Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

Hey there readers of TV shows and films of brilliance and/or tripe.  I would just like to wish all a Happy Easter and hope that Rotten Reelz Reviews have been fun, entertaining and informative.  Later skaters!

That rabbit's dynamite!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Obscure Slasher Week: House on Sorority Row

Hello all and welcome to the last day of Obscure Slasher Week.  We end on a far amount of nudity, college girls meeting their tragic end and gasp the killer revealed as someone you more or less expected.  A true product of the 80’s in its vain attempt to cash in on the popularity of Friday the 13th and Halloween.  So grab some liquor, have pre-marital sex and enjoy a little reefer.  This is House on Sorority Row.

Yes they're real Tiffany and bite me!

Ohmigod Spoilers!

Seven sorority sisters decide as a final hurrah they will have a big farewell party but their previous place fell through.  Guess there was only enough funds for booze rather than booze and a rental so given the place is closing up for the end of the year.  Vicki (Eileen Davidson of Easy Wheels, Eternity, Santa Barbara and The Bold and the Beautiful), Liz (Janis Ward of Steambath, Remington Steele, T.J. Hooker, and Matlock), Jeanie (Robin Meloy of The House on Sorority Row), Morgan (Jodie Draigie of The House on Sorority Row),Diane (Harley Jane Kozak of Parenthood, When Harry Met Sally, Arachnophobia and Dark Planet) Stevie( Ellen Dorsher of The House on Sorority Row) and Katherine (Kate McNeil of Monkey Shines, As the World Turns, Sudden Death and Space Cowboys) are living it up when House mother Mrs. Slater (Lois Kelso Hunt of Homicide: Life on the Street and Head of State) is most vexed about this and wished the home to be empty as per her yearly ritual.

Way to accessorize Vicki!

She shuns the girls and stomps downstairs to tear up and burn on the sorority chapter pictures.  Previously in a flashback sequence 20 years ago she had difficulties in child labor and the doctor gave her the bad news.  Flash forward to the present day for a dose of exposition by the same doctor but it is obscured with hyperbole and metaphor of that tragic night. 

The girls gather together to play a prank on Mrs. Slater by stealing her incredibly sharp walking cane and tossing it in her filth and scum ridden pool then taunt her at gunpoint to go swim for it.  Quite by accident Vicki fires a .45 caliber round right through Mrs. Slater and the girls form a pact to hide Slater’s corpse in the swimming pool until their graduation party can be finished.  None of that go to the cops and explain nonsense for these ladies of virtue.

Remember girls, no riders!

Now I have just a few critiques and observations about the film.  A fair amount of crane shots are found in this film of which IMDB tells us it was done from a cherry picker.  The FX for the gore scenes could have benefited from some black dye in the karo syrup to let the blood look less orange on film.  Some of the incidental music was lifted from the infamous film Manos: The Hands of Fate and it is only through Mystery Science Theater 3000 that I know that little tidbit.   The storyline is enjoyable, the characters are flushed out and all in all it is an impressive production.  I have seen better and far far worse so yes this was well conceived.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Obscure Slasher Week: Cheerleader Camp

Ahh welcome welcome to Day 4 of the Obscure Slasher Week and yes did I find a treasure of utter 80’s.  From the dialogue to the clothes, to the more mousse than Bullwinkle this film is dated in its standings.  So it is my great pleasure to bring you the pain and torture that is Cheerleader Camp.

Now let's play pick your first victim!

Spoilers are grody to the Max!!!

Well our youngins are off to Camp…um I mean Camp Hurrah , a camp so bloody remote from any other walk of life you would need a compass, a Sherpa and probably a machete to get back to civilization.   So naturally this makes perfect sense to have a bunch of horny teenagers out and about with next to no supervision.  Our main protagonist is Alison (Betsy Russell of Tomboy, Trapper County War, Saw III, IV, V, VI and Saw 3D: The Final Chapter) a spunky girl that has woes of inadequacy who wants to strive to be the very bestest cheerleader ever…what a goal let me tell you.  Along with her is her overtly flirtatious boyfriend Brent (Leif Garrett of Walking Tall, The Last Survivors, The Outsiders, Delta Fever and Popstar) and when he is not macking on her, he is instilling words of wisdom on how she can obtain her goals…and then talk her into anal.   Oh please like Leif Garrett never has done that. 

Boy the competition is fierce

Our alumni doesn’t stop there, we still have two Playboy playmates to add into the mix.  Theresa Salazar (Rebecca Ferratti of Gor, Beverly Hills Cop II, Gor II and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective) and Pamela Bently (Former Playmate and adult actress Teri go look up those titles) and good old Pop (character actor Buck Flower from Escape from New York, They Live, Starman, The Fog, Back to the Future II and Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat).  Yessir, this camp looks like it’s in good hands here and there couldn’t be anything to worry about right?  With all the hopes pinned on winning the All States finals, Alison is wracked with nightmares of murders that are haunting her and making her wonder what is wrong with her.

