Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sci-Fi Week: Outland

Welcome back kiddies!  Day 4 of Sci-Fi Week begins and it holds a bit of sentimental value for me.   After leaving the James Bond Franchise in 1971, Most Connery fans were convinced he was past his acting prime and never do better than James Bond.   So suit up in your atmospheric suit, make sure to activate your magnetic clamps and get them boots a walkin’.  This is Outland.
It's only a model.

Spoilers have a flair for the dramatic…

Director/writer Peter Hyams (Capricorn One, The Star Chamber, 2010, The Presidio, Narrow Margin and Timecop) brings us a retelling of Gary Cooper’s High Noon only rather a battered mining town we have a mining colony at Io, a far moon of Jupiter.  Not exactly the best assignment for Marshall O’Neil (Sean Connery of Dr. No, Goldfinger, The Anderson Tapes, Murder on the Orient Express, The Great Train Robbery, Highlander, The Hunt for Red October and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) and his family but orders are orders and he has to lump it.  Before too long it feels like a typical mining operation and he meets with the general manager Mark Sheppard (Peter Boyle of Young Frankenstein, Taxi Driver, Turk 182!, Red Heat and Everyone Loves Raymond) who proceeds to inform the Marshall that most of the workers are good at what they do, they bust their butts and are entitled to play after hours but sometimes folks get a bit rowdy.
Yes I was in Highlander, now concentrate on the job!

Marshall O’Neil sits in with his men finding out the daily logs, his right hand man Sgt. Montone (James Sikking of General Hospital, Hill Street Blues, Doogie Howser,M.D. and The Pelican Brief) tries to point out the good about this town.  The booze isn’t that watered down and the hookers have a heart of gold.  Yeah so a man on duty not being in a pressure suit and exposed himself to a zero-pressure atmosphere only to become the contents of raspberry jam all over the walls.   Later throughout the week a worker that reports and fellow workers call as calm, collective and always well behaved smacks around a prostitute and threatens to slice her to bits.  O’Neil has the locked door disengaged and Montone sneaks through the vents with a shotgun blasting before O’Neil can question him.  Given the sheer size of this colony very little can go on without O’Neil finding out.

 Using the surveillance cameras throughout the colony he discovers the possibility of an amphetamine being smuggled onboard.  Confirmed by Dr. Lazarus (Mary Sternhagen of The Hospital, Another World, Independence Day, Spencer, Golden Years, Cheers, Sex and the City and ER), a wreck of a doctor as she calls herself is stunned rigid on the dosages that are floating in one man’s veins and cannot believe this is happening.  With a bit more investigation with cameras O’Neil links the smuggling to Sheppard and it is sanctioned by Sgt. Montone.   O’Neil follows and captures one of Sheppard’s dealers, tosses the drugs in the toilet and drops him into an isolation chamber leaving him in zero gravity to drift until he feels like being chatty.   Confronting Montone about being bought off, O’Neil tells him how he can help or get the hell out of the way.  His pride and sense of justice blinds him to the point that Sheppard’s partners has set a couple of professional hitmen to kill him but O’Neil patched into outgoing communications and is aware of everything that is coming his way.
Sheesh the caters really need therapy.

Now I understand the comparison to High Noon due to the clock counting down in the same way he is waiting his impeding assassins on arrival.    Will anyone help him or will all turn a blind eye to a man being eliminated?   Most of the film is blue screened, matte painted and scale model shots as well as the decompression explosions but I feel the effects as a whole still stand up to this day and c’mon it’s Sean Connery walloping men 20 years younger than him.   A novelization of said movie was once again like Logan’s Run done by Sci-Fi/Sci-fi Fantasy writer Alan Dean Foster. It is a dark drama with some levity and complicated relationships.  This is an old favorite so not exactly an arm twists to view it again.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sci-Fi Week: Krull

Hiya boys and girls and welcome to Day 3 of Sci-Fi Week.  Well we have had some comedy, some sexist overtones and some decent writing.  Howabout a collection of fine English actors that happen to be in what I still think is one of the goofiest premises yet?    So grab your unexplained energy emitting blade, grab a bow and by gum pray to whatever deity whose ear you have.   This is Krull.
Wow, they do put anything in a crane machine game.

There is a prophecy that was foretold about a spoiler ruling these lands…

Directed by the astounding Peter Yates (The Saint (TV), Bullitt, The Robbery, Secret Agent(TV), Murphy’s War, The Deep, Eyewitness and Suspect) this film was a real boom for the sci-fi fantasy genre though it has been misunderstood, misquoted and frankly been baffling many for some time.  Our story opens with a bit of narrative (No, not Uwe Boll unnecessary narrative) proclaiming a prophecy of a girl of ancient name (or lineage) shall become queen, that she shall choose a king, and that together they shall rule their world and that their son shall rule the galaxy.   Sweet gig thus far, right?
Live in concert: Slayer...s

Prince Colwyn (Ken Marshall of Tilt, Claws, The Stay Awake, Feds, Burn Down and Berlin ’39) has agreed to marry the fair Princess Lyssa (Lysette Anthony of The Lady and the Highwayman, A Ghost in Monte Carlo, Dark Shadows (’91 TV series), Switch and Dracula: Dead and Loving It) for the benefit for both kingdoms and just as that whimsical romantic standing occurs, the land is invaded  a creature known only as The Beast in his huge rock formation of a starship known as the Black Fortress.  His armored lackeys known as the Slayers go sick house on the royal court and as well and destroying the castle and most of the Kingdom’s armies with blaster bolts all over the place.   Yeah went from fantasy realm and right into scifi.  Pretty sneak of you, movie.   So Lyssa follows true to form of Princesses Peach and Zelda and gets captured.  Seriously writer how about the girl gets to put up a bit more of a fight than that? Colwyn the only survivor is nursed back to health by Ynyr(Freddie Jones of The Satanic Rites of Dracula, Son of Dracula, Never Too Young to Rock, The Ghosts of Motley Hall, The Elephant Man, Dune and Erik the Viking) wise and older man who tells Colwyn the only weapon that could aid him in this quest would be the legendary Glaive.  Colwyn vows to rescue the girl and slay the Beast and his dark minions and the two proceed on this odd quest.  No Ynyr does not say that it is dangerous out there and hand him a wooden sword that shoots an energy beam but dammit if that wouldn’t be handy.    

