Mo' movie reviews fo' dat ass, tah-dow!

So far NaNoWriMo's going blah. I am an unprincipled, undisciplined twat who's only managed just over 3,000 words so far. I wanted a will of iron, and instead I have summoned Jello. I've figured out the computer is a lousy environment on which to write, because it's too easy to find distractions... and anything's more fun than the work so I'm way-motivated to go pokin'. I'm trying to lay the groundwork for a backwoods inbred bloodbath here, I get frustrated at my clumsy prose, and before you know it I'm looking up obscure comic book characters (Fast Willie Jackson! Can you dig it?), watching people rant (or in some cases, fart - people will film anything) on YouTube, and checking to see what the reaction's been to lantern-jawed lackwit Sarah Palin's word-salad resignation yesterday. Or at least I assume it's a resignation... I'm still waiting for someone to translate it from Dolt. I swear, she uses words like Jackson Pollock used paint: just fling a bunch of 'em out there as hard as ya can and trust the audience to interpret them as a work of genius. It's a total bring-your-own-lunch picnic; any meaning in her speeches is imposed upon it by the audience.

"I see a strong statement of conservative principles!"

"I see patriotic support for the troops!"

"I see a firm yet humble belief in the God of the Bible!"

"I see a bunny! Building a snowman!"

Yeesh and yeeargh, my friends, yeesh and yeeargh.

Anyway, none of this is an acceptable excuse for my only churning out 3,300 words in 3-going-on-4 days, two of them even holidays in-the-sun-nah. I have, at times, put out 6,300 words in one day, and that was writing by hand in a notebook. I'm a lazy sod, I'm a lazy sod, I'm a lazy sod, and I don't caaaaaaaarrrre! (Okay, I do care, and that's the problem, iddnit?)

Anyway, I figured I'd take a moment out from shirking my self-imposed responsibilities to open up a few movie reviews I'd previously canned for your amusement and edification. Mmmmm, you can smell the preservatives! Just like chocolate pudding, except you can't spread 'em on your loved ones and lick 'em off. But I won't fault you for trying. Unless I'm your loved one, in which case, get the fuck away from me with your weird ass.


The Black Legion (B&W, 1937) Humphrey Bogart works in a machine shop. When he's passed up for a promotion in favor of a guy named Dombrowski, Bogart blames his misfortune on "foreigners," even though Dombrowski's been going to night school and has invented several money-saving devices around the shop. Bogart joins a Ku Klux Klan-like secret organization called the Black Legion, who swear his allegiance and take him along as they terrorize anyone with an "immigrant"-sounding name, flogging people, burning down their houses, and throwing them on freight trains heading out of town. At first it helps Bogart out, but he soon loses his job for sloppiness because he's distracted by recruiting for the Legion. The Legion, meanwhile, starts leaning on its members, because it's primarily a money-making scheme for the guys at the top. As the Legion grows more violent, Bogart's life gets more miserable, but he doesn't know how to get out of the situation because the Legion will kill him if he quits. This is a very well-done (and unfortunately still relevant in its message) film. It's not subtle; the propaganda is layered on with a melodramatic trowel, but since it's against a Klan-like organization, bring it on. Recommended. You can watch the whole movie starting here, or test-drive the trailer below.

Blood Harvest (C, 1986) aka Nightmare, The Marvelous Mervo. Clowns are creepy. Tiny Tim is really creepy. So do you think you can handle Tiny Tim as a homicidal clown? Maybe, since it’s directed by Bill (Giant Spider Invasion) Rebane, and he could fuck up a free-cupcake festival. A girl named Jill comes home to visit her parents. Her dad’s a banker who’s despised in town because he’s foreclosed on too many farmers. As if having the whole town hate you isn’t bad enough, her old high school boyfriend still has a crush on her, and his brother is “Marvelous Mervo” (Tiny Tim), a singing, warbly-voiced damage case who’s so obsessed with being a clown that he hardly takes the makeup and costume off anymore. He has a woman tied up in a hillside cave and wails hymns in an empty church. His parents were murdered and it left him with some very serious issues. He’s basically a very unhappy clown. There’s also a masked killer in town, trying to scald people in the shower, taking nude photos of girls while they’re asleep, and butchering them in barns with knives and arrows. Excessively cheap-looking, with uninspired direction and a bad synthesizer score, this was produced as part of the flood of direct-to-video horror in the 80’s, and is really only distinguished by Tiny Tim’s unhinged creepiness. He could use more screentime. There’s some gore (people hanging upside down in a barn with their blood draining into buckets), but it’s too mild to be a selling point.

