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post #421 of 451 Old 04-27-2018, 06:50 AM
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Blame It on Rio (1984), directed by Stanley Donen.

When fathers Michael Caine and Joseph Bologna take their teen girls on vacation to Brazil, Caine has an affair with his friend's daughter. It is supposed to be a romantic comedy.

At the time this must have seemed like a good idea to the people who made it. It is adapted from a French original; there was a lot of that happening back then, maybe trying to import some European sophistication? The sexualization of everything was in full swing and teen boobage in film did not seem outrageous to many. I remember David Hamilton's nude studies of early teen girls being stocked in mainstream bookstores; would that happen today?

(As an aside: I really don't know where we are today. People are supposed to be concerned about the sexualization of children but it seems to go on, sometimes covertly. Look at the comical action picture Kick-Ass (2010). At age 13 Chloë Grace Moretz swears like a sailor, commits homicide and lives on her own after being orphaned. If she can do those adult things, what else might she consent to? You see the sub-text, where these people are going).

Anyway: Blame It on Rio wasn't much liked at the time and has seemed like an embarrassment since. Some of the jokes work but most fall flat and it is a clumsy attempt at being risky and provocative. Some of it is not matter for farce: the seducing girl has problems and tries to commit suicide.

Michelle Johnson was 17 and needed special permission from a judge and her parents for her nude scenes. She and Caine cuddle but there aren't any real passion scenes. Maybe Donen recognized that would be going too far, or perhaps Caine's mingled desire and terror is funnier than the satisfaction of their lust.

Demi Moore plays the other daughter and survives the film better than the other actors. She was 22 and has a topless moment on the beach, but her long hair just about covers what is needful. She was less shy (and bustier) later in life. Caine told her she was going to be a star and she said "Bull----".

(Yes, the daughters are topless with their fathers on the beach. Further, when Johnson confides "I used to have a big crush on your father", Moore replies "Me, too". Studies in awkward situations).

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. The commentary track is a funny conversation between two critics who (a) admit it is a moral disaster, but (b) are able to feature many interesting aspects.

The things that make us uncomfortable are worth exploring. Why, and what are the limits? Sex farces are always popular; is that wrong? Both art and commerce want to push up against decency boundaries; in some times and places it works, in others not.



-Bill
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post #422 of 451 Old 04-27-2018, 07:43 AM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
Blame It on Rio (1984), directed by Stanley Donen.

When fathers Michael Caine and Joseph Bologna take their teen girls on vacation to Brazil, Caine has an affair with his friend's daughter. It is supposed to be a romantic comedy.
The great Stanley Donen's final feature film, sadly. It was not much of a swan song.

The How Did This Get Made? podcast recently did an episode about the 2013 movie Adore, which has basically this same premise with a gender reversal (two moms fall in love with each other's teenage sons) and played as a very pretentious drama rather than comedy. That sounds even worse, if you can believe it.

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post #423 of 451 Old 04-27-2018, 09:12 PM
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Even as a young man, I saw problems with the script, and I squirmed in the theater. If Caine's character is ashamed of the situation, don't consummate it -- play the tension out. But the "whatever goes, it's Rio!" bravado ends up with a double-edged razor of moral implications. Also, the film seemed to portray older women as bitchy, not sexy, unattractive; young women are silly, sexy, throwaway playthings (a la Bond films). Roll 'em in the sack, then CYA and flee before you get caught ... that's not a recipe for fun rom-com. Cosby was just convicted for acting on that mentality.

That's what I rmember.... I haven't seen it since its release, I guess I should dredge it up for re-viewing if I'm going to condemn it.

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post #424 of 451 Old 05-21-2018, 08:37 AM
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The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), directed by Terry Gilliam.

Quote:

"The eunuch's life is hard. And nothing else". -- from The Torturer's Apprentice
Originally this seemed like a chaotic kaleidoscope without much order stitching it together. Rewatching it on Blu-ray I now see it more as a triumph of mad genius.

The Baron is a Baroque legend from a time when a good Tale was as good as any other type of reality. He reappears in the cruel and skeptical Age of Reason, which it now occurs to me has simply substituted new Tales for the old.

So we have a clash of World Ages, of the very foundations of reality. The "now" and the Baron's story become intermixed, with the same characters and incidents crossing between and existing in both worlds simultaneously. The Baron's vision is so powerful that he can win a war in the outer reality and survive his own death.

Who did they think would be the audience for this? As you might expect, there weren't enough of them.

It is outrageously imaginative and often hilarious, though sometimes venturing into Monty Pythonesque silliness. Like a lot of Gilliam's work it is episodic, as if he were remaking Time Bandits (1981) with a bigger budget. The cast and crew overlap with Time Bandits (1981) is 13, with Brazil (1985) we have 32 in common.

John Neville was chosen as the lead because we was a great actor who had vanished from public view, like Munchausen himself. Why did he take the job? Gilliam: "He had the misfortune of being a Python fan".

Sarah Polley (The Sweet Hereafter (1997)) is 8 here and already had 9 IMDB credits, including her own TV series. She is the heart of the whole story, showing comic talent beyond her years. Gilliam says he hired her because of her missing teeth, typical of that young age. Directors say they want children to stop "acting" in film and just be natural, but of course they mean be natural in just the right way. She's got it.