He proceeds to head to the mountain range that might allow him to get to the Black Fortress quicker only to find out the Black Fortress teleports from location to location once a day at sunrise.   Boy, hope these people brought in the supplies ahead of time or they are going to be low on materials.   Along the path He finds a wizard that is more accident prone than Chevy Chase made former President Gerald Ford out to be Ergo “the Magnificent” (David Battley of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, S.O.S. Titanic, The Gentle Touch, Dramarama, Relative Strangers and Vigo) A band of brigands lead by Torquil (Alun Armstrong of Inspector Morse, Split Second, Patriot Games, Blue Ice, Black Beauty and Braveheart) and asks them to join in his quest and so the Fellowship of the…Glaive is formed.
Can he not see I love him tenderly?

Alrighty, I had just a few bits of observation to the film and or trivia to be had.   The fire mares are overexposure red filtered shots of Clydesdale horses that had to be rocketing across the fields when they were filmed.   The death cries of the Slayers is lifted from a 1976 film called At The Earth’s Core as it was the death cries of the Mahars.  Lastly scifi/scifi fantasy writer Alan Dean Foster did a novelization of the movie Krull and Marvel Comics felt its popularity was going to be so huge they did a two-issue limited series.   For me it was a piece of my childhood that combines sword and sorcery with lasers and starships.  Maybe it wasn’t an ideal blend but all in all it was fun to view after these so many years.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sci-Fi Week: Logan's Run

Heyas folks and welcome to Day 2 of Sci-Fi Week.   What say we head into a time of the year 2274, a society composed of young carefree people with all the comforts of automation, food replicators and rampant desires of the flesh?  Sounds pretty decent overall; that is until you reach the age of 30 and you are fated to engage in the ceremony known as Carousel.    So grab your flame pistol, your negligee toga and prepare to run.  This is Logan’s Run.
Pull my finger. A joke from THE FUTURE!

Run, spoiler run!!!

Based very loosely on William F. Nolan’s novel of the same title, this utopia gives humans very little to do in the terms of work relations.  Only a handful of men are selected to be Sandmen, a quasi-police force that ensures no one over the age of 30 skips out on the time of renewal.  It is said at the age of 30 that your time is up and new life must begin to take the place that you left behind in order to keep population down and resources maintained and managed.   According to their religious standing that has been founded God only knows when, these people have lived in harmony but unaware of their beginnings.  The schools only teach so much and history is almost frowned upon.   All knowledge of the Earth seems to be erased and no one would think of what is beyond the great domed city.  To track their years of life, at birth they are fitted with a Lifeclock crystal in the palm of their hand that changes color as they approach their “Last Day.”  The New You face lifts, tucks and sculpting for when you are tired of that appearance anymore comes in handy but runners are nabbed in the end.
Had no idea Peter Pan held that much sway in fashion...OF THE FUTURE!!

A sandman named Logan 5 (Michael York of The Three Musketeers, The Four Musketeers: Milady’s Revenge, Murder on the Orient Express, Seven Nights in Japan, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Lady and the Highwayman, Night of the Fox and Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery) begins to wonder, to query about the meaning of life and the point of Carousel.  His friend Francis 7 (Richard Jordan of The Yakuza, Rooster Cogburn, Alibis, Les Miserables, Dune and The Mean Season) warns him that such thinking undermines Carousel and all its teachings.  They are force to chase a runner and terminate him.   Logan fins a pendant in the shape of an ankh. 

  By the by, booty calls are quite simplified as it would be bad manners to turn a person down. Logan selects a young girl for the evening, a one Jessica 6 (Jenny Aguttter of Walkabout, A War of Children, The Eagle Has Landed, The Man in the Iron Mask, Dominique, An American Werewolf in London and Love’s Labour’s Lost).  As the two get cozy Logan notices that Jessica wear an ankh as well and questions its origin.    He takes it to the main computer to verify it.   The computer explains it belongs to an order known as Sanctuary.  A haven for runners to flee to and hereby orders Logan to destroy Sanctuary.   Moments later, his lifeclock starts flashing red four years too early forcing Logan to become a runner.

Desirable mate...OF THE FUTURE!

I had a few observations on the movie and wither or not it has stood the test of time.   The exterior shots of the domed city is obviously forced perspective and scale models for walk ways, tram system and buildings.  Obviously there is a far amount of blue screen being used for matted shots and the robot servitors look a bit hokey and those poor actors in the suits must have been broiling but I do not think that should derail you from the story.   I don’t think it is the pinnacle or apex that science fiction has created but it should be considered at the very least of a view of what times are ahead.  An alternative timeline for humanity if you will and that has always made for good sci-fi.  

Apparently given this is 1976 bras were outlawed in this utopia and brother does that ever show.  I guess the sexist pig producer came to the conclusion if babies are genetically engineered and raised by machines, then breast feeding and lack of offspring meant no sagging or gravity.  Trust me, there was a pig with a cigar making this decision.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sci-Fi Week: The Ice Pirates

Hey kids I’m baaaaaack.   And what could be more than searching all of Dune for spice, oh wait that we aren’t watching anything as near as classy as Dune.  Thank God too.  If you are not a Frank Herbert fan you can barely follow the original Dune anyway.  No instead I thought we go with something campy, goofy and entirely too much blue screen.  So grab your vibroblades, hoist the pirate colors and beware of space herpes.   This is The Ice Pirates.
Never bother an alien on the crapper

Spoilers are the source of ultimate power!!!

