For Medicinal Purposes Only (Or: Some Capsule Reviews)

In short, where to start other than listing a few flicks that were to me, enjoyable to the point that they’re not any longer (warning: opinions ahead!)

Almost, but not qu(EYE)te…

The Hypnotic Eye (1960) -Slick but eventually overcooked semi-horror about a suave, heavily accented hypnotist (Jacques Bergerac) and his curvy assistant (Alyson Hayes from Attack of the 50-Foot Woman) who seem to be responsible for 11 women mutilating (or killing in one case) themselves with no memory of the incidents afterward. The film kicks off with an amazing and horrific opening, but has to feature possibly the dumbest detective on the planet who allows his girlfriend to act as Hypno-bait for too long to the point of disbelief.

The film starts out strong, but the denseness of the detective and his way too clueless nature hurts the proceedings as it plays out. That said, there are a few high points, such as the interviews with some of the disfigured victims that show off some disturbing makeup, the always pneumatic Miss Hayes and this particular scene, which some of you movie lovers might find yourself identifying with somewhat:

It’s hip to be square.

Things fall apart with a nutty mass hypnosis scene that’s amusing, yet takes a bit too long before motives are revealed with an ending that includes a pretty cheesy makeup job (is that an oatmeal mask left on too long?) and a corny PSA about hypnosis. This one falls into the “Oh well” pile by the time it’s over, but at 79 minutes, at least it doesn’t overstay its welcome. If you’re very sensitive to flashing lights, you might find yourself under it’s spell a bit- just don’t attempt to wash your hair or drink coffee afterward.

“Muthers?” This one made me say “Uncle”

The Muthers (1975) – Thanks to a relative who took me to the movies as a kid, I have the distinct memory of seeing the trailer to this film and it stuck for decades until I finally caved and bought this DVD from Vinegar Syndrome last year, and found it to be somewhat lacking after the fact. Sure, it’s a Z-grade exploitation film and yes, it’s got that going for it from the start. But I actually fell asleep the first time I watched and had to sit through a second time just so I can write that it was actually watched this to the end. And NO, it certainly did not get better the second time around.

Directed in the Philippines by Cirio S. Santiago, this is kind of enjoyably junky if you just turn off your brain and wallow in the film without judgement. On the other hand, there are far better films in this sub-genre that are worth watching than this clumsy, cheaply made affair with its crummy excuse for martial arts and loads of gunplay and explosions. Amusingly enough, I recently found out it’s one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite films, which makes me think that perhaps he should have just made a Fox Force Five flick during his Grindhouse period. Or hell, got a limited TV series out of a those few lines of dialog from Pulp Fiction. I had to dig out a Jack Hill film from the collection just to wash my brain rid of this mess, so I got to see The Swinging Cheerleaders rock this film’s world.


Esta pelicula es pura basura!

The Dungeon of Harrow (1962) – Let’s just say that while the late Pat Boyette was a great comic artist of the era and beyond, his sole directorial effort, the dreary gothic leper flick presented here ends up being as bargain basement as it gets for a “horror” film. The only good thing about this Vinegar Syndrome release is it comes as a double feature with Death By Invitation, which has its flaws but it’s a great deal more watchable than what’s here. Granted. this falls squarely into “cult classic” territory, but the dreadful pacing here makes this a total chore to sit through. When I lent the disc to a friend recently, he returned it while waiting downstairs in his car while he flew the disc upstairs using a drone he purchased. There was a note inside the DVD case stating that the both films were shown to a group of seven and people could barely make it though the main feature.

Must be a death cult. “Classic” my a$$.

Let’s see now: two survivors of a shipwreck have to deal with everything from wild dogs to the creepy Dracula impostor and his dressed for the wrong movie bodyguard. There are two women also trapped on the island, but the whole film looks as if someone went through a random pile of clothing as a Salvation Army, chose the cheapest outfits and made up a plot as they shot. Amusingly, trying to describe the plot is somewhat futile, so this capsule review may actually do the job of selling a handful of copies if anyone is THAT curious. Hey, it’s your money and time, folks. These aren’t exactly bucket list films, but I’ll take one for the team every now and then, Hey, I think I hear some film noir calling me – back in a bit with some other stuff.

-GW

Oh, WordPress is ticking me off because it sometimes won’t allow me to add tags until AFTER a post is made, so I’ll be re-editing this later!

