Monday, December 30, 2013

Holiday Havoc Week: Gremlins

Howdy boys and girls! This time off I am going to dip into a fun filled flick full of mischief, manic behavior and maniacal trouble makers.   The whole days of terror could have been avoided if only the Peltzers followed the three simple rules.  1) Avoid bright light including sunlight. 2) Never get the Mogwai wet and 3) NEVER feed them after midnight.   This is Gremilins.


Gizmo: Bright spoiler! Bright light!

Director Joe Dante (Piranha, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, The Howling, Explorers and Innerspace and Gremilins 2) brings us a tale of intrigue and catastrophe in a little town  of Kingston Falls in this entertaining horror comedy and how it all came down to a poor man’s judgment.   Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton of Smoky, The Black Stallion, Cloud Dancer, Endangered Species, Heart Like a Wheel and The Rousters) is a inventor and salesman is searching for a Christmas present for his son in this dusty antique store in Chinatown and sees the little Mogwai and thinks him perfect for Billy.   The owner feels Peltzer is not responsible enough to handle such an awesome responsibility and proceeds to go back to his room.  The shop owner’s grandson offers the Mogwai to Peltzer in spite of his grandfather’s last word but he must tell Peltzer the rules. Never expose the Mogwai to bright light (sunlight would kill him), never get him wet and never, ever feed him after midnight.  Being the mad inventor he names the creature Gizmo.   

Top score! Suck it Stripe!

Billy (Zach Galligan of Waxwork, Mortal Passions, Zandalee, Warlock: The Armageddon, Ice and Hatchet III) is ecstatic at Gizmo and takes the rules like a typical teenager of half listening so you can imagine how this will play out.  Billy hangs out with his buddy Pete (Corey Feldman of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, The Goonies, Stand by Me, The Lost Boys and License to Drive) and they accidentally spilled water on Gizmo and created 5 more Mogwai. Bringing one of the new Mogwai to his Science teacher in the hopes he can explain what the creature is.  The lot seems to defer to their newly dubbed leader Stripe.  As the evening approaches the creatures start grumping and demand food, being it was midnight yet he hands over a bucket of chicken for them and all take part except Gizmo.

In the morning Billy discovers five cocoons on the floor and Gizmo seems very nervous. Heading back to the Science lab he can see if his teacher found it makes the Mogwai tick.  The cocoons hatch and the creatures resemble reptilian monsters with fangs and claws which proceed to attack Billy’s mom (Frances Lee McCain of Apple’s Way, Washington: Behind Closed Doors, Real Life, Footloose, First Steps and Stand by Me) and girlfriend Kate (Phoebe Cates of Fast Time at Ridgemont High, Gremilins, Date with an Angel, Shag, Heart of Dixie, I Love You to Death and Drop Dead Fred) who valiantly fight off several “gremilins” while Stripe split to make more of his brethren.  Billy and Kate go after Stripe to finish this insanity in the hopes of saving themselves and the town.

Writer/producer/director Steven Spielberg had produced this nutty story with the hopes it not having a Christmas based story that Joe Dante brought some merriment with the mayhem.  The stars of this film voice actor Frank Welker giving life as the voice of Stripe and comedian/voice actor Howie Mandel as the jubilant Gizmo.

Take that, gingerbread man!

Holiday Havoc Week

Howdy boys and girls! I’m back from the Christmas break and prepping a few holiday themed films for review.  This time around I thought I would tackle a handful of Christmas themed films of horror and heck I bet I can find a New Year’s one as well.  Yes I should be heaping through a few Frank Capra films but there is only so many times I can sit through “It’s A Wonderful Life”.

No, I do not want to switch cable companies! STOP CALLING!!!

With that in mind we will begin Holiday Havoc Week.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Break

Hello ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls.  This week is off due to spending time with family and friends for the holidays.  I apologize for this inconvenience but hey family and friends need some love now and again.  I promise this upcoming year will be with the usual merriment, clever comments and the Rotten Reelz crew are going to work on the podcast idea as we get the equipment but our fundraiser went nowhere.  So piece by piece it shall be.

That being said have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah (Though it is over for the year now) and revel in Wookie Life Day!!!

Took care of those kids. Now it's the Easter Bunny's turn!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Kung Fu Theater: Shaolin Temple

Welcome back to Kung Fu Theater Week: Double Feature Day and we finish off the week with the first starring role of Jet Li (Born to Defense, The Master, Once Upon a Time in China, The Legend of the Swordsman, Black Mask, Hero and The Expendables) from the director Hsin-yan Chang (Treasure Island, Hong ying dao, Tong tian lin ji, Yellow River Fighter and Tai Chi II) brings a tale of honor, love, loss and redemption. 

Monks performing the poopy dance.

Shaolin must uphold the principles that all spoilers believe in.