Mercifully, there are no film clips on YouTube that I could find, but the following Tiny Tim footage in blood-curdling enough. Warning: may cause impotence.

Border Menace (B&W, 1934) Good luck trying to follow this cheaper-than-usual B-western, which has the reputation of being the worst B-western ever. Bill Cody is a ranger who gets himself sent to the pen to get information from a convict about a gang of cattle rustlers, which he then infiltrates. Unluckily for him, his former cellmate (a big thuggy guy who mangles all the few lines the can actually remember) escapes from jail and if he reunites with the gang, Cody’s cover will be blown. They fit in plenty of action scenes to keep things moving, but it’s hard to tell in what direction because everything’s so sloppy and chaotic; it feels like they stuck footage from several movies together and tried to make a new film out of it. One superfluous character seems to be stuck in just to pad the running time to 53 minutes, but he’s one of the main reasons to watch this mess: yes, ladies and gentlemen (and my audience of miscreants as well), your life won’t be complete until you witness Polecat Pete, who is possibly the most obnoxious character ever captured on celluloid. He walks like he’s just thrown a sacroiliac and shouts all his lines bombastically, most of which are his own name and the rest are about what a badass mofo he is. "Pooooolllllecat Pete!" It’s such horrible overacting you’ve got to assume it was intentional (especially since the actor playing him, Jimmy Aubrey, made 448 other movies). He sounds more like a pirate than a cowboy; an “Avast!” would have been right at home. He also makes crazy faces and waves his arms a lot. Just about everyone in this film shouts their lines at the top of their lungs, and most of the cowboy hats are comically large. Cody’s character is known as “The Shadow,” presumably because his body is of sufficient mass to block sunlight... just like everyone else’s.

Unfortunately, no clips of this one, which is heartbreaking, 'cuz I really wanted you all to be subjected to "Polecat Pete." Unfortunately, your life will have to continue on unscathed, ya poor sodding bastard.

Cycle Savages
(C, 1969) An artist with an attitude has been drawing pictures of Bruce Dern's motorcycle gang, and that's uncool with Bruce, so he cuts the artist up a little with a straight razor. A girl nurses him back to health, but she's a friend of Dern's, and Dern is getting obsessed about the guy not making any more drawings, and makes plans to smash the guy's hands. In the meantime they beat up some citizens and gang-rape a girl who thought she wanted to join their club, while the artist makes out with his rescuer. Dern decides he wants to crush the guy's hands in a vice. And that's pretty much the whole plot. Very ordinary biker flick livened up by the always-menacing presence of Dern.

Best I could find was a collection of dialogue that has about 2 seconds from Cycle Savages at the very end.

Deadly Harvest (C, 1977) At the end of the 1970's, the world ended! And not just for Peter Frampton, either! Or, at least, it came close, according to this ecological disaster movie. A combination of overpopulation, lack of farmland, energy crises making transportation too expensive, poor governmental foresight, skewed weather patterns, and a couple of years in a row of losing the harvest leaves the world desperately short of food, and mankind faces starvation. As usual, they take it like a bunch of whiney-ass titty babies, and the worst comes out in everyone. People from the city head into the flyover areas to try to raid farms, and kind-hearted, giant-economy-sized farmer Clint Walker tries to protect his scant food supply for his family. The raiders grow increasingly desperate, and corrupt protection-gangs among the farm communities also try to muscle him. A lot of the dialogue is laughably melodramatic, but the viability of the plot and a good sense of pacing make this pretty compelling despite the occasional cheesiness.