Polley says she was exhausted and terrified the whole time, with explosions and things flying through the air every day. I recall a news story from years later about the scene of a horse in a boat, losing control and plunging into the water, when she thought she was going to die. She blamed Gilliam and said he should have taken better care of her. His response at the time: "I didn't know. She seemed fine", but in the commentary track he remembers that incident and admits it was a very bad situation.

In the "making-of" extra she seems to hold no grudges, so maybe the news story was overblown. She says the cast and crew were very good to her, specifically mentioning Uma Thurman and Bill Patterson spending a lot of time playing with her.

I remembered Thurman as Venus but had forgotten she was also in the acting troupe in the "real" world. She was 17. The day of her modest nude scene she was on the phone with her mother in the US who wanted her to come home and finish high school.

Available on Blu-ray. The commentary track is a funny conversation between Gilliam and writer Charles McKeown, who also plays Adolphus the sharp-eyed marksman. I don't know whether to believe all their quips and stories.

Judging by his own account, Gilliam seems to thrive in the chaos of a production lurching from disaster to disaster. Last minute adaptations and inspired improvisations every day. Miraculously, running out of time and money and having to do "reduced" version of planned scenes gives better results than the original conception. I suspect that wouldn't work for everyone but he can do it.

I only sampled the "making of" feature, quickly becoming lost in the who-did-what-to-who production conflicts.



-Bill
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post #425 of 451 Old 05-25-2018, 10:39 PM
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T'is a brilliant flop that I believe true fans will keep alive for decades. When Gilliam's career is added up, I hope it's not just Brazil that he's remembered for. This, Fear & Loathing, and several others are unique and unforgettable.
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post #426 of 451 Old 06-09-2018, 02:58 PM
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Flash Gordon (1980), directed by Mike Hodges.

Comic book and superhero films have become a busy genre in recent decades, but I still don't know what to make of them. Just as Italian spaghetti westerns are a different genre than standard American westerns, so superhero films are not easily compared with films of other types.

I confess that I often feel let down. I always want "more": a sense of wonder, of real adventure that seems missing. Of course, what I really want is to relive the thrills of my youth when everything was new, but that is unreasonable. How could any filmmaker deliver that? Which is why we revisit the old, often cheesy films of our youth: to recapture the experience, even if nostalgically.

By common consensus, some superhero movies are better than others, but I have a hard time seeing the differences. Some are thought to be excessively "stupid". I don't know what to say about that; doesn't it come with the territory?

Are people responding to variations in style they don't like? Some films are futuristic, others more retro. Some suggest the printed page, others go for hyper-realism. Some are meant to be funnier and more slyly self-mocking than others.

Flash Gordon (1980) is an early entry in the modern era of comic book films that seems to inspire a lot of dislike. Its emphasis is retro, unserious and mostly comic, stagey, perhaps suggesting the printed page, although if that was the intent it shouldn't have such a glossy, shiny look.

Quoting the the wikipedia:

Quote:

Flash Gordon is regarded as one of the best illustrated and most influential of American adventure comic strips... graceful, imaginative and soaring.
Well, maybe. I'm no judge.

The film obviously has a lot a problems. Producer Dino De Laurentiis wants to go "big" and it is indeed sometimes colorful, but the results are often cheap looking, with (intentionally?) ludicrous costumes. As I mentioned for Barbarella (1968) his approach is sillier than SF audiences appreciate.

The leads were not well known, but are likable enough:

  • Sam J. Jones is sufficiently studly, if a bit bland. Every one of his lines is dubbed, not because of his voice, but because he walked out during post-production.
  • Melody Anderson (Dead & Buried (1981)) is cute without being glamorous, and funny in a modest way. I always laugh at her "go, Flash, go!" cheerleading during the brief scrimmage scuffle. And the way she carries a ray-gun in one hand and her shoes in the other.

The supporting cast is strong:

  • Chaim Topol as Hans Zarkov seems to be having a good time.
  • Max von Sydow plays Ming the Merciless with relish. The character is a quote of the insidious Fu Manchu and we have distant memories of the yellow peril.
  • Timothy Dalton plays Prince Barin, heroically unflinching at his own lines. I admire British actors for their willingness to do anything and give it their all.
  • Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan is a similar case with extra doses of heartiness. The Hawkmen wings are obviously made of paper and I've never understood if they are supposed to be biological appendages or some sort of strap-on attachment.
  • Ornella Muti as Princess Aura: "I love initiations". If you want more of her, see Swann in Love (1984).

Adding to the weirdness and taking us out of the retro mood altogether is the dynamic score by Queen. I wonder what that cost?