Well folks starting this off I want to point out this is not meant to be taken serious…at all.  Scifi/Comedy here.  Writer Stanford Sherman (The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Batman, Shalimar, Krull and The Man Who Wasn’t There) and writer/director Stewart Raffill (Across the Great Divide, High Risk, The Sea Gypsies, Mac and Me and Passenger 57) comes a tale in the far away future where the galaxy is apparently drying up.  The main gold mine these days is water. Yes H2O worth more than all the spice the Atreides clan can muster.   Now when pirate is used in a sentence you normally think a scarred, scurvy ridden rapist and pillager.  Well not so much is the case here.   They are outfitted with rapier and cutlass still but it is more blasters and not so much burning down townships or colonies.    
Space models away!!

The film follows the course of Jason (Robert Urich of Magnum Force, Vega$, SWAT, Spenser: For Hire, She Knows Too Much and Lonesome Dove) leader of his nefarious…water thieves and fairly nice guy, his right hand man Roscoe (Michael D. Roberts of Manimal, Double Trouble, Manhunter, Rain Man and The First Family) head technician and primary robot builder, Zeno(Ron Perlman of Beauty and the Beast, Chronos, Enemy at the Gates,  Fallout 3, Blade II, Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army) the cutthroat, Maida (Anjelica Huston of This Is Spinal Tap, Prizzi’s Honor,  The Dead, The Addams Family, Buffalo Girls and The Perez Family) the swordsmaster…mistress (whatever) and Killjoy (John Matuszak former  Oakland Raiders  defensive end and of Caveman, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Goonies, Command 5 and Hollywood Beat) these ragtag rebels survive by stealing ice from this empiric orders known as the Templars of the planet Mithra. 

Oh god not again.   They’ll rip the hearts out of women’s chests and…oh never mind.  Not the Blind Dead series after all.  Maybe they hail from Middle Earth.  Uh getting back to the film at hand Jason and several of his crew were captured after a botched attempt at an ice run where they are to be castrated, lobotomized and put into indentured servitude.   Seriously folks this cannot be an option over death.  Personally I would be picking fights with Killjoy just so he would snap my neck and that would be it.  Just as it would look the boys are going to get the snip, a one Princess Karina (Mary Crosby of Dallas, Tapeheads, The Legend of Zorro, Queen of the Lot and The M Word) buys the lot of them to find the legendary planet, the 7th world.  An Earth like planet encompassed in 75% of water.  I thought it had no texture.   Downside is no one truly knows where this planet is and the stories go that in has a time warp jump around it that can significantly age a man or woman to death and if they are off my a fraction of a margin they could be lost in a void forever.
Hmm hot girl in cryogenics...handy.

A few amusing aspects of this film I noticed and wanted to point them out.  During one of the big swordfights I noticed the place they are filming in was the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Van Nuys California.  I went on a tour many moons ago but I swear to you those winding metal staircases are them.   Raiding parties seem to consist of humans and droids.  I presume for heavy lifting or just faster attack speeds but most of the crew’s droids look a bit battered and worn.  Several bits of footage of the movie are clipped from Logan’s Run and Rollerball and Kevin Costner turned down the role of Jason.    It’s crass, politically incorrect and Tylenol still remains in the far, far away future.   Watch this for the pimp bots alone.  Yes droids talking late 70’s jive and pimping girls out.  Damn, I want a pimp bot.

Sci-fi Week

Hey folks!! This week we deal with tyrannical warlords, space battles and guys that cannot fire lasers straight.  No I am not reviewing any of the Star Wars but thanks to some of my readers' suggestions this will be Science Fiction Week.  Some of the more obscure pieces of Sci-fi from the latter 70's and early 80's is on the menu.  Some I have seen over and over as a wee lad and some I have never had the pleasure or displeasure of seeing.   It ought to make for some interesting reading overall.   So stay tuned!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Western Week: Rio Bravo

Hey all!  We as we end Western Week I thought we’d finish on a Howard Hawks Film of notoriety.  What do you get when you put two singing legends alongside the Duke in a heaping round of gunfights and fist fights and toss in some eye candy by the name Angie Dickinson?   Well pardners, grab your six guns, check your ammo and board up those windows.  This is Rio Bravo.
Why yes it is only a one horse town.

Dagnab Spoilers!!

Small town sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne of Red River, 3 Godfathers, Rio Grande, The Sea Chase, The Searchers, El Dorado, Chisum, Rio Lobo and Big Jake) arrests a gutless well connected man Joe Burdette (Claude Akins of Gunsmoke, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, Movin’ On, Kiss Me, Kill Me, B.J. and the Bear, The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo and Murder, She Wrote) prepares to take him to stand trial to the Presidio for murder. His brother Nathan (John Russell of Soldiers of Fortune, Lawman, It Takes a Thief, Alias Smith and Jones, and Pale Rider) will not abide by that decision and shells out plenty of dinero to buy himself a helluva posse to bottleneck the town so Chance can’t take Joe to trial.  His steadfast backup deputies consist of a crippled old grump named Stumpy (Walter Brennan of To Have and Have Not, How the West Was Won, The Real McCoys, The Tycoon, The Guns of Will Sonnett and To Rome with Love) an washed up drunk named Dude (Dean Martin of That’s My Boy, Road to Bali, The Caddy, Living It Up, Some Came Running, The Silencers, 5 Card Stud and Airport).  A well meaning citizen, Wheeler offers his gun hand but Chance can’t accept because he knows his friend has never known the life.   A slick kid with a pretty boy face and twin six shooters name of Colorado (Ricky Nelson of Here Come the Nelsons, Love and Kisses, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, The Over-the-Hill Gang and The Streets of San Francisco) seem to need not prove himself to Chance and Chance respects that. 
That hippie went this away. git 'em!

