Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Escape From The Bronx (1983)

Film actors can come from literally anywhere. Many spend years studying (and understudying) their craft, hoping for that big break. Others seem to just fall into it. For example, Marilyn Monroe started on her fateful path to stardom after being photographed at the munitions plant in which she worked. Johnny Depp accompanied a friend to an audition when director Wes Craven asked him to read for the part of Glen in A Nightmare On Elm Street. Harrison Ford worked as a carpenter building cabinets for George Lucas when he was cast in American Graffiti. All went on to successful careers showcasing their particular talents. Yet for every diamond-in-the-rough happenstance deems worthy of bestowing on the world, there are dozens, if not hundreds (and sometimes it feels like thousands), of onscreen personalities pulled from obscurity simply because they looked good and happened to be in the right place at the right time. If IMDB is to be believed (though it seems very plausible to me), Mark Gregory (aka Marco Di Grigorio) was discovered in a gym in Rome.

The Bronx has become a war zone. "Deinfestation Annihilation Squads" patrol the neighborhoods, evicting residents and blowing buildings up. Meanwhile, Trash (Gregory) rides the wastelands on his motorcycle, running weapons to the underground (literally) resistance, led by Dablone (Antonio Sabato). The president of General Construction Corporation, Mr. Clark (Ennio Girolami, aka Thomas Moore), has plans to level the Bronx and build a nice, clean city of the future on top of its ashes, and he has clandestinely ordered DAS leader, Floyd Wrangler (Henry Silva), to deport and/or exterminate the low class residents. As the Bronx residents become more and more embattled, the resistance hatches a risky scheme in a bid to force the corporation to negotiate.

Enzo G. Castellari's Escape From The Bronx (aka Fuga Dal Bronx) is really nothing more than a sequel to his own pasta-pocalypse film, 1990: Bronx Warriors (aka 1990: I Guerrieri Del Bronx). Its title is strictly a ploy to cash in on John Carpenter's vastly superior Escape From New York (and if you've ever seen the amount of non-Django movies with the word "Django" in the title, you'll be very familiar with this practice). From its first shots, the film embodies a distrust of government and big business. As the silver-suited armies tramp through the streets, shooting and burning everyone they see, there is a loudspeaker reassuring residents that they only want to relocate them to housing in New Mexico, and "there is nothing to fear." The instant those words are uttered, we know they're untrustworthy and up to no good. With this setup, the film alludes (consciously or unconsciously) to the Warsaw ghetto under the Nazi regime, and on that level, the film works, though the reference is a tad heavy-handed, I think.

Along those lines, the film is also a play on the battle against homogeneity. The Annihilation Squads dress exactly alike (or as alike as a shoestring budget will allow). We cannot see their faces clearly behind the visors of their helmets. They are the same, interchangeable. The only one who dresses any different is Wrangler, but that's only to distinguish him as the leader (though Silva's cheekbones alone could do that). The Bronx denizens are more individualistic. Though they generally dress in tatters, we can see their faces. The various gangs have distinctive styles of dress (zoot suiters, cabaret tap dancers, pirates, and so on), but each character has a slight variation of their own. The city Clark and company want to erect is full of clean structural lines with no individualism allowed, and it is planned to be built right on top of the Bronx, in effect stamping out any distinctiveness with the sheer weight of sameness. The future will be bright, shiny, and dull.

Trash fits into the antihero archetype snugly. He has no gang anymore, and his only interest in the resistance is in how he will profit from it. When Dablone says he should move underground with them, Trash basically says they're all idiots, and they're not any safer underground than above. He doesn't want responsibility, and the only time he accepts it is when it is thrust upon him. When the film starts, we get a Robin Hood feel about Trash. The government/corporation knows him by name and even seems to be looking for him specifically. His parents have a full-sized poster of him in their home. He brings necessities to the resistance. Problem is, rather than robbing from the rich to give to the poor, Trash robs from the rich to sell to the poor. It isn't until the struggle is made personal, that he takes a proactive hand. As Edmund Burke said, "When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." Trash cannot stand apart from his fellow men. The only way they can triumph (in fact, survive) is united.

Castellari has been around the block a few times, and he knows what he's doing with a camera, and he certainly realizes this is an action film above all else (the science fiction aspects are fairly tangential). There are scenes of immolations, shootings, explosions, blunt force traumas, and mayhem of all types. The problem is (and it always pains me to complain about things like this) there is too much of a good thing here. The carnage is wall-to-wall, but it's so pervasive (and scattershot), it loses its impact. Add to that, the main plot/plan of the characters takes so long to get to, it feels arbitrary. It literally feels like there was a two-sentence synopsis of the movie, and Castellari just made everything else up. 

It's been argued (and I think the best James Bond films are sterling examples of this) that the better the villain's plan is, the better the action movie is. Unfortunately, the villain's plan in Escape From The Bronx never goes past level one. The whole movie proceeds not in peaks and valleys but in a straight line. Consequently, there's no cathartic payoff at the climax. Finally, the pell-mell narrative structure leaves an unfocused, shrug-inducing feel in the viewer. It's worth a view and could even be useful as something to keep on in the background of a party, but on its own, this one just left me kind of cold.

