Classic Film : What classics did you see last week? (10/6-10/12)

Horror all the way 1962-2012.

Running Total: 21

FTV: 19

Revisits: 2

October 1st
Teeth (2007) 6/10
Phantoms (1998) 7/10

October 2nd
Secrets in the Walls (2010) 7/10
Vamps (2012) 5/10
Phenomena (1985) 6/10
The Seasoning House (2012) 9/10

October 3rd
Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (1977) 2/10
Shutter (2008) 7/10

October 4th
Christine (1983) 8/10

October 5th

October 6th

October 7th
Intruders (2011) 6.5/10
Crawlspace (2012) 6/10

October 8th
The Flesh and Blood Show (1972) 5/10
The Breed (2006) 4/10
Vampires (1998) Review Pending 7.5/10

October 9th
Mother's Day (2010) Review Pending 8/10
Rabid (1977) Review Pending 7/10

October 10th
The Brain (1962) Review Pending 6/10
They Watch (1993) 2/10
Boo (2005) 4/10

October 11th

October 12th
Psycho II (1983) Review Pending 7/10
Deep Red (1975) Review Pending 8.5/10

The Spike

Re: Horror all the way 1962-2012.

Hey, 'spike'!

I'm really looking forward to your review of Rabid but right now I'm taking your 7/10 to mean "flawed but not bad" which is a good thing (I think). Cronenberg fanboys (and quite a few horror hounds, too) prefer the director's similarly-themed They Came From Within aka Shivers but not me- I give both Rabid and the aptly cast Marilyn Chambers a 10/10. I saw it at the drive-in back in the day and I must say it really creeped me out at the time. Not so much now but I still revisit it every once in a while.

After perusing the progress of other Challenge participants, I do believe I've found the perfect second feature for Death Tunnel. I just put The Incident (2011) in my 'netflix' queue and if I send a couple of discs back tomorrow, I'll definitely get both of these insane asylums before the end of October so they'll count for the Challenge.

You're two-thirds of the way home, mate (I'll be half way there by tomorrow) and I see where a few folks have already completed the Challenge (now that's committment)! I'm still hoping to break my record of 34 films seen but so long as I cross the finish line, I'll be happy. I hope to watch a few Mexican movies starting tonight but the season premiere of The Walking Dead is on at 9 so I'll see how tired I am after that. I was up til 4am last night writing reviews so I may cut back on that aspect, I dunno.


There's less to this than meets the eye bees in honey drown

For the love of God!


Ok, watched Death Tunnel in the early hours of this morning. Cancel the rental, it's dreadful, its rating here on site is spot on. Though the location filming - when the makers aren't trying to be arty farty - is great, it's a monstrous structure.

I watched a film called Boo which was filmed at Linda Vista Hospital, that was far more in keeping with the "asylum" unease we like, but it's a tough film to recommend outside of the locale.

I'm going to presume you know about Cropsey, what with you being a New Yorker and all. Staten Island, home to evil, it led to me reading up on Willowbrook State School, and that led me to all sorts of fascinating stuff. Great documentary, if a little unfocused.

Rabid, yes, liked it quite a bit, hopefully you will enjoy my review, I'm thinking a second viewing will improve and enhance my experience and thought process for/with it.

Adding The Incident to my list, look forward to your review.

The Spike

Re: For the love of God!

OK, 'spike' -you've convinced me to watch Death Tunnel as the bottom of a triple bill, after The Incident and Cropsey. [laugh] Bad as it may be, I'd like to see it, if only for the "on location" filming.

I'd never heard of Cropsey before -thanks for that- and since I mailed three DVDs back to 'netflix' a little while ago, all three asylum films will be here by next week.
As a "local", I grew up with the Cropsey legend -his family also had a farm on this side of the Hudson, not far from where I live (it's where I got my Halloween pumpkins, actually). Although Friday The 13th is an obvious re-boot of Mario Bava's Bay Of Blood (all hell breaks loose in one crazed killer's mind when a long-abandoned waterfront resort threatens to re-open), it's pretty clear the film was inspired by Cropsey:

Almost thirty years ago, Lee Haring and Mark Breslerman wrote an article called “The Cropsey Maniac” for "New York Folklore" (1977). Their subject was the development and meaning of a legendary character who had terrified campers at a number of different sleepaway camps in New York State. According to the Cropsey legend's usual plot line, Cropsey was a respected community member who lived near the camp with his son. When a couple of campers accidentally caused his son's tragic death, Cropsey went mad and swore that he would get revenge. Running off to hide in a shack in the woods, he waited until the anniversary of his son's death. Then he randomly chose a camper to attack with an axe. The unfortunate camper died instantly. If I were a counselor telling this story to a group of campers huddled around a campfire, I would end the story with its usual clincher: “Cropsey is still out in these woods. Tonight is the anniversary of his son's death, and he may pay a visit to your bunk at midnight. Good luck!”

Does the Cropsey maniac still terrorize New York campers? Anyone who has access to the Internet will quickly learn that the answer to that question is “yes.”
I see that footage of news reporter Geraldo Rivera is actually used in Cropsey. His exposé of Willowbrook shocked a nation in 1971-72 and in 1973 he thought he'd cross the river and go after Letchworth where I worked. When we saw the ABC-TV Eyewitness News van go by, we chased it in our white food service uniforms and pelted it with sticks, stones, potatoes, whatever we could get our hands on. The state soon barred Rivera from the grounds but the damage was done and the death knell tolled for old-time mental institutions and although it took about twenty years, they're extinct today.
I was on the wrong side of history (what else is new) but, hey, I was only a teenager and it was my first real job. It did have a downside, of course, but what doesn't. After the Willowbrook outing, there was a mad rush to release inmates (where I worked, the population quickly went from five thousand to two), all of whom were ill-epuipped -and then, of course, there were those who had no business being let loose in society. Many became the NYC homeless and back then, anytime you'd read about a former Rockette stabbed to death in Central Park while walking her poodle, it was almost a given that the perp was an ex-resident of a mental institution.
Geraldo isn't the only reason it's gonna feel like old-home week with these madhouse movies -The Incident is about a group of food service workers who get trapped overnight inside an insane asylum where the lunatics have taken over the asylum. [laugh][clap]


There's less to this than meets the eye bees in honey drown

Re: For the love of God!

I am absolutely delighted to be able to throw Cropsey your way, it's a very thought provoking piece. The whole link in with Andre Rand and Willowbrook is utterly fascinating. I look forward to chatting with you about it, as it will tie in with your post about Rivera/Letchworth/NYC Homeless, thanks for the read there, it only confirms what we say around my way, there is more out than in!

I wont say more, but enjoy - if that's the right word?!

The Spike

Re: Horror all the way 1962-2012.

Count me in as one of the Cronenberg fanboys who prefer Shivers to Rabid. Yes, they are both thematically similar, but Shivers also comes with an awesome satire on high-rise living and there are some incredibly funny moments to it too. It's a black comedy as well as a very grim outlook on human infection. I will say though that Rabid impressed me A LOT more the second time round when I rewatched it last year. I don't know if I'll be rewatching either film for the October Challenge this year, but a horror challenge isn't a horror challenge without some Cronenberg in there somewhere...

By the way, I've been enjoying hearing about so many obscure horror films from your October Challenge reviews, mel. I have mostly just been sticking to the well known stuff out there; not nearly as exciting, but there is still a lot of mainstream horror in my blind.

Most people think I'm mad. At least I know I'm mad.

The October Challenge challenge

Hiya, 'sol'!

I've been having a good time following your Challenge progress as well and I have to say that not only do I admire your commitment to the Challenge, I have a great deal of respect for the in-depth reviews you provide here each week. I've been reviewing steadily for the past two weeks and believe me, it's taken its toll. I was up til all hours doing it and frankly I'm tired -so for the rest of the month, I'll go into detail only if the film is worth going into, if you know what I mean.

I have mostly just been sticking to the well known stuff out there; not nearly as exciting, but there is still a lot of mainstream horror in my blind.
Not only is there not a damned thing wrong with the well-known stuff, you can practically guarantee yourself a better time with a "known quantity" than with the "blind buys" I have lined up. For instance, I'll be watching Kwaidan and Hanyo (The Housemaid) later this month and "mainstream" they may be but both films are well-regarded both in and outside of horror film circles so there's no doubt in my mind that I'll enjoy them -but to what extent I can't say.
These past few years my October Challenge viewings have also been public service announcements for my fellow horror fans so that unlike me, they'll know what they're getting into. I have two ultra-obscure Italian gialli lined up and since I depend on the IMDb, you can imagine my disappointment when there was not only no reviews up on their pages, both are still "awaiting five votes". Well, by the end of this month, there'll be reviews and one more vote for each. A review is now up for Mark Gatiss' Horror Europa and there'll soon be one for Sex Of The Devil -"giallo geeks" reely need to know about it ...and God help me, I have another Rossano Brazzi giallo coming up. I'm sure I'll prefer it to Summertime, South Pacific and the other Hollywood crap he made but that's about all I know right now.

I'll definitely be giving Shivers another look-see and I hope I have the same experience you did with Rabid. To be fair, I only saw Shivers once on late-nite cable TV back in the '80s and the "nostalgia factor" for Rabid was high with fond memories of its TV ads and my drive-in experience with it. That's not exactly fair odds and I may have given Shivers short shrift.


There's less to this than meets the eye bees in honey drown

Re: The October Challenge challenge

Oh yes - I hear you regarding review writing. It is easy enough to ramble on about a film that was very impressive, or conversely, very disappointing, but it is sometimes hard to find the energy for the more middle-of-the-road ventures. Honestly, I am surprised myself at how pedantically I have kept up my own regiment of review writing, but with the myriad of films I watch every year, it helps me to document my thoughts for later referral more than anything else. It sure is time-consuming though.

It makes sense what you say regarding known quantities; I also tend to value a film's IMDb rating a bit more than I perhaps should do when determining my viewings preferences. It is hard to muster up enthusiasm for films rated lower than around 5.3 or 5.2, and few films with much lower ratings rarely take me aback, but of course there are odd exceptions - such as Halloween III and Resurrection this week. Films that don't even have an IMDb rating because there are so few out there who have seen them is a different matter altogether, however, to date, only one such title propagates when I search the films that I have seen; the documentary Among the Headhunters (1956), which I randomly happened to catch on TV one day.

As for Shivers, I have seen it at least twice, maybe three times, over the years; I would say that it gets better each time, however, I was quite honestly impressed by it from the very first time I saw it. Watching it in a group setting (the second or third time I saw it), gave me a different appreciation of it though as I initially didn't pick up on how darkly humorous the whole thing is. Cronenberg isn't exactly a director one tends to associate with comedy after all.

Most people think I'm mad. At least I know I'm mad.