Detective Bureau 2-3: Go To Hell Bastards! (C, 1963) aka Tantei Jimuso 23: Kutabare Akuto-Domo. One of those movies you have to see just because of the title. Quirky Japanese director Seijun Suzuki directs even-quirkier actor Jo Shishido (he's so weird that he got freakish cheek implants that make him look like a heavily-laden squirrel who's expecting a particularly long winter) in this crazy crime drama. When a crime boss is released from prison, rival yakuza surround the prison to gun him down the second he comes out. Shishido is funny-looking but he's a badass, and manages to snatch the crime boss and sneak him to safety. He poses as a criminal and gets the crime boss to let him join his gang so he can be on the inside track to learn the whereabouts of a big shipment of guns the yakuza are planning to deal. He'll eventually put some of those guns to good (and unorthodox) use when they trap him in a burning basement. Somehow during all this subterfuge he still finds time to do a goofy singing-and-dancing nightclub number. Very stylish and steeped in 60's Japanese pop-art coolness (although Suzuki would later take that even further in movies like Branded To Kill) and has a great jazz score, but the movie's got too many dead spots and is hard to follow at times. And it doesn't quite manage to be as badass as its title, but I figured on that much; what movie could?

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (C, 1973) aka Nightmare. One of the many genuinely-creepy made-for-TV movies that traumatized America’s 70’s monster kids, this is one of the most infamously scary. A couple move into the wife’s grandparents’ old house and find a key to a locked room with a bricked-up fireplace. Unwisely, and against their handyman’s advice, they open it up and unleash spooky little gnomes that were haunting the chimney. The grim little creatures sneak around the house, whispering in scratchy voices that sound like a radio being tuned, and peek out at her from flower arrangements. They look like a cross between the standard alien visitor and those dried-apple heds. And they want to GET the wife. But they don’t like light; if she turns it on, they run and hide in little hidden doors in the wall. Pretty weird, directed by John Newland of the One Step Beyond TV show, and has a surprising disturbing ending for a TV flick. A generation got nightmares from this one.

Here's some other guy's review, full of clips from the movie.

And here's the first few minutes of it, in situ as it would have appeared on TV.

Dreaming Fist With Slender Hand (C, 1980) aka Meng Quan Lan Hua Shou. Comedic kung fu with a pair of students (one of them fat and therefore the butt of a lot of "I'm hungry" humor) are released by their teacher because they spend more time just roughhousing than learning kung fu. On their way to a new teacher they try to raise money by street begging and end up with a job fighting off bandits. They're not very good at it and one ends up in prison. The fat one gets a job as a waiter and learns kung fu from the woman who manages the restaurant. The other escapes from prison with an old beggar who then trains him via various torturous methods. The fat guy learns a womanly fighting style (which leads his opponents to ask him if he's gay), while the other's fighting methods are centered around positions of sleeping and laziness, so he'll keep calm while fighting. The movie never does establish much of a reason w they're training, and even when they get into fights it's pretty much just a "those are the bad guys and who needs any other reason" thing, but the fights are well done. That's fortunate, because the comedy sure isn't. Average overall.

Expedition, The (C, 2006) Blair Witch Project worship meets Session 9 cultism in a film probably financed by somebody’s tax return. Five documentarians who say “fuckin’” before every noun and most of their adjectives and verbs too enter the long-abandoned Saratoga Homestead Hospital to videotape it all. It’s not really supposed to be haunted even though it’s an extremely creepy place, but they soon notice strange things happening, such as cold rooms and presences that make their cameras go staticky. While they’re wandering around the ruins one of their friends, fuckin’ Tom, goes missing and they have to search the building looking for him. Every once in a while they cut to footage of the police interrogating one of the filmmakers, and occasional “reenactment” footage. The strong point of this is definitely location; the huge, crumbling old tuberculosis clinic is atmospheric in the extreme, and would be highly creepy even if they weren’t trying to make a horror movie out of it. The main weakness of the movie is length; there is no reason whatsoever that such a scant story (premise, really) with almost no narrative drive needs to be an hour and 48 minutes long. At around half that length you might generate some spookiness (even if it’s extremely derivative of Blair Witch) but as it stands only an obsessive interest in urban exploration kept me watching. A music score of constant eerie music does manage to create some false tension, even while it spoils the cinema verite. Worth checking out for patient fans of Blair Witch-like films, and still better than many homemade horror films just because of location. Available ultra-cheap on the Mortuary of Madness 50 movie set.

