FREE SPACE! HBO DOUBLE FEATURE:Martin Campbell's CAST A DEADLY SPELL (1991, 96 min.) on HBO Go for the first time.A fun blend of genre homages (back when HBO made-for-TV movies weren't just Emmy bait), "Cast A Deadly Spell" imagines a late 1940's Los Angeles just like the one in noir pictures and pulp novels... except that everybody either uses magic to get their way or have someone with magical powers at their disposal. All except private dick Harry Phillip Lovecraft (Fred Ward, excellent), who refuses magical assistance even when he lands a peculiar but profitable gig. A rich recluse (David Warner) needs his stolen Necronomicon recovered in time for an important ceremony in a couple of nights, which piques the interest of young daughter Olivia (Alexandra Powers) enough to meet with Lovecraft behind her father's back to give-and-take valuable info. It's going to take more than zombies, demons, dames from his past he hasn't gotten over (Julianne Moore) and former partners that have struck it rich (Clancy Brown) for Lovecraft to not necessarily do what's right, but what will let him look in the mirror the morning after and say to himself 'You did alright, kid.'While the special effects show their age and cable TV budget, director Martin Campbell ("GoldenEye") takes advantage of the wealth of character development, solid acting pool and great premise to deliver one entertaining set-piece after another. The attention to little details make this movie world thoroughly engaging. Even when some aspects misfire (Lee Tergesen's character doing exposition dump in drag), Joseph Dougherty's screenplay keeps all the story beats, character motivations and undercurrent of dark humor humming along at a consistent pace. The actors play the fantasy completely straight, which makes the few instances life-or-death stakes are in play thoroughly dramatic before going back to amusing. Recommended, a solid period piece of a period piece that has aged better than... well, keep on reading. Paul Schrader's WITCH HUNT (1994, 100 min.) in 35mm at NYC's Anthology Film Archive for the first time.Attended a rare (and free) 35mm theatrical screening of this made-for-HBO sequel to "Cast A Deadly Spell," which retains the same screenwriter (Joseph Dougherty), producer (Gale Anne Hurd), characters, settings and motifs from its predecessor. Every single actor from the prequel is recast, though, and director Paul Schrader ("Cat People") seems more interested in making heavy-handed political statements than telling a good supernatural story. Dennis Hopper takes over Fred Ward's H.P. Lovecraft role, which replaces the latter's vulnerability and resourcefulness with the former's tough guy persona to diminishing effect. Even without magic at his disposal, there's never any fear that all the magic-wielding enemies Lovecraft encounters will do any real harm to him. The story deals primarily with an opportunistic U.S. Senator (Eric Bogosian) scapegoating magicians in L.A. as a danger to the American way of life. Cue the predictable scenes of Bogosian playing a version of McCarthy/Trump that takes advantage of gullible masses to further his political aspirations. Penelope Ann Miller has a choice role as a starlet that hires Lovecraft to keep secret an unpleasant truth about herself she doesn't want the world to know. There are a handful of fun little scenes in "Witch Hunt" (William Shakespeare and Mark Twain transported to the 1950's to punch-up scripts for movies based on their work), but for the most part the new batch of guest stars (Julian Sands, Debi Mazar, etc.) feel like second stringers. And if you thought the precipitous drop in quality from the first to second season of "True Detective" was an isolated event, check out just how weird and far-out Paul Schrader will push his directorial choices to get his awkward points across. Worth a rental for the really curious.
Lifeforce (1985)This is quickly becoming the movie that I like showing to new people. The movie has so much fun with the desiccated corpses, and I'm right with them.
I love this movie, and not just because of a certain nude space vampire.