Re: The October Challenge challenge

I am surprised myself at how pedantically I have kept up my own regiment of review writing
There's nothing pedantic about your reviews, 'sol', that's for sure and you hit on something that I just found out is key: a regimen. I was getting punchy from watching movies until 2 or 3 in the morning and then going on the computer to write them up "while they're still fresh in my mind". That's what was taking its toll so last night I decided to "sleep on it" before writing a movie up and today I gave a Mexican "headless horseman" trilogy and Dracula Untold more words than they probably deserved but, hey, I made a commitment to the Challenge and to saying a little something about what I've seen so dammit, that's what I'm gonna do! Reviews next Sunday... [laugh]

I'll definitely be revisiting Shivers, too, but 'netflix' doesn't have it at the moment.


There's less to this than meets the eye bees in honey drown

Re: The October Challenge challenge


As a Cronenberg fan I think you should take a look at Excision

I think it's up your street.

The Spike

Re: Horror all the way 1962-2012.

Teeth is a sharply observed flick wif some real bite, shipmate.

Je suis Albert

Re: What classics did you see last week? (10/6-10/12)

Hansel and Gretel (Tim Burton, 1982) 4/10
Thrill-O-Meter: 0 out of 10 screams for nothing

Vampires Kiss/Blood Inside (Derek Frey, 2012) 2/10
Thrill-O-Meter: 0 out of 10 screams for less than nothing

Le dernier des injustes / The Last of the Unjust (Claude Lanzmann, 2013) 6+/10

Il birichino di papà (Raffaello Matarazzo, 1943) 6/10

The Signal (William Eubank, 2014) 9-/10
It's very much a film where the less you know about it the better, half the fun is trying to figure out what it is about and what kind of movie it actually is, which is something that you may not even have an answer to after the film is over. I'll quote an LA Times article because I think they summed it up nicely without giving too much away >"The Signal" starts off as the kind of minutely observed relationship road movie so often encountered at America's preeminent showcase for independent film. But halfway through the first act it veers into found-footage horror territory before taking a sharp left into clammy sci-fi conspiracy. The film culminates in a frenzy of computer-generated pyrotechnics that wouldn't be out of place in Michael Bay's oeuvre.<

What this must be is a true original since if I were to compare it to any other films I would have to list at least a dozen. Some that came to mind were Primer, Bellflower, Rubber, The X-Files, To the Wonder, Chronicle, Beyond the Black Rainbow, Cube, THX-1138, Southland Tales, District 9 and Tetsuo. How many was that? 12, perfect. Namedropping beloved films always works...

But let's stick to 'Primer', they overall are not dissimilar: Sci-fi, suspense, paranoia, smart characters (at least two of the three friends are MIT students with a passion for hacking) who have dialogues where sometimes you just understand the general gist of it (and that's enough), a plot centered around friendship, self-assured impressive directing on all accounts, fairly minimalistic electronic score, naturalistic and very believable performances, and a protagonist who may or may not be an unreliable narrator (is he infected by something alien and essentially alien-controlled, are the weird surroundings in which he is stuck for real or are the people putting up a show for him for some reason, is he being experimented on resulting in an altered perception, or is the whole thing in his mind altogether?). It also has the Malicky photography as well as sensorial feel that you get in 'Upstream Colors' which in general is currently very popular, especially in indie films.

What it lacks a little in comparison is the thought-through complexity and thematic richness of 'Primer', instead it's more about atmosphere, visceral effectiveness and yes, at times it's also effects-happy. In place of the hard science fiction component you have the quirky WTF quality of something like 'Rubber'. I think a good way to approach it is as a horror/suspense sci-fi movie that nevertheless has an overall quiet mood, it's not so much a cerebral experience although I think there are some things to take away from it thematically as well, but primarily it has to be understood as a visceral experience. As the weirdness piles up you better be ready to not necessarily have all your questions answered but instead take the twists and turns like the protagonist, the way they come.

Not being an easy to market high concept movie that fits into any one genre, and not looking to please all audiences by tying everything up with a neat bow many reviewers apparently dismiss William Eubank's sophomore effort as a technically impressive interesting failure of a very promising young director. Yeah, sure, that's exactly what it is... if you think that 'Primer' also was nothing more than an interesting failure of a very promising young director.
Thrill-O-Meter: 3 out of 10 screams for being a smart, suspenseful WTF experience with a very grounded, naturalistic feel in neo-Malicky images.

The Signal (David Bruckner & Dan Bush & Jacob Gentry, 2007) 7-/10
Thrill-O-Meter: 1 out of 10 screams for the unsubtle non-stop anarchy of a zombie apocalypse sans zombies.

Collateral (Michael Mann, 2004) (5th viewing) Tom Cruise/10

Film (Alan Schneider, 1965) (rewatch) 9/10

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller but not really, 2014) 8/10

Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom (Ward Kimball & Charles A. Nichols, 1953) 8/10
Just as high-brow as its lofty title.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Albert Lewin, 1945) 6-/10
Thrill-O-Meter: 0 out of 10 screams for a man's portrait turning into a Joe Coleman painting while the man himself looks like a plastic surgery victim for in addition to his almost uncanny valley facial features (huge chin, girlish lips and dead eyes) he also seems unable to move his facial muscles for 20 years.

Ohayo (Satoshi Kon, 2008) 8/10

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004) (rewatch) 9/10

Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg, 2014) 6/10
Sort of amusing, but a satire about Hollywood stars? That's even more overdone than movies about incest. This takes it further than most of them, all of it in the typical clinical, dead-pan Cronenberg style which adds an absurdist, somewhat surreal dimension, and it has the screwed up family component, plus it's with the Australian Bae Doona, otherwise better known as Mia Wasikowska. But it still seems largely "been there, done that" with precious little new angles or insights, and done a lot more often than just once. By the way, this explores similar terrain as 'The Canyons' which maybe was the reason why I couldn't help but seeing Julianne Moore essentially playing the Lindsay Lohan character, like, five years later.

輪廻 / Reincarnation / Rinne (Takashi Shimizu, 2005) [CuM SWAP] 4+/10
Thrill-O-Meter: 0 out of 10 screams

Rabbit Fire 1951 - 5

London to Brighton in Four Minutes 1952 - 5

Home for Actresses 2011 - 6

Aubrey Plaza Hates Her Aunt Debra 2013 - 6

Asdfmovie8 2014 - 8

South Park: The Cissy 2014 - 7

South Park: Gluten Free Ebola 2014 - 9

The Simpsons: Two Dozen and One Greyhounds 1995 - 8

The Simpsons: Lisa the Iconoclast 1996 - 8

Azumanga daiô: Akubi meijin/Nandaka seishun/Otona no hanami/Kodomo no hanami/Sakura 2002 - 8

Didn't finish:
帝都物語 / Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis / Teito monogatari (Akio Jissoji, 1988) (45 min)

"Let's went, before we are dancing at the end of a rope, without music."

From the VIFF: Phoenix, Charlie's Country


Directed by Christian Petzold, Germany, (2014), 98 minutes

"I feel wherever I go, that tomorrow is near, tomorrow is here, and always too soon” – Speak Low, Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash

Just released from Auschwitz, Nelly Lenz's (Nina Hoss) face is disfigured and bandaged as she crosses a checkpoint in Berlin in 1945 with her friend Lene (Nina Kunzendorf), a worker for the Jewish Agency for Palestine. Though Nelly is free to go anywhere, she is encouraged by Lene to move to Haifa, but is reluctant to move on. Based on a novel by Hubert Monteilhet from a screenplay co-written by the director and the late Harun Farocki, Christian Petzold's Phoenix explores the reality of German guilt and the trauma of those who survived, focusing on two people, one who desperately wants to forget the past and the other who is unable to let go of it.

Before undergoing restorative surgery, Nelly says, “I want to look the same as before,” but it is not to be. Her face is rebuilt but she is now unrecognizable and only a sad reminder of the alluring night club singer she used to be, a shadow who walks ghost-like through the ruins of Berlin searching for her husband Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), whose love she claims was the only thing that kept her alive in the dark days. Lene tells her to stay away, that Johnny, a non-Jew, betrayed her to the Nazis and then divorced her, but Nelly refuses to believe it is true. The record shows, however that Johnny was arrested on October 4th and released on October 6th, the same day Nelly was arrested.

When she finds the former pianist, now a busboy in a night club named “The Phoenix,” he notices that she looks like Nelly but is so convinced that his wife is dead that he cannot give credence to the thought of her survival. Whether he truly does not recognize her or simply cannot confront the role he played in her arrest is uncertain but brings to mind the proverbial saying, “There are none so blind as those that will not see.” Johnny sees only that Nelly, having lost her family in the war, stands to inherit a small fortune locked away in a Swiss bank. Creating the atmosphere of a Hitchcock-like film noir, Johnny's small, crowded apartment becomes the location where a scheme is hatched in to claim Nelly's money and divide it between them. To that end, Johnny trains her to look, act, and talk like Nelly.

The beleaguered woman plays his game, not knowing where it will lead but afraid to tell him the truth. Masterly crafted by Petzold and cinematographer Hans Fromm, Phoenix is marked by stunning performances from Zehrfeld who co-starred in Petzold's last film Barbara, and by Nina Hoss whose haunting performance is unforgettable. Hoss' shattered look, repressed emotions, and shaky voice are so natural that her gradual awakening to the reality of what her life is about truly epitomizes a Phoenix rising from the ashes. Though oddly rejected by both Cannes and Venice, Phoenix may be remembered long after the Festival winners have been forgotten, particularly the film's final scene, a moment that is so resonant and powerful that it may become an important part of film history.



Directed by Rolf de Heer, Australia, (2013), 112 minutes

“We are all one blood. No matter where we are from, we are all one blood, the same” – David Gulpilil

Charlie (David Gulpilil), an aging Native Australian living in the Northern Territory, is broke. He does not have a house. He is also hungry and his spirits are low as a result of the erosion of his way of life. Recipient of the award for Best Actor at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, David Gulpilil is a dominating presence in Rolf de Heer's Charlie's Country, the third film in their collaboration (The Tracker, Ten Canoes). Although much of the film is improvised, Gulpilil co-wrote the script with de Heer while he was serving a prison term. Though the film reflects the actor's personal experience, its theme of the struggle for human dignity in the face of cultural marginalization is universal.

Charlie and Officer Luke (Luke Ford) have a good relationship and their banter begins the film. Charlie shouts at Luke, "You white bastards!" to which Luke yells back, "You black bastard!" The fun stops, however, when the police enforce the law preventing Charlie from hunting and fishing. They take his spear because it is considered a dangerous weapon and confiscate his gun because he does not have a weapons license. “I'm gonna shoot it, not drive it!” he tells Luke. While the police are impressed with his tracking ability, Charlie receives no compensation at all for his help in tracking drug dealers.

As he sees a member of his community being flown to a hospital far from his land, he makes a decision to return to the bush, to the ways of hunting and food gathering that he knew as a boy. While his body language reflects a new freedom, there is also a deep sadness etched on his face as he realizes he can no longer cope with the physical demands of living in the bush. After a heavy rain, Charlie comes down with pneumonia and has to be airlifted to Royal Darwin Hospital, often a final destination for Aboriginal People. After he leaves the hospital on his own without being released he joins a group of homeless drifters who do nothing but drink and smoke the whole day.

