Sunday, July 31, 2016

"Captain Kronos-Vampire Hunter" (1974) d/ Brian Clemens

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Tonight we look at one of the odder vampire flicks in the Hammer canon, a strange mixture of action, comedy, and horror, that showcases some excellent cinematography and moments of genuine atmosphere in bringing a vastly different genre experience to the silver screen than the familiar Lee/Cushing formula that the studio regularly churned out in their heyday. Once intended to be the first in a series of films chronicling the adventures of the good Captain, poor box office returns made certain that would never happen, after the production stagnated on the shelf for two years before finally being released. This would also mark the final appearance of scream queen Caroline Munro for the studios, who were experiencing a marked decline at this point.

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Kronos is unsure where the vampires are, while Grost (John Cater) has a hunch.
After freeing a  comely 19th century gyppo bird named Carla (Caroline Munro) from the stocks, the dynamic team of Captain Kronos (Horst Janson) and Professor Grost (John Cater) gallop across the European countryside in search of active blood sippers, who differ greatly from their conventional neck-supping counterparts, in that they drain the life energy from their victims rather than the usual red vino on tap, leaving behind withered (yet alive, if only briefly) husks of humanity as evidence. Kronos is a former Dragoon who was forced to depart his own wife and child from existence when they showed signs of vampirism. He's joined by his pal Heironymous, a crook-backed member of academia whose specialty is dispatching fanged types. Carla hitches a ride with the duo offering them her assistance, and even regular gyppo trim for the blonde hero, though she denies Grost the same benefits, as hunchbacks must not be her bag, man. Along the way, Kronos is forced to come to the aid of his deformed chum in a pub, when three local toughs mock him. Did I mention Kronos is a master swordsman? Yeah, he really isn't.

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"Flappy brought mommy her strawberry preserves! Mommy loooooves her lil' Flappy..."
On their journey, they follow the trail of innocent peasant girls with the life sucked out of 'em like so many Mountain Dew slushies, leading to unorthodox vampire hunting techniques, such as the burying of several dead frogs in boxes in suspected areas of sharpened incisor activity, with the hopes that any passing vampires will bring the nearest frogs back to life. There's also a bell-heavy tripwire of little effectiveness. The trio meet up with the local physician, a sensible chappie named Marcus (John Carson), and perhaps the last one of his ilk in the region, with the peasants mostly being of the suspicious and superstitious variety. Could the local aristocracy be sheltering the responsible pair of fangs? There's poncy fop, Paul (Shane Briant) and his ageless ginger sister, Sara (Lois Daine), and their terminally ill mother, Lady Durward (Wanda Ventham) herself, confined to her deathbed with a grill like a dead man's frosting bag. You'll find out all the who's, why's, where's and when's if you snag yourself a copy and screen it, soon afterwards.

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"I can see your reflection in that steel, dahling, you look maaahvelous."
Did I really just reference Billy Crystal's Fernando Lamas impersonation from 80's SNL? Holy ham steaks, I'm old. Brian Clemens gained fame more for his writing skills than directing, as evidenced by the scripts he penned for And Soon the Darkness (1970), Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971), The Watcher in the Woods (1980), and even an epsiode of tv horror anthology series, Darkroom (1981). German actor Horst Janson, who would also appear in Murphy's War (1971) opposite Peter O'Toole and The Last Days of Patton (1986) opposite George C. Scott, has enjoyed a long career in television. Despite being miserably awful in the film's awkwardly choreographed action sequences and offering little more than one or two facial expressions throughout the production, Janson is pretty likable in the lead role here. Ian Hendry you'll recall from appearances in things like Get Carter (1971), Tales From the Crypt (1972), and Theatre of Blood (1973). John Carson showed up in genre fare like Blood Beast from Outer Space (1965), Plague of the Zombies (1966), and Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970). Two solid Wops for Kronos, a film you'll want to check out for yourselves if you've never done, for sure.