Now comes the part where I use my eyes and observe.  The better portion of shots in this film is a national park in California called Sequoia Nation Forest, which oddly enough Addams Family Values was also shot at for most of the summer camp scenes.   Standard 35mm camera and a fair amount of boom mikes vs. miking your actors but for crying out loud get a better wind sock to cover your boom.  I hear a fair amount of the wind whistling in the breeze there.


The recording is mono and fortunately the DVD copy did clear up the dialogue a bit better because I could barely hear the audio on the VHS.  The soundtrack sounds like what I like to call “Fun with a Casio.” and the mood lighting in portions feels almost Wes Craven via Nightmare on Elm Street.  A far amount of handheld work and a bit of dolly track.
Wind Tunnel!!

This film too suffers from the disease of multiple titles called the Also Known As syndrome.  Apparently Cheerleader Camp didn’t cover it all for the other countries so we have Bloody Pom Poms, Bloody Nightmare and Bloody Scream.   With it approaching pornography on its extensive nudity, sexual references I am actually amazed they had time to run a horror movie there.  Think of on the lines of Sleepaway Camp with even less direction, story line and clever character creation.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Obscure Slasher Week: Madhouse

Hello readers and welcome to day 3 of Obscure Slasher Week and I have a treat for you this time around with two Horror legends in one film.  Vincent Price and Peter Cushing so yes there will be lovely ladies put in macabre settings so don’t walk down that stairwell with only a flashlight, learn to stay together and for crying out loud never ask, “Is there anybody out there?”  This is Madhouse.

And that's my squirrel impression. Next, a ducky.

Spoilers will be the death of me…

Actor of horror Paul Toombes  (Vincent Price of Last Man on Earth, The Fly, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Theatre of Blood and Journey Into Fear) playing his claim to fame character Dr. Death is living the high life with success, riches and a lovely fiancée to be wed.  His thanks go to Herbert Flay (Peter Cushing of Horror of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Mummy, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, Dr. Who and the Daleks and Star Wars) the writer for creating such vivid imagery and a truly sinister character that has brought them both so much.  On the eve of the premiere party Toombes announces his formal marriage to his fiancée Ellen (Julie Crosthwaite of Dixon of Dock Green, Get Charlie Tully, Rock Follies and The Picnic).   All is bliss until it is hinted by a sleazy producer Oliver Quayle (Robert Quarry of Count Yorga, Vampire, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, The Return of Count Yorga and Alienator) that young Ellen had a hand or two in the adult industry and Toombes feels slighted by his would be gold digger.   Toombes has a mental breakdown for some time before the brutal murder of his fiancée leaving him questioning if he himself did it.

When Home Depot goes bad.

Years later, Paul Toombes is cured but his career is ruined and reputation besmirched a Television setup in England wants to run a Dr. Death mini-series ran by the same sleazy producer and Herbert Flay brought him to restart his career in the hopes of giving Paul some peace and improve his health and wealth.  All too soon murders are happening in fair England in the exact fashion a Dr. Death victim would.  Is Paul doing these grisly killings and then forgetting about them?  Is someone seeking to drive him mad?

A few side notes of the movie itself is the special appearances of Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff is through clips of the gentlemen in a few films that Price had previously done with them.  This is of course seven years later after their passing so it is a bit of a touchy subject but was used with their mutual families’ blessings.   
That's no way to get ahead in life, dear.

Based on the horror novel Devilday by Angus Hall; Madhouse delivers a steady pace of mystique, bizarre and ominous forebode.  Cushing as always the personification of poise and well mannered and a constant level of elegance and Price seems on the ragged edge one minute and completely the steadfast gentleman the next.    I could not help but comment of the collective of buxom blondes they had at the ready.  The casting directors must have been scouring the countryside for them. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Obscure Slasher Week: The New York Ripper

Ah New York.  Grim, gritty and a town that never truly sleeps can produce so much.  This time however it created a maniac hell bent on eliminating attractive women with liberal moral values.   So strap in kids, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride on the FDR.  This is The New York Ripper.
Oh, she clearly sat on her car keys.
Spoilers feed on hate!