The charm of Lifeforce - at least the director's cut- is that it is not afraid to throw everything and then more at the viewer. It is a completely over-the-top production. The concluding scenes of London in chaos best typify this. Do the zombies make any sense in the overall story? No, but they add an additional element to the action.A Casual Listener
I watched a couple of films this morning. STRIKE COMMANDO (1987)- directed by Bruno Mattei (a.k.a, Vincent Dawn)"Bring me to Jakoda!" - Michael Ransom"Americanski!" - JakodaThis Italian Rambo rip-off more than lives up to its reputation for ridiculousness. Strike commando officer Michael Ransom goes after the Russian officer, the notorious Jakoda, responsible for the slaughter of Vietnamese villagers who helped Ransom escape back to American lines. I do not know if Mattei intended Strike Commando to be a comedy, but it undoubtedly turned out to be one. Not for one moment can it be taken seriously. The seemingly endless groups of VC being gunned down by one swipe of Ransom's machine gun, the incongruous use of American weapons by the Viet Cong, and the cartoonishly muscular and perpetually sneering Jakoda are just some of the funny elements in the film. Reb Brown puts in an entertaining performance, and there are plenty of fiery explosions. Heavily recommended. KILLER PARTY (1986)What do you get when you cross 1980s college sex comedies, slashers, and other horror genre conventions? This unpredictable mash-up of a film. While KILLER PARTY does not do anything original, the combining of such genres in a comedic tone makes this an unusual viewing experience. Moreover, there is a strong '80s vibe throughout the film. The clothes, music, hair, and the thirty-year-old college freshmen are unmistakably straight from that decade.KILLER PARTY is a blast to watch. This is one of those films in which anything goes. I do not want to give too much of it away. A Casual Listener
Railroad Tigers (2016)Jackie Chan is a Chinese railroad worker who bands together with a bunch of village people to ambush Japanese trains - starting at supply trains to feed the people, then escalating to a full military train. I will watch any Jackie Chan movie to watch Jackie Chan. Often, I sit through Jackie Chan movies in spite of the movie itself (*cough* Kung Fu Yoga *cough*). However, Railroad Tigers is one of the few movies that works for me. It is a robust story, it has other interesting people besides Jackie, and it never really lags.
Bajrangbali (1976, dir. Chandrakant)Bollywood Hindu epic based on the legend of Hanuman, the monkey demigod who also inspired the Chinese 'Journey to the West' stories. I guess the best Western comparison point to this is either The Ten Commandments, or The Wizard of Oz; it's long (3 hours,) colorful, full of creatures and special effects. The very first shot of the movie has a guy with three heads in it. It feels like watching two movies one after the other: the first movie (about the first 90 minutes) is about Hanuman's best friend God's wife getting kidnapped by a 10-headed demon king, and the adventures they and all their friends have trying to rescue her. It's crazy and fun! The second half is all the random crap the guys get up to afterward back home, and it just. won't. end. It's also all shit about people's names and reputations being blemished, and it gets fucking aggravating. Like, the guy's wife comes under popular suspicion for getting kidnapped (like "Hey, maybe she was asking for it?"), and the guy banishes her for it for 10 years to shut them up! Don't worry so much about what other people think, dude!!Big Zapper (1973, dir. Lindsay Shonteff)Very silly British spy spoof, with a slightly racy sense of humor. Harriet Zapper is the hero, who's been hired to find a missing daughter, and finds her murdered by a pimp. There are samurai (which she decapitates,) tons of goons with goofy weapons like maces (who she mows down with a gatling gun,) and she punches a few guys through walls, leaving Looney Tunes-style people-shaped holes. It's not as much fun as it sounds like it would be.Battle Girl: The Living Dead in Tokyo Bay (1991, dir. Kazuo "Gaira" Komizu)Surprisingly straight zombie sci-fi from the director of the Guts of a Virgin trilogy. A woman trapped in quarantine zone during a meteor-triggered zombie outbreak gets her hands on some cybernetic armor and gets to smashing corpses and evil military guys. It feel like it may have influenced the Resident Evil franchise, but it's not terribly exciting. A lot of the cast are clearly pro wrestlers, though, which is kind of neat.