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"Both you and your spouse have fallen and can't get up? I'm calling paramedics and your family, Lady Durward..."
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"The Watcher in the Woods" (1980) d/ John Hough

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1980 wasn't a fantastic year for live-action films released by the folks at Disney, which would later grow into the multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate that none of us could ever get enough of, to be certain. With titles like Midnight Madness, the Popeye musical, The Last Flight of Noah's Ark, and Herbie Goes Bananas to compete with, it shouldn't have taken too much effort for tonight's review, a supernatural thriller from the guy who brought you Howling IV : The Original Nightmare (1988), to achieve "Finest Disney Live Action Movie of 1980" status, with all due respect to David Naughton, Eddie Deezen, Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman, and a yellow Paul Smith swimming away out to sea, respectively. Does it manage? Read on, and find out...

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You spelled REDRUM wrong, bitch.
The Curtis family moves into a spacious manor on the English countryside that's enveloped by foreboding forest and overseen by it's elderly owner, Mrs. Aylwood (Bette Davis), a secretive old sourpuss who looks as though she goes to the same stylist as Christopher Walken. When she sees the family's eldest daughter, Jan (Lynn-Holly Johnson), and her striking resemblance to Aylwood's own daughter, Karen, who disappeared mysteriously some thirty years earlier, she feels compelled to lease to the family. Right off the bat, Jan shows an uncanny propensity for making mirrors crack in the same triangular pattern when she stands near to them, and also notices weird blue lights out in the forest. Little Ellie (Kyle Richards) also seems to be a lightning rod for unexplained PG-rated weirdness herself, after buying a puppy and naming it Nerak, spelling it out on a dusty window, which seen backwards happens to spell out Aylwood's daughter's name. Insert fifties-style theremin here. Jan also unwittingly plunges into a nearby pond while gazing at circles in the water, being rescued by Aylwood and her trusty gondola rowing oar. Bo staff? Witch broom? The plot thickens.

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From Ice Castles to Blouse Busters.
Before too long, Jan takes it upon herself to investigate what really happened to Aylwood's daughter all those years ago, and some unseen force seems to be protecting her as she does, with premonitions of doom saving her hide from an out of control exploding dirtbike that would have creamed her for sure, and a lightning-struck Citroen stalled out on a wooden bridge that would have spelled the end for the sisters and their mother (Carroll Baker), as she races to remove her girls from this supernatural presence that seems to be pestering them. Patriarchal Paul (David McCallum) tickles the ivories briefly and fiddles with some sheet music to let the audience know he's a musician for sure, but that's about it. A local wildlife-rescuing gimp named John (Ian Bannen) spills to Jan about the fateful night he and two of his mates took Karen to the abandoned chapel for a secret friendship ceremony that involves "Ring Around the Roses" (Disney, all day) and how she disappeared amidst the flash of lightning, tumbling church bell, and flaming rafters. I'll just bet it's gonna take a recreation of said ceremony using all original parties during a solar eclipse to finally get to the bottom of all this. Call it a hunch.

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"Come, Kyle. Help me to drown Goofy." sneers Mrs. Aylwood (Bette Davis).
Hough has directed some real genre goodies over the years, from Twins of Evil (1971) and The Legend of Hell House (1973) to The Incubus (1982) and Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) and it's sequel. Lead actress Lynn-Holly Johnson, who replaced Disney's first choice in Dianne Lane, is notably awful here, allegedly drawing the ire of Hollywood royalty in Bette Davis on the set, with her speak-shouted dialog delivered in a Sarah Palin-esque accent, with obligatory lifeless stare, to further confound matters. Hear her say words like "cheeaaaapple" (chapel) and "eaaaverage" (average) over and over again in dreadful Chicago-flavored drawl. In her defense, nobody else in the cast is particularly effective, and there's one lifeless exchange/shouting match between Johnson and co-star Ian Bannen that wouldn't be out of place in an H.G. Lewis or Andy Milligan scene. On the plus side, the film's score, as provided by Stanley Myers, is a good one, and Alan Hume's cinematography is impressive throughout. Overall, I feel like two Wops isn't an unreasonable rating, and under the proper circumstances viewers may be able to enjoy the experience despite the shortcomings. Worth a look.

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Even hanging around can be a beautiful experience in polyester from Penneys.
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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

"I Married a Monster from Outer Space" (1958) d/ Gene Fowler, Jr.