Italian director Lucio Fulci (Don’t Torture a Duckling, House by the Cemetery, Phenomena and Inferno) brings us an assorted tale of a psychotic roaming around the streets of New York randomly stalking and  killing pretty girls as he please  throughout the city and eluding the watchful eye of NYPD.   Dealing with this nutter butter is Detective Lieutenant Fred Williams (Jack Hedley of For Your Eyes Only, One by One, Remington Steele, Three Kinds of Heat and The Plot to Kill Hitler) , a jaded and burned out cop that’s seen it all.  He is bombarded with potential witnesses, no real physical evidence and threats from the Chief to get this under wraps ASAP or PDQ if you prefer.   Realizing he is out of his league to put himself in this lunatic’s shoes he seeks the aid of a psychoanalyst with a heart of gold, Dr. Paul Davis (Long time Fulci staple Paolo Malco of House by the Cemetery, Escape from the Bronx, The Scorpion with Two Tails, Thunger and Midnight Killer) in the hopes he can gain some insight to this irrational behavior.  Hey maybe afterwards he can explain Romney fans for me too.  

Well this was not a boating accident!

I would like to mention a few comments about the technical aspect of the film before going back into the plot.   This is all shot on Arriflex Technicscope giving the film a letterbox effect but at the same time allows for a better slow pan of still shots.  The bridge shots are more defined, aerial shots are crisper and focus on a single actor looks more defined and at the same allows background to be a loss of detail and looks slightly washed out.  The audio redubbed is synched rather well with the actors frame by frame as this was recorded in Italy. 

I must warn the causal horror flick observer that some of these murder scenes are fairly graphic and exposition after each film goes into lavish detail just how badly the killer diced the girls so being said I was a bit disturbed the murder kept making Donald Duck comments with the same voice in question.  Yes it was very difficult for me to take in the depictions of violence when this loopy is quacking and being nuttier than a fruitcake.  Apparently this is in reference to Don’t Torture a Duckling and I believe a finite number of people got this.  

Death at disgruntled disco...

Fulci once again tries to push the envelope of sadistic violence with the trademark pan up of the look of horror of the victim’s face and the inevitable end reaches conclusion as the victim comes to term with there is no escape.  It’s kind of reminiscent of Last House on the Left minus a fricking chicken truck scene and wacky and zany cops.   Oh yes the nudity alone almost an artistic display to it.  Not exactly certain the correlation of erotica meet brutality but hey I leave that up for someone else’s interpretation.    As was with the eye and splintered wood effect of extreme focus from Zombi a.k.a. Flesh Eaters and now has been duplicated more than its fair share of times, which emphasis is carried through to this film as well.     Hardcore Fulci fans you can jot this down as an achievement.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Obscure Slasher Week: Intruder

Okay folks just need to clarify this review does not reference Roger Corman’s The Intruder.    Far too classy for this week I am afraid. So what do you get when you assist a buddy in your career?  Well you are obligated to do the same so without further adieu let’s get it on.  This is Intruder.

Ohmigod, when did we start serving scruffy white guys?

Spoilers won’t let us be!!!

Writer/director Scott Spiegel (Stryker’s War, Evil Dead II, Hit List, The Rookie and From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money) corralled his Evil Dead alumni for a slasher film of his own choosing  as well as some veteran horror actors and scream queens for this little masterpiece. 
As the local supermarket store is about to close, Jennifer (Elizabeth Cox of Sixteen Candles, The Wraith, Night of the Creeps, The Allnighter and Juarez: Stages of Fear) gets harassed by her psycho ex-boyfriend Craig (David Brynes of Witchcraft 7: Judgment Hour, Witchcraft IX: Bitter Flesh and The Hamster Wheel).  Sensing her co-worker is in trouble, Linda (Renee Estevez of Heathers, Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers, Die Silence, Touch and Die, Single White Female and Paper Hearts) hits a panic button and her Supermarket Friends Assemble!   The co-owner of said store Bill (Dan Hicks of Evil Dead II, Maniac Cop, Easy Wheels, Darkman, Wishmaster and Spider-Man 2) confronts the little puke and a scuffle ensues.  The rest of the night crew head out to grab Craig for the cops while Jennifer calls them and Craig disappears under the shadow of darkness.  He later in his ultimate wisdom decides to leave a series of innerving calls to the store tormenting Jennifer and the cops basically say they will keep an eye out for him and just be careful.  Yeah no stationed police cruiser or anything, you should just use the buddy system.
Deadlines are murder...see that was a pun...I'll stop now.

 Well the place is locked down for the night and now the daunting time of inventory and let’s face it folks we are clearly in for a night of fun, if fun including gluing your eyelids shut or sitting through a Superfriends marathon then yes it will be fun.  Linda checks out for the night and heading home in time for Family Ties or some such when she is attacked by unknown and unseen assailant.   This leads to a simple stabbing to get the heart rate up, but not overtly graphic this early in the show.  Bill spots someone at the back door and goes to investigate.    Jennifer still wigging out over Craig hides out in the bathroom to regain some modicum of composure.   Good luck with that darlin’, we are in a horror movie remember?