We open in wide angle shots around the Temple seeing these beautiful wall paintings, these gorgeous trees, well-maintained gardens, shrines, immense gates and statues of Buddha and the Gods to be held.
All the monks have knelt before the Abbot of the Shaolin and in the middle is a young shaven-headed man in a blue robe awaiting to be accepted to the temple.  The Abbot explains he’s expected to adhere to a life of ceremony, self respect and respect of others and a purification of body and soul.  The Abbot asks him for his name to which he says Jue Yuan and the Abbot tells him to be allowed into the temple he must never commit murder.   Can he obey this and the film fades to a flashback of a warlord Wang Shichongkilling an old man and tossing him off a high wall and down in the dregs of a muddy river and then just whip his head back at the slaves to get back to work; these poor slaves are literally being worked to death, toiling in the mud among corpses of their fellow comrades while soldiers whip them.

The Dogs of War are very cross!

China is divided into factions once again at the end of Siu Dynasty and this wretched monster of a man calls himself Emperor Chang now and he enslaved captured warriors to complete his defenses.
Jue pledges that one day he will end the life of this cruel Emperor after he kills Jue’s father and thus free China from this reign of terror and bring about a new age of prosperity and order.  Thoroughly beaten by the Emperor, Jue still manages to escape and is saved by the Shaolin Temple.   Through this his teacher Sifu and his existing Kung Fu training he proves to be an exceptional fighter but damn near kills a sparring partner focusing his rage on a vision of the Emperor.  With this he flees the temple and attempts to kill the Emperor yet again.  Forgiven of his impulses of youth the temple allows him back and he spends the next year honing his skills to become adept in the Northern Shaolin Kung Fu. 

A refugee Li Shimin flees to the temple being chased by the sadistic Emperor and his men and with the help of the feint the Abbot and fellow monks Jue and Li attempt to escape the countryside only to be surrounded by the Emperor’s vicious soldiers but Sifu and several of the monks aid Jue in his time of need.

Similar to The 36th Chambers of Shaolin this story covers depictions of honor against the unjust, a need for protectors to become more than they were and a time when killing is a necessity.   The fight sequences are amazing and the training courses look grueling to say the least but the story progresses beyond just the next fight and with a guanine tale of triumph, tragedy and tempered discipline.


Kung Fu Theater Week: The 36th Chamber of Shaolin

Howdy all you Kung Fu Fans and welcome back to the last day of Kung Fu Theater Week.  Due to some cumbersome objects I lifted Wednesday I was quite sore and unable to sit in a chair for film viewing.  Today is another matter all together as I will be doing a double feature to make up for lost days.  Our first film of the roster tells the tale of a student and his hometown being torn apart by two warring generals and the village getting caught in the middle of this conflict.  Our young fellow must rise to meet the challenge of righting the wrongs, preserving the peace and bringing about order.  Can such a task be performed by only one man?  This is The 36th Chamber of Shaolin.

Jefferson Junior High Presents: The Boxer Rebellion!

We must rise up against the tyranny of General Spoiler, for the good of all!

Our story begins in the occupation of the Manchus in the Qing Dynasty (that would be roughly 1645 to 1910) the Shaolin monasteries were forbidden at the time to offer the peasants Kung Fu and the weapons training to fend off invaders as they themselves were viewed as outsiders and these practices were sacred above all else…even the cost of their fellow man.  Yeah it is that screwy.  Of course from a different point of view you can be amused that Hong Kong (a then colony of the former British Empire) is producing movies that incite rebellion and England does not even bat an eye.

Aren't you glad you used Dial? Don't you wish your opponent did?

Okay enough of the history lesson and on with the violence!!!  General Inspector Tien Ta (Lieh Lo of Five Fingers of Death, Shaolin Deadly Kicks, Super Dragon, The Enchantress, Shanghai 13 and Police Pool of Blood) is a ruthless tyrannical monster watching over the villages like a hawk gathering the sparrows.  Only General Yin feels he can stand up to him and only to be humiliated and cut down.  A young man name of Liu Yude (Chia-Hui Liu of Shaolin Martial Arts, Five Shaolin Masters, 7 Man Army, Shaolin Mantis, Godfather of Canton and Kill Bill: Vol. 2) is wounded during the riots and retreats to the Shaolin Monastery for his own life.  With the strict practices he is almost turned away when the abbot insists on allowing him to be cared for and tended to.  

A year has passed and Liu Yude has taken on a Monk’s title of San Te and vows to avenge those slain in this horrible act of greed and wanton destruction but also as a manner of honor to right that which has been done to those around him.   San Te throws himself into his training with vigor that none of the masters have ever seen.  He vows to complete the 35 Chambers of the Shaolin in order to save those under General Tien’s villainy.

Now let us examine this film overall.  This is not merely a revenge title but a challenge of ethics and morals of the highest order.  If San Te trained merely to get his hands coated in blood for his own end he would have been banished from the temple and forced to find another path altogether.  San Te would have then been no better than the monster he has dedicated himself to stop but just a different horrible creature.  

The choreography is amazing, between the training levels to the fights in the street.  Wire work, months of sword, staff and halberd training just captures the quintessence of the story and gives it greater presence than even the dialogue.     The bottom line is this is a visual film rather than dialogue driven and were it altered in any way would diminish what our director Chia-Liang Liu (The Spiritual Boxer, Executioners from Shaolin, Legendary Weapons of China, Heroic Family and The Legend of Drunken Master)set out to create.