After an altercation with the police, Charlie is sent to prison where his hair and face are shaven, looking old beyond his years in the film's saddest moment. All Charlie has left are his memories, especially the one of dancing for the Queen at the opening of the opera house in Sydney. Though there are highs and lows in the film, what is constant is Charlie's sense of identity and his love of his native land and traditions. Though there is a message and the film does make a strong political statement, it is not a one-dimensional screed but a nuanced look at the conditions Native Australians face and their struggle to retain their values in the face of white colonization. Marked by Gulpilil's towering performance, Charlie's Country ultimately teaches us to dance to their rhythm.


The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return
- Nature Boy

Phoenix, Majeure, and a question for you Howard : )

Phoenix is another film that I wanted to come to our Film Fest but sadly didn't! I loved the director's last collaboration with his star Nina Hoss, the criminally underrated Barbara. Cannot wait to see Phoenix.

I did see Force Majeure over the weekend and liked it quite a bit. It's story seemed a little thin at first but then as it progressed I liked it even more and more. Excellent sense of place with a cool locale.

I caught Winter Sleep the next night and although it's a bit of an endurance test, I thought it was worthwhile. Weird: it reminded me of Force Majeure--winter, strange hotel, male lead with some issues he isn't fessin' up to but reaches a catharsis.

Quick question: is The Kindergarten Teacher violent? I'm possibly seeing it this week but it sounds like it gets dark. Does it? Thanks.

"Whoa! What excitement! Hang onto your hats boys and girls, let's just watch!"

Re: Phoenix, Majeure, and a question for you Howard : )

Glad you had a chance to see Force Majeure. I really enjoyed it but Phoenix is my favorite film of the year so far. I've seen a lot of other good films that I really liked but none where I felt like I had to run out and tell others, "you HAVE to see this." Too bad it wasn't at either Cannes or Venice or Chicago for that matter, but it was very well received in Toronto.

I loved Barbara as well. It did appear on several best of the year lists and won some European awards including the Silver Berlin Bear, but it wasn't widely distributed here.

The Kindergarten Teacher does get a little ominous in tone towards the end but it is not violent. Love to hear what you thought.

The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return
- Nature Boy

Re: Phoenix, Majeure, and a question for you Howard : )

Petzold is a hugely promising director for sure, shipmate. I have experience of working the canals in Eastern bloc Germany and the drably threatening air of surveillance and listlessness is summoned up so well in Barbara.

Je suis Albert

Re: Phoenix, Majeure, and a question for you Howard : )

I loved both of his films. Phoenix was just released this year on a limited basis so hopefully more people will now get to see it.

"Here is where it is. Now is when it is. You are what it is. Celebrate" - Werner Erhard

Re: Phoenix, Majeure, and a question for you Howard : )

Hoss is such a talent, ain't she. Only seen two or free of her flicks but I fink she's probably one of me favourite actresses currently working.

God Save the King

Re: Phoenix, Majeure, and a question for you Howard : )

The only two I've seen her in are Phoenix and Barbara, but I'm looking out for the next one.

"Every mystery solved brings us to the threshold of a greater one" - Rachel Carson

From the VIFF: In Search of Chopin


Directed by Philip Grabsky, U.S., (2014), 110 minutes

Philip Grabsky, who previously documented the life and work of Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn, returns with an illuminating study of the great 19th century Polish composer and pianist, Frederic (Fryderyk) Chopin. The documentary, In Search of Chopin, follows the same format as the other films, sampling sequential compositions of the artist interspersed with the comments of music historians and soloists who specialize in Chopin's music. Narrated by stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson with the voice of David Dawson quoting from Chopin's letters, the film was four years in the making and features partial performances of Chopin's works including his Piano Concertos 1 & 2, the Sonata in B-flat minor, as well as selections from his short pieces, the Mazurkas, Ballades, Polonaises, and Waltzes.

These pieces are performed on historic pianos such as the Pleyel et Cie by pianists Leif Ove Andsnes, Lars Vogt, Kevin Kenner, and Ronald Brautigam who explain and comment on Chopin's works. There is also commentary by Chopin expert, author Jeremy Siepmann, who wrote The Life and Works of Chopin. The film takes us from Chopin's boyhood and teenage years in Warsaw to his life in Vienna and Paris where he lived for ten years, with time spent in Mallorca and summers in the village of Nohant in France. Grabsky does not hesitate to point out that Warsaw at that time was not a provincial backwater but a city of considerable artistic accomplishment.

Chopin's father, then a teacher, boarded children of the most affluent families in the region and the assumption is that Chopin learned his elegant manners from the aristocratic boys. Though he did not return to Poland because of the political unrest and became a French citizen, Chopin was passionate about his homeland and his Mazurkas and Polonaises reflect the influence of Polish dances and folk music. After his death at the early age of 39, his sister Ludwika carried his heart to Warsaw where it is buried in the Church of the Holy Cross. The film touches on Chopin's personal life including his failed courtships with Delphina Potocka, Constantia Gladkowska, and Maria Wodzinska, but spends more time discussing his long, complicated relationship with the feminist writer Amantine-Lucille-Aurore Dupin and her two children, Maurice and Saronga.

Known as George Sand, Madame Dupin dressed as a man, wore a top hat, smoked cigars, and was reputed to be eclectic in her choice of companions. While outwardly, these were happy times, there is an unexplained melancholy and sadness in Chopin's music. The assumption is that his tuberculosis and the general poor health which plagued him for most of his adult life contributed to his sorrow, but much of who Chopin was remains elusive. Surprisingly, his letters reveal a good deal of wit and humor and, according to Grabsky, he was considered an excellent mimic and could draw caricatures that were often hilarious. These lighter qualities, however, generally do not find their way into his music.

Chopin's works are very personal and he was not a public figure. He shied away from public performances, feeling that his music was not suitable for large halls and preferred to play in salons or in his home. Like Proust, when in Paris, he also courted the aristocracy, dressing in expensive clothes and giving piano lessons to the children of the wealthy but Grabsky points out that much of this was pretense, a compromise to achieve entry into the highly competitive world of the artistic world of Paris.

The core of In Search of Chopin, however, is the exquisite poetry of Chopin's music and hearing it performed by accomplished soloists on the big screen is a joyous experience. The period in which he lived was the apex of the Romantic Movement in music and no one expressed this spirit more than Chopin. Though some have accused him of being a remote and haughty opportunist, to listen to the beauty of the larghetto of his Second Piano Concerto tells us all we need to know about his soulfulness and humanity.


The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return
- Nature Boy

Re: What classics did you see last week? (10/6-10/12)

Not too great a week, but I enjoyed every single one of these.


The Sweet Ride (1968) - Harvey Hart

Above-average late-60s time-capsule featuring dynamic work from Franciosa, Sarrazin and Bisset who elevate a flimsy plot (about admittedly flimsy lives) and allow for some unexpectedly resounding character moments.

Falling in Love (1984) - Ulu Grosbard

De Niro and Streep are brilliant actors and it's exclusively to their credit that this film not only works, but that it works so well. It's a joy watching them create two convincing characters so effortlessly, out of nothing at all.

Mascara (1987) - Patrick Conrad

Eurotrash of the highest order, featuring a terrific - and terrifying - performance by Michael Sarrazin at his most sinister. Disturbing film in both content and atmosphere. Cult/sleaze fans should have a ball with this one.

He was sweeping, you sons of bitches, he was sweeping.

Re: What classics did you see last week?

Glad you liked The Sweet Ride. Haven't seen it in a good decade or more, but I still recall how potent the very raw performances were from all concerned. Ideally, I'd like to upgrade my VHS of the film to DVD or Blu-ray before rewatching it, but that scenario does not seem very likely in the near future.

Falling in Love though - that's a film that keeps falling (no pun intended) a little short in my estimation. I watched it for the second time only a few months ago, and I've already forgotten most of the key events and plot turns. I do recall some good crosscut editing though.

Most people think I'm mad. At least I know I'm mad.

Re: What classics did you see last week?

I'd love to upgrade my pan-and-scan of The Sweet Ride as well! This is obviously a good-looking film, but as far as I can tell, we're missing out on damn near half of the original picture...

Incidentally, after this/last week, Believe in Me would only rank third in my top Sarrazin performances, The Sweet Ride placing second, Mascara first, The Flim-Flam Man still unseen (is it really an all-out comedy?).

I can't remember most of Falling in Love's plot turns myself, there's very, very little to it - but you're right, it's actually really exciting to leap between both stories and watch the whole thing unfold.

He was sweeping, you sons of bitches, he was sweeping.

Re: What classics did you see last week? (10/6-10/12)

glad to find another MASCARA fan - a real jaw dropper - curious if you saw it on dvd? I have old VHS (with great cover) but would like to upgrade....

Tell mama, Tell mama all....

Re: What classics did you see last week? (10/6-10/12)

I didn't realise the film was out on DVD! I'm not sure I'd upgrade, myself - VHS has its charms for me, and the old, worn-out look my copy had felt very much in keeping with the film's nasty visuals...

He was sweeping, you sons of bitches, he was sweeping.

Horror Fest:week 2.

Note:all reviews contain plot details.

The Angels' Melancholia:1/10 (1 of only 9 titles to get that rating!)

Shoving the audiences faces deep into the characters depravity,co- writer/ (along with Frank Oliver) director Marian Dora uses chopped- off,fragmented angles to display the complete loss of sanity which the characters are under,that also stop the viewer from ever getting a full clear view of the demented characters.Running for over 2 and a half hours,Dora attempts to unleash a "shock and awe" attack on the viewer,as Dora matches religious mumbling's with ruthless acts of aggression,which include the horrific killing of a cat (who gives the best performance in the whole film.)

After showing the viewer everything on offer within the opening 30 minutes,Dora spends the next 2 hours constantly going over the same spot over and over again,which ends up taking the bite out of the title,thanks to Dora leaving behind any sense of experimental filming styles,plot or character building,by letting things boil down to Dora poking a bit of road kill with a stick for 158 minutes.

Dracula's Daughter (Franco)

Offering a tantalising combo of Gothic Horror and Giallo,the screenplay by writer/director/co-star Jess Franco is disappointingly unable to fully connect both threads,due to Franco taking a very halfhearted approach to the Gothic elements,and stabbing the Giallo elements with a real lack of focus,which leads to it re- appearing/disappearing from the centre of the title.Whilst Franco shows himself to be a bit too zoom-in happy with his stilted directing,the stunning Britt Nichols gives the film a strong mystique atmosphere,as Luisa opens the tomb to her secret family history.

A Virgin Among The Dead.

Filmed as co-writer/ (along with Paul D'Ales) director (along with Jean Rollin and Pierre Querut) and co-star Jess Franco was grieving over the death of actress Soledad Miranda, (who was chosen as the original lead star of the title)Franco shows an unexpected level of (some) restrain.Franco and cinematographer José Climent give the film an intense dream-like appearance,as Benton's search for the cause of her dad's death,leading to Benton walking the line between earth and the afterlife.

Joined by a wonderful score from Bruno Nicolai,the writer's cover the vivid horror moments with a strong air of mystery,thanks to the screenplay taking a vague approach to the background of the Benton's life,which slowly opens itself as Christina enters the unknown.

