yet more movie reviews...

Some foul-ups on the part of my incompetent-fucking-bank-which-I-hate have me in too bad of a mood to write anything all that entertaining, and I haven't watched much this week except season 2 of Sons of Anarchy (which is excellent and way better than anything you're watching - yes it is and don't dispute me! - so you should go dig up some SOA episodes instead of reading this anyway), so I'm going to just drag a few old reviews out of a file I had somewhere. For some reason the file killed off all the hyphens and screwed up some other punctuations, so if there seem to be a lot of errors, it's not because I'm a bad grammarian, it's because I'm a bad editor and in a hurry. Hopefully they'll be a'ight... I'll add some YouTube clips so I won't be completely lazy...


Abby (C, 1974) aka Possess My Soul Rarely seen blaxploitation variation on The Exorcist, directed by William Girdler. Carrol Speed is a nice churchgoing wife who becomes possessed by an African sex demon when her archaeologist father in law (William "Blacula" Marshal) digs up an artifact. Whirlwinds fill her house, she slices her arm with a knife, pukes on people in church, and she engages in all kinds of nasty, obscene behavior. Her husband becomes very concerned and calls William Marshal back from Africa and has medical tests done on her. She escapes from the hospital and starts looking demonic... which, perhaps not so ironically, causes her to start resembling Condoleeza Rice! They have an exorcism in a bar to try to stop her rampages. The makers of The Exorcist sued, based on many similarities to their film (which is why it went a long time without being seen), but it's different enough, and it's pretty funny, but is also creepy, too... it kind of depends on what mood you're in. In any case, it's definitely interesting enough to seek out. The DVD looks like it was mastered from a second gen tape dubbed from a faded print, but it's not so bad if you're not spoiled and appreciate the rarity of the film.

Adventure in Iraq (B&W, 1943) aka The Green Goddess A pilot from the Flying Tigers, another guy, and a woman have a forced landing in Iraq due to engine trouble, and they become the guest of a guy who's apparently an ancestor of Saddam Hussein: a devil -worshiping sheik. They're treated well, but he's working with the Nazis and plans to hold them hostage in exchange for the release of some of his brothers who've been arrested for spying. The brothers are due to be executed, and if they are, he'll let the prisoners be executed in a Satanic rite. Most of this "adventure" consists of standing around waiting and talking, but there is a little action toward the end, which includes a really obvious mannequin being thrown off a balcony. It has novelty (not many WW II movies were concerned with Arabs) and decent production values (it looks really good for a B- film) on its side, but is too slow and mundane overall to be very tempting.

Aerial Gunner (B&W, 1943) An ex -D.A. named Davis enlists to fight WWII and finds himself in gunnery school to learn to handle machine guns on bombers. To his dismay, his instructor is Foxy Pattis, a guy who hates his guts because he blames him for his father's suicide. Foxy stays on Davis's case and tries to flunk him out, but Davis is too dedicated and even saves Foxy's life when he's knocked out aboard a runaway target towing train. To make matters worse, Foxy and Davis both want the same girl, and Foxy intends to marry her. While their rivalry plays out, there are little sub -anecdotes, such as a kid with personal reasons for wanting to be a gunner getting cold feet, some comedic bits with a gadget happy would- be inventor, and Foxy betting enough money for a wedding ring that his guys score better than Robert Mitchum's (who's in the movie for all of about 30 seconds but still manages to grab star billing on DVDs of the movie nowdays). It mostly focuses on gunnery school but still manages to fit in plenty of action, including some decent (if too brief) aerial combat at the end. It's propaganda and doesn't have much of a budget, but I've seen it several times and it's always entertaining. The major drawback is that our two stars (Richard Arlen and Chester Morris) look too much alike, sometimes creating a little confusion.