Jeez Gary, you almost nailed me.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Kung Fu Theater Week: Drunken Master

Welcome back folks and sorry for yesterday.  I wanted to spend time with my lady love and lost track of the day.  Today I wish to focus on Jackie Chan’s second starring role after Snake in Eagle’s Shadow.  Because the unparallel success of this film lead to his second movie of an coming of age and growing with wisdom with some antics, bit of violence and in the end perhaps a change for the better.  So master your Kung Fu, don’t hide the rice wine from the old sot and NO BACK TALK!  This is Drunken Master.

Hey, that's dirty!

You must harness the 8 drunken spoilers to defeat any opponent!

Our story centers on a lad name of Wong Fei-hung (Jackie Chan of Enter the Dragon, New Fists of Fury, The Young Master, Cannonball Run II, Police Story, Supercop, Operation Condor and Rumble in the Bronx), a undisciplined spoiled boy who gets in all sorts of mischief.   Flogging an arrogant and overbearing Kung Fu assistant teacher is viewed as amusing but his father Wong Kei Ying (Siu Hung Cham of Dai Mung Sing, Mad Monkey Kung Fu, The Young Master, Killer Wears White, The 36 Deadly Styles and Man tian shen fo) chastises him and warns him of his ways.  He fails to take his Kung Fu spiritual training to heart and is a bully to most those around him.  To impress his buddies he hits on a young girl when her older guardian thrashes him profusely in front of his boys.   As he arrives home from his childish way he is introduced to his aunt and cousin only to find out that they are the same two women he had his confrontation with.

Ow! Okay, your hair does not make you look like a girl!

As if that was not enough he soundly beats a punk son of a highly influential man in town and is forced to train even harder in his martial arts by his father.    Wong’s father sends for his uncle Su Hua Chi (Siu Tin Yuen of Deadly Snake Versus Kung Fu Killers, Boxing Wizard, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and Heroes of the East) a notoriously vicious trainer that has been known to break his students and with that knowledge Wong escapes his father’s home.   He heads to a local diner and proceeds to stuff his face and cons a fellow to pay for his meal only to find out that the man is the owner of the restaurant and dives into a fight to with the waiting staff and ends up drawing a drunkard old man into the fight and they both escape.   The drunk reveals himself to being Wong’s new trainer and Su works Wong like a dog.

Tired of this torturous training and runs away to bump into an assassin Thunderleg by accident and ends up in YET another fight.  Seriously this kid just needs to learn a bit of common sense or manners.  Thunderleg beats him like a gong and humiliates him so Wong heads back to Siu to throw himself into his training for a rematch.

 I had just a bit of comments on the film.   Jackie damn near had a detached retina from Kung Fu master Hwang Jig Lee (Thunderleg) snap kicked his head.  Siu Tin Yuen was 66 in this movie and some of the more athletic sequences was done by his two sons, future directors Cheung-Yan Yuen (Ghost Mansion, Coupe de Grace, Yao guai du shi, The Tai Chi Master and Kung Fu Hero) and Woo-ping Yuen (Dance of the Drunken Mantis, Tiger Cage, Tiger Cage 2, Tai-chi Master and Wing Chun) as stunt doubles. It was fun, ridiculous amounts of violence this side of an anime film and in general I had a load of fun watching this one again. 

Uh oh, Ryu got in the Sake....again.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Kung Fu Theater Week: The Chinese Connection

Greetings readers to Kung Fu Theater Week and I thought I would start us off with a Bruce Lee film that received a lot of love not unlike that of Enter of the Dragon.   America took notice of this leading man with his look, style and mastery of Wing Chun with incredible speed.  Our feature is Lee’s second starring role after Fists of Fury a.k.a. The Big Boss and provided excellent action and impressive story.
So grab your gi, claim your Gong and Qiang and ready yourself for battle.  This is The Chinese Connection a.k.a. Fist of Fury.

You see I shan't be turning Japanese. I really think so.

Chen: Tell me the spoiler. No more lies. If I turn myself over to you, will you leave the Ching Wu School alone? The truth!
Inspector: You have my word on it. Don’t worry, on my word of honor.

Chen Zhen (Bruce Lee of The Green Hornet, The Big Boss, Longstreet, The Way of the Dragon and Enter the Dragon), a young master of Wing Chun returns to Jingwu School before marrying his fiancĂ©e.  Tragic news informs in him that his master Huo Yuanjia has passed away due to illness.  As the funeral progresses as a rival school based in a Japanese dojo shows up to hurl insults and taunt the students.
Alone, Chen proceeds to the dojo to throw down and throw down he did wiping the walls with the entire school.  After flogging the bejesus out of the less than disciplined dojo Chen went for a walk in the park when angered by a Japanese man and his buddies giving him a load of crap so Chen threw them a beating as well. 

This is gonna hurt..for the other guy.

Master Hiroshi Suzuki (Not the automobile producer) demands the Jingwu School after their embarrassing beating be destroyed.  After trashing the school and fighting yet again with the students they tell them to hand over Chen so they can deal with him.  Chen arrives back at the school to see that his impulse control has gotten the better of him in the need to defend his honor and the honor of the school.  That evening Chen discovered the cook that prepared his master’s meals had actually poisoned him and Chen wails on him and left his body from a lamp post. 