SATAN'S BABY DOLL (1982) - Directed by Mario BianchiSomething evil is afoot in the castle of the Aguilar family. After the matriarch, Maria, passes away, the family and staff start to meet violent deaths. Could it be the malicious spirit of Maria taking possession of her daughter and willing these deaths to happen?I stumbled upon Satan's Baby Doll earlier in the week. The provocative title and wonderfully lurid poster (displayed on the streaming site) immediately piqued my interest. Expecting the worst from this early-1980s bottom-of-the-barrel Italian exploitation film, I came out of it pleasantly surprised. The film is well shot, atmospheric, and has a cast that imbues life into their disposable characters. Aldo Sembrell, whose face will be immediately recognizable to any spaghetti western fan, stands out. He dynamically portrays the trouble patriarch of the family.There is no avoiding the fact that this is largely a sleazy t-n-a flick. There is one sequence of nudity (I did not know nuns dressed so scantily for bed)that drags the film to a halt, but the film generally moves at a brisk pace. The death scenes are effective but nothing to rave about. Its run time is a mere 75 minutes. SATAN'S BABY DOLL is recommended to Italian exploitation completists. A Casual Listener
Edgar Wright's BABY DRIVER (2017, 113 min.) in theaters for the first time.Attention BURTSPLOITATION! fans: Little Enos himself, Paul Williams, is alive and doing well. How do I know? I just saw him on the big screen talking trash with Jamie Foxx in Edgar Wright's flawed-but-entertaining homage to gangster, young romance, action and old-school 'just one more job before retiring' heist movies. It's a $40 million homage to the type of genre pictures we've watched this past month, but filtered through Wright's maturing filmmaking sensibilities (the 'million-edits-per-minute' pace from the Cornetto Trilogy is no more) and an honest-to-goodness attempt to make its choice soundtrack as important a character as the human beings (archetyped and underdeveloped, but recognizable characters) obsessed with the tunes playing at all times. The movie starts slow and, frankly, too full of itself. By the start of its third act, though, even my lack of love for 90% of the songs (personal preference) and antipathy for Ansel Elgort's lead character (which mirrored the antagonism a couple of key characters feel toward Baby's peculiar personality) were swept aside by genuine tension and some exciting action beats with lasting character repecussions. Recommended, especially if we get a sequel starring Kevin Spacey's 'chip of the old block' Samm (Brogan Hall). :-P
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Jekyll and Hyde (1931)Wow, wow, wow and wow. This is the movie that completely caught me by surprise. Not just the performances (which by the way, Frederick March and Miriam Hopkins are incredible) but the actual movie making itself; the transformation effects, the flaming POV! Compared to other classics of that same year, Dracula and Frankenstien (movies I will always adore) this feels more ambitious and less stage bound. I have a growing love for movies from the early 30s, and have an expectation for how they look and feel. Jekyll and Hyde seemed to break all of these conventions, and feels much more ahead of it's time.
Are you familiar with the 1940s horror films produced by Val Lewton at RKO Studios? These include Cat People, I Walked With A Zombie, and The Body Snatcher. The Body Snatcher features one of Boris Karloff's greatest performances. There is a great deal of atmosphere to Lewton's productions, with an emphasis on suggestion. The Curse of the Cat People, while not a horror film , remains a favorite among his productions. Using the main characters from Cat People, Lewton was able to tell a story about a lonely girl under the noses of studio executives. It is a beautiful film.A Casual Listener
I've been loving the early '30s the last couple years. Excited to watch this one finally. Thanks for hyping me up.
This came out before the Hayes Code went into effect, which is why Miriam Hopkins can be so unabashedly sensual. The transformation scene is so effective, even when you know how they did it it's still powerful.
Casual - Yes, I have dipped my toe into Val Lewton with I Walked With A Zombie and the Body Snatchers. And I agree Karloff is incrediable. I still have to watch more I am still feeling my way around them. But keen to watch more especially The Cat People.Charles - You are going to loooove this.Steve - I had to look up how they did the transformation effects. I loved how tihs movie throws everything it has on the screen, acting, make up, effects, fades, POV and everything else. All with the hand rubbing glee of not having to worry about codes. So good!
Once A Thief (1991) (First Time Viewing):Of all the weird stuff I’ve seen this month, this is the weirdest. It is a light-hearted comedic romp about a friendly team of art thieves, but since it’s directed by John Woo it’s punctuated by ballets of death and gunplay that are on the same level of quality and violence as Hard Boiled and A Better Tomorrow. Hundreds of henchmen lose their lives. Oh, and at the end one of the final henchmen is a magician, so he throws killer playing cards and spits fire. Then, at the very end Chow Yun Fat cartoonishly babysits an infant in fast-motion montage, while watching the 1989 Superbowl on TV (making this one of the few movies to feature my Cincinnati Bengals). In conclusion: it’s a masterpiece.