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How do I love thee, woprophiles, let me elucidate upon the many ways. You hit my humble site yesterday like it was 2012 all over again, which coincidentally, was the high water mark for traffic on the Wop over the past decade. I don't know what I've done to deserve such attention, perhaps I forgot to button the flys on my Levi's 501's after hitting the khazi. Either way, your readership is a source for gladness and inspiration for me, and I'd very much like to see a whole lot more of it, in future. If you keep reading, I'll keep watching and writing. Danke! Tonight's review is a fifties sci-fi/horror classic with the granddaddy of exploitative titles, and despite the profuse number of bullet bra-enshrouded titties within, packs a heavy themed punch to this very day. It must have been broadcast twenty times on network television on Saturday afternoons back in the seventies, where I caught it many, many times. It goes like...

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"My vadge is neglected and the Rabbit Habit won't be invented for another fifty years...", groans Marge (Gloria Talbott).
When Marge's fiance-to-be (Tom Tryon) ducks out of a drape-tastic bachelor's party early, his body is soon enveloped in a cloud of smoke, after which his persona is adopted by a Morlock-esque alien from another world. After their wedding, Marge grows listless at the prospect of her new husband, who suddenly behaves quite differently from the man she originally agreed to marry, changing his former mannerisms to a bland, emotionless alternative, even disliking his own pet dogs, that he once dug highly. As time progresses, she notices all of Bill's former drinking buddies acting the exact same brand of strange, leading her to tail him on a stroll that surprisingly ends with him shedding his human form like a Harrington jacket, and climbing aboard a spacecraft. At least he ain't cheating on or beating you, sister. Meanwhile, other fellows are given the smoke cloud treatment, like some beat cops and even the Chief of Police, and Marge's declaration of her husband's unearthly possession soon fall upon mostly deaf (alien) ears.

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"I'm easier to get into than a Disney movie!",  purrs Francine (Valerie Allen).
After much cajoling, Bill explains to his  frustrated spouse that he is indeed one of the titular monsters from outer space, a race of male alien lifeforms whose females have gone extinct, and that he and his interstellar chums have come to this planet to impersonate human males, mate with their women, and therefore, prevent his race from further, complete extinction. Not only isn't Marge very cool with their strategy, she tries to leak the alien domination plot to others in town, but finds that the alien influence is more far reaching than before, and many citizens have been replaced by slimy beings from the stars. Except for her doctor, who begins to buy into her crazy tale, and forms a posse of angry humans to bring the flying saucer and its inhabitants up to specs with our inborn need for survival. The aliens are seemingly bulletproof, but not German Shepard-proof, and a pair of pooches wipes the lot out in the nick of time.Aboard the spacecraft, all abducted parties are found safe, and reunited with their loved ones, as a number of saucers are seen fleeing the planet's surface to the safety of the darkest reaches of space. Blueballed again.

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"My performance in The Nutcracker is being broadcast tonight on Playhouse 90, in color, no less...and now this!"
Besides being packed with the usual Cold War/Red Invasion allusions that we often saw in American movies of the era, there's also unusually strong sexual frustration here, coupled with an undercurrent of anti-marriage sentiment that was indeed rare for the time. Fowler, Jr. had directed I Was a Teenage Werewolf the year before, and went on to edit everything from 1968's Hang 'Em High to 1979's Skatetown U.S.A. during his long Hollywood career. Besides enjoying a prolific television career that spanned fifteen or so years, Gloria Talbott also scored roles in genre films like The Cyclops (1957) and Daughter of Dr. Jekyll (also 1957). Peter Baldwin went on to direct on several popular tv series like Sanford and Son, Newhart, and Murphy Brown, after scoring acting roles in genre fare like 1970's The Weekend Murders and Luigi Bazzoni's La donna del lago aka/ The Possessed (1965). On the scale, Monster earns a pair of Wops, and always makes for an entertaining retro-viewing for any vintage sci-fi or horror buffs out there. Score yourselves a copy today!