Taking the role originally written for Soledad Miranda,the gorgeous Christina von Blanc gives an alluring performance as Christina Benton, with Blanc striking a really graceful note as she searches for the details of her dad's death.whilst in his performance, Jess Franco hits the movie with a superb bonkers note as his laugh goes across the screen,as Benton discovers that she is among the living dead.


Keeping the The Newton Brothers expert score humming away in the background,co-writer/(along with Kevin Donner) director Zack Parker uses long,superbly held takes which allow the full unfolding horror to dig right under the viewers skin.Keeping away from featuring traditional tracking shots,Parker keeps the audience firmly connected to the characters by clearly using tracking shots aimed directly at the characters face,which allows for the horror across their faces to be fully displayed and splashed across the screen.Refusing to turn away from the most terrifying moments,Parker delicately gives each major set piece its own appearance,as Parker goes from scattering blood across the screen in an almost 3D manner,to using creaking floors and shoes to create the image of a traumatising act taking place.

Opening the film with a vicious hit,the writers skilfully rip apart every perception that the viewer initially makes on the characters,with the writers pressing down on every small, peculiar moment that the characters express,and pushing them all right to the extremist edge.Along with the gradually revealed horror,the writers also slash the film with sharp Mumblecore conversations,which create a brilliant atmosphere,that suggests that something is deeply wrong.

Entering the movie getting left on the floor for dead, Alexia Rasmussen gives a raw performance as Woodhouse,with Rasmussen showing Woodhouse's silent grief to turn into unrelenting rage,as she begins to uncover Michaels.Joined by a wonderfully brittle Joe Swanberg,the elegant Alexa Havins gives a fantastic performance which transforms from light & airy to ruthless and sharp-toothed,as Woodhouse begins to discover the proxy.


Designed as a piece for writer/director Franco Brocani to express his feelings over culture having reached a sublimation stage in the last 200 years,Brocani stops the film from becoming a dry lecture by keeping the dissection of culture moving in rapidly-changing sketches.Brocani also offers up the unique opportunity to see well- known Horror movie characters from Frankenstein's monster to Countess Elizabeth Bathory in a deconstructive manner.

Giving the title a stage atmosphere thanks to using plane back drops,Brocani creates a startling depth of field by using solely using primary colours which along with giving the movie a surreal poetic quality,are also splashed across the screen to the rhythm of Gavin Bryars tumbling score.Not afraid to let a take run,Brocani expertly uses closed-off camera moves to slowly release an unsettling horror mood,due to each of the characters in the film appearing to be completely disconnected, and isolated to any over- lapping events that they experience.

Lighting up every scene she's in,the ravishing Tina Aumont gives a great performance in her various un-named roles,with Aumont giving the title a nervous sense of uncertainty,as her wide eyes look obliviously across the chaos taking place around her. Reuniting from their land mark appearance in Andy Warhol's Blue Movie, Viva and Louis Waldon give pitch-perfect dry performances as a couple who are attempting to enter a sublimation society.

Fat Black Pussycat.

Being chopped & cut to pieces by producer Michael A. Ripps,the films bonkers plot is surprisingly pretty easy to follow,with Ripps adding a number of stylish,Giallio-style killings,which along with the rough on location filming,help to give the title a wonderful grubby mood.

Despite not featuring in the ending at all, Frank Jamus gives a memorable performance in the title,thanks to being unbelievably wooden,as Jamus shows Walsh's reaction to barley change,no matter how many bodies the killer piles up,as Walsh goes in search of the greedy pussycat.

Black Cat (63)

Shooting in stark B&W,writer/director Harold Hoffman transfers Poe's story to Texas so that he can give it a deep-fried Gothic Horror atmosphere,with Hoffman covering the couple's house in dark hues,which builds a gradually fear of a dark shadow covering the house.Along with the brittle chill,Hoffman shows a real skill in timing the moments of gore,thanks to Hoffman delivering them at the precise moment that Lou and Diana's relationship is on the edge.

For the screenplay of the film,Hoffman allows the paranoid horror to slowly roll into Diana (played by a pretty Robyn Baker) and Lou's (played by a wonderfully stern Robert Frost) house,as Diana begins to witness the changes that Pluto causes on Lou,as they both start to find out how unlucky this black cat will be for them.

School of Death:

Soaking up every drop of Gothic Horror atmosphere,co-writer/(along with Alfonso Balcázar, Sandro Continenza, Manuel Sebares and Ricardo Vázquez) director Pedro Luis Ramírez (who sadly never directed again) covers the outdoor scenes in a thick blue smoke tint which covers all of the decayed streets haunted by Dr.Kruger .(I wonder if he has a brother called Fredy?!)Whilst the films make-up effects reveal its low budget, Ramírez pushes the titles cash issues to the side by displaying a superb stylised eye,as Ramírez goes from having Smith run down ever-increasing tight corridors,to covering Kruger's experiments with bursts of blood across the screen.

Made in the final year of General Franco's reign,the film features a sly satirical streak,as Smith discovers that every "respectable" authority figure she meets (from teachers to police) are deeply corrupt,and desperate to keep the girls and Kruger buried under ground.Along with the satirical edge,the writers jump around genres with an infectious energy,as the film flips from being a mad scientist with Women In Prison vibes, (which include hints of lesbianism-something which illegal in Spain at the time)to a warped doomed Gothic Romance story.

Finding herself coming face to face with the cackling Kruger,the very pretty Sandra Mozarowsky (who tragically died age 18 when she fell from a fourth-floor balcony at her apartment in Madrid , with Mozarowsky spending 20 days in a coma before dying, one month before her 19th birthday) gives an excellent wide-eyed performance as Johnson,with Mozarowsky showing hope draining from her eyes,as Krug starts his experiment's on her.Desperate to track down Smith,the beautiful Victoria Vera gives a passionate performance as Smith,with Vera giving Smith hard shots of wild energy,as she begins to uncover the secrets behind the school of death.

Further Than Fear:

Avoiding any hint of the supernatural in the opening 30 minutes,the screenplay by co-writer/ (along with Miguel Lizondo and Juan Piquer Simón) director Tomás Aznar cuts into a vicious crime vein,as the writers expertly use harsh,brittle dialogue to show the near animal- like attitude that each of the gang members having to obstacle's in their way.Keeping the blood from the crime vein dripping across the titles entry into supernatural Horror,the writers' strike with a superb clash of styles between Crime & Horror,as the gang slowly discover that their old way of dealing with problems is useless in the deadly unknown.

Backed by a joyful,proto-Saga Mega Drive score,director Tomás Aznar attacks with a brutal force,thanks to Aznar matching the films harsh dialogue by having the gang take on murder,robbery,kidnapping at a relentless pace.Revealing that an aggressive onslaught is far from his only skill,Aznar soaks the film in an atmosphere, eerie mist which tightly wraps around the characters,as they find out what happens when you go further than fear .

Coffin Joe:End of Man.

Made as a response to the Brazilian government's demands that no Horror titles could be made at the time,co-writer/ (along with Rubens Francissco Luchetti)director and lead actor Jose Mojica Marins cunningly makes sure that the film contains a Horror atmosphere by giving the movie an incredibly harsh soundtrack,which despite making the dialogue a bit tough to hear,does give the movie a grinding, warped sense of reality.

Toning down the Horror elements,writers Marins and Luchetti take a darkly comedic,cynical route for the film,thanks to Marins showing the groups of locals,hippies and government officials to be easily manipulated fools,who will believe anything that anyone says.With having gradually revealed their cynical nature in the titles running time,the writers knock the film out with a hilariously sharp final twist,as Joe puts his comedic nail into the coffin.

Coffin Joe:Embodiment of Evil.

Toning down the harsh Gothic Horror atmosphere of his past work,and being unexpectedly backed by a major studio (20th Century Fox!) co- writer/ (along with Dennison Ramalho) director and lead actor José Mojica Marins sends his alter ego out on a blood-drenched final rampage. Marins covers the screen in raw blood red,as Coffin Joe goes from ordering his followers to do a deranged initiation,to riffing on the most infamous scene in Bret Easton Ellis novel American Psycho (which was seen as being far too nasty for inclusion in the filmed adaptation. )

Whilst Marins does largely go for a splatter approach,Marins superbly wraps up his 40 year old characters quest by dipping his nails into wonderful surrealism,with Marins using a tough B&W appearance to show the demons that haunt Joe's desire.For the screenplay of the film,Ramalho and Marins combined Joe's blood-soaked quest with a sharp political commentary,with Joe's return leading to the return of Brazil's death squad,with the members of the death squad being almost as psychotic as Coffin Joe.

Final view on the film:

A very good,gore drenched Horror which allows Coffin Joe to finally lay in his coffin.Farewell Coffin Joe.

Coffin Joe:This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse.

Toning down the deep-fried gore of the first Coffin Joe title,co- writer/ (along with Aldenora Da Sa Porto) director/actor Jose Mojica Marins instead use the huge 108 minute running time to get surprisingly deep into the psychological aspects of Joe's Horror's.Initially showing Joe's search for a perfect woman to be a nihilistic quest,the writers smartly use the introduction of Laura, (played by the beautiful Tina Wohlers) as a route to reveal Coffin Joe's weaknesses,with Marins and Porto showing that despite his logic being rather…insane,there is a method to his madness which is firmly at the centre of Joe's continuing quests.

Matching the toned down nature of the screenplay,Marins uses long,stilted shots to hold the viewer face to face with Coffin Joe.Along with creating a good creepy atmosphere,Marins also displays a real skill in placing Horror at moments that will catch the audience completely off guard,with a particular highlight of the title being Coffin Joe's latest victims getting killed by snakes and spiders in an extremely chilling scene. (which was shot with real animals,which all the actresses bravely handled,after getting drunk just before filming the scene!) Filming in B&W,Marins decides to give Coffin Joe the biggest shock of his life,by sending Joe to hell that lights up the scene in an amazingly warped Technicolor vision,as Marins reveals that Coffin Joe will not fade away,before he takes your soul.

Twins of Evil:

Filmed at a time when Hammer studios were starting to go off the tracks,and a new,relaxed view towards nudity and gore had appeared in British censorship,director John Hough displays a tremendous skill in keeping the title away from suffocating on flesh+blood.Hough gives the movie a wonderful warped fairy tale atmosphere,with Hough and cinematographer Dick Bush using scatter- shot whip-pans to give the vampire fangs and witchcraft spells a from out of nowhere shock,whilst Harry Robertson delivers a triumphant score for the Gellhorn's visit to Karnstein.

For his adaptation of Sheridan Le Fanu novel,writer Tudor Gates paints all of the characters with an excellent, vicious brush,as Gates gets rid of even the basic idea of heroic characters,by showing Karnstein's blood lust as a companion piece to the self rigorous fury which Weil inflicts on the sisters with a disturbing glee.Bringing the Gellhorn's in as outsiders,Gates gradually transforms each of them as they uncover the villages hidden secrets,with Maria becoming terrified from all of the myths,whilst Frieda finds herself allured by the towns blood dripping darkness.