Going on the list! Thanks
Satan's Little Helper (2004) directed by Jeff LiebermanI put the blame squarely on Adam Riske's shoulders for my love of this movie...
I was worried where this was going when I saw "blame" "Adam Riske" but I like how it ended. Satan's Little Helper is too funny and weird to be anything but embraced.
My heart always skips a beat when I see a comment on Xtro the same. I'm still waiting anxiously for Adam's thoughts
Xtro is a monster, right? I see no better way to finish off Junesploitation than watching that :-) Tomorrow night and the world will know my thoughts on Xtro.
Erm, alien technically.
Adam, I could only "blame" you in the best possible way and I thank you for opening my eyes to this movie and also making me go back and watch Jeff Lieberman's prior work (Squirm, Blue Sunshine and the excellent Just Before Dawn), he deserves a place in the horror director hall of fame... Also Xtro is ACE!! Ohh one last thing, a moment to say that next year is 20(!!) years since Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms, yo!!
I'm excited and scared at the same time Adam. He'll yes Xtro is monster. An Alien Monster but still a Monster
@Richard - Remind me and I'll totally do a write-up on Phantoms 20 Years Later next year. I've seen half of it once. It's due for a revisit.@Dennis - I'm psyched to watch it tonight. Should I read your article about it beforehand or just let it wash over me?
Thanks Adam that would be the bomb, yo!!
No my article goes into spoilers Riske, just watch it blind with no idea of what is to come. Turn off your phone as you probably do already and give it your full attention to work its magic. Your about to enter a new realm of consciousness. The world won't be the same afterwards Check out JMs review though on todays Monsters column He was blown away. He loved it
Shark Lake (2015)Dolph Lundgren and sharks. Two great tastes that don't taste even remotely good together. Actually, to call this a Dolph Lundgren movie is fairly disingenuous as he's got maybe 10 minutes of screen time (and that's probably being generous). The sharks should have gotten top billing.The lead is Sara Malakul Lane (so good in Sun Choke...less so here, but not her fault) as a cop who adopted the daughter of a criminal (Lundgren) and has to deal with keeping her child safe from the giant Swede and also from a giant shark that is terrorizing the community. The effects are SyFy Channel-level garbage (there's a CGI boat leak that made me laugh out loud...could they not afford water?) and make it so that the threat never feels threatening at any point. Some of the character stuff is surprisingly decent (I like that Dolph isn't played as a villain, his crime was exotic animal smuggling and he seems to have a heart) but other aspects are so amateurish (a bit with Lane's mother in imminent sharkdanger seems lifted from an alternate cut of The Room) that none of the decent stuff sticks. Skip it, go for a swim instead.
SALOME’S LAST DANCE (1988) Ken Russell adapts Oscar Wilde’s play, but in his overly-sexualized glam-rock Ken Russell style. This version also adds Oscar Wilde as a character, watching his own play and commenting on his own work throughout. I figure about half of people won’t like this because of how artsy it tries to be, while the other half won’t like it because of goofy it is. Me? I thought it was kind of neat. BLANCANIEVES (2012) Not only is this an attempt to recreate the look and feel of an old black and white silent film, but it’s also a retelling of Snow White set in the world of bullfighting. I was expecting horror, but it’s more of a drama. It’s surprisingly watchable, though, thanks to lead actress Inma Cuesta. She doesn’t need dialogue and instead says it all with her big, expressive eyes. TWIN SITTERS (1994) After two highbrow movies, it’s time for some silliness. The Barbarian Brothers (Remember them? No?) do their version of Kindergarten Cop, babysitting/bodyguarding the children of a billionaire caught up in a criminal plot. The Three Stooges are a big influence, with a lot of slapstick and “Nyuck nyuck” vocalisms. It’s zero-brains comedy, but I didn’t hate it.