That evening at The Robantes’ Saloon, they register a complaint (No it was not a Norwegian Blue) about some card sharks at the gambling table.   A dishy redhead name of Feathers (Angie Dickinson of I Married a Woman, Cry Terror!, Big Bad Mama, Police Woman, Dressed to Kill, Death Hunt, Cassie & Co., Wild Palms and Sabrina) has less than standing in Lady Luck’s circle as her husband is a known card hustler.  She claims innocence and tells Chance to toss her room if he still thinks she is a cheat.  Colorado steps in pointing out that it may be a different rascal after all.  Chance aided of Colorado’s keen eye spots the swindler and has him locked in his room.   Wheeler gets gunned down in the back and Colorado offers his support.     Chance and Dude manage to get the back shooter but the week isn't over yet.

Nathan claims to visit his brother the next day and Chance points out how he and his men to need to disappear or there could be an accident to befell Joe.     Colorado clearly with not enough sense throws in with Chance and his lot as the odds is stacked pretty high against them.  

Dammit, what is my line?

And now comes the part of my need to make a few observations of our movie.   Most of the film was in location of Old Tucson in Tucson Arizona as well as Stage 5 and 26 in Burbank California.  This film had such an impact on writer/director/editor/composer John Carpenter he said the whole basis of this movie is the reason he created Assault on Precinct 13.   What I have always found fascinating about Howard Hawks movies is the staging.  His characters are always in unusual and interesting places where they are constantly moving throughout streets or the collection of buildings.  Bit like it is a performance art piece.  Not necessarily with dialogue spoken but there is always an array of expressions and emotions on their faces as it seems they are mentally preparing themselves for the day ahead.  This is another film were I would recommend to film students to get some blocking technique down.

Heh one last note, John Wayne just hums along with Ricky and Dean as they clearly can carry a tune in a bucket but hey we can’t have every talent now, can we?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Suggestions Would be welcome...

Folks the well is running a little dry and so I give a shout out to the readers in the hopes you have some suggestions on TV and Movies.  Heck why even some games.   Please send the suggestions, pithy comments, collective thoughts and in general, Johnny 5 here needs input.

Western Week: Invitation to a Gunfighter

Hey Y’all!  Welcome back for Day 4 of the Western Week. Well we have tackled revenge, bank heists, train heists and even some good old fashioned land grabbing… so why not some more of that?   So tighten up your spurs and make that jingle jangle jingle.   This is Invitation to a Gunfighter.
Scruffy fella, ain't he?

Spoiler’s deceitful and downright no good!!

Our story following disgraced Southern man, Matt Weaver (George Segal of Ship of Fools, King Rat, Death of a Salesman, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Southern Star, Fun with Dick and Jane, Murphy’s Law and Just Shoot Me) who had the audacity to sign for the Union cause that after the war he returns home on foot to find his house has been ceased, bought and sold and his fiancĂ©e has married another man.  After a heated argument with John Medford, the now new owner of his home he finds out that town official Sam Brewster (Pat Hingle from Hang ‘Em High, Bloody Mama, If Tomorrow Comes, Gunsmoke, The Super Cops, Elvis, Batman and the The Quick and the Dead) stole his family land and home, grabs his shooting iron and proceeds to raise holy hell at Brewster’s.   Gets winged by the man that stole his girl and slapped in the pokey and the sawbones of the town fixes his arm and heck even the sheriff cuts him some slack and tells him to just leave town.  Off camera Weaver drops John Medford and the town is in uproar.  
I tells ya the Batman ain't to be trusted!!

But enough of all that saddening history and worldly nonsense, let’s talk about Yul Brynner’s character. Jules Gaspard d’Estaing(Yul Brynner of The King and I, The Ten Commandments, The Magnificent Seven, Westworld, The Ultimate Warrior and Death Rage), a well-mannered, cultured dandy that also happens to be have the reflexes of a rattler and willingness to blow a man’s head off.  The town’s “savior” gunfighter bails after seeing d’Estaing, jumps on the very coach he came it to town and hightails it.  Hope they didn’t agree on half up front. 

Ruth now Ruth Adams (Janice Rule of Starlift, Gun for a Coward, Bell Book and Candle, The Subterraneans and The Chase) conflicted on her former feelings of Weaver but her convictions to her husband Crane Adams (Clifford David of The Last Mile, Hamlet, The Party’s Over, A Woman Called Moses, Blind Ambition and Ebony, Ivory and Jade), a one armed man that is a drunk and apparently lousy shot makes for a difficult path for Ruth.  
Brewster is typically the wrong man in at the right time.  A coward and a rabble rouser that keeps his town in check by pointing out the horrors of the Civil War and how they must remain united in their upstanding ways.  He calls out for blood and demands the town put cash together for a gunfighter.  God forbid they take pity on another battered soldier even if he was on the other side.  So poor Matt Weaver is truly on his own, scared and armed. 
Face it, this is a cool cat.

I would like to take this time to point out a few things about the film.  One thing I noticed was Sam Brewster’s house is unmistakably the Bates house above the Bates Motel via Psycho. Producer Stanley Kramer (High Noon, Judgment at Nuremberg, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and The Defiant Ones) apparently loves films of a message of racism, sexism and realism if you will.  The fiction is better represented with a touch of reality.  Frankly this has to be the filthiest town on the US soil. Gritty living conditions, battered and beaten men from the war and the war widows, this town wouldn’t know hope if it bit them in the keister.  Love the crane work, low pans and killer dolly track work.   This is a much underrated film and deserves much more credit than it got, the characters are complex and could go any direction.  A forgotten gem of a movie.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Western Week: Shane

Hi-dy doo all!  Welcome to Day 3 of Western Week and man o man I found me a classic.  One of the most talked about, fussed over and in general beloved Westerns to this very day.  So kick yer shoes off, sit a spell and hell why not take a shot at widdlin’ some.   This is Shane.