Notes:

  • Despite the cheese factor and general goofiness, the visual design is often impressive, and now and then I get a flash of what could have been a better treatment.
  • Those abstract painted skies: do they represent the printed page, or maybe the backgrounds of the early motion picture serials?
  • The opening montage of early comic panels makes me want to revisit the old strips; it looks exciting when you get only a glimpse.
  • The last minute rescue from forced marriage was repeated in John Carter (2012) and Jupiter Ascending (2015), other space-operas also not well-liked by critics or large portions of the fan base.
  • Ming's lecture to Zarkov on why he tests planets for signs of higher intelligence: that seemed to me to be one solution to the Fermi paradox as to why we do not see intelligent life expressed elsewhere in the universe. Because an earlier advanced power is suppressing it.

Photographed by Gilbert Taylor.

Available on Blu-ray.



-Bill
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post #427 of 451 Old 06-09-2018, 04:13 PM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
  • Melody Anderson (Dead & Buried (1981)) is cute without being glamorous, and funny in a modest way. I always laugh at her "go, Flash, go!" cheerleading during the brief scrimmage scuffle. And the way she carries a ray-gun in one hand and her shoes in the other.
Melody Anderson is also a dead ringer for Carol Hughes from the 1940 serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe.











Quote:
The opening montage of early comic panels makes me want to revisit the old strips; it looks exciting when you get only a glimpse.
I have a coffee table book called Flash Gordon: The Tyrant of Mongo that I recommend. It compiles Sunday paper strips from 1937 to 1941 in good quality.

https://www.amazon.com/Tyrant-Mongo-...dp/0857683799/


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post #428 of 451 Old 06-09-2018, 07:14 PM
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Flash Gordon (1980), directed by Mike Hodges.

-Bill



I really, really, love this movie. It's the alpha prime example of how to do camp the right way. In order for camp to succeed, everyone involved from the cast and crew to the audience needs to buy into what they're doing which is exactly what happens with Flash Gordon.

Looky here!
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post #429 of 451 Old 06-25-2018, 01:26 PM
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Heat and Dust (1983), directed by James Ivory.

A tale of two Indias: in the 1980s a woman journeys there while reading the letters of her grandmother's sister, and we have the original 1920s story of that young woman as a newlywed.

The contrasts: colonial India is like a costume fantasy, when even mid-level British civil servants could live like kings. Modern India is less regal, more democratic, its tales are less fraught with social importance, more quietly personal.

The similarities: both women fall in love with Indian men. Both have to make abortion decisions: one goes one way, one goes the other. They travel to the same locations and both wind up in the snowy hills of Kashmir with the Himalayas on the horizon.

Same and different: the same locations and buildings are used for both time periods. What had been palaces and stately homes are now museums and government offices.

Our players:

  • Greta Scacchi, age 23 and luminously beautiful, in her first significant role.
  • Julie Christie, age 43 and always magnetic. She was born in India.
  • Shashi Kapoor as the princely but more than slightly shady Nawab. The Kapoors are a vast Indian film dynasty.
  • Christopher Cazenove (Eye of the Needle (1981)) has the thankless role of a decent but stiff and clueless husband.

This was a successful Merchant Ivory production and was well-reviewed, but then just seemed to disappear.

Adapted by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala from her novel. Ivory said their company should have been called "Merchant Ivory Jhabvala". "An Indian Muslim, an American Protestant and a German Jew: we were the three-headed monster".

Available on Blu-ray from Cohen Media. The commentary track is a conversation and fond reflections by producer Ismail Merchant, Greta Scacchi and Nickolas Grace, who plays both old and young Harry, the Nawab's English secretary. The actors jibe the producer about money and paycheck problems during filming; the company had various funding disasters.

The disc has several interview extras, and another Merchant Ivory short film, Autobiography of a Princess (1975) with James Mason.

Much of this seems to have been carried forward from an earlier Criterion DVD.



-Bill
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post #430 of 451 Old 07-13-2018, 04:32 AM
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Radio Days (1987), written and directed by Woody Allen.

A loving, humorous reminiscence of a big family in 1940s New York City. The period detail is meticulous and the score is the great jazz and big band music of the war years.

This would be a good companion to Boorman's Hope and Glory (1987) which shows the same story at the same time in London. The teen girls do the same trick of drawing stocking seams on the backs of the legs when they can't get nylons.

Allen narrates the film, giving us the strong impression of loosely autobiographical memories, although the kid (Seth Green, age 13) is called Joe, not Woody or Allan Stewart or Heywood. It may be his warmest, most loving film, with the moments of bitter satire more than offset by affectionate, time-tinted memories.

Too many familiar faces to list! Julie Kavner and Michael Tucker usually get small supporting roles and it is great to see them featured as Mom and Dad.

Mia Farrow is in the cast; this is in the middle of their complicated partnering relationship, years before the disastrous blowup that still reverberates today with charges of possible but unproven criminality.

On Blu-ray from Twilight Time, now out of print. I'm told Allen hates extras and won't allow them, so we don't have a commentary track. It does have an isolated score and trailer.



-Bill
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post #431 of 451 Old 08-01-2018, 02:06 PM
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The Whales of August (1987), directed by Lindsay Anderson.

Given the cast, all near the end of their lives, I tend to neglect the simple plot, adapted from a stage play, and marvel over their long fruitful careers. What a long strange trip it was.