And now just a few observations I have gleamed from this movie.  Spiegel seemed to like Sam Raimi’s Shaky cam effect for running around the store and developed this weird shot of a POV shot through a rotary telephone.  Inspiring notion as well as a bit of dolly track and lots of handheld, the camera work is solid.   

A pound of shrimp for $2.98? SOLD!

The entire film was shot in a grocery store in Bell, California during evenings when the store was closed so as far as sets go they had total autonomy.    Oh and you Bruce Campbell fans will be a little disappointed that Bruce shows up towards the end as a cop of two maybe three lines of dialogue and we never get a close up on him.  He is treated like every state trooper of Friday the 13th.  Background babble and looking horrified.    Oh and FYI, get the unrated version or you miss all the cool gore gags KNB EFX made.    A very simplistic story and a great throwback to the slasher genre, our film here is a hidden gem of the horror community. 

Obscure Slasher Week

Hey all.  This week I am going back to my roots of epinions and thought it has been a while since I saw girls in the underwear fleeing a lunatic with a cadre of unusual weapons at his or her disposal.  Yes I am referring of course the slasher sub-genre of horror films.  So expect isolated timbers, useless law enforcement and girls that could out wail a banshee.   I shall endeavor to not pick it apart as I did back in the day...  See how I have grown.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Action Pack Week: Jack of All Trades

Howdy folks!  We will be finishing Action Pack Week with of course another Renaissance Pictures production that got a few chills, spills and a far amount of laughs from the ham of the Evil Dead trilogy himself, Bruce Campbell.   So loosen your buccaneers, hoist the main sail and above all be a gentleman.  This is Jack of All Trades.

End of a salute or Jazz Hands? You decide.

Spoilers sont plus désagréables  

American adventurer/ spy Jack Stiles (Bruce Campbell of The Evil Dead, Bubba Ho-Tep, Serving Sara, Spider-Man, Sky High, The Woods and Burn Notice)  has saved the President Thomas Jefferson’s niece from a death defying encounter with French Canadians.   Oh, ma parole. Wonder what the British would say with the loss such territory?   After such Jefferson assigns Styles to the island of Polau Polau in the South Pacific as this will be the building block for Napoleon Bonaparte’s empire to sweep across the nations.   He will meet up and work with Emilia Smythe Rothschild (Angela Marie Dotchin of Young Hercules, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Lawless: Beyond Justice and Lawless: Dead Evidence) an English spy adjoined to an uneasy alliance between former colonists and the former crown, our two steadfast professionals try to not allow such trifle matters come between them and the mission at hand.   To use such a colloquialism or hyperbole they are to be the monkey wrench in the works.   The fly in the ointment or put simply, the pain in Bonaparte’s ass.

The lady and the twit.

 As Mrs. Rothschild has her export/import shipping business Jack operates in public as her attaché to oversee all matters.  Of course all proper proceedings must take place with French appointed Governor Croque (Stuart Devenie of Dead Alive, The Frighteners, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, In Her Line of Fire and Power Rangers Mystic Force) and when he is not kicking ass for the Lord, he is the supreme commander of France’s older brother who lacks drive and ambition.

Yes ladies the stereotypical archetypes of you being helpless and dullards are hinted at more than a few times.   And yes the cloddish oaf standing that United Europe seems to hold dear to the Americans is also being held up by Campbell and his ham factor.  As a cover and to gain support from the locals Jack dons a disguise based on an island legend that just so happens to resemble The Fox or El Zorro if you prefer, known as the Daring Dragoon.   Yeah even I could not bother making up such a character or its title.

*Ahem* I'm really I am.

A few points of the show now if you don’t mind.   The show was shot in Auckland, New Zealand as was Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. One liner jokes, sexual puns and innuendos run rampant throughout the episodes.  The cheese factor ties in well with Campbell’s ham thus delivering a justice sandwich with all the trimmings.  Well maybe no Dijon.   This particular character comes across at his Autolycus character of Hercules and Xena but with a dash of Jim West from The Wild Wild West show and not to be confused with the atrocious film of the same name.  There is mirth, sexual tension and all around silliness but not so campy you can’t sit through it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Action Pack Week: Cleopatra 2525

Howdy kids and welcome to Day 3 of Action Pack and this one is a bit…silly and scantily clad but intriguing nonetheless.    A timeline when machines have taken over the Earth and humanity is forced to hide in vast underground chambers.  So grab your wrist blasters, leap in the catacombs and prepare for more obscure pop culture than your mind may handle.  This is Cleopatra 2525.

Tee hee!