Inspector Lo (Wei Lo of The Pistol, Land of the Brave, The Big Boss, The Golden Sword, Vengeance of a Snowgirl and New Fists of Fury) a local officer trying to keep the peace must capture Chen and bring him in due to several of his beatings on others has taken lives and he must be made to answer to the law, and still Lo feels conflicting emotions. 

I have a few interesting facts about this particular movie.  A young actor as an extra as a Jing Wu student is none other than Jackie Chan at age 17.  Bruce Lee choreographed his own street fight scenes but due to the incredibly racist content of this film Bruce didn’t work with director Lo Wei again after this movie.  This was based on a true story but the actual Chen managed to flee Shanghai without anyone the wiser.

Whirlwind Leg!!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Kung Fu Theater Week!

Welcome boys and girls to Kung Fu Theater Week!  This week I will tackle the genre of Martial Arts Movies or affectionately referred as Kung Fu and Ninja movies.  This particular craze starts in the 1960’s up the 1980’s and the Americans got to experience these splendid films from the lazy bijous, the drive-in theater  to cable television, we saw these films with either English subtitles or voice dubbing which does take away a lot of the dialogue but the essence of the film is still there.


Western civilization got to appreciate Eastern philosophy, discipline and ways of life but brings everything that we already have to our own story lines.  Warriors combating barbarians, wizards against sorcerers and good versus evil these films cover the current timeline and fantasy based with monsters and men aplenty.   Admittedly there are more than a few very violent films or having disturbing content to them and frankly they are considered Grind house movies but most are gems that get overlooked so this week I shall comprise a collection of favorites and cult beloved.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Dash of Film Noir: Lady in the Lake

Welcome back all to Day 5 of A Dash of Film Noir Week and we will end this week on a bit of an unusual camera POV.  Yes this entire film is shot through the eyes of the lead actor which sounds a bit like a horror movie but is in fact a Point of View shot.  The supporting cast will intentionally seem to break the fourth wall and stare at the camera and speak as though you are the hardboiled detective struggling to get to the truth.  With the exception of a few exterior shots this film is entirely shot in POV and there is little to no soundtrack attached to it.  So grab your snacks and soft drink, droop in your seat and take this all in.  This is Lady in the Lake.

This suit cut me right?

Adrienne: Do you fall in love with all of your spoilers?
Marlowe: Only the ones in skirts.

Director and lead actor Robert Montgomery (Made on Broadway, The Mystery of Mr. X, Riptide, No More Ladies and Trouble for Two) chose a different approach to this Raymond Chandler novel turned film.  The subjective view allows you to see the film and story coil out through Marlowe’s eyes.  All the actors stare directly at the camera and give you the feel that you are asking the questions and taking no grief.    Our story begins Marlowe submitting a murder story for the Kingsby Publications Inc.  He gets an invite to the publication to chin wag about his story but it comes quite clear that it is only a ruse for a job.  So much for the Great American Novel I guess.   Adrienne Fromsett (Audrey Totter of The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Set-Up, Man in the Dark, Champ for a Day, Massacre Canyon and Man or Gun) is the executive publicist that wants to hire Marlow to find the wife of her boss Derace Kingsby (Leon Ames of Meet Me in St. Louis, The Thin Man Goes Home, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Absent-Minded Professor and The Monkey’s Uncle) who has been missing for the better part of a month after sending a telegram stating she is off to Mexico to divorce him and marry a schmoe name of Chris Lavery.


Adrienne states she had seen Lavery in Bay City not long ago.   Marlowe drops in to see Lavery and he attests to no knowledge of this trip to Mexico then socks Marlowe.  A black gunky fog comes over Marlowe and he wakes up in jail where he is grilled by Captain Kane (Tom Tully of The Caine Mutiny, The Lineup, Love Me or Leave Me and Coogan’s Bluff) and his snarky lieutenant DeGarmot (Lloyd Nolan of The House on 92nd Street, Two Smart People, Martin Kane, Special Agent 7 and 77 Sunset Strip) with Marlowe claiming confidential client clause.  With a brisk warning from Kane not to muddy his waters Marlowe is back on the streets.

 Back on the trail of Lavery, Marlowe learns of the body of a woman in the lake owned by Kingsby, and his caretaker was charged with the murder of his wife.  Fromsett believes that  Kingsby’s wife is the real killer given the hatred Muriel and she had.  Finding Lavery’s apartment, his landlady steps out of his house holding a revolver she claims to have found.   Hoofing up the stairs Marlowe discovers Lavery shot numerous times in the shower of all places and a handkerchief with the monogram “A F”. 
The plot thickens as Marlowe is fired by Fromsett only to be hired by Kingsby to find his wife.

The first-person camera technique is a little throwing.   At any moment I am expecting a zombie or mutant to come at me and I have to frag ‘em with a BFG.  A clever effect that we do not see Montgomery unless he looks in a mirror but the concept wears on the nerves and it got a bit annoying for me.  Also there didn’t feel like there was any chemistry between Montgomery and Audrey Totter.  The love angle felt forced and unrealistic.  Not one of the best Marlowes in my opinion.