In order of seniority we have:

  • Lillian Gish (94), her last film.
  • Bette Davis (79), her second to last film.
  • Ann Sothern (78), her last film.
  • Vincent Price (76), ten more credits over the next six years.
  • Harry Carey Jr. (66), lived and worked another 25 years.

They speak and move like elderly people and the acting is "large", but that may be realistic. Old people sometimes do speak with exaggerated emphasis.

Favorite moment: the two sisters are reminiscing about their long-dead husbands and the days of passion. Bette Davis: "You two didn't have to go off and make whoopee every hour". Lillian Gish looks away and sighs.

Ann Sothern had 106 IMDB credits and I cannot remember the last time I saw her. I'll have to revisit A Letter to Three Wives (1949) soon.

I only know Lindsay Anderson from such oddities as if... (1968) and O Lucky Man! (1973) and this was an unexpected subject for him.

Produced by Alive/Island Alive Films who also gave us so many 1980s indie films: Insignificance (1985), The Hit (1984), Choose Me (1984), Trouble in Mind (1985) and The Moderns (1988).

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. The commentary track is a conversation with Mike Kaplan, the producer who conceived the project and got it made. He knew Lillian Gish and wanted a vehicle for her.

He says

  • Vincent Price's role was meant for John Gielgud, who was otherwise engaged.
  • Bette Davis was high-maintenance and always accompanied by a lot of drama, but Price and Sothern tended to keep her in check.



-Bill
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post #432 of 451 Old 08-31-2018, 08:20 AM
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The Long Riders (1980), directed by Walter Hill.

Another telling of the James and Younger gangs, history and mythology that has been popular since the moment they were robbing banks, coaches and trains.

We have gotten past the "revisionist western" era where the emphasis was on anti-heroic cruelty and contemporary political parallels, and returned to more classical themes of honor, family and romance. And yet it retains the realism and blood and grittiness of the late 1960s and early 70s.

Sam Peckinpah is the obvious influence on the action scenes and the slow motion and blood splatter effects immediately suggest The Wild Bunch (1969) and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1971). The costumes, props and locations all look authentic.

Hiring acting brothers to play character brothers sounds like a gimmick, but they don't force it and the strategy works. We have:

  • the Jameses: James and Stacy Keach (who also produced).
  • the Youngers: David, Robert, and Keith Carradine.
  • the Millers: Dennis and Randy Quaid.
  • the Fords: Christopher and Nicholas Guest.

The Bridges brothers were also considered.

James Keach is less well known than his brother but gets the role of Jesse James, which I think was fine casting. He is their leader because he is quiet, serious and inscrutable.

Relations between the sets of brothers and between men and women is the foundation of the story and gets most of the time. A great little subplot is the long breakdown between Cole Younger (David Carradine) and dangerous prostitute Belle Starr (Pamela Reed in her film debut).

The only bit I object to is a knife fight between David Carradine and James Remar. Two men holding a strip of cloth between their teeth seems like unrealistic nonsense to me.

Some of the horse stunts look cruel.

Ry Cooder score. A lot of music in the saloons and dances here.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. The film source is very grainy. Three film writers provide an excited, enthusiastic commentary track. One takes up most of the time and talks over the others.



-Bill
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Monkey Shines (1988), written and directed by George A. Romero.

After being hit by a truck while jogging, a man becomes quadriplegic and loses his girlfriend to his surgeon! He is given a remarkably intelligent and deft Capuchin monkey as a service animal. Problem: a friend who is a sort of self-medicating junior mad-scientist has been injecting the monkey with experimental serum containing human brain tissue.

The monkey becomes smarter and more dangerous than normal and develops a weird telepathic emotional bond with her client, increasing the pent-up rage in both. How do you fight such a jealous little devil when you are in a wheelchair and can move only your head?

I saw this years ago and did not remember that Jason Beghe plays our main character. I have enjoyed his TV work and would have gotten back to the film sooner if I had known. I would not call it a fright-fest but it has some intense moments.

There is some extra plot with an evil dean that goes nowhere; Romero's original ending was replaced with a shock jump scare by the studio. "They called it the Carrie (1976)-ending in those days and every thriller had to have one".

The studio also insisted on a happy ending where the quadriplegic is healed. Audience response was negative and there were protesters in wheelchairs outside the theater.

We have a sex scene with the second girlfriend where she hoists herself on a bar above his face. It is not very explicit but kind of erotic. Romero thought it was bold to have quadriplegic sex but the test audience response was: nothing. Critical response: more nothing.

The film didn't do well and is not much remembered. I think people want zombies from Romero and nothing else. He blames the studio marketing: the poster was of a toy monkey banging cymbals, as if this were a haunted doll story.

It is called his first studio picture but was actually privately financed. Orion picked it up after seeing the first cut.

Using Capuchins as service animals is a real thing and Romero says they can actually do all the remarkable things shown in the film, apart from lighting matches which had to be simulated. Training is easy: show them what you want and reward them with treats and they pick it up quickly. A second unit recorded hundreds of hours of monkey expressions to pick just the right bits for the story context.

In a remarkable bit "Ella" embraces Beghe with the most loving and devoted expression. Romero got a call one morning: "Boo (= Ella) is in heat. Jason has to be the first male she sees today". So they did that and she cuddled with him the next few days.