Spoilers are the betrayers of humanity…

The year 2525 is a harsh reality in which humanity hides in vast underground chambers stretching for miles.  A complex of shafts and tunnels that was created by the shaft builders in order to survive the Bailey menace and no I am not talking about the drink.  Our heroines consist of: Hel, leader of the group and linked to a program known only as Voice (Gina Torres of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Firefly, Angel, 24, Serenity, Justice League Unlimited, Alias, Standoff, and Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths) her headstrong, tough as nails subordinate Sarge (Victoria Pratt of Mutant X, House of the Dead 2, Day Break, What Love Is, Brotherhood of Blood, Moonlight and Cold Case) and lastly they encounter the last member of their time, a cryogenically frozen exotic dancer known as Cleopatra (Jennifer Sky of Xena: Warrior Princess, Trigger Happy, Shallow Hal, Fastlane, Charmed and The Helix…Loaded).  They explain to Cleopatra that the world as she knew it has been gone for more than 525 years now and machines known by the resistance as Baileys rule the Earth and sky.  

It's not a weave and shut up already!!

Now this is a typical post apocalyptic setting of the robot holocaust and so on but with a bit of flair.  Humans have evolved, devolved and remained as well.  Some of animal humanoid hybrids some have become the equivalency of their caveman predecessors while most are your typical species.  The environment is a bit harsh, water has to be purified over and over to the point it probably tastes like Dutch lager. 

Now we get to the antagonists of this show of which give a decent level of consistency. Baileys are large, heavy weaponized flying robots that attack humans on sight.   They are named after their creator, Dr. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart how could you???) who were originally created to clean and correct the environment.  Formulating from pure logic it came clear to the Baileys that humanity are nothing but despoilers and must be the cause of the Earth problems and therefore must be exterminated.  Betrayers are android enforcers that kidnap people, absorb their memories, make a perfect copy of that person and then kill the original.  You have an updated version of Terminators if you will, with the added bonus they can morph massive energy cannons from their hands, take an exorbitant amount of damage, a self repair unit and can fire beams from their eyes.  All in all a fun bunch to play with…if you are a masochist.

You will be probed!

Lastly we have our reoccurring villain Creegan, a brilliant and psychotic scientist that has no morals or scruples to speak of.  An unspoken vendetta against Voice that only he and she know of and this puts the team in danger in my humble opinion.  The fighting choreography is similar to both Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess  so the fight fans may feel a bit slighted at you can clearly make out that the combatants are not connecting with one another.  Oh well.  It’s sci-fi, it’s silly and bit racy but all in all it is entertaining to many.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Action Pack Week: Xena: Warrior Princess

Hidey ho boys and girls!!  Welcome to day 2 of Action Pack Week and we are kicking off with a former enemy turned ally of Hercules. Destroyer of nations, ravager of townships our villainess turned over a new leaf thanks to Hercules’…influences. This warrior princess strives to do good in the world from city to city and redeem her wicked ways.  So don that armour, sharpen your blade and polish that round killy thing.  This is Xena: Warrior Princess.
Never anger a warrior woman and her round killy thing.

Spoilers are most surprising…

The Warrior Princess known as Xena (Lucy Lawless of Tarzan, Spiderman, Vampire Bats, Battlestar Galactica, Angel of Death and Spartacus: Gods of the Arena) has turned from her killing ways and utter barbarism.  She vows to do right by those she has wronged for so long.  As her story progresses a young bard that craves adventure, excitement and really wild things.  Her name is Gabrielle (Renee O’ Connor of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys- Hercules and the Lost Kingdom, Darkman II: The Return of Durant, Alien Apocalypse, Boogeyman 2, Diamonds and Guns and Ark) and together they travel and thwart warlords, tyrants and the occasional monster here and there.    Another thorn in Xena’s side is the continuous pursuit of a certain god of war Ares (Kevin Smith of Desperate Remedies, Young Hercules, Xena: Warrior Princess, Riverworld and Warriors of Virtue: The Return to Tao) and his plans for her consists mostly of back to her blood shedding ways and devotion back to him.  Through this one warrior he has absorbed more terror and fear via battlefields than any other of his protégés.   Also it is blatantly obvious he has the hots for her.  

Ladies, please. Plenty of Autolycus to go around.

Renaissance Pictures created the Hercules spin off Xena in 1995 and both series ran back to back as a compliment to one another. Naturally like most spin offs the show’s originator has to appear in at least one maybe two episodes and so a two part cliffhanger was created dragging both Kevin Sorbo and Michael Hurst on down to Xenatown.  While this was more or less Rob Tapert’s baby and boy did he run with it; the creator of the Xena character as well as the series is writer John Schulian (Miami Vice, Jag, Midnight Caller and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys) using the cliché archetype of dark warrior rethinking the path of life and wither it should be bathed in blood or somber with good deeds.