Accent Grave, Over the “E”, Or: How Not To Watch Some Films, Sometimes

Well, in short, I caught The French Dispatch on cable before I finally saw the Dune remake and yep, as both films demand multiple views to catch every bit of detail one fine film kind of unintentionally and amusingly ruined the other fine film within seconds. Almost as soon as Timothée Chalamet appeared onscreen as Paul Atredies, I started chuckling, not because there’s anything resembling a poor performance in either film, but I actually wondered at one point how much more visually out there Dune would have been in Wes Anderson had directed it. Not to throw any hint of shade in Denis Villeneuve’s direction at all here as both directors’ work feature meticulous attention to detail along with strong performances. However, I kept thinking while watching both films how Anderson’s use of numerous film techniques would work within Frank Herbert’s worlds.

That or hell, the title to this article partially references one of my favorite comedies, 1940’s The Bank Dick, and part of me wants to see a Wes Anderson version of that at some point, But I’m a bit nuts these days, so file this thought under really wishful thinking, I guess.

-GW

DVD Review: Odds Against Tomorrow

Every so often, the cable company here moves the channels around and it becomes a bit of a chore hunting for formerly favorite stations. What’s worse, is a few times, I’m waiting for the cable box to load the channel guide after a router reboot and I have to fly blind for a few minutes, which in this particular case, turned out to be a pleasant surprise indeed. I was looking to find where TCM went to and found it after some work, but the channel guide wasn’t loading and there was a film I’d never seen before playing. It turns out that it was a Robert Wise-directed film from 1959 called Odds Against Tomorrow and it had me on the edge of my seat until the somewhat explosive finale.

The film is a rather bleak noir with a heist plot, the crooked, disgraced crooked cop who devises the plan (Ed Begley) and the two desperate men he’s picked to assist him.There’s Robert Ryan as Slater, a rather hateful ex-soldier and convict and Harry Belafonte as Ingram, a handsome musician with bad luck with the horses. Both men meet with Burke separately and it’s quite an interesting study in contrasts. Slater insults a little girl, ignores a jovial elevator operator trying to make small talk and is in general, just has a pretty big chip on his shoulder about everything. Ingram rolls up in a flashy sports car a few minutes later, offers a few kids money for watching his car, makes that elevator operator laugh as he rides up, and is generally a pretty nice guy- minus his crushing gambling debt.

Both men have don’t meet until later in the film, but let’s just say, Slater is none too pleased that he’s going to be partnered with a black man and quits the job. Ingram also leaves the job, but his negative dealings with his bookie throw his life into danger and he’s back in on the job after a bit of a breakdown at the jazz club he plays at. Slater’s hiatus lasts until he decides he’s had it with his girlfriend (Shelly Winters!) and wants to get out from under her clutches. The heist goes, in true noir fashion, very awry, to say the least. No more will be said here, save for this is a film well worth seeking out if you haven’t seen it yet. There’s a great score, every actor here is superb, and the bleak ending is about as downbeat as it gets. In a way, this one’s like Raoul Walsh’s classic White Heat, and Kubrick’s The Killing, but this feels like more of a hidden gem. Go check it out on tcm.com or go find it for sale here.

-GW

Now, Where Were We? (Or: Crazy Times, Indeed)

Hi there. So, where were we again? Oh, right. Some big things are cooking on the legal/financial front, so that’s been taking up a chunk of time (boo!). Nevertheless, I can’t say much after that other than I dislike having to do so much stuff nearly every day to get a relative what’s legally due because the process intentionally convoluted and some things needn’t be so damn irritating, but here we are.

Uh, subject change? Movies? Sure, okay.

(Thanks, Warner Bros Pictures!)

I saw JOKER a few times and the Birds of Prey flick twice last year. Both are quite interesting takes on characters with different complex mental challenges as unreliable narrators and yes, one comes off as far darker than the other with the latter film having a much higher body count while the former is pretty bleak on every front with initially a lower body count, but a longer damage reach. The main differences between the two being the direction and how the victims are treated. Birds of Prey has plenty of bad folks who get what’s coming to them and it’s presented as comically as possible though some energetically portrayed violence. But you also see a few innocents dispatched by villains who are somewhat worse than the main character. As the kids say, props to the main villains here for being so phenomenally twisted.

(Thanks, Warner Bros Pictures!)

On the other hand, JOKER is in a way, much like Harley’s loopy tale, but a lot less “fun” to watch. It also goes rather intentionally all over the map, but Arthur Fleck’s story along with its more realistic violent content reflects the reactions its main character has to his internal demons and not all of the victims here deserve what they get. The violence is more shocking and in a few cases, unexpected, especially a brutal scene later on where you get a sudden victim and a surprise survivor. In both films, the actors playing the leads do some fine work overall, although I have to give the edge to Joaquin Phoenix’s performance (I’m not into awards shows, but that Oscar win was well-deserved).