MVT: Henry Silva owns every scene he is in (no shock there). With no meat on the bones of this check-cashing gig, he still winds up with plenty of gristle between his teeth.

Make Or Break: Trash owns a revolver that is even more powerful than Harry Callahan's .44 Magnum, apparently. You'll know the scene when you see it. 

Score: 5.75/10


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 12/27/11

Sammy's Pick: SID AND NANCY (Region 1 Blu-Ray; MGM/20th Century Fox)
This film will always be Alex Cox's masterpiece in my opinion. It's his most complete film and it captures an era I have great affection towards as it reminds me of my youth and how I was anti EVERYTHING. Gary Oldman puts in an amazing performance and Chloe Webb (whom many have forgotten) puts in just as good a performance as Nancy. I highly recommend this film.

Amazon Review
High-Def Digest Review

Aaron's Pick: FINAL DESTINATION 5 (Region 1 Blu-Ray & DVD; New Line/Warner Home Video)
I don't particularly care for this movie too much, but I got a chance to see it in theaters in 3D and thought it was a fun enough film with some decent kills, an impressive collapsing-bridge sequence, and a nice twist ending. The 3D was a bit disappointing, as I felt they didn't really exploit it as much as they could have, but it was perfectly fine, and as a whole this is pretty much everything you'd expect from a FINAL DESTINATION movie. I originally wanted to pick Uwe Boll's latest, IN THE NAME OF THE KING 2 (starring Dolph Lundgren!), but who am I kidding; we all know it's gonna be garbage.

Amazon Blu-Ray and DVD
Amazon Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Review
High-Def Digest Review

Large William's Pick: MONDO KEYHOLE (MOD; Allied Vaughn)
Other than its awesome title and the pedigree of the director(Jack Hill), who I have a great deal of affection for(in fact, we would have reviewed more of his films on the show, if so many people in our circle hadn't done so already). Basically, it plays like a domestic version of Powell's tremendous Peeping Tom. An otherwise normal man has a voracious appetite for rape, and one night, his heroin addicted wife follows him to a costume party to see what a gwan. Needless to say, things don't go well.. Check it out gang, to see a genre godfather honing his craft early on



Monday, December 26, 2011

Episode #164: The Uppercut Exterminator

Welcome to another episode of the GGtMC!!!

This week the Gents cover two films from one of our sponsors Diabolik DVD (, we go over The Exterminator (1980) from director James Glickenhaus and starring Robert Ginty and Uppercut Man (1988 aka The Opponent) from director Sergio Martino and starring Daniel Green.

Next week we are going over all of our feedback from the past months and getting caught up on all of the back log we have been building since we had some schedule changes, the show is back in it's stride (as if we ever left it?).

Direct download: The_Uppercut_ExterminatorRM.mp3

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Big Alligator River (1979)

From the late 1970s to the early/mid-1980s, you would be hard-pressed to find an Italian-produced horror/science fiction film that didn't have at least one scene with a helicopter in it. From Luigi Cozzi's Contamination to Lucio Fulci's Zombie and beyond (okay, maybe not The Beyond), a helicopter is seen either carting people into the heart of a jungle or spotting some unmanned craft (in a callout to Dracula's Demeter?) floating like an open door to a spider's web. My understanding is that helicopters had been around for some time, so it's not as if they were exploiting some new technology or craze. Does Italy have a corner on the helicopter-building market? Are helicopters free to rent for Italian citizens? Much like the Easter-egg-ish bottles of J&B whisky that pop up in the better-furnished studies of Italy like Hitchcock in his own films, helicopters seem to turn up like thumb prints on many Italian films of the time.

Sergio Martino's The Big Alligator River (aka The Great Alligator, aka Il Fiume Del Grande Caimano) opens with a helicopter carting Joshua (Mel Ferrer), the owner of the new Paradise House resort, into the heart of the jungle (see?). Accompanying Joshua are photographer, Daniel (Claudio Cassinelli), and the oddly-mute model, Sheena (Geneve Hutton). At the hotel, along with being introduced to the cruel Peter (Romano Puppo) and the voluptuous Ali (Barbara Bach), we discover that Joshua has been using the local native tribe, the Kuma, to help build and staff the resort. Soon, a very large alligator (the Kuma believe it is their god, Kroona) turns up to gnaw on the defilers of his people. Not good news with the first guests arriving soon for the resort's big, grand opening. 