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Africa Addio (C, 1966) aka Africa Blood and Guts, Farewell Africa From the makers of Mondo Cane comes this documentary about the disappearance of traditional Africa amidst political uprisings, massacres, and wholesale slaughter of animals... all of it shown as graphically as possible, but with a sly (yet bitter and always ironic) sense of humor to offset the gore and brutality (or to make it even more offensive, depending on how you're approaching this). For instance, scenes of elephants and hippos being hunted to the point of extinction (it's unbelievable how many they kill, and it happens every Friday) are followed with silly girls jumping up and down at the beach and lions who've forgotten how to hunt having dead buffalo delivered to them by truck, to keep them around so that tourists can watch them mate (and honk at them for not doing it faster). Also shown are pogroms in Zimbabwe that exterminated entire villages; you see thousands and thousands of human corpses being thrown in mass graves in the jungle and wonder why there was no bigger outcry about it. Muslims are slaughtered in masses, Simba rebels kill (and partially eat) hundreds and then end up dead themselves, lining the roadways with unburied bones. There's footage of mercenary troops violently putting down uprisings, including several on camera deaths. It's amazing the filmmakers weren't killed themselves getting the footage; there are several scenes with genocidal rebels on the ground shooting at the airplanes they're filming from, and at one point a soldier smashes out their windshield and puts them against a wall to shoot them. The full length film makes a powerful point about colonialism and apartheid and the thin line that separates savagery and civilization, and how each is built upon the other. Plus, the animal slaughter's almost enough to make a Republican join PETA. A grindhouse version marketed by the infamous Jerry Gross was shortened by about an hour of the less sensationalistic and shock oriented footage, and it made a big splash on the exploitation circuit as Africa Blood and Guts, (the trailer is seen more often than the movie nowdays "Every scene looks you straight in the eye... and spits!"), after the full -length politically -relevant version was pulled because of controversy (the film is against racism, yet the filmmakers were accused of exploiting it). It is exploitative in a way, but is also extremely well- made and very powerful and should be seen by anyone whose stomach can handle it.

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Agneepath (C, 1990) aka Path of Fire. Electricity is on its way to a nothin'- happenin' little town in India, and a drug trafficker doesn't like that the town must remain obscure to suit his purposes. So, his men spread evil rumors about the noble schoolmaster who's spearheading the electrification efforts, and finally they murder him. His son is sent away but vows to return and give the village to his mother. He lives a dirt poor existence in the city but takes no crap and his toughness impresses some local gangsters, so they recruit him, and he grows up to be a crime lord (Amitabh Bachchan, with his cheeks stuffed with cotton like Brando's in The Godfather). He's gunned down by rival gangsters but a coconut salesman rushes him to the hospital and he survives, then returns the bullets to his attackers and adding a few of his own as interest. Other than all the killing he does, he's a very moral gangster, hating drugs and demanding that all his workers give some of their profits to the poor. In fact, he's so moral that it's unclear what criminal activity he's actually involved in, but it must be bad because his mom despises him, which bothers him more than bullets or bombings (he shrugs off an explosion when someone bombs his boat, and he swims to keep an appointment). After a lot of family turmoil and some more violence, he buys the town for his mother, changes his ways, gets married, and has a son. But rival gangsters try to take the town back and Bachchan ends up having to run a gauntlet of explosions to stop them and redeem himself for his past crimes (whatever they may have been). This is supposed to be a Bollywood remake of Scarface, but other than heavily trading on Bachchan's resemblance to Al Pacino and dressing him in a white "Tony Montana" outfit, plus a few similar scenes (including a ludicrous riff on Scarface's "say goodnight to the bad guy" scene that just comes off as public tantrum), there's not a whole lot of similarity. The melodrama is even more overblown than is typical for Bollywood (and that's sayin' somethin'!), and it gets tiresome after a while. Overall, this is one of the more ridiculous Indian movies I've seen, although the climactic gauntlet is pretty memorable.

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Air Force One
(C, 1997) This is one of the most ridiculous action movies you're likely to find in the mainstream. It's Passenger 57 with the implausibility factor cranked to the redline. Harrison Ford plays the president of the United States (and some people thought Al Gore was too stiff to be prez!) who takes a tough (if ideologically simpleminded) stand against terrorism, then, on the way home, he and his family become hostages when Russian terrorists very easily take over Air Force One (boy is that just blown off. They had fake IDs and luckily there's an arsenal of machine guns on the plane. Perfect!). The terrorists want the release of a bad guy leader, but Ford doesn't negotiate any better than he emotes, so he just gets in gunfights with them and manages to scrape through cliffhanger after cliffhanger. It's all a goofy fantasy for those naive enough to think the government's full of heroic types who kick ass. That's nearly as hard to believe as people standing around in depressurized cabins and such. Turn your brain off, though, and this isn't bad. Hell, if you're a complete idiot, it may even be great! It moves fast enough and doesn't miss any opportunity for tense situations. Director Wolfgang Peterson does a decent (although rather formulaic) job, but I'm afraid he'll never get close to topping Das Boot. It's okay, and it's entertaining throughout, though not far removed from things you've seen before in this post Die Hard era of action flicks.