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July Arrows (Or, What Goes Up Must Come Down In Your Blu-Ray Player)

July is a pretty busy month for Arrow Video and Arrow Academy – here’s all six releases coming your way this month on Blu-Ray:

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ZOMBIE FOR SALE [Blu-ray] (7/7)
BLACK RAINBOW [Blu-ray] (7/7)
INFERNO OF TORTURE [Blu-ray] (7/7)
HIROSHIMA [Blu-ray] (7/14)
BLOODSTONE [Blu-ray] (7/21)
LIFE IS A LONG QUIET RIVER [Blu-ray] (7/21)

Arrow TV

Go make your own fireworks show on Apple TV!

Apple device-owning Arrow TV users are also in for a treat this month, as some of the films here are in this months lineup wit many others they can check out. If that’s you, feel free to check out the channel over at the link provided.
-GW

Presents of Mind

So, it was my birthday last month, but I don’t celebrate it these days like “normal” people do. I tend to just wake up and be thrilled to be breathing, move on and let a new year pass hopefully without any bad stuff occurring. Cake is optional these days (Hey, diet? You doing OK?). I also don’t do presents unless I get surprised with one, but this year, I decided to pick up a few things for myself with a bit of extra money I had left over. A little retail therapy, if you like. It’s been quite a year or few years, is all I’ll say about that. Anyway, here’s a small list of what I got myself:

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“I can stop anytime I want to…”

I wanted to cut back on the caffeine and someone suggested trying mixing chicory with coffee, so I went with Community’s 100% chicory, as I have a few large canisters of coffee here and I like experimenting when I get the chance to do so. Finding the correct mixture for my tastes was an interesting thing as well, but I did try a pot of pure chicory first but found it a bit too strong. Well, that was my fault, but it did remind me of some of my first attempts to make coffee some decades back where one person liked it and another had her eyeballs practically leave her skull. Let’s just say I got a lot better at the making coffee thing since then.

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May’s Sudden Arrows Make Me A Bit Jumpy

Oops. With too much going on here and more on the way on a few fronts, I missed a few too many emails and have been getting to them when I can. Anyway, this month’s Arrow Video and Arrow Academy releases are below, all of them dropped today and I barely ducked out of the way as they landed all around me:

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BLOOD TIDE [Blu-ray] (5/26)

WHITE FIRE [Blu-ray] (5/26)

THE WOMAN [Blu-ray] (5/26)

SOLID METAL NIGHTMARES: THE FILMS OF SHINYA TSUKAMOTO

[Blu-ray Box Set] (5/26)

These should do the job in keeping some folks inside for a spell, I think. Back in a bit – it’s been a very long day here.

-GW

 

 

(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

 

Life is Sweet (Trick or Treat 2)

Okay, things are back to normal… well, the internet works much better today, I mean. I need to catch up on a few too many reviews, but first, some brain draining to take care of. It helps me in these crazy times. This will be another TO BE CONTINUED entry, thanks to a bit of stream of consciousness working itself into this post, but I think we’ll be done by the third one.

Maybe.

(Thanks. Cuerva!)

I don’t swim at all not because I’m lazy or never had the opportunity to learn. When I was about 7 or 8, the parents sent us to summer camp and maybe ten minutes into the very first day there, one of the counselors decided to grab some frightened kid from the back of a group of kids who’d never seen a lake up close before and toss him into it. There’s nothing like taking in the sights while airborne and screaming, then the shock of cold water hitting your body (or your body hitting the water at speed) and seeing fish swim away along with a few water snakes. And man, those assorted pebbles and rocks on the bottom of the lake? I was getting a geology lesson and learning about a small selection of sea life while sinking like a proverbial stone. Ah, memories!

To be fair, I didn’t even know snakes could live in water until that point and I would have been surprised at that if I wasn’t busy drowning. At some point, I was fished out by a bunch of councilors after they saw I didn’t surface (my bad! I didn’t read the instructions on swimming before I got on the non-air conditioned hot as hell yellow school bus, and by the way, there were NO instructions). But it also seemed that no one was stepping up to get me to a hospital or medically treated for swallowing all that lake water. I know I was out for a bit, as I woke up with a crowd of worried camp counselors staring down at me and all that water I guess was coughed up and I can recall a bunch of kids with big wide eyes gathered nearby. We hadn’t even been assigned cabins when this happened, so they all had nowhere to go.

I was a pre-Jason Vorehees victim of kid-neglecting teens, I guess. I think I need revenge, or an appropriate trailer:

(Thanks, YouTube Movies!)

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