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"...and that cloud looks like Imre Nagy, hanging from the gallows."
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Monday, July 25, 2016

"Late Phases" (2014) d/ Adrian Garcia Bogliano

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We've had werewolves in girl's dormitories, American werewolves in London and Paris, werewolves on a train,  werewolves in Woodstock and Washington, and now, finally, we've got werewolves in a retirement community. Wait, what? Read on, I promise it's a lot cooler than it may initially sound. As we close in on the death knell of another summer month here at the Wop, our subject tonight falls once again upon lycanthropy, in an independent film by Spanish genre proponent, Adrian Garcia Bogliano, whose work can be examined in previous efforts like The ABC's of Death (2012), Here Comes the Devil (2012), and 2010's The Accursed. Here's how the story goes...

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"I'm sick of blind 'Nam vets who ain't got their shit together!", complains Delores (Karen Lynn Gorney).
After being dumped off in a retirement community by his son, a 'Nam vet named Ambrose (Nick Damici) who's as stubborn as he is blind,  and his faithful seeing eye dog, a German Shepard named Shadow, meet their friendly new next door neighbor, Delores (Karen Lynn Gorney),  and some other local snooty elitist in an elderly clique of bitches, named Gloria (Rutanya Alda),  Emma (Caitlin O'Heaney), and Clarissa (Tina Louise), respectively, before settling in to their new digs for the very first time that night. Just when he'd planned on briefly stagnating here and dying an ignominious death, Ambrose is faced with a werewolf attack, after hearing Delores being horribly gutted like a fish, next door. Though he's able to finally deter the beast with his gun, Shadow is mortally wounded in the scuffle, and the former soldier is forced to end the dog's suffering with a bullet. The next morning, police arrive and shrug the slaying off as another animal attack, due to the community's proximity to the woods, but Ambrose already knows better.

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Once, he knew you were alone, but now you're just gnawed to the bone.
Using a shovel as a makeshift cane and with the moon's cycle as his hourglass, Ambrose sets out to investigate the most recent murder, scrutinizing the locals for a wheeze he detected while squared off against the lycanthrope, including a cigarette-inhaling priest (Tom Noonan), Gloria's husband Bennet who's confined to an iron lung, and the priest's assistant, James (Lance Guest), who suffers from asthma. Hmmm... Meanwhile, he purchases a large, expensive tombstone for his dog's grave, which he digs daily, in his own backyard. He also starts training his body for combat again, with grueling push ups and weapon katas involving his favorite shovel, much to the dismay of his neighbors. Finally, he hitches a ride to the local gun dealer, whom he entrusts with a strange request: silver bullets of several different calibers. With his son feeling alienated and about to move to another city with his growing family, the war veteran once again dons his uniform, taking an overdose of heart meds beforehand to ensure that he won't be cheating death when the smoke clears, as another midnight howler. He leaves a parting message on his son's answering service, and prepares for a supernatural war that he won't be returning from this time, a last chance for spiritual redemption...

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Werewolf? Were-Fennec (vulpes zerda), more like.
There's all kinds of names on board, like Tina Louise, who you might remember from Stepford Wives (1975), but you'll more likely recall as Ginger on the long running tv show, Gilligan's Island. There's Caitlin O'Heaney, who you'll recognize from Wolfen (1981) and He Knows You're Alone (1980). There's Karen Lynn Gorney, who once shared the spotlight with a kid named Travolta in a movie called Saturday Night Fever (1978). Rutanya Alda, who scored credits in things like The Deer Hunter (1978), When a Stranger Calls (1979), Christmas Evil (1980), and Amityville II: The Possession (1982) over the years, is here. Lance Guest, who showed up in Halloween II (1981) and Jaws: The Revenge (1987), is also here. Lead actor Nick Damici, you'll remember from Dark Was the Night (2014), We Are What We Are (2013), and Stake Land (2010). Don't let the frivolous werewolf design, original if not particularly goofy, as provided by Robert Kurtzman, deter you from seeing this, as it's a solid effort overall and an entertaining ride to be had, for sure. On the scale, three very respectable big ones for Phases. Check it out!