Stories like that, plus the performance of the animal, suggest to me that simians deserve better treatment than the average lab rat. They are much closer to us. I know Ella is supposed to be a hateful little demon in the end, but it hurts to see her that way. Was that the intention? Well done, if so.

Available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory. The commentary track is a happy conversation with the director.



-Bill
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post #434 of 451 Old 10-01-2018, 12:08 PM
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Monkey Shines (1988), written and directed by George A. Romero.
I love that movie. I remember being on the monkey's side the whole movie. Thank you for the review.
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post #435 of 451 Old 10-02-2018, 03:03 PM
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Monkey Shines (1988), written and directed by George A. Romero.
I remember REALLY liking it on release (save for the artificial ending), but figured it would do very poorly. At that time, people wanted their scary movies simple and brainless. "Don't make me think. Don't let me question. Just set it up and then scare me or gross me out." Pfft. You need to think through a Romero film.

Saw it twice. When the suspense winds up, you're still not sure who to root for. Who's the victim here? How's our hero going to win?

I remember recognizing John Pankow from To Live And Die In L.A., but have forgotten that so many other people were in this. Stanley Tucci? Stephen Root? Janine Turner? Romero had a great cast, as he sometimes did. I thought the lead (and Boo) were great, the new gf a bit bland. But that sex scene was pure Romero. Realistic. Not what you're used to in movies? Too bad. This is what some people have to do.

I didn't know about the bonding BTS bit. I was amazed at the actor and Boo's interactions. I figured both trained together so that his scenes with here were realistic.

The real stars of the movie:

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post #436 of 451 Old 10-22-2018, 08:51 AM
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Silver Bullet (1985), directed by Daniel Attias.

Without warning, residents of a peaceful little town are being murdered in a savage fashion. The kid in the motorized wheelchair figures it out first: werewolf. How to convince the others? Soon they know the identity of the cursed being. Now what to do?

This seems like a "date" horror film, something like Carpenter's The Fog (1980): a few scary moments but not terribly gruesome. The director -- on his first job -- said he did not care for horror films and tried to put in more humor and human interest, hoping for a PG13 rating. Producer Dino De Laurentiis and writer Stephen King had other ideas and it is in fact "R".

The werewolf effects are rudimentary and we mostly get glimpses. For some reason effective wolf-beast-man creatures are hard to present. Carlo Rambaldi is credited as "werewolf suit creator"; he had no time or budget.

The young people are very good. Corey Haim is just excellent as a happy kid in a wheelchair without a trace of self-pity. He gets one quiet moment watching the other kids playing baseball and we understand that it's not all good times.

Megan Follows is very natural as his over-burdened big sister. Love in the large, but much irritation day by day.

Then we have Gary Busey as Uncle Red, a big kid himself. He has his own disability -- booze -- and the parallel he draws between the brother/sister and he and his own sister (the mom) eventually comes home to him. The director wanted Busey for the role, but says he was high maintenance, requiring more time than both kids put together.

Great ensemble of loved character actors: Terry O'Quinn and Bill Smitrovich (who would both be in the Millennium TV series a decade later), and James Gammon as the first victim. I mostly know Everett McGill from Twin Peaks, but also remember him from Dune (1984) and Heartbreak Ridge (1986).

I recall a pair of TV critics finding this really vile for putting a wheelchair kid in peril. Not Siskel and Ebert; must have been the other guys.

Available on Blu-ray on an all-region import from Umbrella in Australia. Quality is just fair.

Several extras and two commentary tracks: a conversation with the director and another with the composer.



-Bill
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post #437 of 451 Old 10-29-2018, 11:16 AM
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Piranha II: The Spawning (1981), directed by James Cameron.

What's worse than mutant piranha fish? Flying mutant piranha fish!

I saw this on video tape and thought it might hold up as good cheesy R-rated fun, something like Humanoids from the Deep (1980). It falls short of that. The action scenes are solidly in the cheap effects creature feature genre, but the human interest main story pasting it all together is painfully bad, with weak attempts at comedy.

This obviously owes a lot to Jaws (1975) and the original Piranha (1978). At the time I saw every new horror film through Alien (1979) lenses and I remember thinking "A flying fish erupting from a corpse is just like the chest-burster, isn't it?"

The good aspects:

  • I recollect Tricia O'Neil as easy on the eyes, but also that they were trying to suggest some other actress: maybe Jacqueline Bisset or Rachel Ward? Adrienne Barbeau?
  • Lance Henriksen fan club!
  • The water does not have that crystal clarity we like for really stunning underwater shots, but there are some lovely scenes and exciting, difficult stunt work.
  • A generous amount of boobage and assorted T&A by lovely women. The opening scene is of ambitious underwater sex. Which doesn't turn out well, given the presence of mutant piranha. That'll teach the kids to try fancy fornicating.

Cameron cites Terminator (1984) as his first film, reluctant to take credit for this one. He certainly didn't have much control over the project and it was a rocky production; see the details in the wikipedia article. Which has many "citation needed" notes, so who knows the complete story?

Available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory.