This malefactor of destruction becomes a positive role model for generations alike and had so much cult followings of various ages.    A few points I would like to make about the show.   The show seems to give Xena almost the same demi-god status as Hercules when in fact she all 100% mortal.  With skill, cunning, strategy and a spine forged of steel she commands men and women alike into battle or faces it head on her own.  Protecting those she cares for seems to agree with her new calling as a hero.  
Sea god feeling a bit blue.

The production offers the same standing as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys in that they use the Raimi camera techniques such as: Shaky cam(POV of creature, entity or roaming monster) projectile cam (an intense focus of a blade or arrow travelling faster than the human eye could really calculate), fist cam (A mock up of the hero’s fist pummeling a villain or lickspittle of said villain) and dolly track.  Yes it can be campy and silly what with the reoccurring characters of Joxer the Mighty (Ted Raimi of Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence, Darkman, Floundering, Seaquest 2032 and Spiderman) and Autolycus, King of Thieves (Bruce Campbell of Evil Dead, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., Spiderman) it can get a little zany but all in all it is girls kicking butt, taking names and winning the world’s hearts again and again.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Action Pack Week: Hercules: The Legendary Journeys

Long ago when the Earth was young, the gods were excessively cruel and humanity was regards as nothing more than feces: to wit they feared the Day of the Excruciating Pooper Scooper, one man stood for justice.  He possessed a strength never known to the little mouth breathers and they heralded him as a hero.  So grab your waterskins, stock up on rations and don’t forget your 40 lb war boat.  This is Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.

That's not a rock monster, it's a rock lobster!!

Who can say what the spoilers truly stand for?

In 1995, Renaissance Pictures created five TV movies loosely based on the Greek mythological demi-god Hercules.  A man born of both man and god, fathered by Zeus the king of the gods he held strength to the likes that humanity had not seen prior and lemme tell ya these people were recording this all down on parchment. 
Bad dog!!

Hercules (Kevin Sorbo of Hercules and the Amazon Women, Kull the Conqueror, Dharma and Greg, Andromeda and The O.C.) journeys the lands aided by his partner (no not that kind of partner, just a sidekick) Iolaus (Michael Hurst of Death Warmed Over, A Moment Passing, Hercules in the Underworld and Bitch Slap)thwarting demons, monsters and overthrowing tyrants.  Occasionally getting into squabbles with Hercules’ half brother and full god of war Ares (Kevin Smith of Desperate Remedies, Young Hercules, Xena: Warrior Princess, Riverworld and Warriors of Virtue: The Return to Tao) our heroes rescued damsels, fought wars and attempted to farm in-between battles.  With superhuman strength, knowledge of melee and blunt weapons and good old fashioned fisticuffs our hero seeks to bring a sense of order where there is chaos.  And what is a hero without his fair share of villains wanting his head on a pig pole?  Aside from Ares being his primary source of torment Hera, queen of the gods loathed her stepson who was a symbol of Zeus’ infidelity and the bane of her existence apparently.  The spleen this woman vents on a guy… sheesh.

After the inception of TV movies, a series was created with the title of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and lasted for six seasons with a substantial cult following.  Created for the US of A but filmed in New Zealand the standing of this show went worldwide and got the typical explosion of merchandise from t-shirts to action figures.   Given this is a Sam Raimi/Robert Tapert creation there is a lot of slapstick, inside jokes and pop culture references to boggle one’s mind.   The popularity of this series resulted in the spinoffs of Young Hercules, a prequel series of Hercules adventures as a lad as well as Xena: Warrior Princess. 

Not a friendly critter.

 The series was a bit campy and silly in portions but generations of the myths’ fans had their fill and enjoyed them thoroughly.  I do count myself among them in the fact after chatting with more than a few of the cast members including Kevin Sorbo and just pointed out how much these adventures and mini-movies.  It is my opinion that the shows came later such as The New Adventures of Robin Hood, Beast Master and Jack of All Trades got a fair shake because of the sci-fi fantasy fans of this era.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Action Pack Week

In 1994, the Action Pack ran series of mini-series, TV series and mini-movies.  All of the programs was run by Renaissance Pictures created by director Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Darkman, Army of Darkness, The Quick and The Dead and Spider-Man) and producer Rob Tapert (Evil Dead, Darkman, Army of Darkness, The Quick and The Dead and Spider-Man) and we shall take more than a gander at the end results of their labor.  So sit back, focus on the screen and enjoy.

Careful, Herc may chuck a little blonde guy at ya.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Nazi Week: The Great Escape

Sie kommen hierher, jetzt!  Willkommen to Day 5 of Nazi Week and I felt we should end on a thriller/comedy/action film of great proportions.  A film of POWs confounding the enemy at every turn that more resources and manpower are wasted find prisoners of war versus the frontlines.  So grab your pickaxe, prep that candle and hope the guards don’t hear us.  This is The Great Escape.