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"I won't shoot until I don't see the whites of their eyes...", barks Ambrose (Nick Damici).
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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

"Deathgasm" (2015) d/ Jason Lei Howden

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Horns up, woprophiles! Tonight in our cinematic cauldron, broom-stirred to perfection, we've got some Kiwi splatter comedy a la vintage Peter Jackson flavored with the brutally heavy axe riffs of the heavy metal genre. The end result is 2015's Deathgasm, the debut film for director Jason Lei Howden, and one mired in controversy when Walmart refused to carry it under it's original title, renaming it "Heavy Metal Apocalypse" instead, a title more palpable to grossly obese blonde bible-thumping strumpets whirring around the frozen dessert section, perhaps. I like the original a lot more, how about you? It's more brutal in capital letters, seeing how lower case are clearly for pussies. Let's check it out, oh and death to false metal...

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"How do I say 'I'm enjoying our ice cream date' in proto-Nordic?"
Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) is a teenage metalhead upon whom a rotten series of events does turn, when his father dies and his mother books a padded room at the squirrel farm, forcing him to move in with his ultra-Christian uncle, Albert and his family, which includes cousin David (who's a bullying dickhead jock/preppie/wigger), at their home in Greypoint. The young rocker doesn't fit in at school either, only connecting with a pair of D&D-crazed misfit dorks in Dion and Giles(Sam Berkley, Daniel Cresswell, respectively) . To further compound matters, the object of his teenage affection, a blonde dimepiece named Medina (Kimberley Crossman) who's neither funky nor cold, is romantically linked to David the dick. While temporarily escaping the madness of his life at a local record store that stocks all the best metal records, he meets fellow metal proponent Zakk (James Blake), and a brothers-in-metal blood oath is soon struck between the boys. The headbangers soon recruit the two dice-rolling dweebs as members of their brutal new band, DEATHGASM, because, you know, lower case letters are for pussies! Cue hilarious DIY black metal video shot in the forest nearby, for good effect.

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The Great Kat should probably think about moving over at this point.
Brodie and Medina eventually go out for ice cream (awwwwww), but he proves too shy to plant one on her in the end. When the two boys break into the seemingly abandoned home of metal legend Rikki Daggers, he hands them an album and sends them packing before a suit-clad assassin breaks in and slashes the singer's throat. Besides finding a Rick Astley (!) lp in the record sleeve, there's also the sheet music for "The Black Hymn", a devastating piece of music that can summon the king of demons, one Aeloth. Meanwhile, the snazzy hitman reports back to his employer, who becomes furious that the Hymn has yet eluded him, and orders some Satanic-looking henchmen to behead the killer, while avoiding making a bloody mess on his carpet, is an implied point. While Davey the Dick lays the sneakers in on his metalhead cousin for chatting up his girl, Zakk purposely withholds messages and notes from her to him, and muscles in on his friend's new territory with the help of alcohol and Cosby pills. Alright, no Cosby pills. Fed up, Brodie gets his bandmates to play the entire Black Hymn, and as they say, all Hell breaks loose from this point.

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Congratulations, you've moved onto the semifinal round of Norway's Got Brutality!
Packed with goopy gore and creature effects, hilariously sophomoric dialog peppered with sex toys and dick jokes, inventively animated transitional editing, and entertaining performances from it's young cast, Deathgasm harkens genre fans like myself to the first time I threw Bad Taste (1988) into a vcr lifetimes ago, and I've come away from the experience with a lot of the same feelings of positivity I had back then. I'm clearly not alone on this one either, as the movie has been nominated for nearly twenty awards in various film festivals, including but not limited to,  Best Kill (Death by sex toy). I think that says it all, really. A sequel may or may not be in the works. On the scale, Deathgasm earns three solid Wops. Check it out, you'll be glad you did.

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Get your lightning tits out for the dark lord and master, baby.
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Thursday, July 14, 2016

"Green Room" (2015) d/ Jeremy Saulnier

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Tonight, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise touches down on planet Valhalla, as we cover 2016's Green Room, a surprisingly nasty and effective independent slice of survival horror/thriller from director Jeremy Saulnier, that stars the late Anton "Chekov" Yelchin and Sir Pat Stew himself, in a one hundred-eighty degree dramatic departure from the "infinitely wise leader of humanity" roles he's been sopping up in recent years, the equivalent to Ben Kingsley's Don Logan role in Sexy Beast (2000) in a way.Despite heavy praise from seemingly most everyone who's seen it thus far, I approached with cautious interest, as the familiar subject matter has often been wincingly fumbled in Hollywood hands over the years. To add insult to injury, the vast number of uninteresting arthouse trailers that preceded the movie on the disc didn't ease my mind at all, but then like a lightning bolt (or two)...