Made shortly after the tragic death of his wife,Peter Cushing gives a superb performance as Weli,with Cushing showing Weli passion to "cleanse" the souls of the corrupted,to be something which blinds him from the evils that he unleashes.Offering twice the eye candy after being the 1st ever twins to appear in Playboy magazine,the beautiful Mary and Madeline Collinson (who were both dubbed) each give tantalising performances,with Mary showing a sweet natural nativity as Maria,whilst Madeline sinks her fangs into revealing how evil the twins of evil can be.

Legend of the Werewolf:

Whilst the title takes place in Paris,each of the cast members leave behind any attempt to do a French accent,by instead focusing on the movies dissection of the werewolf.Making his film debut, David Rintoul gives a striking performance as Etolie,with Rintoul making sure that no matter how much blood the werewolf gets covered in,that Etolie's desperation to break out of the werewolf cycle can be clearly seen from behind the fangs.Searching for the mysterious creature,Peter Cushing gives an ultra-smooth performance as amateur detective Prof. Paul Cataflanque,whilst Ron Moody hits the movie with some fantastic seedy charm as the zoo keeper.

Initially appearing to set its sights straight for the jugular,the screenplay by Anthony Hinds instead allows the viewer to slowly uncover the sense of fear & confusion that Etolie discovers. Whilst this rather daringly approach does allow for the audience to enter Etolie's mind,it also does lead to moments of paternal terror feeling rather dry.

Following the route of Hinds screenplay,director Freddie Francis uses extremely stylised first person shots to show the horror that Etolie inflicts,with Francis also showing a sharp eye for quick edits during the gore scenes,which allow the viewer to make their own full image of the terror taking place.Along with the sharp violence,Francis also cleverly uses misty colours which give the title an unexpected Beauty and the Beast atmosphere,as Francis shows this legendary werewolf to be one with a real bite.

Re: Horror Fest:week 2.

That's quite a bag of trick-or-treats you got there, 'doc'-

Dora attempts to unleash a "shock and awe" attack on the viewer,as Dora matches religious mumbling's with ruthless acts of aggression,which include the horrific killing of a cat (who gives the best performance in the whole film.)
Funny review [laugh] and now I know why all I remember about The Angels' Melancholy is folding laundry as I watched it for the Challenge a couple of years ago. Obviously there's nothing there despite all the "shock and awe" imagery on display for far too long.

Further Than Fear and The Fat Black Pussycat are right up my alley and I'm really excited to see Necropolis which I have lined up for this year's Challenge. The lone IMDb review thought it was dreadful so I resigned myself to watching the groovy 1970 vanity project solely for nostalgic purposes ...and for Tina Aumont, of course. Great review!


There's less to this than meets the eye bees in honey drown

Re: Horror viewings.

Hi Mel,with Gone Girl I've been tempted to see it at the cinema,but I'm currently trying to be a bit tight on cash,due to there being a big trip coming up for a concert that I'm going to with a pal on the 27th,although I'm seriously tempted to take a bite of some 80's cheese from some Ninja Turtles (in 3D!) this month.

With Angel,the main memory that I have of the movie is forcing myself not to pick up a mag ,and just let the dam thing play on in the background!Taking a look at my viewing list,I've just noticed an unintended theme,with the following films:

Tender Dracula, or Confessions of a Blood Drinker.

The Angels' Melancholia

A Virgin Among the Living Dead.

Further Than Fear.

All involving people leaving reality behind and entering a dream world,which turns out to be a complete nightmare.

For Necropolis (5/10) I would sum it up by saying that whilst its not exactly an edge of the seat movie,the film moves at a pretty swift pace for most of its running time,thanks to the first 90 mins being split in sketches,where the director makes his point for 5 mins,and then moves on to the next thing.

Before I forget,with the Black Cat,I rec not picking up the movie,because...Well,you will hopefully find out soon!

Re: Horror Fest:week 2.


Think you got the year wrong for Black Cat.

I'll be in touch later after I have watched Twins of Evil :-)

The Spike

Re: Horror Fest:week 2.

Hi Spike,thanks for pointing out the mistake,and have a good time with Twins of Evil (Toe!)

A Bronston marathon

El Cid (1961) 8/10

The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) 8/10

King of Kings (1961) 8/10

55 Days at Peking (1963) 7/10

All 4 on region B Bluray - and monumental improvements over the DVDs. These 4 titles alone have justified investing in Bluray.

And for a change......

Revolt at Fort Laramie (1957) 6/10

As the Civil War begins a cavalry fort is divided between the north and the south - and With the Sioux not too happy outside the walls, trouble looms large.
Harry Dean Stanton uncredited as a southern born cavalryman.

"He was a poet, a scholar, and a mighty warrior."

Re: A Bronston marathon

Glad to see your high rating for King Of Kings, probably the best of the films dealing with the Jesus story (don't anyone bring up that Pasolini horror!). Granted, Jeffrey Hunter wasn't the best choice for the role but he didn't damage the film either.

The R2 blue of 55 Days is a beauty alright.

In front of the screen I am still a kid. Movie love is abiding thru out life Pauline Kael

Re: A Bronston marathon

I actually love all the casting in King Of Kings - a very dignified Siobhan McKenna, and what a memorable and moving performance By Robert Ryan! The 2 Aussies do well too - Frank Thring is his usual oily and craven villain, and Ron Randell gives surely a career best performance as the "good" Roman. It tops the George Stevens' film in just about every department.

"He was a poet, a scholar, and a mighty warrior."

Re: A Bronston marathon

The first of Anthony Mann and Samuel Bronston's ambitious and intelligent epics, El Cid has to boast the most gorgeous use of the widescreen ever – the Cid and Chimene's first meeting makes the most of every inch of the screen, while Robert Krasker's gliding camera is remarkably sympathetic to screen format, architecture and exteriors alike. Indeed, the whole film displays Mann's typically intelligent use of location, here in interiors (often his weak spot) as well – during their bleak wedding feast, he keeps Chimene and the Cid at a distance, the staircase where he killed her father (never a great start to any marriage) prominent between them; and while the good king's court is filled with color, light and people, once the weak Alfonso assumes power it is a dark, empty hall.

Despite some occasional overemphatic Christian imagery - when he's not standing in front of a cross, he's literally carrying one - this spectacular account of Spain's greatest hero uniting Christians and Moors alike against a common enemy, making friends of enemies and teaching his weak king the path to greatness by example manages to put a surprisingly human face on the myth of the perfect knight: the Cid's quest to do the honorable and right thing brings him little joy and much sorrow and even his resolve is nearly broken by his burden. Charlton Heston when he was still an icon was one of the few actors who could carry off such a part, and he does it very well despite his curious conviction that Mann's superb direction was below par. The pomp and splendor never swamps the drama, and the setpiece duel or Calahora still stands out as one of the most remarkable and remarkably vicious screen swordfights of all time. A great score from Miklos Rozsa and good support from John Fraser and Douglas Wilmer too, although Andrew Cruickshank's portly King's champion implies that there was something amiss in the kingdom long before the warring infantas succeeded to the throne.

If anything, The Fall of the Roman Empire is even more impressive despite being remembered, if at all, for two things – being one of the biggest flops in history and for being the film that was shamelessly plagiarized by the much inferior Gladiator. Which is a great pity, because not only does the film have much to recommend it but also in many ways it's the summit of Mann's filmmaking, putting everything he ever learned to perfect use to create a magnificently realised portrait of a very different screen Rome. Whereas mad emperors are the staple of the genre, he dispenses with the standard image of Rome as a force of evil to be resisted and replaces it with a Rome that is an idea and an ideal to be fought for: there is no triumph when this empire begins to destroy itself, only disgust at a missed opportunity for true greatness. In many ways, like El Cid, it's an extension of Mann's favorite Western theme of a corrupted man dragged to his own redemption against his wishes, kicking and screaming all the way – only this time, redemption is steadfastly resisted.

In many ways it reworks elements of El Cid – rival siblings bickering over the throne, the assassination of a ruler, even the final fight owes much to the duel for Calahorra. But unlike the Cid, Stephen Boyd's Livius is unable to truly inspire (his own army is bought off at the gates of Rome) and he leaves the Empire to its decline in chaos out of disgust: the complete antithesis of Mann's great description of the appeal of the enduring appeal of the Western – “a man says he's going to do something, and he does it.” Here, the hero walks away and the audience stayed at home in droves.

It's not the only chance Mann takes – Alec Guinness' Marcus Aurelius tries to avert his impending death by bargaining with an invisible Ferryman, who speaks with his voice, while almost the entire first half of the film takes place on Rome's northern borders, bringing the empire to the emperor. His handling of the many setpieces is astonishing, from the funeral that Martin Scorsese rightly described as an epic eulogy for an entire style of epic filmmaking, to the astonishing coronation triumph where he gradually reveals the massive Forum Romanum set in a succession of increasingly impressive shots that show how much has been lost now that real sets and extras have been replaced by CGI. Equal kudos here to Colosanti and Moore's stunning design that creates a screen Rome unlike any before or since, not of whitewashed marble but of stone and wood and gold leaf and color, built for real in massive three-dimensional sets – the Forum was actually built full scale on the plains of Las Matas and filled with thousands of extras. But the spectacle isn't just gratuitous: you get a real sense of the sheer scale of the empire, and more importantly a sense of a world outside these characters that depends upon their actions. Throw in Dimitri Tiomkin's finest score, a world away from the standard Roman Empire ‘sound,' and some impressive supporting performances (Guinness and James Mason's warm double-act a standout) that offset some of the weaker performances (step forward Sophia Loren in Yul Brynner-Westworld autopilot mode), and it adds up to a film well worth seeking out

Sadly the ‘trilemma' scene is still missing from the Bluray, as are the play-ins, overture and entr'acte and the original stereo soundtrack, but at least the usual omissions have been restored.

For all its low reputation, Samuel Bronston's much-mocked King of Kings is easily the best and most intelligent of the ‘devotional' versions of the life of Christ, largely because it sets Jesus as a historical figure and, to a degree, a victim of history and politics in troubled times. More importantly, it manages to do it without being as relentlessly dreary and one-note as George Stevens' The Greatest Story Ever Told, which becomes more of an endurance test with each passing year. Even the vigorously-staged battle scenes serve a real dramatic purpose, pitting Barabbas' Davidic warrior would-be Messiah against Jesus' spiritual deliverer (“I am fire, he is water – how can we ever meet?”) that is many ways the real conflict of the film: the fight between material pragmatism (the Romans, Herod, Barabbas) and spiritual idealism (Jesus and his followers). Even Caiphas is given a very modern reading, not as a black-hearted villain but as an unpopular Roman-appointed religious leader who genuinely cares for his flock, fearing that Jesus' popularity could be used by the Romans to start a Holocaust that will destroy his people.