Can't find a clip from the movie, but there's footage taken inside the same location. The bluegrass spoils the mood, big time... If you just can't get enough, there's more starting here.

Get Christie Love! (C, 1974) Television’s buy-in to the blacksploitation craze. Pam Grier and Cleopatra Jones movies were doing good box office, so ABC brought in tall, cool, beautiful Teresa Graves for this pilot and the brief series that followed. She’s a cop who works undercover as a hooker. When people get rough with her, she drops them on their heads and wisecracks about it. Ya can’t help but love her! She’s assigned to find a ledger belonging to a gangster drug dealer, who’s bringing the dope in with Japanese samurai movies he’s importing. Christie gets in shoot-outs, has her lil’ VW Bug smashed, and won’t take no for an answer when it comes to stopping crime. More car chases and shoot-outs follow, and Graves steals the show. “You’re under arrest, Sugar!” Too bad she later got really involved in religion and gave up acting. Later she died in a house fire, good and faithful servant. Tragic in more ways than one.

Good Night And Good Luck (B&W, 2005) This would probably make Ann Coulter furious, but considering Ann Coulter is an ugly and worthless scrap of diseased shit, a detriment to mankind, and a traitor to her country, that should come as a recommendation. Taking on the look of period footage, this film is an examination of the bravery of newsman Edward R. Murrow and his producer Fred Friendly as they used the CBS News to take on Sen. Joe McCarthy and his Communist witch-hunts. McCarthy was spreading an atmosphere of paranoia and fear, and to question what he was doing was to make oneself a target for his lies and trumped-up charges. True patriot (which should never be confused with flag-waving conformity clones) Murrow got so disgusted with McCarthy’s destruction of civil liberties and desecration of all America stands for that he set himself up as McCarthy’s opposition, despite risk to his career and the network. Director and co-star George Clooney took a bit of a risk himself, releasing an intelligent film whose topic and pacing was unlikely to appeal to the public, filmed in black and white, and while the subject matter was also risky at the time, since the Bush administration had been creating an atmosphere in which all dissent was also being scrutinized. Far from slam-bang and too dry for many viewers, but an important historical drama that masterfully captures the era, and contrasts the high level of televised journalism 50 years ago to the silly and superficial rat-circus it’s now become. Seriously, it’s like comparing Shakespeare to a Garfield comic.

Guinea Pig: Flower of Flesh and Blood (C, 1985) aka Gini Piggu 2: Chiniku No Hana, Slow Death: The Dismemberment, Flower of Flesh and Blood. Reprehensible faked Japanese snuff film in which a guy with is face painted white and wearing a samurai helmet snatches a girl off the streets, ties her to a bed, decapitates a chicken, injects her with heroin, cuts her hands and then her arms off, saws her legs off, pulls her intestines out, then decapitates her and spoons out her eyes... all because he thinks wounds are flowers. Then you see wormy corpses all over his house, which shows he's been doing this a long time. Then he goes out to do it again. The only reason to watch this sick plotless crap is if you have an interest in extreme gore effects, which are impressively realistic. It's still easy enough to tell they're not real (no subcutaneous fat layer, the skin slides around too much like the latex it is, etc.), but Charlie Sheen was still convinced enough to alert the FBI when he saw this movie at a party and caused a big stink, and the filmmakers had to go to court to prove it was all fake. The band Skinny Puppy also thought it was real. Based on one of Hideshi Hino's horror manga; he also plays the killer.

Watch this one at your own risk.

Hard Times (C, 1975) aka Street Fighter, The Streetfighter. Walter Hill's top-notch action direction combines with Charles Bronson's menacing screen presence and good performances from James Coburn and Strother Martin to create an anti-chick-movie masterpiece. In the 1920's the Depression has the country in a chokehold and people are desperately scrambling for money any way they can. Bronson's way is pick-up streetfighting for betting money. He's damn good at it, so Coburn (along with doctor Strother) manages him. But Coburn can't even manage his own money and gets himself in trouble, and Bronson has to get him out... by fighting an ultra-tough bruiser brought in from Chicago just to stomp Bronson. Strong period atmosphere and some brutal fight scenes make this one of Bronson's best.

"Life was as tough as a cheap steak!"

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