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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Random Film of the Week: Corruption


 

As mad scientist flicks go, Corruption is something of a forgotten classic in its own crazy manner. You get the great Peter Cushing out of his usual period piece horrors playing a successful plastic surgeon in a more modern 60’s setting, some surprisingly shocking (by mid 60’s standards) content and a laser gone haywire in a finale that may elicit some chuckles from forward thinking Star Wars fans. If you’ve ever wanted to see Cushing go full-tilt, over the top into scenery chomping territory, this one won’t disappoint one bit. While there are some slow expository moments here, the overall film is an interesting slice of horror that while not wholly original, ends up being pretty memorable on a few fronts.

(Thanks, groovemaster!)
 

After the swingin’ credit sequence, we meet Cushing’s Sir John Rowan and his pretty younger fiancée Lynn (Sue Lloyd) at a pretty raucous party. While the good doctor struggles with the mingling, Lynn, who just so happens to be a model, is in the middle of an impromptu photo shoot when Rowan rushes up to stop the snapping away before his squeeze loses all her clothes. Before you can say “Watch out for that hot studio lamp!”, Rowan accidentally knocks said lamp over and it lands on poor Lynn, burning half her face. Ouch! Fortunately, she’s engaged to a very capable plastic surgeon, right? Unfortunately, conventional surgery won’t work this time, so Rowan decides to use Lynn as a guinea pig to try out a little something he’s been working on in secret.

If you’ve seen Georges Franju’s Les yeux sans visage (Eyes Without A Face), you can probably guess things up to a point, For everyone who hasn’t, Répétez après moi, s’il vous plaît:

“What could POSSIBLY go wrong?”(dot dot dot) Continue reading

Planet of the Apes Back on the Big Screen: Not Hard to Fathom At All

Image from impawards.com

Image from impawards.com

 


I think I’ve mentioned this before, but in case you haven’t read that old post, 1968’s Planet of the Apes was the very first movie I saw in a theater. That said, I’m not sure I’ll go to this Fathom Events screening thanks to my backlog keeping my plate full. But to anyone seeing this for the first time or for the first time on a big screen, my glass is raised that your sense of wonder gets the same kick mine did those many years back. If YOU do end up going and are reading this, feel free to drop on by and leave impressions. It’s always fun to hear how modern moviegoers see the classics.

A Few Too Few Words About Christopher Lee…


 

Another light goes out and if you knew the man’s rather astounding body of work it was one of the brightest lights you’d ever seen. While he was known primarily for his work in the horror genre, the late Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee was so much more than a one-note performer. Whether or not you liked some of the films he appeared in, he always gave his best even in the worst “B” flicks (Castle of Fu Manchu, anyone?). Some of us recall his films made with the late, great Peter Cushing (I’m partial to Horror Express) while younger viewers will know him from his work in The Lord of the Rings and a few Star Wars films.

I’d pick The Wicker Man (above) as my favorite Lee film because it’s a great flick that challenges viewers who come in expecting a standard horror tale. It’s a surprisingly intelligent genre film that works on a few levels and seeps into your bones for about a week or so after viewing. Go track it down (and don’t bother at all with the horrible remake) along with a few other Lee classics. I’m sure Turner Classic Movies will be running a marathon of his work shortly. But if you’re a film fan with room in your library you should think about adding a few of the man’s always re-watchable works to your collection.

TCM Remembers: It’s Been A Year of Falling Stars…


 

Hmmm. These TCM tributes are getting longer and harder to watch as the years zip by and we lose a few more stars. Yes, it’s not complete, but that can be rectified with a bit of creative calendar juggling. I suppose the thing about starting a new year fresh is big with too many people that changing this tribute’s air date to January would be seen as sacrilege to many. But at least this would insure they got in everyone including actors whose films would probably never be shown on the channel. Okay, I guess it’s a good thing I don’t have a job programming content for a cable channel. All you’d get would be old “B” movies you’ve never seen (or haven’t seen for decades), silly comedies from around the world, oddball random cartoons and the occasional documentary.

And Who Wouldn’t Want To Spend the Evening With Miss Bardot?