There's much imagination at work too: while Jeffrey Hunter's Messiah suffers from MGM's insistence on redubbing the part in more ‘masterful' tones, he proactively interacts with the crowd in the Sermon on the Mount, played almost like a press conference, while the Last Supper takes its visual design not from Da Vinci but from the CND's peace symbol. The casting is variable – Robert Ryan's John the Baptist, Hurd Hatfield's Pontius Pilate, Harry Guardino's Barabbas, Ron Randell's centurion, Guy Rolfe's Caiphas and Gregoire Aslan and the great Frank Thring as Herod Sr. and Jr. are fine, but Rip Torn is surprisingly awkward as an otherwise well-conceived Judas Iscariot doomed by compromise, Royal Dano's Simon Peter is a better idea on paper than onscreen (particularly when given dialog) and Siobhan McKenna's eminently punchable misty-eyed Mary is a tad too Oirish Catlic for my tastes. Yet despite its weaknesses and the virtual sidelining of Jesus for much of the running time – this is more a film about His times and His effect on those around Him than His life – it's never less than totally involving, and often genuinely moving.

Despite reputedly losing interest in post-production, Nicholas Ray's direction is excellent, his mastery of the wide screen making great use of the 70mm format and showing real inspiration in his handling of some of the miracles, scenes greatly enhanced by Miklos Rozsa's superlative score. Even Ray Bradbury's poetic narration, beautifully delivered by Orson Welles, originally intended as a quick fix to paper over the cracks in the narrative, genuinely adds to the film's complex political picture of an occupied territory at war with itself. Not that some of the cracks aren't still visible, as in the meaningful exchange of looks on the Temple steps between Jesus and Richard Johnson (whose constantly changing part – one day a freed gladiator, the next an Arab, the next a Romanized Jew - was otherwise totally deleted). But they're minor complaints in an extraordinary epic that achieves more of its ambitions than its given credit for.

Incidentally, how on earth did they get the obscene graffiti on the barracks walls past the censors in 1961? Less obvious on the DVD copy, you can't miss it on the 70mm prints!

"Security - release the badgers."

Re: A Bronston marathon

The Fall of the Roman Empire- It was Flop? OK. I would suggest two reasons, first people were no doubt tired of Sand and Sandal pictures and secondly, who wants to see a movie about the Decline and Defeat? And I like Boyd as an actor, but I never thought of him as leading man material. Too cold.

Re: A Bronston marathon

Wonderful comments on all the films - the one thing they definitely have in common are great scores, I love the music in all of them.

Rip Torn was probably the one out of place actor, but I didn't think he was bad.

My favourite is The Fall of the Roman Empire, the only one I saw on the big screen, and one of the biggest flops in history. Despite the 2 leads being the film's biggest weakness, it still gets me every time.

The supporting roles are fantastic. And the political by-play is intelligent and logical - unlike in Ridley's remake which was a decent revenge flick, but the Derek Jacobi scenes were pointless and seemed tacked on to appear to give the film a depth it didn't have.

"He was a poet, a scholar, and a mighty warrior."

Re: A Bronston marathon

I've seen Fall of the Roman Empire (three times), King of Kings and 55 Days at Peking in 70mm in the past, though those prints never seem to turn up in the UK anymore. For me Roman Empire is still the pick of the litter, though it's a shame the Weinsteins' penny pinching stopped them from releasing the uncut premiere version on DVD (the Blu-ray is from the same source that's missing about three minutes, but hey, it's the Weinsteins - like they're going to put footage back?) - especially since they'd hired me to track it down and then didn't pay when they decided not to use it.

It does have an intelligent script, but unfortunately they made the mistake of premiering the film at Cannes, which has a long tradition of tearing epics to shreds (Once Upon a Time in America was cut by so much in the States purely because of the vitriolic reaction it got there), and it got terrible reviews there that helped scare off the upmarket moviegoers while the fact it went to Cannes helped make it look too highbrow for the mass market that were still turning out for that other wildly overbudget Roman epic with Rex, Dick and Liz.

"Security - release the badgers."

Re: A Bronston marathon

I prefer El Cid to Fall Of The Roman Empire;despite all it's virtues Empire does not quite jell. I have to agree that Stephan Boyd ,though a good actor, did not have quite what it takes to carry a huge epic on his shoulders.(Heston was indeed the first choice for the role but he declined;and Bronston was so eager to have a Heston film to follow up El Cid that he postponed Fall and made 55 Days at Peking instead).
But I agree the production design is incredible,the battle scenes are great,and the Rome set is still mind boggliing.
ANd Christopher Plummer easily takes the acting honors as Commudius.ANd Plummer is careful NOT to go over the top unlike Joaquin Phoenix's scenery chewing in "Gladiator" which is indeed a remake of Fall.

The film was a massive flop;it got nicknamed "The Fall Of The Bronston Empire" because it bankrupted Bronston studios. I suspect that people were just burned out on things Roman after "Cleopatra" had a lot to do with it.
Bronston never recovered;he lived most of his last years here in Sacramento;supported laregly by his Doctor son,whom I have a nodding acquatence with.

I'll Teach You To Laugh At Something's That's Funny
Homer Simpson

Re: A Bronston marathon

If you didn't post here I would have eaten my hat [yes] :-)

It's like a vampire to a nubile virgin's neck :-)

The Spike

Re: A Bronston marathon

It's like a vampire to a nubile virgin's neck :-)

Or Steve Railsback with a naked space vampire from a giant artichoke shaped spaceship in Halley's Comet.

"Security - release the badgers."

Re: A Bronston marathon

A fine collection of Bronston films.

Never heard of Revolt at Fort Laramie before, thanks for that.

The Spike

Revolt at Fort Laramie

Caught it as a Sunday afternoon movie on the telly - definitely a "B" [a mere 73 minutes] but quite enjoyable and worthy of a big budget remake.

"He was a poet, a scholar, and a mighty warrior."

Dupontel's Prey, Dussari's death, deems' Django and El Cid's sons-in-law

Eric Valette's The Prey has nearly all of the clichés of the man-on-the-run genre, but does them so well you probably won't care even as you're ticking off the list: the escaped convict on a mission with the whole world against him who can still run a marathon in record time after falling off a bridge or being shot (Albert Dupontel), the tough-but-beautiful female cop on his trail (Alice Taglioni), the disgraced ex-cop who can't let his last case go (Sergi Lopez) and the respectable villain who everybody trusts. A gallic version of The Fugitive, it has a convincingly creepy villain in Stéphane Debac's very ordinary cellmate whose life Dupontel saves in prison and who repays the favour by killing his wife, stealing his loot and kidnapping his child as a present for his wife and accomplice, leading our anti-hero to go over the wall to track him down only to find he's being framed for Debac's child murders and that the cops and one of the victims' father aren't too eager to bring him in alive.

Dupontel, whose career alternates between playing hard cases and directing and starring in anarchic comedies, is one of the most graceless runners you'll ever see, his arms flailing about like a windmill so much he reminds you of a drowning man or Paul Michael Glaser in the title sequence of Starsky and Hutch. But there probably hasn't been a French leading man to visibly do so many of his own dangerous stunts since Jean-Paul Belmondo in his 70s heyday. He's not a whitewashed protagonist either Рwhen we meet him in prison he isn't the usual innocent man sent down for a crime he didn't commit but a professional criminal with all the cunning and ruthlessness that implies. The plot may be basic but it doesn't always deliver the clich̩ you expect and puts a spin on some of those you do. Valette directs with considerable panache and visual imagination that makes the most of his well-chosen locations and gives the picture a real sense of scale. What's more he knows how to really showcase a good stunt and keep things moving without turning them into an incomprehensible mess Рno shakeycam or MTV editing to hide shortcomings and give the illusion of energy here, just the kind of excellent craftsmanship you used to be able to take for granted in big budget action films before Michael Bay and Paul Greengrass shook things up for the worse. It could probably do without the epilogue but it's a small price to pay for such a surprisingly invigorating thriller.

Unusually for a Eurocrime film, especially an Italian one from the 70s, Duccio Tessari's Death Occurred Last Night has a clear focus on plot and character rather than the thrown together on the hoof feel of its more action-packed contemporaries. And this is certainly not an action film even though it does end with a particularly brutal if convincingly clumsy act of violence. Instead it's a mature detective story that deals with a hopeless missing person investigation in a fashion that's surprisingly sober even if no-one gets away clean. When the film starts, Raf Vallone's distraught father has been going from police station to police station trying to get someone to take his worries over his missing daughter (the statuesque Gillian Bray) seriously only to be constantly dismissed because she's classified as an adult even if she does have the mental age of a child before finally striking lucky when Frank Wolff's detective takes an interest.

The most likely prospect is that she's been abducted by a prostitution ring, so Wolff and his sidekick Gabriele Tinti put pressure on a once prolific pimp who's trying to go straight to provide the introductions to the various brothels - but it quickly becomes apparent that the more pressure they apply, the less likely they are to find her alive. Part poliziescho, part social drama, despite the opportunities for gratuitous nudity, it avoids going down the exploitation route, instead looking at the damage it does to clients and prostitutes alike without sentimentalising the issue - the victims here aren't always that much better than those who exploit them. Wolff's under no illusions about what he'll uncover or what the cost will be, unsurprised by the casual small scale corruption that runs through the case where one person's misery is another's opportunity.

Tessari started out as documentary filmmaker before graduating to screenwriting (he co-wrote Fistful of Dollars among others) and directing, and he's a keen observer who manages to keep the film intriguing without opting to overdramatizing things, and that almost casually observed approach applies to characterisation as well. The almost prison-like daily routine of Raf Vallone's daily life that was once dictated by keeping his daughter safe and is now dominated by trying to find her in the first half of the film has that convincing air of quiet desperation without hope of parole and the relationship between Wolff's detective and his journalist wife Eva Renzi is particularly well-drawn: at once seemingly well matched personalities yet constantly talking at cross-purposes about the disappointments of their chosen careers (writing and detecting) without breaking stream or really connecting with what the other is saying but simply turning it round about themselves. There's no hostility or awareness there because they've been together so long it's become habit.

It's no great surprise where the film ends up or how it gets there, but Tessari constantly keeps it interesting enough that it's a shame it's never developed more of a reputation.

Despite his reputation as one of the worst directors in the spaghetti western genre, Demofilo Fidani aka Miles Deem's One Damned Day at Dawn… Django Meets Sartana! is a more than competently made entry that rips off not one but two hits it has no connection to. There's the odd bit of visual imagination in the staging of some of the scenes, which compensates for the ambling plot that sees Fabio Testi's good looking but ineffectual young sheriff spending most of the film listening to backstory about the bandits who took a small town that will be familiar to anyone who's seen Keoma or the genuine original Django while Hunt Powers aka Jack Betts' bounty hunter with a vendetta lurks on the sidelines looking like a cross between a young Jack Elam and Homer Simpson. There's a Liberty Valance twist to the first gunfight with the first batch of bad guys that makes Testi's name, but the script does nothing with it before offering a repeat performance in the last reel. It's not particularly good but it's not particularly bad either, the kind of thing that's an easy watch when you're not in the mood to cope with anything more demanding.