-Bill
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post #438 of 451 Old 11-18-2018, 02:29 PM
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Dreamchild (1985), directed by Gavin Millar.

In 1932, Alice Hargreaves at age 80 travels to New York City to receive an honorary degree on the centenary of the birth of Reverend Charles Dodgson, who she knew in England as a little girl. He wrote as Lewis Carroll and she inspired the Alice of his Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

A widow accompanied by a timid teen orphan as companion, she is shocked and confused by the modern media hysteria over the event. She claims to barely remember the original incidents and it is disorienting to have your childhood blown out into a mythology for public consumption.

She begins to remember more and sometimes hallucinates that she is in the books, meeting the strange creatures there. She wonders about her relationship with Carroll: what was he thinking, and how did she respond? In the end she gets through the public ordeal and her memories are of love and forgiveness.

Coral Browne is wonderful as the older Alice, sometimes tyrannically Victorian, softening by the end. She was Vincent Price's last wife; they met while making Theater of Blood (1973).

Ian Holm is Carroll, so good at that mute yearning he does, suggesting through passivity. He is introverted, mysterious, stuttering and in love with Alice.

Young Alice is played by Amelia Shankley, who has a brief filmography. She delivers a remarkable performance, not a "Lolita" but insightful and understanding that the Reverend has to be warned off.

Jane Asher (Deep End (1970), The Buttercup Chain (1970)) plays her mother, growing suspicious. She burned some of his letters.

The fantasy puppets are from Jim Henson's Creature Shop, based on original illustrations but looking horrific, something like The Dark Crystal (1982). Gates McFadden of Star Trek: The Next Generation did the puppet choreography.

Written by Dennis Potter (Pennies from Heaven (1978), The Singing Detective (1986), Brimstone and Treacle (1976)).

Lewis Carroll's sexuality is a matter of ongoing debate; see the wikipedia article for more. He adored little girls and did nude photo studies of them (with their parents present!) His biographers are reluctant to call him a pedophile, but that sort of behavior will get you talked about.

I have small patience with the literary nonsense genre.

Available as a PAL DVD import. No subtitles.



-Bill

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post #439 of 451 Old 11-18-2018, 08:16 PM
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Dreamchild (1985), directed by Gavin Millar.

... Available as a PAL DVD import. No subtitles.
Currently available on Amazon Prime Video (included with Prime) (looks like a master of a cropped, pan 'n scan VHS tape by "Janson Media"; watch the obscene haloing effect around Lucy at 5:45) and as a DVD (letterboxed). I have the MGM/UA Limited Edition Collection DVD, it's not bad, letterboxed with fairly good, but stable image quality.

Amzn Prime Video version:

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post #440 of 451 Old 11-19-2018, 04:56 AM
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That's not much of an ad for Prime Video, is it?

I don't know how I missed the region 1 DVD. Maybe the PAL import was cheaper at the time? I don't remember.

-Bill

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post #441 of 451 Old 01-03-2019, 07:41 AM
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Prizzi's Honor (1985), directed by John Huston.

Quote:
Marry her. Just because she's a thief and a hitter doesn't mean she's not a good woman in all the other departments.
This is a hard one to figure out. It is not a mob comedy or spoof, not a romantic comedy, nor a broad social satire, but is still something of all of those. The plot is tragic but the dialogue comic. I haven't read Richard Condon's novel but he did the screenplay and liked the results.

I'm disoriented about the time period. At first the clothes and cameras make me think 1940s, but then we have modern cars, jets and New York skyline. The mob family seems to live in a time capsule and decor and fashions change slowly for them.

My mind circles back to The Godfather (1972) and I wonder: what if Luca Brasi or one of the other enforcers fell in love at first sight with a woman who turned out to be a player herself, dangerous and not to be trusted? And we were still pulling for them, hoping that even suspicious killers can find happiness. Still, there is that danger of being deceived and we don't want Charley to be a chump...

I saw it once years ago and remembered nothing about it apart from the shock ending, and now I see that had been censored! Back then I found Jack Nicholson's Brooklyn accent hard to take; it bothers me less now.

Kathleen Turner emerged as a blazing talent, instant stardom. Face, figure, intelligence and a steely core.

Anjelica Huston is the third side of the triangle and it is not until late in the film that we discover this has been her story all along. It is about her triumph.

John Huston had a directing comeback late in life and the film was a surprise hit. The studio didn't know what to do with it, hence the rom-com poster:



Alex North score.

Available on Blu-ray with a happy, adulatory commentary track. They point out something I've noticed about Huston: although some of his films are still well known (The African Queen (1951), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), The Maltese Falcon (1941)) he is not often discussed as a film director, which is surprising given his large catalog of worthy films. All very different: he hardly ever repeated himself.

I've seen complaints about the mastering of this disc, but I think much of the softness is innate to this film which is heavily filtered to give a classic look. On some bright objects you can see massive diffraction from what I presume is gauze on the lens.



-Bill
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post #442 of 451 Old 01-03-2019, 08:29 AM
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Available on Blu-ray with a happy, adulatory commentary track. They point out something I've noticed about Huston: although some of his films are still well known (The African Queen (1951), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), The Maltese Falcon (1941)) he is not often discussed as a film director, which is surprising given his large catalog of worthy films. All very different: he hardly ever repeated himself.