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All Night Long (C, 1992) First in an infamous Japanese horror trilogy that seeks to prove the point that human beings are garbage. You could prove the same thing by observing certain Southern Baptist church services, but this is more interesting (and, at the end of the day, probably more wholesome). Three high school boys become friends after they witness the bloody stabbing of a female classmate by a random psycho. They decide to have a party, and they're all supposed to bring girls... which won't be easy because they're all pretty nerdy. They do manage to find girls, but things don't turn out well. One's so nervous that he throws up on his blind date (who was only out to break his heart for fun, anyway), one ends up chained to a fence and humiliated by the evil headcase he picks up, and the third finds a nice, sweet girl who's nearly as alienated as he is... but she's gang raped by some sadistic creeps as they're on the way to the party. The boys decide to go after the rapists, but their revenge plans don't work out much better than their dates did. The violence isn't really very graphic at all and the gore effects are simple and almost PG -rated, but there's a dark and nihilistic tone that creates a strong disturbing effect... especially since the film is quite well made and artistically aesthetic. It's not just an exploitation film made for the purpose of shocking the audience, but instead has a message. Concisely what that message is would be hard to say, beyond that humans are animals and can do some really heinous stuff to each other, and none of us are exempt, and happiness is a momentary dream that some jerk is always too happy to wake you up from... but there's still more to it than that. So, it's great for anyone who can handle it but should probably be kept out of the reach of the impressionable. The sequels are even harsher.

All Night Long 2 : Atrocity
(C, 1994) A nerdy high school boy gets bullied and victimized by a sadistic homosexual gang. The leader of the gang has a crush on him, but the nerd's not into that: he's in love with a little model he made of an anime girl. They beat him up and break the model, and the gang leader tries to seduce him by showing him a girl they've raped and tortured to the point where she's become a pathetic subhuman animal, totally degraded and insane. The gangster wants to teach the nerd that it's fun to abuse people. The nerd isn't into that, either, so he goes online to find some friends to help him combat the bullies, but the internet friends prove no help, since the gang kidnaps them and does some sick things to them. They're pretty vicious, but you can imagine worse (and probably have if you've read reviews of this: it's nasty for sure, but it doesn't cross a lot of the lines I'd worried that it would), and there's a lot of blood and gore but none of it is as nasty -realistic as the Guinea Pig movies. In any case, it's enough to twist the mind of our hero and teach him the lesson the gangster wanted him to learn... much to the gangster's chagrin. Heavier than the gore, however, is the tone and general life is cruel and ugly and meaningless vibe of the whole thing. Very well made (although it loses points for being shot on video) but it's definitely not for everybody; viewers already hardened by extreme horror films will find it intense and scary, but average citizens might just be traumatized and get messed up by this kind of message. Know yer limits...

All Night Long 3 : The Final Chapter (C, 1996) In case you missed the whole "human beings are garbage" motif in the first two (it's right there on the DVD case fer fuxsake), then here's the blunt object. A high school kid who has something really wrong with him likes to collect flies and go through other people's garbage. He becomes obsessed with a cute neighbor and begins collecting all her trash: hair, papers, sanitary napkins (he papers his walls with those), toothbrushes, etc. He even eats the food she throws away. Meanwhile, he's working cleaning up a hotel (another guy saves pubic hair he finds on the sheets) and witnessing the debasement of a scar legged girl who's hideously abused by her classmates. Then he meets a "dust hunter" who also saves people's garbage and organizes it into files and scrapbooks; biographies in refuse. The nerd's friends beat and rape a prostitute/con artist into a coma, so he brings her home, chains her up to his bed, and tries to transform her into a substitute for his goddess. He has no luck with that and ends up dismembering her. Then he sees the girl he's stalking having sex at the hotel, gets completely unhinged, and becomes a murdering automaton, leading to more bloody violence. A no- punches -pulled exploration of obsessive human depravity, and, like the others, well done and more than just an exploitation film; it does make a point. O' course, it's a point that many people would rather not face, so most viewers will want to stay far away from these ugly films. People wanting to explore the darkest cinema that humans can produce, however, will need these on their resume to have any street- cred...