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"You here to see Lou Rawls? That's twenty-five each, no flash photography..."
After an ignominious start to their latest tour of the Pacific Northwest, punk outfit "The Ain't Rights" find themselves booked to a club off the beaten path near Portland that's frequented by a lot of skins, some of the sieg heiling, red laced variety. After throwing a ballsy cover at the mostly bald patrons (Dead Kennedy's "Nazi Punks Fuck Off", of course) to kick off the festivities, the rest of the band's heavy set wins over most of the close cropped crowd. When Sam (Alia Shawkat) forgets her phone inside the green room, Pat (Anton Yelchin) heads back in to retrieve it, only to stumble across a dead chick with a knife protruding from her domepiece on the floor, and her friend, a skinhead girl named Amber (Imogen Poots) being held in the room against her will at gunpoint, much like the punk band is about to be. With their phones confiscated, our heroes are left at the mercy of a guy named Big Justin (Eric Edelstein), while the other bouncer, Gabe (Macon Blair), consults with the club owner on what to do with all of these pesky eye-witnesses. I'm sure he's a reasonable guy and he'll chalk it up to a misunderstanding and let them all go, in the end. Or maybe not...

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"There I was, swinging down the high street, yeah.", croons Amber (Imogen Poots) the skinchick.
The club owner, Darcy (Patrick Stewart), has a continuing mission to raise racial consciousness among the local bootboy population (can I get a "Hail Victory!"?), to explore the manufacturing of strange new drugs, like heroin, in the club's basement bunker, to snuff out lesser lives while issuing red laces in the process, and to boldly kill like no man has killed before. In keeping with his mantra, Darcy calls for the elimination of the pesky punks, who've overpowered Big Justin, taken his gun, and slapped an MMA-style arm bar on the big galoot, by now. When Reese's (Joe Cole) chokehold proves less effective than planned, Amber serves up a Stanley knife disemboweling for Darcy's employee. There's a struggle at the door that leaves Pat with a diced arm, hanging by the sinews in several places, and forces Darcy to call in his bigger guns, in the form of a white power dog trainer whose pit bulls throat rip at attack commands issued in German, and a small army of skinheads with shotguns and machetes who've already earned their red laces and are eager to spill more blood for their admired leader. You can bet what transpires from here on out is going to be packed with tension, deep-seated gore splattered murders, and bellicose bovver boys. My opinion may be slightly biased concerning these proceedings, but that's a recipe for success in my book. Check it out!

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" This is a white bastion. No smelly Ferengi admitted.", exclaims Darcy (Patrick Stewart) and his Star Trek bootboys.
Make no mistake about it, the film's soundtrack, which includes such scene luminaries as FEAR, Poison Idea, Bad Brains, Slayer, Napalm Death, and Obituary, to name a few, is authentic and satisfying. Patrick Stewart has been a favorite of mine since his portrayal of Sejanus in BBC's I, Claudius miniseries put him on my radar decades ago, and this movie only reinforces that sentiment. Hearing Jean-Luc Picard talk about "earning red laces", "boot parties", and "nigger dope" is especially hilarious and surreal, and keeps the film from becoming bogged down by the apex levels of tension and on-screen brutality that it taps into in order to bring it's audience some genuine scares. As a long-time proponent of villainy, I confess that I may or may not have been cheering on the bad guys the whole time or most of it. I was certainly grooving heavily on the ultra-realistic violence, at the very least. On the scale, I've got to bestow the full Monte, four Wops, on this potent little indie thriller, and strongly recommend that you score a copy and see it for yourselves. See if it doesn't stick with you well after the end credits roll.