Hey, an actual watering hole!

Come back Spoilers!!!...

A fella come riding into town in buckskin (No not Navajo Joe) and a six shooter in the sparsely settled of Wyoming just a bit after the Homestead Act.   The town while unaware of this fella who goes by Shane (Alan Ladd of This Gun for Hire, The Iron Mistress, Desert Legion, The Blue Dahlia, The Black Knight, Hell on Frisco Bay and Salty O’ Rourke), a man with a past but he is clearly pegged as a gunslinger and finds himself right in the middle of a homesteader Joe Starrett (Van Heflin of The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, 3:10 to Yuma and Airport) and cattle baron Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer of The Man with the Golden Arm, Paths of Glory and Sweet Smell of Success) and tries his level best to keep it civil. Ryker clearly wants the land for cheap and wants the settlers to vamoose from town so I guess he can have more grazing land i.e. more beef for the bank.  Shane is invited to supper and a bunk for the night by Joe’s wife, Marian (Jean Arthur of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, You Can’t Take It with You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Too Many Husbands and The Devil and Miss Jones) takes a liking to these folks and signs on as a farmhand.
Whiskey anyone?!

 Joey, Joe and Marian’s boy becomes fast friends with Shane and asks him about shooting.  Shane is willing to teach both Joey (Brandon De Wilde of Jamie, Good-bye My Lady, Night Passage,  Hud and The Deserter)and Marian both, instilling that a gun is no more than a tool.  Granted it is a killing tool but only the owner can make the decision for what good or evil it will do.   Get all that NRA???    Marian is clearly not a fan of the hogleg and would rather her boy did not learn the ways of violence.   A fist fight brews in town when Joe and Shane run into some of Ryker’s men and they kicked butt.    Ryker is furious about this and hires himself one cold blooded son of a…well you get the idea *ahem* gunfighter named Jack Wilson (Jack Palance of Arrowhead, Flight to Tangier, Man in the Attic, Sign of the Pagan, The Silver Chalice, The Big Knife, Kiss of Fire, A Professional Gun, Batman and City Slickers) and brother this man is one cool customer.  He could shoot a fella as easily as order a drink of whiskey.    Yup what will the town do with this maniac on the streets? 

I have a few observations of this movie now if you don’t mind.  The setting of this town was based on the Johnson County War and was shot primarily on location but there was also more than a few sets via Paramount Studios backdrop.  Some of the exterior shots had a few matte paintings but damn some of these you look at you would swear is the open sky.  Similar to the Italian Eastman format this film was shot in spherical so great close ups and foreground but background looks a little hazy.   

I crap bigger than you, door.

35mm of course and sadly in Technicolor and yes I am not a fan of Technicolor.   Keep in black and white for that matter I say.  Hell how many films could be made better just dropped in black and white alone?    Moving right along, apparently Alan Ladd was not the first draft pick for Shane as the director George Stevens (A Place in the Sun, Penny Serenade and Giant) Montgomery Clift (Red River, I Confess, A Place in the Sun and From Here to Eternity) given their previous work history together.   This has it all.  Good story, likable characters and secondary characters, catchy themes and good luck getting that opening theme out of your head.  I can see why this is hailed as good cinema.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Western Week: Django

Howdy all!  Welcome back for Day 2 of Western Week and boy you know how I seem predicated to the more obscure movies.  Well an Italian director fella by the name of Sergio Corbucci (Castle of Blood, Navajo Joe, The Great Silence and Companeros) puts us in a wonder with this film with a gunslinger caught in the eye of the storm.  So mosey on out in the street, clear the women and children and get ready to slap leather.  This is Django.
Eastwood? bah this is Django baybee.

Yella belled spoiler!  Draw!

Our opening scene of this Spaghetti Western;  we see a lone man with tattered union blues walking through the desert with a saddle strapped to his back and dragging…a coffin behind him?  That’s right folks; he has a pine box behind him as he moves through the scene.  Django (Franco Nero of  The War of the Planets, Force 10 from Navarone, Goodbye Texas, Camelot, Mafia, Die Hard 2, Django Unchained) comes over a hill to see a woman lashed to a few poles and then whipped by this filth and mud ridden Mexican bandits.  Next thing you know they are all blown away by five men each wearing red scarves, Django is just about to move on when he sees the woman’s saviors are playing to host a barbeque in the lady’s honor…as she will be the charcoal.  What the hell??  Oh these good ole boys aren’t so good after all. 
Maybelline: for all your saloon girl needs.

After a rather brief chat with these fine southern gentlemen, Django drops all five of them.  Top that Eastwood!  Oh I said it.   The lady in question, Maria (Loredana Nusciak of Gladiators 7, Seven from Thebes, 10,000 Dollars for a Massacre, God Will Forgive My Pistol and Now Way Out) who has been spun from Banditos to KKK to a Yankee of all things reluctantly trusts in Django and follows him to town with a great exterior shot via dolly track we see the town is not looking so good.  One would dare say it has been pillaged and plundered me mateys!!  Arrrgghh!!!   Um yeah, sorry about that.  I was watching Pirates the other day.  

Okay where were we?   Ah yes the town holds an acrid scent and blackened buildings with no signs of life to be found. If this was a one horse town, well brother he skedaddled on out.  The saloon is about all that is standing I am thinking, “Wow, not the second place after the bank was hit?”    As Django and Maria take up residence at the saloon/ motel the owner and the saloon girls call this town neutral territory between the Mexican rebels and the remaining Confederates under the command of one Major Jackson leading his boys in the timed honored tradition of the KKK as they feud over one another they can always take shelter from the chaos here at a pretty penny.  