All The Colors of the Dark (C, 1972) aka Tutti i colori del buio, Demons of the Dead, Day of the Maniac, They're Coming to Get You, Todos los colores de la oscuridad . Sergio Martino tries his best to be Dario Argento mixed with Roman Polanski, and he doesn't even come close but still turns in one of his better efforts. Edwidge Fenech (who Martino also featured in Next!, aka Blade of the Ripper, aka Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh) stars as a woman who's having terrible nightmares after the miscarriage of her child. In the dreams a psycho with weird blue eyes (Ivan Rassimov from Eerie Midnight Horror Show, whose demonic, satyr like face dooms him to mostly such roles) is stabbing her. She starts seeing him in real life, which gives her panic attacks. A woman in her building suggests that going to a black mass sabbat would cure her, so she agrees and they make her drink dog's blood and everybody makes out with her. That doesn't help, though, and she starts to think that her husband (George Hilton, star of numerous spaghetti westerns) is part of the cult (which she continues having orgies with), and her world becomes increasingly paranoid and surreal. This is kind of a giallo variation of Rosemary's Baby with a bit of Repulsion thrown in, and it has plenty of hallucinatory style and a relentless atmosphere of persecution (aided greatly by the lovely Ms. Fenech's strengths at conveying confusion and panic she's pretty flat with all other emotions, but she has those two down). Martino's direction is less sloppy than usual you can tell he was trying on this one. Not a masterpiece, but it's a pretty decent giallo. Tim Lucas borrowed the "All The Colors of the Dark" title for a book on Mario Bava. The USA Network (long ago, when it was still worth a damn) used to show this retitled as Demons of the Dead.

All The Kind Strangers (C, 1974) aka Evil in the Swamp Stacy Keach learns the hard way not to be a good samaritan when he gives a little boy a lift home while driving through backwoods Kentucky. After driving through nearly impassible back country they arrive at a big house in the middle of nowhere, where there are seven kids. The oldest (John Savage) is fifteen. One of the other kids is Robbie Benson. They're being looked after by Samantha Eggar, their "mother," who Keach learns is being held hostage... and so is he. The kids want parents, so they've been luring strangers off the main highway and keeping them there with the aid of some mean dogs. If they end up not being good parent material, the kids kill them and burn their bodies. Keach is determined to escape despite the danger, though, but that doesn't work out so well... This is one of those 1970's made- for- TV 70 some minute movies that I'm a sucker for, and it's nicely done with well- paced suspense and some effective atmosphere of backwoods stagnation, plus good performances. The DVD came from a print that looks to be in better shape than most old TV movies you can find, and I got mine from the 5- buck bin at Wal- Mart. The ending is pretty weak and compromises the rest of the movie a bit, but what the hell, it's good anyway.

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Americana (C, 1981) aka You and Me What if Rambo came into a different town and tried harder to be peaceful? What if Kwai Chang Caine did his wandering around in the early '70's? What if I stopped trying to be fucking clever and just told you about this movie already? David Carradine directed and stars as a troubled drifter home from Vietnam who walks into a small Kansas town, looking for work. There's an old merry go round out in a field that fires his imagination maybe he's reminded of his lost childhood or it's a symbol of a time when America still had her blissful innocence, who knows? and he decides to restore it. This makes the locals think he's pretty kooky, but some are sympathetic and help him out by giving him work to fund the project. Others, like some teenage scumbags, take time out from trying to run over dogs to give him a hard time. He falls out with his friendlies when he doesn't want to watch cockfights at the local church, and then they get hostile and mean spirited. No matter what dream you have, there's always gonna be some status quo asshole who'll get his sadistic jollies by try'n to wake you up from it. Nicely done low- budget existential slice -of- life flick, one of the last gasps of the kind they made in the 70's. Look close for Dan Haggerty. The Rhino DVD is cheap but looks mastered from a VHS tape and has pretty bad sound. Still worth it.

Amuck! (C, 1972) aka Alla ricerca del piacere, Hot Bed of Sex, Leather and Whips, Replica di un Delitto A new gorgeous blonde secretary named Greta comes to work for a writer, typing up novels he's dictated onto a tape. The real reason she's there is to find out what happened to the previous secretary (her lesbian lover), who disappeared. The writer's wife Eleonora is very attracted to Greta, and the movie's not subtle about its preoccupation with lesbian scenes; any time two women are naked together, the movie goes into slow motion to make it last as long as possible. Eleonora has "psychic fits" and warns that Greta will die soon. They take Greta duck hunting and try to shoot her, but then rescue her from quicksand. The tapes he gives her to type up become more and more about her girlfriend's murder and the trouble she's heading into. Complex giallo is fairly crude stylistically but the plot is intriguing. There's no gore, though, so that may drop it a few points in some giallo enthusiast's rankings. The hard to find Eurovista DVD was mastered from a videotape that had some serious damage near the end. Barbara Bouchet is a knockout, and Rosalba Neri's not exactly hard to look at, either, so you're in good shape for Euro babeage.

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