coffin to send him off. I’m guessing it’s because I’ve heard people say they’d “literally die” if they didn’t have a particular guilty pleasure handy, but seeing it happen was actually amusing and made me think how many real-life friends would drop like that over booze, chocolate, or bacon if they were suddenly taken away.

Hey, I’m a practical man. Less friends means less gifts to buy this holiday season, folks.

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