All the comforts of home during a bloody siege so what could anyone ask for.    The Mexicans are simply trying to rebuild after the Civil War but the South isn’t taking kind to it and both sides are composed of some of the more disturbing desperadoes putting our Yankee protagonist right smack in the middle of it all.  What can one man possibly hope to accomplish against two forces of so many driven men?  What indeed.   At 91 minutes a lot unfolds for the viewing pleasure.  Alas lady readers there are the slapping around of women, the thuggish mentality of man and in general the saloon owner is a spineless coward that will not lift a finger against so many men.  Just felt you deserved the heads up.
Have Coffin, Will Travel.

Yes I am going to give a few technical tidbits about the film now.  B.R.C. Produzione S.r.l. is a rival of Dino de Laurentiis Productions nabbed the rights first.  Sorry Dino.  The film stock is 35mm but shot via Eastman spherical lens scope giving the view less wide but almost as encompassing as Panavision with its anamorphic lens.  The difference is the foreground is better defined than anamorphic.  Personally if I were shooting a film I would love a nice hybrid of both.    My copy sadly was English dubbed and had a limited number of voice actors but telle est la vie…  Luis Bacalov (Composer of A Bullet for the General, We Still Kill the Old Way, Halleuja for Django, The Protagonists, and Assassination Tango) and countless of his pieces lifted from Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Django Unchained including the English translated opening song.   Sheesh Tarantino swipes much?     Seriously though, I want to download this soundtrack to my cell just to play as I enter a room, convenience store or restaurant because it is catchy to many levels.   This is no Fistful of Dollars but honestly I am rather glad it is not.  It is separate and on its own.  Not unlike our hero or should I say anti-hero? For you fast draw nuts, you will completely dig this flick for the awesome that is Django. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Western Week: Navajo Joe

Get some!!!

Howdy buckaroos and welcome to the first day of Western Week.  Now having not tackled this particular field of film outside of my own entertainment this should be an interesting week.  So let’s start the week off good and proper.  With a bloody massacre, women and children butchered and a man seeking revenge to the point of utter madness.  Doesn’t that sound keen?   So saddle up your mustang, grab a Spencer rifle and aim good.  This is Navajo Joe.

Spoilers is sneaky as them injuns!!

Our film is fast paced, very little lag between scenes and frankly one of the better revenge storylines I have seen in a while.   The film opens up with a young Native American woman at the edge of a stream just washing some clothes against the rocks when a man on horseback trots up to the other side of the stream.  They share glances, albeit the girl’s a bit more shyly and then our charmer Duncan (Aldo Sambrell of The Sea Pirate, The Texican, A Bullet for the General, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Hellbenders and Tex and the Lord of the Deep) draws his revolver and drops her dead.  I know, right?   This starts up this amazing score that seems to be timed when the screams of violence and gunfire kicks in. Enno Morricone (Composer of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West, Red Sonja, The Untouchables, Causalities of War and Inglorious Basterds) has been the primary composer for any Dino de Laurentiis production as well as almost every Sergio Leone (A Fistful of Dollars, A Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in America and My Name is Nobody) film and this score covers the various moods of the film but captures the overtone of revenge seething in Joe’s soul.  Also from a film goers’ point of view this was a complete waste of actress Nicoletta Machiavelli (The Hills Run Red, Matchless, Face to Face, Temptation, Anyone Can Play and Garter Colt) this gorgeous girl who can run lines well, give good emotion and presence with almost any male counterpart…again wasted within a matter of minutes. 
Gorgeous mountain range or Matte painting? You decide.

As the men ride off with their scalps they get that prickly feeling like they are being watched. Up in the far mountain range some 800 yards away is Joe (Burt Reynolds of Deliverance, Shamus, White Lightning, The Longest Yard, Gator, Hooper, City Heat and Boogie Nights) stalking them slowly.  Vigilant but not impatient, he waits for them to get comfortable and then will strike.    Duncan gets antsy and sends two of his boys to take him out, only to hear loads of repeater gunfire and see two horses sent back with his men slumped on their former saddles.  Duncan rides his boys back to town rouse the place and shoot up a far amount of folks in it.  Just so we are clear, these are bad hombres and I am behind Joe 100% in their deaths of which by far are quick.

An interesting film goof in my opinion, the train heist works by dumping logs on the track and yet the land they are driving the train through I didn’t see one fricking tree at all.  Sparse of trees I would think boulders rolled over the tracks would have been more feasible but hey I am not directing the flick.  My only point there is work with what you have and not what you just trucked in from a nearby town.   If you thought Reynolds got wailed on in Gunsmoke, holy hell they done threw him a whoopin’ in this.   Rest assured Act 3 has yet to happen.   

Shatner Hairpiece for Men: You're gonna love the fit.

The film of course is pretty dreary in its theme and I have seen a bit better examples of it but all in all it is a revenge story with western backdrop and I feel they did their level best.  Reynolds however feels it was a turd overall.  He describes the film as so awful it can only be shown in airplanes and prison that way the audience cannot leave. 

Sorry Burt I have to disagree.  Not too shabby.  Although those buck skins had to be getting hot running around in I wager.

Western Week

Hello all.  This week I thought we would do something different.  I have explored Drama, Science Fiction and Horror films galore and have not explored the realm of Westerns outside of my own entertainment.  So this week we will burrow through various works of the wild west.  I hope you enjoy!
You lookin' at me, boy?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cult Film Week: Coffy

Hey kiddies and welcome to the last day of Cult Film Week and I hope you have been having a blast as much as I have.  This time around I wanted to speak about exploitation director Jack Hill.  From his early horror movies like writing The Terror and Blood Bath of which he directed both; to the wild notion of blowing up Pam Grier back in the day over the major screens and drive-ins.  So pour me a cup, add a little sugar and some milk cause that how I take it.   This is Coffy.
Dirty Harry ain't got nothing on her...