Chief O' Hara beats the town drunk....AGAIN.

Happy Friday the 13th!!!

Oh c'mon.  You had to know I was going to comment on that we have had two Friday the 13ths in the year.  Look at some of the tripe I have reviewed over the years.  So it is a hearty Happy Friday the 13th I allot for you and offer some handy tips on surviving the creepy rundown campgrounds.

1) Don't be an ass.  Stupid practical jokes just secure your death warrant.

2) Don't be a mean cow. Hurtful remarks about the creepy girl never goes well as seen in Sleepaway Camp and more than a handful of Friday the 13ths.

3) Don't be a mean jock. That's right no pantsing, noogies and dutch rubs allowed for you will receive a fairly large ax or machete in the six pack abs.

4) No liquor or drugs.  Yes they may sound enticing but these are tools of the slasher and leaves you vulnerable to horrific eye gouging, skull crushing or possibly an entire fist jammed through your ribcage.  Just say no kids.

5)  No bedroom bam bam.  Yes sex will get you killed quicker than drugs, alcohol and a speeding car chase with the local sheriff and his one to two deputies.  Just avoid those come-hither stares and phallic things that girl is doing with an ice cream cone or banana.  Cold showers lad!

Frankly this could all be avoided if you just took that fast food restaurant gig like your dad suggested but no you wanted to have premarital sex, smoke a spliff and chugalug beers so the price for your fun must be blood...and body parts.

That's no way to get ahead in life!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Dash of Film Noir: Murder, My Sweet

Alright you cats and kittens wrap your peepers around this; to Day 4 of A Dash of Film Noir Week.  Seems our favorite flatfoot Philip Marlowe has got himself mixed up in a tawdry tale of lies, larceny, a bit of theft and of course a dishy femme fatale.  Will he come out on top or will he be left holding the bag and taking the rap?  If you want the low down I suggest you be packing some heat, watch who you get pally with and don’t end up the patsy.  This is Murder, My Sweet.

Call the zoo. There's a gorilla on the loose.

Phillip Marlowe: I caught the blackjack right behind my ear. A black pool opened up at my feet. I dived in.  It had no spoiler.  I felt pretty good- like an amputated leg.

Our talking picture opens up in a sweat box, lamp full on in Marlowe’s mug and three buzzers working him over to get to what they think is the truth.  Feeling like a duck in a shootin’ gallery Marlowe (Dick Powell of Too Busy to Work, 42nd Street, Twenty Million Sweethearts, Hard to Get, Right Cross and The Band and the Beautiful) has been informed his involvement about the events up to a couple of murders.  Flimsy as the evidence is the department is fixing Marlowe for a rope under the neck so Marlowe makes like a canary and sings his sad song.

A tasty but dangerous dish to be had.

Chasing down a lost husband for a tomato Marlowe was getting nowhere with it when in walks a 6’5” beast of a man named Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki of Nightmare Alley, Dark City, Some Like It Hot, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Mob Boss), claims he is missing his bird after a seven year stretch in the joint.  Says the looker ain’t been around to chat with him in six years and he wants her found.  With arms the length of a football field our dapper fellow seems determined to find Velma (Claire Trevor of Texas, Street of Chance, The Woman of the Town, Born to Kill and Key Largo). Marlowe reluctantly takes the case so as to not upset King Kong and starts pounding the pavement on the lookout for this missing lady.   No sooner does he make a little headway, a fancy dan in a daisy suit shows up in his office needing to buy back some stolen swag on the QT so Marlowe plays tag along and that’s when things get a bit blurry.

Director Edward Dmytryk (Golden Gloves, The Blonde from Singapore, Seven Miles from Alcatraz, Behind the Rising Sun, The Caine Mutiny and The End of the Affair) was deemed Hollywood’s golden boy when it came to the pictures.  People loved or hated him for his anal retention but he was a director that could get the film in on time, under budget and still wow the viewing public.  Writer John Paxton (My Pal Wolf, Cornered, Crack-Up, Rope of Sand, The Wild One and Pickup Alley) managed to adapt Raymond Chandler’s novel bringing it to the black & white in the a nice steady stride with the right amount of suspense and thrills. 

Dick Powell’s portrayal of Marlowe was so eerie that Raymond Chandler himself felt he had the right stuff for the character. Not a overtly tall fellow but a short and scrappy guy who was quick witted, sassy and packed a decent right cross.

Look Mr. Bogart, don't get steamed if they called me first.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Dash of Film Noir: The Asphalt Jungle

What’s going on teen gang and welcome back to Day 3 of A Dash of Film Noir Week.   Apparently I cannot stay away from the Sterling Hayden films as I am about to review a directorial from John Huston (The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Red Badge of Courage, The African Queen, Fat City and The Man Who Would Be King) movie now.  Full of capers, heists, double crosses and a bit of gun play.  So put up some scratch, get the gear and let’s make this gig go like clockwork.  This is The Asphalt Jungle.

Got your swag here, Mac but you know my price.

May Emmerich: Oh Spoiler, when I think of all those awful people you come in contact with –downright criminals-  I get scared.

Alonzo D. Emmerich: Oh, there’s nothing so different about them. After all, crime is only… a left-handed form of human behavior.