I've seen complaints about the mastering of this disc, but I think much of the softness is innate to this film which is heavily filtered to give a classic look. On some bright objects you can see massive diffraction from what I presume is gauze on the lens.



-Bill
8 Academy Award nominations for the film, the only winner was Angelica Huston. She was phenomenal in this. William Hickey was also a treat.
I agree on the soft focus of this one, its intentional.
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post #443 of 451 Old 01-20-2019, 01:08 PM
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INFERNO (1980) 9/10 FREE on VUDU

An American college student in Rome and his sister in New York investigate a series of killings in both locations where their resident addresses are the domain of two covens of witches.

I loved INFERNO .Dario Argento's surrealist horror film style is so good and write down my alley . I think he had an influence on the fantasy horror film of Wes Craven for sure . INFERNO unfolds like a fever dream of supernatural horror, bizarre settings, strange lighting and music, and brutal death scenes.The killer 'Cats' OMG so awesome. Argento's Gothic supernatural elements create a twisted and bloody experience unlike anything else. Inferno is a brutal, stylish, and beautiful horror film. One of Argento's Best Films .

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post #444 of 451 Old 02-26-2019, 07:23 AM
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Pale Rider (1985), produced and directed by Clint Eastwood.

The gang of toughs on horseback shouldn't have shot the dog. It is one thing to raid the hardscrabble mining camp, raise hell and terrify people, but shooting the dog: that's never good.

When the girl buries it she prays for a deliverer, and here he comes. Helping the helpless, chastising the wicked, that's what avengers do.

According to the wikipedia: "Clint Eastwood said that his character Preacher is an out-and-out ghost". This suggests comparison with the avenging fury/ghost of High Plains Drifter (1973). In the earlier film the entire town is punished, but here the Preacher is after one man: Marshal Stockburn, who he seems to have known before. (The town boss and his minions are just in the way). In the older movie the visitor delivers nothing but sadism and cruelty in his corrections, but here he displays tenderness to and compassion for the good people.

I've never quite understood this one, even as an assembly of mythic Western quotes and quasi-supernatural revenge story. I'm missing some pieces. Why is he a Preacher? What does that add? Why does he have to swap his collar for six-guns, when it was clear he was no pacifist before? Why does he have a closed door interlude with the mom, and why do we hear the disembodied voice of Stockburn calling him? "A voice from the past", says the Preacher. Ok...

Is Eastwood working out something with his past here, his career in Westerns? Is Stockburn supposed to be Sergio Leone? His deputies have those long dusters everyone wears in spaghetti westerns. In the final gunfight the Preacher kills Stockburn with the same impossible-to-survive six bullets to the chest, a pattern we saw before. Then one to the head, which certainly puts a period to something.

The cinematography by Bruce Surtees is particularly fine this time. I wish I knew more about film stocks and lenses, but the rich, dark color is just beautiful. Perhaps too dark in the thumbnails below, but lovely on the large screen.

Notes:

  • Every few years a studio marketing department must assure us: "The Western is back!" They did it for this one and for Silverado (1985).
  • Stockburn is played by John Russell, a regular in Westerns of the 1950s.
  • Sydney Penny is mighty pretty as young Megan. I have not seen her in anything else, although she has had a busy TV career.
  • The mining camp is an improbably loving community with families and happy playing kids.
  • By contrast the villains are also eco-villains, power-washing away the mountains to get their gold. Decent folk do it the old-fashioned way with pick-axes and lots of sweating.
  • The opening raid is much like the beginning of Conan the Barbarian (1982). Of course, in barbarian times they behead the mother rather than killing the dog.
  • Like Leone, Eastwood loves dynamite.
  • And like High Plains Drifter (1973), it seems he is leaving before the fighting begins, but he gets back in time for the action.
  • Filmed in Idaho, with some rail and town scenes in California.

Available on Blu-ray. The images are often quite fine, although the black levels are not good at night. I recall this is typical for Eastwood's Warner films on home video.



-Bill
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post #445 of 451 Old 04-23-2019, 07:58 AM
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Dead & Buried (1981), directed by Gary Sherman.

-Bill
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Look for the bizarre medical instruments designed for mutated women making a cameo appearance in Batman (1989), the back alley surgeon's basement when he says, "you see what I have to work with…?" The film was being made in the next sound stage (or same back lot?) I think.
First, I have very much enjoyed reading this and the "1979 and earlier" threads the last couple of days. I didn't come close to covering the pre 1979 stuff and haven't yet attempted the 1990s, but I am amazed by how much I've learned and how many movies I didn't know existed. Special shout out to Bill for the expansive body of interesting insights and commentary! Honorable mention to ChromeJob for his "supplemental" contributions as well. You guys have an historical perspective and depth of knowledge that truly accentuates the level to which I am a film fan. It's a truly remarkable record. Thanks guys!