Spoilers are murder, baby.

Right off the bat this film does not screw around and gets your right in the heart of the action.  A smack pusher and his lackey are rounding up any snowbirds that wanna get their groove on for a taste of the candy. Dig?    Coffy gets back to their rathole and is just frenzied for a fix…or is she?   After a few quick lookieloos at the goodies she feels the best to freshen up for her sugar man is with…a sawed off twelve gauge double barreled shotgun?!!  Sheesh good thing he didn’t make a weight joke cause God only knows what might have happened.  Our pusher man is now minus most of his head and his assistant don’t know nothing about nothing.  Realizing he is useless Coffy offers him the choice: take a fix and risk not getting the dose right or lose the top of his head as well.
Pam Grier is an optional extra with the Lincoln Continental. 

Now you may be asking yourselves why Coffy is so hell bent to drop these turkeys and what possessed her to be so damn angry?  Well not more than a few minutes of back story let you know that Coffy’s 11 year old sister got conned into heroin, got hooked and is going through methadone treatment at the very hospital she is a nurse at.   Yeah if that isn’t reason enough to clean up the streets hell I cannot really think of a better one.  A risky but clever enough plan is to play the wide eyed innocent girl that goes back to her targets’ pads, puts on the moves and takes the suckas out.   

 Sorry got caught up in the lingo there.  Whew, okay I’m back. Coffy’s Ex, Carter (William Elliott of They Call it Murder, Night of the Lepus, Hangup, Adam-12, and Police Story) always has her back and truly cares about her.  They head back to his place so she can take a break from the hospital when Carter unloads that his department has been bought off by the Mafioso.  Cops are taking bribes left and right and Carter is a straight edge cop that believes in the system.  Just after that bold statement two men wearing ski masks come in and start to be the living crap out of the cat and slap Coffy around as a witness.   Carter is rushed to the hospital but after that severe a beating it is unknown if Carter will ever walk again.  This of course just fuels Coffy more to continue her vigilante ways.  Her lover City Councilor Howard Brunswick (Booker Bradshaw of Star Trek, Julia, The Name of the Game, Skullduggery and The Strawberry Statement) believes in using the law to benefit the people and brother she is head over heels for this smooth cat and it is clearly illustrated in the scene after the night club get together.  

Yes for the younger viewers or parents of these younger viewers be advised LOTS OF NUDITY.  After her *ahem* rigorous evening Coffy sets her sights on a pimp named King George (Robert DoQui of The Man, Willie Dynamite, Treasure of Matecumbe, Guyana: Cult of the Damned, Insight and Robocop) who ought to have killed his costume designer.  No kidding Huggy Bear would have lost his lunch from that much orange.   George runs the ladies and heroine for the man with the plan Don Arturo Vitroni( Allan Arbus of M.A.S.H.)  Major Freedman of M.A.S.H. is running the dope racket??!!!  No, say it ain’t so baby.   From catfights, gunfights, taking down thugs and a few car chases, this film gave Pam the look of a take no prisoners bad ass. 
Either these curtains go or I do!

Kind of wished Omar (Sid Haig of The Big Bird Cage, Black Mama, White Mama, Foxy Brown, Savage Sisters, House of 1000 Corpses, and House of the Dead 2) got some more to do in this flick other than just look menacing through most of it but hey I am a Haig fan so sue me.  It’s gritty, dirty and just done like things are in down town.   Underrated and unappreciated, I had a blast watching this lady terminator go to town.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cult Film Week : Death Race 2000

Happy Valentine’s Day gang and hey what better way to commiserate the holiday that will yet another cult film.   Yeah we will be skipping the multitude of women in prison flicks if at all possible due to the mass damper it would be.   Instead let us focus on a Roger Corman production that has folks still talking about it and created remakes and prequels to that remake.   So fasten your harness, pop a couple adrenaline pills and let’s rack up some points.   This is Death Race 2000.
Go Speed Racer Go Speed Racer!

Spoilers are not above God but above man.

In the latter 1970’s The United States are no more.  The New World has collapsed between financial ruin and a military coup.  A singular Bipartisan Party acts as a national church controlling media and way of thinking, the result is a police state called the United Provinces (I smell the evils of Canada at work) led by Mr. President (Sandy McCallum of Fantasy Island, Lou Grant, Thomas Edison and the Electric Light and Solomon).  To pacify the mindless drones an session of gladiatorial events are broadcasted including the  Annual Transcontinental Death Race a three-day race were points are scored not merely based on skill and speed but the number of innocent pedestrians that are killed during the race.  Yes that is correct they are purposely running down people in their souped up rides.  In the far away timeline of 2000 the 20th Annual Death Race is rearing to go.  So let’s meet the contestants shall we?
Man, haven't heard this many boos since Cliffhanger.

We have Machine Gun Joe Viterbo (Sylvester Stallone of Rocky, First Blood, Nighthawks, Cobra, Over the Top, Lock Up and The Expendables)  his custom-built car looks like a hybrid dune buggy has a huge Rambo like knife welded to front along with twin machine guns bolted and mounted to the front as well.  His navigator Myra (Louisa Moritz of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Sixpack Annie, The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington, New Year’s Evil, True Confessions and Lunch Wagon) Nero the Hero (Martin Kove of Last House on the Left, Bloodtide, The Karate Kid, Cagney and Lacy, The Man from Nowhere, Revamped and Savage) in “The Lion” a modified Fiat 850 Spider with navigator Cleopatra (Leslie McRay of Girl in Gold Boots, Coffy, Willie Dynamite and Hit Lady)