Ve have vays to make you...right, who threw that?

Are all spoilers so ill-mannered? Yeah, about 99 percent.

Producer/director John Sturges (Bad Day at Black Rock, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, The Magnificent Seven and Ice Station Zebra) brought us a bit of a doozy with this film as it is to be depicted as Stalag Luft III, a high security POW compound has been created and the commandant, Luftwaffe Colonel Luger (Hannes Messmer of Il Generale della Rovere, The Devil Strikes at Night, The Odessa File andLangusten) informs the highest ranking British officer Group Captain Ramsey (James Donald of Lust for Life, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Five Million Years to Earth and David Copperfield) that there will be no escapes from this camp as Ramsey counters with its is their duty to try and escape.  Our first day is a series of failed attempts and the POWs grab their bunks and settle in at camp. 

Sipping whiskey...Kentucky style.

Later in the day Gestapo (Secret Police) and Sicherheitsdienst (Nazi Secret Service) arrive with one Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett RAF (Richard Attenborough of Breakout, The League of Gentlemen, The Flight of the Phoenix, Doctor Dolittle, Brannigan and Jurassic Park).  Bartlett is informed one more escape attempt and he will be shot dead to follow up that he is to be isolated from the rest of the prisoners.  The commandant of course simply places him in with the others.  USAF Captain Hilts (Steve McQueen of Wanted: Dead or Alive, The Thomas Crown Affair Bullitt, Papillon and The Towering Inferno) tests a theory that lands him in isolation for 20 days.  Colonel Klink is most annoyed with his brash behavior.   

 Bartlett pitches to the men a series of three tunnels 30 feet down and then across to confound the Jerries.  An escape of 250 men is to occur and by God they are going to risk it.  With every man working each of their field they stand a good chance.  Disaster with the tunnels as men are caught and punished but the men preserver on.  Will they be able to burrow out in time and if so which way to go that will lead them to freedom?

Tijuana holding cell after Day of the Dead...I guess.

And now comes the part where I have a few tidbits about the film.  Several of the cast were actually POWs during WWII including Donald Pleasence being held by the Germans, Hannes Messemer by The Russians and Hans Reiser by the Americans.    James Garner developed his scrounger character from his own personal stint in the military during the Korean War.  While Steve McQueen did all his own motorcycle riding, the famous 60 foot jump over a fence was done by Stuntman Bud Ekins and later doubled for McQueen more than a few times.  Apparently McQueen tried the jump and crashed so Bud stepped in and gave us that amazing shot.  This film is dark, clever, comical and tragic.  I would say it is the personification of war itself but what the hell does a civvie know?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Nazi Week: Force 10 from Navarone

Hallo an alle und willkommen to Day 4 of Nazi Week and what say we give the Jerries a right thrashing eh what?   Yes today we shall endure a sequel to director J. Lee Thompson’s Guns of Navarone based on the writings of novelist Alistair MacLean.  So prep your pack, limber up and for God’s sake clean your weapon.  This is Force 10 from Navarone.

War time is still tea time!

Spoilers can’t just stand here like ‘ducks in thunder’!

Like sequels of old it may be difficult to get the original actors to reprise their roles and so characters Mallory (Robert Shaw of From Russia with Love, Tomorrow at Ten, Battle of the Bulge, A Man for All Seasons, Custer of the West and Jaws) and Miller (Edward Fox of The Duellists, Soldier of Orange, The Big Sleep, Gandhi and Never Say Never Again) recaps from The Guns of Navarone’s ending of the island fortress successfully sabotaged and a bit of recovery for each fellow and now off to track and kill Nicolai.  Thought to be a traitor to the Germans during the Navarone Mission they discover Nicolai (Franco Nero of Django, The Repenter, The Girl, Django Strikes Again and Die Hard 2) is in fact Colonel von Ingorslebon, a German spy that may have infiltrated the Yugoslavian Partisans as Captain Lescovar.

Well I dunno. I'm making it up as I go.

To get to Yugoslavia Mallory and Miller link up with Force 10, An American sabotage crew that um “acquired” a bomber plane from a British air base to keep their mission quiet. Lt. Col. Barnsby (Harrison Ford from American Graffiti, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Blade Runner, Frantic, Working Girl and Cowboys & Aliens) takes off with his stolen aircraft as a couple of MPs spot him with their prisoner Weaver (Carl Weathers of Magnum Force, Rocky, Semi-Tough, Death Hunt, Action Jackson and Predator), who bobs and weaves and gets onboard said plane joining up with Force 10.
Both Doctor Jones and Apollo Creed look less than thrilled to be joined up with the limey duo but orders as they say are orders.  Reynolds (Angus MacInnes of Star Wars, Outland, Superman II and Witness), a weapons man isn’t exactly overjoyed with the mission and rightfully so and they are shot out of the sky by Luftwaffe fighters and they barely make it to shore.   