I did recently revisit Dead and Buried as it showed up on Prime. Nice little atmospheric sleeper there. Just wanted to touch on the "acid up the nose" death. I'm very glad you pointed out that the effect was done after Stan Winston left the production. With that context, it makes much more sense. When viewing it, both my fiancee and I laughed at how comically bad the head looked, especially compared against the other effects, which looked good for 1981.

Also, sad about Jack Albertson. I IMdB'ed him during the movie and saw he passed in 1981. Glad he was able to have, what appeared to be, a little fun in his last role.
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post #446 of 451 Old 04-23-2019, 01:34 PM
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Under Fire (1983), directed by Roger Spottiswoode.

Journalists get pulled into the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua. The scruffy, experienced cameraman is actually a political innocent, in way over his head. It does not occur to him that he is guided to the revolutionaries so that:

Spoiler!


Conservatives have long complained that journalists (and film-makers) fall in love with left-revolutionaries and bias their reporting accordingly. Here we see it happening and the results are unfortunate. And yet Nick Nolte's character says "I'd do it all again", which shows questionable judgment given the body count.

I saw this back when and remembered nothing about it except that it was suggested by the real case of the murder of an American journalist caught on camera by his friends, adding as fiction their fabrication of other photo evidence, and that Ed Harris hit it big that year with this and The Right Stuff (1983). Here he is a mercenary, often funny but ultimately villainous and always on the wrong side.

My eye was also drawn to Elpidia Carrillo as one of the guerrilla fighters. She had a similar role in Predator (1987) and I see she was in another Central American civil war film of that time, Oliver Stone's Salvador (1986).

Fans think this is one of Jerry Goldsmith's finest scores. I'd have to listen to it as a soundtrack album before judging. Although he knew that panpipes were not native to Nicaragua, he wanted their percussive effect in the score anyway. Recording in London they couldn't find an actual instrument, so they taped one together from bits of pvc pipe.

Photographed by John Alcott, who did several films for Kubrick: A Clockwork Orange (1971), Barry Lyndon (1975), The Shining (1980). They say his light meter was the back of his hand.

Available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time. Two commentary tracks: one about the film and the other about Jerry Goldsmith.

They all think this is a great film. I'd say it is a good, well-made one.



-Bill
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post #447 of 451 Old 04-23-2019, 02:15 PM
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Under Fire (1983), directed by Roger Spottiswoode.
-Bill
I wouldn't call it a great film either. In fact I'd say its a good example of a film winding up to be less than the sum of its parts.
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post #448 of 451 Old 04-23-2019, 02:58 PM
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The part in your spoiler would be very, very rough.
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post #449 of 451 Old 05-10-2019, 02:07 AM
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Highlander, 1986

A perfect film with magnificent soundtracks by Queen. Deffenetly a must!
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post #450 of 451 Old 05-31-2019, 07:26 AM
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The 'Burbs (1989), directed by Joe Dante

This is one of those movies that I love an unreasonable amount. It must have been a confluence of the age at which I first watched it matched with the overall production, but those two things resulted in me never being able to stop thinking about this movie for long while growing up. It's dumb, silly, immature, and ridiculous, and I adore it. Despite those things, it has pedigree. Joe Dante had been around the block a few times having previously directed Piranha (1978), The Howling (1981), and Gremlins (1984) so he definitely had that ability to mix the humorous with the horrific. The 'Burbs obviously leans much more to the former, but it certainly captures some decent creepiness (mostly thanks to Henry Gibson and that house).

The cast is top notch. They all live on a cul-de-sac. Tom Hanks (Ray Peterson) at his comedic prime before he became a "serious" actor and stole America's heart. Carrie Fisher is Ray's wife Carol (she was perpetually glorious her whole life). Bruce Dern (the man, the legend) is Mark Rumsfield (Rummy), his overly-militarized but bumbling neighbor. Rick Ducommun is Art Weingartner, the other neighbor: a dumb, instigating, self-serving buffoon. Corey Feldman is Ricky Butler, the idiot teenager across the street that should be painting his house but spends his days just watching the adults acting like children and loving every second of it. The action gets so hot he eventually calls a bunch of his other slacker friends to come over and enjoy the show.

The simplest of plots: There's a super creepy, unkempt house on the cul-de-sac inhabited by weird foreigners that are up to no good as evidenced by activities such as digging big holes in the backyard, in the rain, at night and driving big bags of squishy garbage out to the curb in the middle of the night. Ray and his male compadres know they're straight up murderers. They just have to prove it. The wives are skeptical and force a hilarious interaction that involves Ray eating gelatinous sardines and Rummy interrogating all of them in a very accusatory tone after ripping wallpaper off the wall in what remains the funniest scene in the movie IMO.

All Ray wanted to do was take a week off and spend it at the house doing nothing (what we now call a "stay-cation"). He just wants to sleep late, drink a few hundred beers, and listen to the ballgame. Despite his wishes, he is eventually cajoled into getting involved in snooping on the weird neighbors. Hilarity ensues.

The Shout Select collector's edition blu-ray is a good looking presentation on my TCL 65R617, and it has some nice extras: writer commentary, making of, interviews, etc.




Tack, shimonmor, wmcclain and 1 others like this.
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