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Go ahead and keep those tattooed Neanderthals at bay, mister Chekov, I'll be up here entertaining some blue and green women. Kirk out.
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Monday, July 11, 2016

"Revenge of Frankenstein" (1958) d/ Terence Fisher

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Following up their successful adaption of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Hammer Studios reassembled director Terence Fisher, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, and lead actor Peter Cushing, who'd all only just completed the studio's legendary take on Dracula together, for this interesting and entertaining direct sequel. Sure, there's no Christopher Lee this time around, as he was otherwise occupied with things like Corridors of Blood, Missiles From Hell, and the aforementioned Drac, but the movie doesn't suffer much from his absence, so you won't hear too much bellyaching from the peanut gallery where this one's concerned. It all starts like this...

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"We British have never hesitated to take up arms. Take this one."
At the outset, we see Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) awaiting his appointment with the guillotine for his prior crimes against humanity, only to cheat the blade with the help of his assistant, and the priest who gives him last rites ends up a full head shorter, and buried in his place, for his troubles. Years later, we note that the Baron has become a successful and highly popular physician/ surgeon in Carlsbruck, working under the alias, Dr. Stein, much to the dismay of the local medical council, save one member, one Dr. Kleve (Francis Matthews), who recognizes him to be Frankenstein, but only wants to assist him in his controversial experimentation with life and death. He agrees to take the savvy young doctor under his wing, and those outrageous experiments are soon underway, with assistance also provided by Karl (Oscar Quitak), a disfigured hunchback the Baron has promised to provide a new, healthy body for in exchange for his years of unflinching loyalty. Among the first things on Karl's "to do once I'm no longer a pitiful gimp" list, is Margaret (Eunice Gayson), the comely new brunette assistant at the hospital, who's only seen the pitiful gimp variant, thus far. I think you can figure out where this is all leading...

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"I'm sorry, Karl, the hunchback turned me on more. Just saying.," says Margaret (Eunice Gayson).
Karl's brain is soon transplanted into a healthy bod (Michael Gwynn), and he's immediately struck with wanderlust, despite the Baron's orders that he remain strapped to a bed in a locked hospital room. Meanwhile, there's the issue of Frankenstein's chimpanzee, his first successful brain transplant, that seems to have developed cannibalistic traits, having eaten his mate after being fitted with an orangutan's brain. That's gonna come back to haunt these guys, I think. Karl hears of his savior's plans to tour the world with him as a medical wonder and attraction for the crowds, and convinces Margaret to spring him from his binds. What's the worst that could happen? Karl's new frame starts to show signs of rapidly reverting back to the gimpy hunchbacked one, leading him to commit several homicides before slumping dead at Frankenstein's feet in the middle of a social function, even calling the doctor out by his former name for all ears in attendance to hear. What transpires from here, I believe I'll leave for you eager Hammerheads out there to discover on your own. You'll appreciate it, alright.

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The eyes have it. Especially this particular pair.
Eunice Gayson, you'll remember, was the first Bond girl, appearing opposite Sean Connery in Dr. No and From Russia With Love. She's acceptable lens candy here, too. Francis Matthews scored roles in Dracula: Prince of Darkness and Rasputin the Mad Monk, for the studio in 1966. As for Gwynne, he showed up later on in things like 1966's The Deadly Bees and Scars of Dracula in 1970. Everything about this iconic offering from Hammer is top shelf: from Cushing's performance (as always) and his surrounding cast, to Fisher's ever-exemplary direction, to the gothic sets (that you'll remember parts of from Horror of Dracula, also shot at Bray), to Leonard Salzedo's score, often considered his finest work. Popular among critics and fans alike, it's efforts like this that established Hammer as one of the premier studios for genre cinema of the era. On the scale, anything less than Three big ones would be beyond criminal, and I'd never have that where this one is concerned. So, three Wops it is. Snare yourselves a copy immediately!

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"After we're found out here, I'll be Franin Kenste in the next city." 
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Saturday, July 9, 2016

"The Shallows" (2016) d/ Jaume Collet-Serra

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I don't bother going to see movies in the theater very much these days, with the paltry horror offerings Hollywood's been serving up, I've usually got a sort of cinematic sixth sense when something's gonna suck eggs just by perusing the trailer once or twice. That said, I was pretty stoked to see tonight's review from the comfort of a reclining theater seat, a perfectly timed shark-based thriller to accentuate the choking heat of long summer days. I was there when Jaws was released in 1975, and I suppose I was optimistic of director Jaume Collet-Serra's chances to recreate at least some of that fear that I walked out of the theater hand-in-hand with all those years ago. As an added bonus, the theater was packed with kids on a summer camp outing, just days after I screened Ivan Reitman's Meatballs (1979) over here to usher in the season, as usual. They were probably there to help find Ellen Degeneres. All the elements necessary for a choice experience at the movies were in place. So was it that? Let's see...