Doc Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe of Gunga Din, 13 Rue Madeleine, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Ben-Hur and Ben Casey) is out of the clink after a seven year stretch when he heads to a Midwestern town that looks a bit like Cincinnati but is never named to a bookie named Cobby (Mark Lawrence of Helen of Troy, Kill Her Gently, The Detectives, The Untouchables, Johnny Cool and Johnny Tiger) to arrange a pow wow with a lawyer named Emmerich (Louis Calhern of Duck Soup, Notorious, Julius Caesar, Blackboard Jungle and Forever, Darling) to put enough cabbage together to hire a crew to steal jewelry that totals over a million buckaroos. 

HellOoOOoOooOO Niece!

Doc needs 50 large to get him a safe cracker, a wheel man and a thug.  Emmerich agrees to front cash for the heist and then nonchalantly what fences he would use if he were a criminal.  Doc snags a safe cracker name of Louie Ciavelli (Anthony Caruso of Watch on the Rhine, A Gun in His Hand, Baby Face Nelson and Death Feud) a pro but cautious fellow that never works without some people he can trust and recommends Gus Minissi (character actor James Whitmore of The Law and Mr. Jones, Planet of the Apes, Chuka, The Shawshank Redemption and The Relic) as their getaway driver and lastly Dix Handley (Sterling Hayden of The Killing, Dr. Strangelove, The Godfather and Deadly Strangers) a strong arm with a whole lot of attitude.

And now I had just a few comments to be made here.  With the intricate planning and heist in play you have an intense scene over 11 minutes long.  No cutaways but a slight fade to progress time and each character looks like they have been through the wringer.  Hayden’s hard guy performance switches so many gears from the thug with the gun to the man that would do anything for his gal.  I started laughing when Mark Lawrence hit the screen because the only other character I know he has done is Ziggy from Key Largo. 

The biggest attention grabber of this movie is still Doll Conovan (Jean Hagen of Adam’s Rib, Singin’ in the Rain and The Shaggy Dog).  This lady must cling to the spotlight opposite young Marilyn Monroe and they both bring their a game in their scenes it was amazing.   Make no mistake here people this film is all Sam Jaffe but his supporting cast was astounding.  Oh and FYI, no musical score during the whole heist which for me gives a better element of realism.  Today we would be slammed with techno or hip hop with the score is going down.

This guy makes loan sharks seem warm and cuddly.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Dash of Film Noir: The Big Heat

Hey you mugs welcome back to Day 2 of A Dash of Film Noir Week and I thought this one was a doozy but definitely a keeper.  It’s got it all baby, with a torrid affair, mob involvement and cops turning a blind eye hoping to sweep it under the rug but our hero says, “Nothing doin.”  So stop bumping yer gums, call in the buzzer and no chiseling allowed.  This is The Big Heat.

A flatfoot with a heart of gold.

Mike Lagana: Prisons are bulging with spoilers who wonder how they got there.

Sergeant Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford of Gilda, 3:10 to Yuma, Cowboy, It Started with a Kiss, Cry for Happy and Superman) is a fair and honest guy with a badge.  A straight palooka you could say.  Ahem…sorry that is far too fun to get immersed in.   Bannion is called in on a homicide but seems more to the point suicide of his fellow officer Tom Duncan.  What appears to be an open-and-shut case due to his bad health, Bannion is contacted by the late officer’s mistress Lucy Chapman (Dorothy Green of It’s a Wonderful Life, In a Lonely Place, Oklahoma!, Ride Beyond Vengeance and The Todd Killings) who claims that Duncan’s happy marriage was not so and he had a second home to go to which was out of his pay grade.
Bannion visits the widow Duncan and asks about the second home and how Tom could afford such a thing.  Widow Duncan scolds Bannion and demands he leave.  No sooner does he get back to squad his Lieutenant reams his butt claim he is under pressure from the higher ups who want to close the case.

Baby doll with the bedroom eyes.

Our hero tries to explain to his wife how the system he has worked so diligently is failing and most of the cops are in crime boss Mike Lagana’s back pocket but by God he is gonna uphold justice if not the law. Lucy Chapman is found at her apartment dead after being slapped around and burned with cigarette burns.  Bannion bursts in on the case even though it is not his or even in his jurisdiction.   Heading home from that fruitless endeavor Bannion gets threatening calls to his house and stomps over to Mike Lagana’s house and tears him a new one verbally.  Lagana warns Bannion he has gone too far and he is not accustomed to be harassed in his own home.  

 Bannion ignores the further warnings to stay off the case and the mob dynamites his car killing his wife along with it.  Feeling as though there is little justice being handled in his wife’s homicide; Bannion chucks his badge and goes on his own to handle Lagana and his lickspittle Vince Stone (Lee Marvin of, Attack, Pillars of the Sky, The M Squad, Dirty Dozen, Donovan’s Reef and The Killers) and show them a thing or two about a thing or two.

I have a few comments about this film now.  Film in 35mm Spherical and of course recorded in mono the pace setting of this film is so fluid and no lag inbetween.  Our hardnosed cop fits the bill and I absolutely love Lee Marvin as a cold blooded gunsel.   At an hour and 30 minutes folks this is worth the viewing.

