Random Film of the Week: High and Low

High and Low 24_BD_box_348x490_originalBased on the 1959 crime novel King’s Ransom: An 87th Precinct Mystery by Ed McBain (Evan Hunter), Akira Kurosawa’s 1963 film Tengoku to jigoku (Heaven and Hell or High and Low to western audiences) is one of those great police procedural films that’s a must for crime drama fans. With perfect casting, a gripping story of a kidnapping gone wrong thanks to a case of mistaken identity and the rush to find the kidnapper before things go further south, Kurosawa’s film is a multi-layered masterpiece worth seeing multiple times.

When “wealthy” businessman Kingo Gondo (Toshiro Mifune) and the company he works for decide to snap up the National Shoe Company, there’s a divide between executives on how to close the deal. Gondo prefers the company stick to making well-made and reliable stompers for the masses but other big shots want shoes for all that are cheaply made and thus, more profitable because they’ll need to be replaced more often. With all the back and forth debating going on, Gondo has a master plan he’s hiding from his peers. He’s mortgaged everything he owns and plans to pull off a leverage buyout of National Shoes that would put him in charge for good and keep National doing what they do best.

Little does he know he’s being watched by a few pairs of far more evil eyes looking up at his “castle” from the lower depths… Continue reading

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: Humanoids From The Deep

Humanoids From the Deep MPIt’s pretty much a 60’s “B” flick dipped in the not for the kiddies gore and nudity of early 80’s slasher flicks. But on that level Humanoids of the Deep works. You’re pretty much getting The Horror of Party Beach and Creature From the Black Lagoon with a bit of actual horror, but the film is more notorious for its added in post-production scenes of icky, horny sea creatures molesting a few young actresses after whipping their bathing suits off. That caused a bit of a stir back when I saw this in 1980 with a few friends and I also recall a handful of people screaming and doing an exit dash at the film’s somewhat ALIEN-inspired final scene.

Back then I didn’t like the film all that much because of its extremes and that it felt like two different films crunched together at the expense of the better one. But over time it’s become something of a mash-up of intentional and unintentional comedy, eyeball-rolling “shock” scenes and yes, well-known cast members who didn’t realize they’d be starring in a rather mean-spirited exploitation moneymaker that would garner a loyal fan base. For me it’s more of a great guilty pleasure when I look at it now. Albeit with a big blood red caution buoy in the water if you’re squeamish or easily annoyed by gore and gratuitous nudity in a “roughie” manner.

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Random Film Of The Week: The Graduate

(thanks, ryy79!) 

The Graduate MPIt’s actually quite funny, sitting and watching a favorite film with people who haven’t seen it before who initially end up not liking as much as you do. I’ve had this happen countless times, but I don’t think I’d ever had such an odd reaction from the last screening I did of The Graduate, Mike Nichols’ excellent, classic 1967 comedy/drama. What I saw (and still see) as one of the many films of that year that were minor to major revolutions in film making, my friend and his wife (who are a tiny bit younger than me) ended up being divided on a few fronts, making for an interesting discussion afterwards. I’d initially planned a straightforward review of the film, but watching these two people interact during and after the movie made me scrap that in favor of this article.

Is Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin Braddock merely a “spoiled rich kid, a stalker and a jerk!” or is he just “an elite everyman living a plastic life” like my friends debated (among other things)? If you look at the film with a modern eye, the answer is yes on both counts. However, that modern eye will miss a chunk of the film’s actual comedic value and even some of the most interesting elements of this classic. if there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s this: spinning things into a too politically correct version of a movie that needs to be seen as a sign of the times it was made in isn’t always necessary, but it makes for some perky bits of conversation… Continue reading