 
Well, I have no idea what I’d say or do once I popped out of that time machine and found myself in the presence of the lady, but I’d probably faint dead away from surprise that my time travel experiment worked and wake up a few seconds before I was to be zapped back to the present. Oh well. I guess staying safe at home with these five films is a safer bet:

8PM: And God Created Woman (1956)

9:45PM: Une Parisienne (1957)

11:30PM: Plucking the Daisy (1956)

1:30 AM: The Night Heaven Fell (1958)

3:15 AM: Contempt (1963)

The good thing for me is I’ve only seen two of these films, so the rest will be my first time. Um… er… (*beet!*) you know what I mean! Get your mind out of the gutter, you. I need all that space for mine to float around in later! ;^P

TCM Wants You To Stay Up Late Weekends…With No Chaperone!


 
Although unsupervised movie watching is ALWAYS a darn good idea in my book, TCM’s Underground kind of NEEDS a friendly yet slightly sinister guide to the treasures it holds within. Granted, the channel tried using a host in the past (Rob Zombie), but his tenure didn’t last all that long. I’d LOVE to do this job, as I know a bit about some of the films they run and don’t mind researching the ones I don’t know about. Then again, I’m not exactly the most exciting person on camera as I think I have an aversion to being filmed and I’m not at well-tempered enough to sit in a makeup chair (unless someone’s going to make me look like some monster from a 50’s “B” movie!).

Hmmm, perhaps a compromise is in order. I’ll pretend to host the films while watching at home (yeah, I’ll be talking out loud to my television. Quiet, you in the back!) and TCM can pretend to pay me for my efforts. Yeah, that should work out just FINE. La la la laaa. La la laaaa. I’m a STAR! (Cue the men in white coats in 3… 2… 1..)

Sad Saturday? Miz Miller Says “Oh No You Don’t!”

Yeah, you were about to drown your sorrows in a pint of ice cream or booze, huh? I know that feeling, kid… but sometimes you just need a lift out of that Dumpster you’ve fallen into (by accident or on purpose). Ann Miller (as Nadine Gale in the classic 1948 musical Easter Parade) will get you back on track and happier or at least tapping and snapping to the beat. So, put down that vice and pick up another one, grab that sweetie or pet of a tall lamp and get it shakin’, you. Tomorrow will be a better day once you get your groove on and some of those kinks out.

You’re welcome, by the way.

John Ford’s Stagecoach: Writers, Here’s How To Introduce Your Hero (#2 Of A Bunch)…

(thanks, ThePiemmebi!)

What can I say about John Ford that hasn’t been better said by a load of other (and far better) writers? Not much, other than even if you hate westerns, his 1939 classic, Stagecoach was and still is a quite phenomenal film from a year where there were dozens of them popping into theaters throughout the year. That famous first shot of John Wayne as Ringo is brilliant and thrilling because it immediately introduces a character that adds to the story in many ways. Without seeing the rest of the film, this clip sets up Ringo as someone who’s liked and hated, a friend, yet a stranger and some sort of outlaw. He’s not giving up his Winchester at all, and yes, that stubbornness comes in very handy soon enough as things get dangerous and his skills are required.

I haven’t seen this one in a while, but if it’s on soon (TCM, of course! I missed the John Wayne flicks they ran last month) and I’m up, I’ll be watching and cheering those great stunts and oohing at that stunning Monument Valley setting once again…

Mad Max “Much Damage?” Clip: Writers, Here’s How To Introduce Your Hero (#1 of A Bunch)…

So, TCM making more (and better) use of its YouTube page means I get to babble about storytelling for a series of posts about one important part of a good (or even not so good) heroic movie. Forget all about Mel’s more current issues, folks. Back when this film was made, he was cool beans on a fresh plate and Mad Max was to many, his breakthrough role (at least in the USA where action fans got both barrels from this wild ride). This particular clip shows George Miller’s assured direction of always hard to shoot vehicle action and some dynamic camerawork along with excellent use of scoring and sound effects. The opening minute of this scene is pure white-knuckle action, then there’s a pause while Max is introduced and takes over the pursuit, completely changing the tone. The contrast between the Night Rider’s ranting and Max’s slow set-up works and when he breaks the Toecutter in that “chicken” match, you know it’s pretty much all over. Granted, Max goes though some breaking of his own as the film progresses, but I’ll let you catch this on TCM (Saturday, May 3 at 2am ET/Fri, May 2 at 11pm PT) and not spoil a thing if you’re now to this one…