Thinking they have ran into their contacts they are unpleasantly surprised with Serbian guerrillas collaborating with the Germans led by Captain Drazak (Richard Keil of Eegah, House of the Damned, Brainstorm, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker and Pale Rider) and is brought before the base commander Major Schroeder (Michael Byrne of Richard III, Champions, Ellis Island,  The Good Father, Buster and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) and Barnsby  claims they are criminals and that they are fleeing from the Allied forces.
Ulp, had to get the hangin' judge.

And now I have just a few points of observation about the movie.  Panavision is solely anamorphic lens with standard 35 mm from some amazing aerial shots, force perspective shots via scale models, and some great dolly track shots.  Michael Byrne has played a Nazi against Harrison Ford in this film as well as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  The film is action packed, solid story and a heck of a cast.  Oh and not mentioned in the previous, former Bond girl Barbara Bach plays a concubine.   Just for the fellas on that one hehe.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Nazi Week: Judgment at Nuremberg

Howdy und Willkommen to Day 3 of Nazi Week.  Keep in mind for those that may be confused that this is not a pro Nazi week but out and out bashing of the villainous Schweine and alas Doctor Jones will not be administering any beatings their way but such is life as they say.   Today I take you into 1948, with most of the war criminals been put to justice, 4 judges are being held accountable for the crimes of allowing their offices to conduct Nazi sterilization and cleansing policies.   So off the bat you should realize this will not be a comedy.  So have your statement ready for the court, plea your case and May God have mercy on your soul.  This is Judgment at Nuremberg.

Well we better take off so Tracy can do his miming in peace.

Spoilers must forget if we want to go on living.

From the works of legendary director Stanley Kramer (Inherit the Wind, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Bless the Beasts & Children and The Domino Principle) comes this film of heart wrenching subject, cynicism and light occasional humor.   Retired American judge Day Haywood (Spencer Tracy of Me and My Gal, Face in the Sky, Adam’s Rib, Father of the Bride, Inherit the Wind, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner) has the daunting task of overseeing the trial of four German judges  that served before and during the Nazi regime who either through some passive aggressive standing or embracing these ideals which lead to the judicial acts of imprisonment, executions of men and women for their  religion or racial background, sexual sterilizations and removing the sick and the lame from society.  Judge Haywood’s personal liaison between the Military tribune Captain Byers (William Shatner of The Defenders, For the People, Star Trek, Incubus, The Horror at 37,000 Feet and Malice) follows his West Point training and protocol but Haywood is trying to get the lad to loosen up given the undertaking they have ahead of them.

Bet he's a sour Kraut.

Three of the 4 men on trial are just thugs in my opinion with the exception of Judge Janning (Burt Lancaster of of Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, The Devil’s Disciple, Elmer Gantry, The Train, Birdman of Alacatraz, From Here to Eternity and Airport) spends most of his time throughout the trial holding his head down in what can only be constituted as shame.  Defending these men is attorney Hans Rolfe (Maximilian Schell of First Love, The Rehearsal, Cross of Iron, A Bridge Too Far, The Black Hole and Deep Impact)  who within his abilities tries his level best to point out how the law was being handled and prove that crimes happened and the justice was being dealt.   During the breaks between the trial Haywood shares his temporary living space with a lovely widower of a Nazi General, Mrs. Bertholt (Marlene Deitrich of The Blue Angel, Destry Rides Again, Manpower, Kismet, A Foreign Affair and Touch of Evil)

I have just a few comments to be made about the film.  It is not just merely these men on trial as it was the German people that obeyed orders and followed these barbaric rules of conduct that was not fit for one human being to another.  Fear, cowardice and blind patriotism brought about this dark era in Germany’s history.  Haywood walks around the town to the auditorium hearing echoes of the infamous speeches held in such rallies wondering how the German people cope with this horror in their own time and how they can simply be of the mindset to sweep this under the rug and move on.   The courtroom drama seems to envelop all aspects to this timeline with social commentary, upheaval, lack of morality and common decency.  

The Lady and the Tracy.

It is truly a film you must watch from start to finish in order to fully appreciate the impact it has.  You will feel humor, numbness and a sense of utter shock from how something of this magnitude could occur and the repercussions still to this day.  35 mm Spherical captures this story with relative ease as it is the cast that takes you through these days time’s past.  Judy Garland’s performance alone will move you to tears. Several key areas of this film were shot in Nuremberg 20 years afterwards and still so much rubble.  Makes you think.