Despite the title, you'll look in vain for El Cid in 1962's The Sword of El Cid, though it does briefly feature his sword – well, two of them – and a couple of Charlton Heston's costumes and at least one of Sophia Loren's. A cheap Spanish-Italian knockoff of the previous year's Spanish-Italian epic, it's more a sequel that starts off being about the Cid's daughters and their unworthy husbands with one hero (Roland Carey) before someone decided that neither he nor the plot were much cop and changed both about a third of the way in as it eventually becomes about another wrongly usurped heir to a kingdom (Sandro Moretti) regaining his throne. All of which it does so half-heartedly and with such an unfocussed script, courtesy of seven writers who presumably each delivered 15 pages without ever having any contact with each other or knowledge of what they were writing, that you can watch the whole movie and still come away not really knowing what it was about, a problem the dubbing probably only makes worse. Aside from the leftover costumes it also throws in a trial by combat sequence between not one but two trios of champions and a scene where the hero tries to force a King to swear his innocence at an altar while Carlo Savina's score starts and ends as a reasonable pastiche of Miklos Rozsa, but no-one's in danger of mistaking this for the Anthony Mann-Samuel Bronston film.

There are a few minor pluses: beautiful Bond girl-in-waiting Daniela Binachi appears though doesn't get much to do, the locations are decent, the final battle and last few minutes aren't bad even if they would have worked much better if you knew and cared about what was happening and who it was happening to and there's one almost Monty Pythonic moment when the good guys send a messenger who is promptly executed by one of the villains and naturally decide to send another one to deliver exactly the same message and get killed exactly the same way. But for most of the running time it just drifts all over the place without summoning up any reason to persevere with it. One to avoid.

"Security - release the badgers."

Re: What classics did you see last week? (10/6-10/12)

1. Ghostbusters (1984)- 10/10. Repeat viewing.

I changed my rating from a 7/10.

2. Ghostbusters II (1989)- 10/10. Repeat viewing.

I changed my rating from an 8/10. I still like it better than the first.

3. The Stepfather (1987)- 9/10. Repeat viewing.

Volker Flenske: (While torturing David) I don't know why you're doing this to yourself!

The Gone Girl and White Cargo

Thanks to De Witt for the heads up on "The Gone Girl".

The Gone Girl - I enjoyed this immensely, even though it started VERY slow, and became predictable in the last 10 minutes. In between, unlike some smarties, I was kept in suspense, and genuinely surprised at some of the twists. Of course, I should have known the filmmaker wouldn't have the guts to kill off the lead actress ala Pyscho. The acting was also great, even Affleck. The only minus was the boring, tedious swearing and Hollywood really hates "Nancy" don't they?

White Cargo - This was one fun movie, and all due to Heddy Lamarr as the evil seductress who is who is hot, hot, hot. Walter Pidgeon comes off surprisingly well as the tough, weary, seen it all boss. Favorite Line: "Tondelayo make tiffin."

Most absurd Trailer: Exodus, with the line "I Want Moses Dead". Hopefully, the next lines weren't "Bugs Moran Dead. H. Wiess Dead".

Re: The Gone Girl and White Cargo

Oh Lordy, wasn't the trailer for Exodus: Gods And Kings positively hideous? Moses as Thor! Whatever one thinks of Aronofsky's Noah at least he didn't try and turn Noah into into a Marvel superhero!

Glad that Gone Girl found favor with you. It's really top notch film making. My only complaint is its length. It seemed to go on forever but truth to tell, I couldn't think of anything they could have safely left on the cutting room floor.

In front of the screen I am still a kid. Movie love is abiding thru out life
Pauline Kael

Re: The Gone Girl and White Cargo

Oh Lordy, wasn't the trailer for Exodus: Gods And Kings positively hideous? Moses as Thor! Whatever one thinks of Aronofsky's Noah at least he didn't try and turn Noah into into a Marvel superhero!

I just hope the 12 year old boys who see it, aren't bored by all the "God Stuff", or maybe the filmakers will just leave that out and give us some rock people.

And our local theater is now running 20 minutes (!) of trailers. They had been showing 15 minutes, which is how we saw the one for Exodus.

Glad that Gone Girl found favor with you. It's really top notch film making. My only complaint is its length. It seemed to go on forever but truth to tell, I couldn't think of anything they could have safely left on the cutting room floor.

Well, I barely made it through many the flashbacks showing us how "witty" & "fun" the couple were at the start. I think those could have been cut down and the last 10 minutes could have wrapped up quicker. I doubt Hitch would've dragged out the start or the ending like Fincher did.

Re: What classics did you see last week? (10/6-10/12)

Highly Recommended

Sparrow (2008) (Chinese Drama) (repeat viewing) – Simon Yam and his band of pickpockets meet a beautiful woman (Kelly Lin) in this film by Johnnie To. As an entertainment vehicle, this movie succeeds on a minute-by-minute basis with its seemingly endless array of quaint, quirky moments supplemented with cool pickpocket sequences. The camerawork is excellent, the music is novel and highly enjoyable, the humor is effective, and the mood is very light from start to finish. The viewer will have a perpetual smile on their face while watching this. Pure entertainment, indeed.

Kundo: Age of the Rampant (2014) (Korean Action/Drama) – Set in the 19th century, an elite swordsman (Dong-won Gang) is consumed with greed and decides to oppress the masses for his own personal gain, but soon crosses paths with a lowly butcher (Jung-woo Ha) and a group of righteous warriors. This is a no-nonsense crowd-pleaser with strong conflicts and violence. The action is well-staged and hard-hitting; it also features giant butcher knives. Some effective humor helps to add color to the protagonists. Dong-won has an excellent screen presence and is totally convincing as the badass antagonist.


The Complex (2013) (Japanese Horror) (repeat viewing) – After her family moves into an apartment complex, a teenage girl experiences strange events related to the resident who lives next door. This film is a nice return to form for Hideo Nakata; it reeks of high quality on all fronts. It's slow-paced and drags slightly during the middle section, but that time is used to set everything up (characters, backstory, etc.). One stand-out aspect is the lighting, which is outstanding despite being otherworldly and even bizarre at times. In fact, the finale contributes a series of intense color schemes that are reminiscent of old-school Italian horror films. The horror sequences consist of a few different visions and supernatural events. There are virtually no jump scares, which I greatly appreciate. This is not a particularly scary film, but it is moody and entertaining.

Saw 6 (2009) (American Horror) – The plot here concerns those who have wronged “Jigsaw” in one way or another, the main person being a health insurance officer. It takes a while for the plot to catch fire, meaning that much of the opening half is simply decent. Things get more interesting near the midpoint, which introduces some criticism of the American healthcare system; but unlike some films where it's heavy-handed and eye-rolling, here the criticims are used to make the conflict between the characters more interesting and to kick the film into high gear. The highlight trap must be the awesome steam maze, but the Russian roulette scene is good too. Actually, the entire second half of this film is very good.

El-Cin (2013) (Turkish Horror) (repeat viewing) – After stumbling upon an abandoned building, a young woman is haunted by a dark spirit. This sounds like a cliched modern ghost story, but it's spiced up significantly by its country of origin. Like most of Hasan Karacadag's films, there is a blend of eye-popping architecture, excellent framing of camera shots, and bizarre demonic horror elements. There is a mass quantity of scare tactics on display here, resulting in a mixed bag of creepiness and awkwardness (even a few unintentionally funny moments). Nevertheless, they are also creative and a lot of fun to watch even at their weaker spots. The twist is a rarity and very interesting, which sets up an insanely strange and entertaining finale. It's easy to overlook this film's flaws.

Child's Play (1988) (American Horror) – Before being gunned down by cops, a serial killer transfers his soul into the body of a toy doll, which promptly becomes a present for a 6-year-old boy. The opening half is very low-key and does a pretty good job of being creepy. Even when the doll starts moving, it's mean-spirited enough to maintain a darker tone (the doll effects are surprisingly good too). One highlight is an impressive shot of a person's fall to the death. The performances are good overall, and the antagonist is one tough son-of-a-gun.

The Beasts (1980) (Chinese Thriller/Horror) – A father seeks vengeance from a gang of degenerate hillbilly thugs who raped his daughter and murdered his son. This seems to be influenced by American nasties of the 1970s (e.g., The Last House on the Left, etc.), and even uses some popular American music during the opening half hour. Much of the film takes place in a mountain forest and surrounding villages. Regardless, this is pretty nasty stuff. The rape and violence are not as explicit as some other films, but there is a mean-spirited, grimy tone to this. Quite a bit of time is spent with the antagonists, which creates an odd slasher-style set of sequences during the middle section with the protagonist as the aggressor.

Saw 5 (2008) (American Horror/Thriller) – The fall-out from the previous film manifests itself here, with some major conflict that brews between the investigating police officers. Meanwhile, some new victims play a game to the death. This begins with a nasty pendulum death, then a cool drowning scene. The theme continues to juxtapose “Jigsaw's” philosophy with his associates' simple bloodlust. Some good plot turns along the way. I like Costas Mandylor's screen presence too. This franchise reminds me of the “Phantasm” series because the sequels have many references and new revelations regarding their preceding films.

Child's Play 2 (1990) (American Horror) (repeat viewing) – Chucky's back as the doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer, butchering all who stand in his way of possessing the body of a boy. I love it when Chucky uses foul language, but this movie feels like a lesser retread of the original. It's too repetitive with the “Chucky causes problems but no one believes the little kid” angle. Yeah, I know no one believes the kid. Can we move onto something else already? Fortunately, the second half is more fun and has a good finale in a toy factory.

Curse of Evil (1982) (Chinese Horror) – A once prosperous family, now dysfunctional, deals with an apparent curse that results in death. The dramatic moments are merely decent, but the horror elements are fun, cheesy stuff. The “bloody frogs” and the “pink sludge demon” are particularly hilarious.

Scary Fairy Tales: Kowai Dowa Thumbelina (aka Thumb Princess) (1999) (Japanese Horror/Comedy) – This made-for-television film stars Chiaki Kuriyama as a schoolgirl who is obsessed with one of her male classmates. She gets a magic potion that shrinks the dude down to size, then she imprisons him in her desk drawer. This has poor special effects and a weak script, but Kuriyama gleefully plays a psycho and it is fun to watch her torment miniature people. There are some funny wtf moments, but there are also some dumb moments to endure. This is worth a watch just to see how bizarre it is; almost like a demented version of “Honey I Shrunk the Kids.”

Not Recommended

Child's Play 3 (1991) (American Horror) – Chucky, the doll possessed by a serial killer, returns (in a completely contrived way) for revenge against Andy, the young boy that defeated him and has since become 16 years old and enrolled at a military academy. The academy setting is cliched, annoying, boring filler. The finale takes place in a haunted house attraction, but even that sequence is uninspired and dumb.

Upside Down Ghost: Breaking the Coffin (aka Okinawan Horror and Chinese Horror) (1962) (Japanese Horror) – The title makes this film sound more cool than it actually is. A man marries a beautiful, wealthy girl but tragedy soon befalls them. This has a lot of dull filler to sit thru. Horror sequences use blue lighting nicely, but the ghosts just stand there. This results in uninteresting, repetitive scare tactics that are kinda cheesy.