Matilda the Hun (Robert Collins of Women in Cages, The Big Doll House, Caged Heat, Alias Big Cherry, Eaten Alive and Whiskey Mountain) decked out like a nazi in her modified Volkswagen Karmann Ghia body shaped into a V-1 Flying bomb and her navigator Herman” The German” Boch (Gopher??  Um Fred Grandy of Maude, Monster Squad, Fantasy Island and The Love Boat) Calamity Jane (Mary Woronov of Eating Raoul, Get Crazy, Blood Theatre, Young Lust and Night of the Comet) and her Bull buggy and navigator Pete (William Shepard of Beyond the Time Barrier and Phantom of the Paradise) And of course the man you have all been waiting for.  The most celebrated racer of all time and the government’s champion FRANKENSTEIN!!!! (David Carradine of Kung Fu, Circle of Iron, Deathsport, Lone Wolf McQuade, The Warrior and the Sorceress, Warlords, Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Hellride and Kill Bill: Vol. 2) half man and half machine, Frankenstein goes back out on the road that beckons him he wear a mask to cover his disfigured face and his outfit screams I just left the afterhours BDSM bar and boy are my legs tired.  In his modified Shala Vette he is accompanied by his new navigator Annie Smith  (Simone Griffeth of Ladies’ Man, Amanda’s, Hot Target, The Patriot and A Funeral 4 Two) With play by play commentary Junior Bruce (Don Steele of Targets, The Student Leaders, The Day the Earth Moved, Grand Theft Auit and Rock ‘n’ Roll High School) you get the feeling that is to be a dark comedy poking fun at the couch potatoes in front of the sets across the country that have no thought whatsoever about how their rights, privileges and dreams have been taken. 
Hard to talk in this mask doing 90!

There is quite a bit of tongue and cheek jokes, people getting mowed over with this wild rides.  Throughout the broadcast there are interruptions of which are blamed on the French.  Apparently they are also the reason the economy is in the toilet and the phone company is on the fritz.  Merde!  The effects are fairly decent, I love how every car is just as important as its driver and the total lack of empathy when a pedestrian is mauled and mutilated.   This is an underrated story but yes fellas there be titty as well.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cult Film Week: Blacula

Howdy all!  Day 3 of Cult Film Week and I’m trying to think of doing another horror movie or maybe a blaxploitation film     Then it donned on me, why not do both? The 1970’s were notorious for following existing trends and making it their own at the same time.  Hmm that doesn’t sound familiar at all, right gang?   So sharpen your disco heel to a point, keep a crucifix handy and get ready smack a sucka down!  This is Blacula!
Hmm looks like White Devil to me...

Spoilers are solid, baby!

Director William Crain (Mod Squad, The Rookies, Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde, The Kid from Not-So-Big and The Dukes of Hazzard) tells a tale of a notorious vampire Dracula but not in the way you think.  In 1780 Prince Mamuwalde (William H. Marshall of Tarzan, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Star Trek, The Hell with Heroes, Skullduggery and Honky) ruler of the Abani African Nation and his bride Luva (Vonetta Mc Gee of Hammer, Shaft in Africa, Detroit 9000, Brothers, The Eiger Sanction, Hell Town, Bustin’ Loose and L.A. Law) goes before Dracula in the hopes he will aid them in suppressing if not out and out destroying the slave trade.   Dracula being the typical heartless white man spurs Mamuwalde’s pleas, mocks him and orders his servants to teach this idle dog some manners.  Mamuwalde holds his own only to anger the Count further to the point he damns him with his curse of the undead, locks him in a coffin and leaves him there to rot.  
Beginning of Terror or is he holding gas in?

192 years later two *ahem* interior decorators (wink, wink)make their way to Transylvania, buy the Count’s castle for a steal and deplete all his furnishings including the coffin Prince Mamuwalde is still trapped in.   Our boys are celebrating at their good fortunes unwillingly release Mamuwalde from hi slumber and awaken his thirst.   Upon finding the corpses of the interior decorators, Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala of What’s Happening!!, The Fitzpatricks, Kojak, The Trial of the Moke, The President’s Mistress, T.J. Hooker and Born American) His girlfriend and assistant nurse Michelle (Denise Nicholas of Ring of Passion, Baby, I’m Back, Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper, In the Heat of the Night and Ritual)  and her sister Tina view the body of their childhood friend Bobby McCoy.  Dr. Thomas is wily in noticing the victims’ throat wounds and proceeds to channel his inner Van Helsing cautiously.   After making short works of those two snack cakes, the prince proceeds to explore Los Angles 1972 only to run into the reincarnation of his late bride known as Tina (Vonetta McGee), stalks her causing her to panic and evade him.   Not the best first introduction but hey give the cat some credit, it has been almost 200 years since he courted a lady. 

 Lt. Irritable Whitey calls out Thomas and is demanding to know what all this pathologically reports are about this victims.  Rather than side with the doc that it could be an odd happening he chooses the easy course of Panther activity or snowbirds shaking down some loose cash for their fix.  Thomas manages to convince Lt. Peters to offer an assist and bear with him that he needs more time to amount his theories to proof.   Meanwhile, Mamuwalde having no sire to show him the vampire ropes is making vamps left and right.  If this were Angel or Moonlight well you got about 4 feral feeders already and the crap is just gonna keep rolling down hill.
I told you to not go through East L.A. No tip now!

Now aside from some of the dialogue in its racist and sexist tendencies, this is a surprisingly good flick.  Marshall towers over most of his fellow actors and has a commanding voice like that of Christopher Lee’s Dracula.   Hell I would love to see a resurrection of Mamuwalde in modern era because he is more of a victim than a monster.  William Marshall worked with the film producers in giving Blacula a bit more dignity by altering this typical American and going the fallen noble route instead.  Prince Mamuwalde rather than one Andrew Brown created a sophisticated cultured man trapped in the realms of life and death rather than an undead man stickin’ it to the man.   Personally it makes for a decent movie and a well thought out screenplay.  Marshall’s performance alone is totally worth the viewing.