Dammit honey, you knew you couldn't drive a stick!

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Dash of Film Noir: The Killing

Hey there gang and welcome to Day 1 of A Dash of Film Noir Week.   I was scouring through the film archives and came across what I can call a fine example of the genre.  Fortunately a seasoned director had his hands on this flick.   Director Stanley Kubrick (Paths of Glory, Spartacus, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey) helmed our movie as it was his third full-length feature film about a robbery gone wrong.  So let’s hold out in the flop house, clean and prep the roscoes and try to keep a cool head.  This is The Killing.

So fellas, gin rummy anyone?

Johnny Clay: Alright spoiler, that’s a mighty pretty head you got on your shoulders. You want to keep it there or start carrying it around in your hands?

Our movie’s leading role ain’t one of the good guys but a career criminal that is planning one last score before he and the missus settle down for the house with the white picket fence.  Tough guy Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden of Flaming Feather, Hellgate, The Golden Hawk, The Star, So Big, Dr. Strangelove and 1900) is as vicious as they come but with a heart of gold. His doll baby Fay (Coleen Gray of Kiss of Death, Red River, Kansas City Confidential and Cry from the Mountain) is a gal with great stems and a can do attitude and Johnny would move the heavens just to give her a better view.

Oh Johnny, why can't you be more like Burt Lancaster?

With a few choice teammates he assembled Johnny plans to rob a little over two million dollars from a racetrack during a high stakes race.  With using a betting teller George Peatty (Elisha Cook Jr. of The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, House on Haunted Hill, Blacula and Salem’s Lot: The Movie) giving the access to the back room, a crackshot sniper who is cold as they come, Nikki Arcane (Timothy Carey of Rio Conchos, Beach Blanket Bingo, Gunsmoke, A Time for Killing, Head and What’s the Matter with Helen?) a corrupt cop Randy (Ted de Corsia of The Lady from Shanghai, The Naked City, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Delta Factor),  a wrestler Maurice (Pro Wrestler Kola Kwariani of  The Killing) for crowd distraction. The deck is stacked and ready for game time. 

One slight hitch is George blabs the plan to his annoyed wife Sherry (Marie Windsor of Force of Evil, The Narrow Margin, Swamp Diamonds, The Day Mars Invaded Earth, Bedtime Story and Salem’s Lot: The Movie) who schemes to  get her gunsel boy toy Val Cannon (Vince Edwards of Ben Casey, The Victors, The Devil’s Brigade, The Return of Ben Casey and Son of Darkness: To Die For II) to rob the lot of them and do them in if they get out of line.   The heist is set and everyone knows their part but George tells Johnny his wife knows everything and Johnny takes care of business with Sherry telling her to know her place and she and George are getting a big piece of the action as it is.   Will the scheme go off without complications or will it blow up in their faces?  Hey check it out because it is another brilliant Kubrick film.

When clowns turn to crime!!

A Dash of Film Noir

Well folks welcome to the blog and I am managing to give the page a touch of class by offering up a week that does not involve blood and ichor strewn about the place.  Nifty, right?   I thought that for the week we would have a dash of film noir instead.  So we will have a round of gang violence, maybe a bank robbery or diamond heist, a few gunsels with their channeled thug mentality and a hard boiled police or P.I. or two.

Baby, this world is our oyster.

This happens to be one of my favorite genres and I came to the conclusion to explore titles I myself have not encountered before and that way we all get to enjoy something.  It will be a refreshing change from zombies, vampires and copious amounts of T & A.   Frankly I believe we could all benefit from that so without further adieu we will start the week of Film Noir.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Vampire Grab Bag Week: Salem's Lot (1979)

Hey gang.  Sorry for the last two days of delay on Vampire Grab Bag Week.   I’ve been a bit under the weather so this late addition will hopefully make up for the tardiness.  This time around I thought we would head into a small town where everyone knows everyone and a malevolent presence is slowly worming its way into community of Jerusalem’s Lot and very few are the wiser so get some holy water, sharpen a few crude stakes and ready the hammer to strike.  This is Salem’s Lot.

Can't believe Starsky wouldn't sell me the car.

Ben Mears:  Everything in Salem’s Lot is connected to that house.   You can see it from every part of the town.   It’s like a spoiler throwing of an energy force.

Based on the novel Horror Guru Stephen King; our flick opens in a battered church in Guatemala with a man and young teen filling small bottles with holy water.  A quick lens flare on the bottle establishing a supernatural glow and the man informs the lad, ”They found us again.”

Cut to Salem’s Lot Maine our same fellow is named Ben Mears (David Soul of Here Come the Brides, Starsky and Hutch, Magnum Force, In the Cold of the Night and Tides of War) looking less shabby than he did in the opening. Ben is a writer and wants to do a book on the Marsten House, an ill-reputed house with the belief it is haunted. Mears attempts to rent the house for a time but the realtor tells him that a Richard Straker (the late James Mason of A Star Is Born, North by Northwest, Lolita, Child’s Play, 11 Harrowhouse and Voyage of the Damned) a unknown fellow that is opening an antique shop in town is all the buzz because of his absent but often mentioned partner Kurt Barlow are causing a stir in this dreary town.  Not a whole lot to do in Salem’s I am guessing. 