Girl Hell 1999 (1999) (Japanese Horror) – A schoolgirl interacts with some degenerates, her deformed sister, and her abusive father in this film by Daisuke Yamanouchi. There's no reason for a 66-minute long movie to be boring, but this one certainly is. There's a lot of dull filler and annoying degenerate behavior (mostly rape). The scenes involving breast milk are very, very stupid.

King Kong (2005) (American Action/Drama) – In 1933 New York, an overly ambitious movie producer coerces his cast and hired ship crew to travel to mysterious Skull Island, where they encounter Kong, a giant ape who is immediately smitten with leading lady Ann Darrow. This film is basically split into three parts: (1) pre-Kong (70 minutes); (2) island adventure (68 minutes); and (3) finale (49 minutes). The pre-Kong section is filled with boring setup, unnecessarily long boat rides, and endless shots of jagged rocks. In theory, the island adventure section should be the most entertaining, but it's crippled by excessive, cartoonish CGI that results in a tedious disaster movie feel – or perhaps a recent “Transformers” movie. The human characters get thrown around like rag dolls and yet they still survive these ridiculous scenarios. The dinosaur scenes are flat-out awful. This entire middle section is monotonous rubbish. The finale is slightly better than the two preceding sections, but it still feels needlessly drawn out. Peter Jackson yet again wastes an insanely long runtime (187 friggin' minutes!) and also directs his actors poorly – resulting in lots of hammy overacting that is hard to watch when one also considers the shallowness of the script and characters. Every moment of serious drama fails to have impact.

Kyoko vs. Yuki (2000) (Japanese Exploitation Horror/Action) – This made-for-television film by Daisuke Yamanouchi involves two schoolgirls who fight to the bloody death. Less than 60 minutes long, but this is obnoxious crap. Too many dumb sex scenes. The fights are mediocre. (Viewed without subtitles.)

Saw 7: The Final Chapter (aka Saw 3D) (2010) (American Horror/Thriller) – This is easily one of the most disappointing horror films of all time. How could an impressive series of films end with a piece of crap such as this? This immediately opens with the dumbest, most badly acted moment of the franchise. There are a ton of awful performances in this, especially during the first half. Where the hell did they find these people? They are literally unwatchable. The B-grade slasher tone clashes horribly with the film's predecessors. The script is just like the acting – a stiff, boring, useless piece of rat-infested dog crap. Sure, there are a few gory deaths – and the returning characters try to make the second half more watchable – but as far as I'm concerned, this series ended with part 6.

Asian Film List

The October Challenge Continues!

The Orphanage (J.A. Bayona, 2007)

An excellent ghost story that managed to actually trick me. This is one of those films where I thought I knew how it was going to end before it even started, and it managed to take me off guard. It's about a woman who buys the orphanage that she lived in as a kid, wanting to make a home for special needs children. Her own son (who is also adopted) sees the ghosts of the children who died in the orphanage. No one believes him of course... until he goes missing.

I liked the mood this one created. It's never truly scary, but there's an uneasy atmosphere to the entire piece. Overall I really liked it, especially the ending which managed to pull off a rather twisted happy ending. I really thought she was going to find her child from the ghost, and the actual twist of her having accidentally caused his death was rather brilliant. My only real complaint is that they didn't really fill in all the details of the past, and I would like to have had more information about the children in the orphanage than the film actually gave. I'd still recommend this for anyone looking for a slow moving, but eerie ghost story. 8/10

Fiend Without a Face (Arthur Crabtree, 1958)

Stop-motion brains that kill people with their spinal cords. To a certain extent, I feel I should just stop there, there's really nothing more I should say. It's utterly ridiculous, has plot points that just made me groan, but on the plus side it has some wonderful stop-motion effects. I wish I could say that I liked it, but it is worth checking out just to see the killer brains. 5/10

Child's Play (Tom Holland, 1988)

Another of the “classic” slashers I hadn't seen. Surprisingly, I found this one to be very enjoyable. The mix of horror and humor really worked. Chucky is not a scary figure particularly, but some of his lines are quite amusing. My biggest surprise on this one was my wife (who likes horror movies, but usually hates slashers) loved this. She said to give it a higher rating than I did, but as this is my account, it gets a solid 7/10.

Child's Play 2 (John Lafia, 1990)

The second Chucky movie is partially a retread of the first. Again Andy is attacked by the killer doll, and no one believes him. While the plot is wearing thin, this one still has some fun moments. The final at the toy factory is particularly amusing. Not great, but fun enough. 6/10

Child's Play 3 (Jack Bender, 1991)

So, Andy's older now, but it's still the same movie, just move it to a military school. This one is just bad. The jokes aren't funny, the added plot elements are just stupid, and the military school adds nothing to it other than more annoying characters. Hopefully Bride of Chucky will be better. 3/10

Bride of Chucky (Ronny Yu, 1998)

Easily my favorite Chucky movie since the first. This one is far more of a comedy than the others, which works for the series, and it does not follow the same formula of "Kid sees Chucky, no one believes him, ETC..." They do change it up more, and in doing so possibly add a plot hole (Why didn't he need the pendant before? Why doesn't he need Andy now?) but all that's forgivable as it's an amusing continuation. About as entertaining as I could hope for. 7/10

The Rite (Mikael Håfström, 2011)

Exorcism horror is really one of those sub-genres that you're either a fan of or you can't stand them. The Exorcist being about the only really highly regarded film that crosses genre lines. The Rite will not win convert any new fans (that was one hell of a pun), but it's a far more entertaining film than I expected it to be. It gets a lot of points for having the central character not really believing in exorcisms and such, thus allowing for logical points to be made early on before the actual horror movie section really starts.

Anthony Hopkins is obviously having a blast hamming it up something fierce, and borderline channeling his Van Helsing in the early sections of the film (they said he was eccentric, but at times he just comes off as a nutcase) and then combining it with Hannibal after he gets possessed. Overall I'd say the film is not great, but fun if you enjoy the sub-genre. 6/10

The Tenant (Roman Polanski, 1976)

I've seen some good movies for the October challenge (some bad ones too), but I think this is the first of the first time views that I would truly call great. The closer to Polanski's Apartment trilogy (and easily my favorite of the three) is concerned with the loss of identity. “At what precise moment does an individual stop being who he thinks he is?” That's the question on Polanski's mind in this psychological horror movie, and one he has a character (played by himself nonetheless) voice in one scene. It's a truly frightening film about a man loosing himself.

The plot follows a man who takes a small two room apartment after its former tenant committed suicide jumping out the window. His neighbors all seem suspicious of him, and assume the worst at every point. They have odd habits that he can see outside his window, of just standing by the window without moving for hours. During conversations they also keep telling him little details about the woman who lived there before, her habits, the brand of cigarettes she smoked and such. Soon he finds himself following her patterns, living out her routines. The film does an excellent job of pointing out the oddities in the situation.

Polanski gives a wonderful performance. His meek demeanor in the first half of the film, versus his sudden change seems very much like a psychological breakdown. His violent outbursts and paranoia fuels the second half and becomes all the more frightening as you wonder how much of a victim he truly is. This is an utter masterpiece and probably my second favorite from the director, only beaten by Chinatown. 9/10

The Monkey King (Pou-Soi Cheang, 2014)

The first part in a planned trilogy based on the Chinese literary classic Journey to the West. The film is an utter CGI mess. It's overlong, poorly paced, the martial arts are unimpressive because so much of it was done with computers that it's hard to tell what (if anything) was actually done by the cast. All around, it's just a mess. 3/10

Creature from the Black Lagoon (Jack Arnold, 1954)

Decided to rewatch this classic Universal monster film. I remember it being much better than it actually was, but that could be childish nostalgia as I've loved these films since I was a kid. It's got some nice underwater shots, but the film moves at a much slower pace than I remember and it's really not that exciting when the creature actually does show up. On the plus side, it was a treat watching it in 3D. Interesting that this film from the 50s has better 3D than many modern films. 7/10

The Woman in Red (Gene Wilder, 1984)

I like Gene Wilder, but I found it difficult to even watch this one. It's not particularly funny, and trying to make his character sympathetic while his entire goal in the film is to cheat on his wife... well, I can't say that worked for me. There's a few laughs, but for the most part the film just falls flat. 3/10

Shivers (David Cronenberg, 1975) AKA They Came From Within

A zombie-like virus spread through sexual contact and infects an entire apartment complex in a violent orgy... no, it's not a porno, it's David Cronenberg. This early Cronenberg is a look at pretty much every major theme that would be seen throughout his later work. It's got a bit of psychology, body horror and a weirder look at sexuality than most filmmakers would ever take on. It lacks the polish of his later works, but it definitely still feels like one of his films. That said, it's a lesser one in my opinion. There's some nice aspects (I particularly like the infection leaking out of people and being a living tumor like creature) but for the most part it didn't really appeal as much to me as a lot of his work. Still an interesting oddity. 6/10

Dark Water (Hideo Nakata, 2002)

A nice slow burning ghost story. A recently divorced woman moves into a small apartment with her young daughter as she battles for custody. There they encounter strange things; her ceiling leaks though no one seems to live in the apartment above theirs, a child's bag keeps appearing on the roof, and then there's the water tank on the roof...

As said, this is a slow paced one. Nothing really "scary" happens until the end, and some may find the conclusion to be lacking in impact. I liked the look of the film, and the almost constant rain/sound of water throughout. There's some really well done moments, though only one that I found really unnerving (what is it with creepy elevator moments in Asian horror?). The movie is hurt somewhat by a rather unnecessary epilogue. I wish they would have come up with something a little better than that for a conclusion, but I'd still give it a solid recommendation. 7/10

Underworld: Awakening (Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, 2012)

I remember when this first came out; people were saying it was too short. Did they really want to sit through more of this movie? I have enjoyed the Underworld series since it started despite how ridiculous some of it is. I loved the first movie when I saw it in the theater, and even now I consider it one of the finest guilty pleasures in my collection. The second one I personally didn't care for, but I enjoyed the third one well enough. I heard so many bad things about this one when it first came out that I decided to wait for it to hit DVD, and when it finally did I'd forgotten about it until now. So I put it into the player, hoping for some of the fun of the first film. Well I didn't get that. This is easily the worst in the series. In fact, it's one of the worst movies I've seen in a while. The entire thing is just terrible, filled with characters who do nothing/could be taken out with no problem to the film. The plot seems to change constantly as if the directors changed their minds (they really couldn't decide if they wanted to make humans or werewolves the main enemy). Honestly, I'm having trouble thinking of a single thing I really thought they did well in this one. Skip it. 2/10.

My first time views this year (2014):

Re: The October Challenge Continues!

Finally someone watches a decent film during this damn challenge! The Tenant resonates with anyone who's ever been a stranger in a strange town : I have to say, particularly Paris: the greyness and the verticality of the building, the elegant staircase and the pokey courtyard and the facilities perforce shared (though I think that's less likely now), and even, I admit, the snappy neighbours. It's a peculiarly Parisian breakdown .. but Polanski is brilliantly adept at absorbing and rendering not just the space but the air and the particular paranoias of every place he inhabits.

And here we sit like birds in the wilderness