The Beguiled (2017)I re-watched the 1971 version as well mostly just for the sake of seeing what was different rather than to judge one against the other. Despite managing a theater none of my co-workers even knew that this was a remake so for a lot of people who may go to see it this weekend this may be the only version they know.Taken on its own, Sofia Coppola's film is well-made and well-acted. It does feel a bit sterile in some respects though. From the look of the costumes and the set, it would be hard to tell that the movie takes place 3 years into the Civil War. I also feel like it maybe sprints to the finish line a bit not quite earning some of the shifts in the dynamics between McBurney and the various women that set up the finale. Overall it's perfectly ok, but not a movie I see myself coming back to.In regards to specific differences from the original there are a few notable ones. Farrell's McBurney is a bit different from Eastwood's in regards to the character's background, and his role as a soldier and cause for being injured. Farrell's character feels a little bit less intentionally manipulative (though still bad). Another notable change is that the character of Hallie has been removed entirely. Without even doing a google search I'm guessing I could find plenty written about the removal of the slave character from a story set in the South during the Civil War. The Junesploitation comments section probably isn't the best place to discuss it in detail though but it's at least worth mentioning.
I have not seen the 1971 version since the 1990s. (I saw it on TBS a couple of times.) I remember it being a good drama with a strong atmosphere of sexual tension. The leads, of course, are excellent. I believe it was The Beguiled that made me a Geraldine Page fan. It is hard for me to believe that Nicole Kidman can bring the same earthiness to the role of Martha that Page did. Clint Eastwood's screen presence certainly cannot be replicated. This is not an age of rugged actors.The sterility you mentioned is common for historical films made today. They environments and the people in the stories tend to look too tidy and clean. A Casual Listener
Tales from the Crypt (1972, dir. Freddie Francis)Vault of Horror (1973, dir. Roy Ward Baker)I'm always game for a good horror anthology, and these are definitely two of the better ones (Crypt moreso than Vault).Never seen Vault before, and this was the first time I saw Crypt all the way through. I have very vague recollections of seeing the first two segments on TV as a very young kid, but not the rest of the movie. So I probably either got scared and stopped watching, or was found out and forbidden to watch the rest. I especially remember the POV shot at the end of the second segment, so the former is a distinct possibility.Fun fact: Only two of the five stories in Tales from the Crypt but four of the five in Vault of Horror are adapted from the Tales from the Crypt comics. Vault of Horror doesn't include any stories from the Vault of Horror comics, but there's one in Tales from the Crypt. It's a sham.
Bonus: Eliza (2015 short film, dir. Mikko Löppönen)A breathless 8-minute revenge film, with stylistic direction and editing, nice fight choreography, passable gore effects and not a single word of dialogue. From the same director as L4ST, the short film I wrote about on Zombies! day.On YouTube.
Sweet Sugar (1972)Since Patrick recommended it earlier in the month and since it's free on Prime I figured I'd check it out. He wasn't wrong about it, especially in mentioning the cat scene. Also something about the villain reminds of of Dr. Venom in the Marvel G.I. Joe comics, except if Dr. Venom's research centered entirely on sex.
The Similars (2015)This film from Mexico starts out intriguing, with stylish direction and a great music score. Then it takes a sharp turn to the ridiculous, prompting me several times to ask myself, "Is this supposed to be a comedy." Eventually, I realized I was watching an extended riff on a certain famous episode of The Twilight Zone, right down to the narrator that opens and closes the film. Ultimately, I just couldn't get past the silliness of the basic premise.
Did Baby Shoot Her Sugardaddy? (1972)Pure exploitation. Meandering crime plot is really all about getting to the climactic strip club scenes. Barely better than average music, the Sunset Strip at night and some decent nudity are the highlights.
Only The Strong (1993)Based on Adam Riske's strong recommendation, I felt that this was something that I needed in my life. It was very enjoyable, overcoming its shortcomings with with an overwhelming sense of earnestness. There is a lot of silly in this one that is somehow offset by the sincerity with which it was made. It really adds up to much more than the sum of its parts. Dacascos is pretty good as the lead, a little like early Van Damne only better.Some of the logic in the plot is somewhat misguided. The idea of taking the baddest kids in the roughest school and turning them into kick-ass fighting machines could be viewed as somewhat irresponsible. One of these bad kids had a Poison patch on his jacket which kinda makes me wonder who missed the cut in the bad kid selection process (some kid with a Winger shirt perhaps?). Admittedly in my jaded nature, I was hoping for a movie in which Dacascos would have to vanquish these newly upgraded bad kids in a Five Deadly Venoms type of showdown, but it was not to be. The main villain, Silverio has a Lorenzo Lamas by way of Razor Ramon vibe and is definitely top shelf bad dude. The fight choreography is pretty solid, but with Frank Dux in the mix, you're talking three roundhouses for a dollar.Overall this was a very refreshing watch. Something that's a little nutty at times but can still be enjoyed without irony. This one may have made me a better person (probably not).