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I feel compelled to take a bite outta this myself, to be honest.
After we see a Mexican boy discover a bitten up GoPro helmet with intact camera in the surf, we see through rushes that whatever unlucky sumbitch was wearing it got up close and unpleasantly personal with a sizable Great White shark. Some time earlier, Nancy (Blake Lively) is a surf-crazy gringo on her way to a secret, nameless beach forever immortalized by her late mother, as driven by Charlie (Oscar Jaenada), a nice enough local fellow. Finding herself all alone when her surfing partner is too hungover to make the trip doesn't sway Nancy's enthusiasm one iota, and she's soon hanging ten with a couple of local blokes to some accompanying electronic music that seems out of place somehow. It's when she decides to paddle out for one more wave, as the sun rapidly fades, and without the company of her two acquaintances, that the otherwise idyllic afternoon quickly turns into a real shit show. As she lets the tide carry her, she stumbles upon a floating, bloated dead whale carcass that happens to be being scavenged by a massive Great White shark, who gives Nancy a painful kiss on the leg before returning to it's whale dinner. Bleeding profusely, she manages to climb onto a series of rocks only two hundred yards from shore, where she can better assess the damage and the harrowing pickle she's gotten herself into.

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"Abba-abba-abba!" screamed Clamhead as Jabberjaw momentarily allowed normal Great White shark urges to overtake him.
On the tentative rock formation that she shares with a wounded seagull (Steven, as we find out in the credits, haha), she performs a DIY suturing of her shark bite with pieces of jewelry and passes out, battling shock and hypothermia all night long. When she tries to signal to a sleeping drunkie on the beach, he chooses to rob her of her belongings instead. When he spots her expensive surfboard floating limply in the shallows, he tries to swim out and retrieve that, too, for himself, only to get bitten in half for his greed. Later, the two surfers from the previous day return for more, but get treated like brown fur seals for their zeal. Left to her own devices, Nancy begins timing the shark's systematic circling to allow for escape routes, and to recover the floating GoPro helmet nearby (remember this?) for an impromptu video message to her kid sister and father back home, just in case she ends up getting Robert Shaw'ed by the impulsively ever-hungry predator. I won't say much about the final reel here, leaving it for you to experience on your own, in the theater, as I did, as it fits the summer movie role rather glove-ly. Just don't expect much variation from the current Hollywood ending pattern that they've leaned on far too often of late...

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"I'd gladly not bite you in half on Tuesday, for a brown fur seal today..."
If Collet-Serra sounds familiar to you, it's probably because he directed things like Orphan (2009), Unknown (2011) with Liam Neeson, and the notorious House of Wax remake back in 2005. Blake Lively, who you may recognize from the Gossip Girl tv series, or even Saturday Night Live circa 2008-10 (I haven't watched that show with any regularity, since Piscopo was Sinatra. Let's leave my age out of this, eh?) does an admirable job delicately balancing being a choice Cali dimepiece and a hotter upgrade on Ripley from the Alien series here. I dug her contributions, man. Overall, this one's got some effective and realistic shark cg that you'll pick out in certain instances, and be fooled by in others. There's also some decent blood and a few vicious attack sequences for gorehounds in attendance. Still, it reeks of dark horse summer blockbuster more than a future indie cult classic, and it falls short in the final reel, because of it, to the tune of a one Wop deduction. Nevertheless, you're gonna want to see it anyway, and if the ending doesn't rub you as wrongly as it did me, you might even want to throw that subtracted Wop back on. For me, two Wops on the scale is what it's going to have to be. A good movie that failed to capitalize on it's potential to be a great one. Recommended.

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From the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants to the Sisterhood of the Shitty Bikini Bottoms.
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