Ah! The Tickle Monster is back and boy is he pissed!!!

Yet as the days progress, people start disappearing or turning up dead from an unidentifiable disease.  Ben and his girlfriend’s father Dr. Bill Norton (character actor Ed Flanders of Bearcats!, McMillian & Wife, Mannix and The Trial of the Catonsville Nine) dare to confirm they think the disease is actually vampirism.  Both men feel the evil originates with Straker and attempt to get the town sheriff in on this issue but he has packed up and is leaving the town.  Can Dr. Norton and Mears handle this monstrosity on their own or will the whole town fall to darkness?

What to comment on this film? Well let’s see…the dialog is sharp and clever. People sound realistic and believable and our story has a great pace setting thanks to TV series writer Paul Monash (Atom Squad, Operation Manhunt, Danger, Touch of Evil and The Gun Runners) and our director is none other than Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Eaten Alive, Body Bags, Night Terrors and The Mangler) bringing beautiful cinematography, excellent direction to his cast bringing their A game to it. 
The unfolding of this story is subtle, terrifying and brilliant.  Our vampire doesn’t make a big bold entrance with fan fare but is sneaky and enigmatic thus to not raise any suspicion.  The makeup work on the vampires has a certain elegance to it in the skin is pale; they have white contacts to deem no soul is left in the body and frankly they look creepy. 

Veteran character actors Marie Windsor (Swamp Diamonds, The Narrow Margin, The Killing,The Girl in Black Stockings and Island Women), Elisha Cook Jr. (The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, The Killing, The House on Haunted Hill, Rosemary’s Baby, Blacula and Magnum, P.I.) and Fred Willard (Hustle, Silver Streak, Escape from Bogen County, Roxanne, D.C. Follies, Access America and Lois & Clark) really just knocked this creepy flick out of the ballpark and on to the small screen.  Saw this film as a boy and it still scares the crap out of me.

A great place to raise your kids be eaten.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Blog#350!!!! Vampire Grab Bag Week: The Kiss of the Vampire

Wow we have arrived at 350 blogs already!  That is simply amazing.

Howdy all and apologies for not starting Day 3 of Vampire Grab Bag Week yesterday.  A different sleep schedule threw me off so clearly there is no reason why we don’t excavate another title out of the bag today.  How about another Hammer vampire film but without Christopher Lee?  Balderdash you might say and many would agree as this was intended to be the third Dracula but the story got mangled and garbled to no end in sight completely detracting the whole Dracula standing and was made a standalone vampire movie.  So grab your cross, holy water, garlic and perhaps a good axe or falchion.  This is The Kiss of the Vampire.

Pardon, the three bean salad backfired.

Servant: You keep away from here, or we’ll set the spoilers on you!

Thankfully with no association with the Karnstein trilogy our story takes place not in Austria but in the far mountain range of Bavaria, Germany.  Vampires dig chocolate don’t you know.    Our young honeymooning couple having just arrived in this warm inviting village runs in a spot of bad luck to have their car breakdown at the most inopportune time.  Gerald (Edward De Souza of The Phantom of the Opera, The Mill on the Floss, Doctor Who, Mogul and The Spy Who Loved Me) and Marianne Harcourt (Jennifer Daniel of The Reptile, The Vortex, People Like Us, The Collectors and Love Is All There Is) are quite annoyed as they are out of gas and have no means for AAA so Gerald legs it after leaving his bride with the luggage to the nearest village in the hopes for a tow or gasoline to carry.  Young Marianne feels as though she is being spied on and finally can bare it no more, flees the car and heads towards the village about a half hour behind her husband.  A craggily old man channels his best Crazy Ralph impression and warns her to stay far away from the cast and to leave the area ASAP, PDQ and give it wings.

Slow it down kids, you're British so no emotions needed.

As predicted the tiny village being so isolated has no gas station to speak of but a brawny fellow helps Gerald with the car and the pair stay in a small inn ran by a little elderly couple that seem overtly superstitious and not very friendly.  Travel Book guide says it is worse than Motel Hell or the accommodations of Eaten Alive.     One of the local girls died prior and a funeral is being held; not be for a shabbily dressed fellow named Professor Zimmer flips her coffin lid and stakes her.  A blood curdling shriek omits from the coffin followed but a geyser of blood erupts from the corpse.

Keeping true Dracula standing a coachman arrives from the local squire informing them of the castle’s hospitality for stranded travelers.  Yes that castle they have been warned off from.  So of course our nitwits head there for turning down such an invitation would be the height of bad manners.  The locals shake and scratch their heads at the sheer bravado/stupidity of the couple and pray for their very souls.

So what to take away from this film?  Well apparently vampire cult and Satanism are one and the same as it was with the Karnstein Trilogy, this entire town somehow thrives in spite of vampire raids every so often and oh yes let us warn newcomers but not give them the full skinny. The rubber bats were killing me, I could not stop laughing. The day for night shots were predictably painful to stare at.  Not a bad film but hardly a great one.  

Vampire Tango of Terror!!!