This makes me so happy :-)
The House On Sorority Row (1983)Fun little slasher. The ease with which the girls dealt with having killed someone was a little ridiculous. Why was that swimming pool so gross?
Feed the Light (Lokalvårdaren) (2014) Dir. Henrik MöllerSomewhat surreal, uber-stylized, Swedish Horror debut with zero budget. Promoted as an H.P. Lovecraft themed film, which usually always means the kiss of death, I still took a chance as it was put out by Intervision so I bought it knowing no more than that. The lazy critic comparisons to "Eraserhead" are only based on an aesthetic level. Lynch is definitely an influence, but it reminded me more of a darker Guy Maddin or a grainy and rawer "Institute Benjamenta". The sound design was fantastic! Something like "Rain Temple" by 2814 (Dream Records) or, oddly, reminding me of Bill Morrison's "Decasia" score at times. I was immersed in this movie from the beginning and I loved it! I can't wait to see it again.
Evilspeak (1981)Finished this tonight so that I could scratch off two missed themes at once - Code Red and Video Nasties. For the first 3/4 of the movie I figured it was the sacrilege/Satan worshiping that earned it's place on the VN list, but damn it really earns it in the last 15-20 minutes. The movie's bonkers but I think I actually kinda loved it - poor sadsack Clint Howard just gets fucking shit on by assholes the whole time (though he also sticks up for himself in an atypical-of-the-bullied kinda way) but it does make for a pretty satisfying *SPOILER* revengeful finale.
Friday the 13th III with fthismovie commentary :D
Sing Street (2016)Maybe the most adorable movie ever. The serious themes about the realities of growing up felt so effortlessly woven in. The whole thing just felt...totally effortless and uncontrived from beginning to end, which is rare, no? I related a lot to his brother, as I often relate to the oldest in stories about siblings (recently Hell or High Water, too). That "you just don't get how much I love you" thing. If I was a teenager I would definitely have a crush on that kid with the rabbits.
Cocaine Wars (1985)Roger-Corman-produced mid-'80s action movie starring John Schneider, one of television's most harmless good ol' boys on The Dukes of Hazzard and one of television's most wholesome dad's on Smallville. Here he is decidedly not wholesome at all as a chain-smoking, F-bomb dropping undercover DEA agent working to bring down a South American drug cartel. Slow start, but totally awesome from mid-point until the climax. If things had gone a little differently, Schneider could have had quite a decent career in action movies.
I like this one too. It's kind of funny seeing John Schneider play such a grizzled badass, but I agree that he's got the stuff for it.
Operation Pink Squad 2 (1989)This was the wild outta left field shit I've been craving this June. Haven't seen the first one, but this time around, the squad are posing as prostitutes inside of a haunted apartment building. It's Hong Kong action/comedy/horror and there's no time to find the "correct" tone. Just throw it all up on the screen and have fun. Not quite great, but absolutely the kind of thing I like to find during Junesploitation. On Amazon Prime.
Baby Driver (2017)Favorite movie of 2017 so far. Can't wait to see it again. Outstanding directing and editing.
The Working Girls (1974, dir. Stephanie Rothman)I'm a big Stephanie Rothman fan and this was one of two holes I still had in her filmography. It starts out really funny and then seems to forget it's a comedy after about 25 minutes. Luckily, Cassandra Peterson shows up as a stripper to make you forget. What was I talking about?
Wanted (2008)See Professor X break a keyboard across Starlord's face.
Also, I really like Wanted. Been a few years since I've watched it. Still a lot of fun.
The Beguiled (2017)Not top-tier Coppola (for me personally - I love her first three movies so so much) but good and worth seeing. I'll save the rest of my comments for the end of summer podcast. #DunstCrush4Eva