The first thing that leaps out at you when watching this film is its resemblance to both King Kong and Jurassic Park (and, yes, Jaws, but to a lesser degree, I think). The first is obvious. You have a giant animal worshipped as a god by natives. You have our protagonists watching a secret ceremony and being discovered. You have a woman kidnapped and splayed out as a sacrifice to appease said god. On the later film, you have a nature preserve located in a remote location. You have the guests getting picked off by the preserve's attractions. Mel Ferrer takes the Sir Richard Attenborough role, though Joshua is far more avaricious than John Hammond ever was. You have the "child in peril" angle. Of course, Michael Crichton's novel was written about eleven years after The Big Alligator River was released. Still, there are a great many similarities (and dissimilarities, to be fair).

Martino's movie does seem to have a point to make (in much the same way as Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust), however. The natives are exploited by Joshua for his own ends. As their reward, he gives them blue jeans and Coca Cola. The natives are overjoyed, and the viewer is slightly horrified. It's this more than anything else (not the dynamiting of the landscape or deforestation) which seems to trigger the appearance of Kroona. Whenever venal, rich, white characters go into the jungle, they are invariably abusive and exploitive toward the native populace. There are almost always depictions of the despoiling and "civilizing" (or attempts at "civilizing") of these "savages." This invariably winds up biting the venal, rich, white characters in the ass, much to the audience's satisfaction. Nevertheless, sympathy toward the natives' plight does not guarantee a character's safety (especially in Italian films), and of course, the natives who align themselves with the white folks' objectives are the first to go.

Kroona as a character is firmly in the Kong-ian mold, yet he is portrayed as being truly an old, vengeful god. At no point do any characters say that he is just an enormous alligator (which we're told are non-indigenous to the area) with a taste for human flesh. And since his coming is presaged by his peoples' turning from him to American consumerism/status symbols, he becomes a representation of the wrath of the gods. Like the fickle Greek gods, who would strike down or transform in some ironic fashion their venerators as soon as look at them. Or the Catholic God of the Old Testament, who destroyed Sodom and turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt just for watching its decimation. And yet, Kroona displays no true intelligence or supernatural power. It's hinted that he may have pulled the helicopter into the river to prevent the humans' escape, but it could just as easily have been the Kuma who did it (and this is also suggested in the narrative). He never makes it onto land to attack anyone (as if he becomes powerless out of water), and there's never even a moment where he and a human stare into each others' eyes, taking the measure of each other. The avenging deity is an interesting idea for the character, but there's no character in its execution to be found herein.

Which brings me to the most interesting twist on the film's basic premise; namely the natives turning back to their god. Once the Kuma realize Kroona is angry over their transgressions, they decide to attack the resort and everyone in it as recompense and atonement. It's a marvelous way to ratchet up the danger level, because now there are menaces on all sides. This is where my reference to Cannibal Holocaust comes in. If the" alligator god" angle was removed from the film entirely, this could have been an engaging and worthwhile siege/cannibal flick (never mind that the Kuma never show a predilection for anthropophagy). Between the natives' revenge and the vengeance of Kroona, the film hues closely to Freud's notion of "the return of the repressed." By turning away from their true nature, trying to tamp it down, and embracing Western culture, their past comes back to haunt them (and the white interlopers) in a huge way (pardon the pun).

The film's special effects are hit-and-miss. The first few times we glimpse Kroona, it's through a combination of quick closeup shots. The full-size creature is never seen at first, and the model work is of a high enough quality that it pulls off the illusion relatively well. Sadly, there is a plethora of miniature model work in the second half which not only destroys the suspension of disbelief but also the sense of scale and the very idea that Kroona is anything other than a rubber toy in a bathtub (which is exactly what it looks like in these shots). For a filmmaker as capable as Martino, that he would linger so on these shots tells me he was desperate to stretch the film's runtime out. 

With that in mind, this film's pacing is its biggest drawback, and it's enough for me to dislike the film on the whole. Scenes go on forever, dragging out conflicts that have petered out of their own momentum well before the movie moves on. Scenes seem to have been included simply to give the characters something to do for five minutes at a stretch. At the end of the film's first forty-four minutes, there has been only one, not-very-graphic Kroona attack. Granted, the third act is almost wall-to-wall carnage, but this too wears out its welcome after about ten minutes. It truly is a case of lather, rinse, and repeat. Perhaps if Martino and company had more story than film stock, The Big Alligator River wouldn't have turned out to be such a giant turkey.

MVT: The themes are the most intriguing aspects of the film. They just seem wasted on a project that feels like it's 100% filler, all additives.

Make Or Break: The "Break" is the first kill scene, which manages to go on interminably, crosscuts without building an iota of tension (or titillation, for that matter), and then (perhaps most egregiously) culminates in a staid attack.

Score: 5/10

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Episode #163: Jackie Terminator

Welcome back for another trip into the cinematic abyss with the GGtMC!!!

This week the Gents bring you a special gift for Christmas as we delve into the woderful world of Quentin Tarantino and his film Jackie Brown (1997) and the other side of the wonderful world for Indonesian exploitation and Lady Terminator (1989) directed by H. Tjut Djalil.

Kick back, relax and have a cup of eggnog with a splash of J&B Gentle-Minions because the GGtMC is here to entertain and kiss all body partys under our mistletoe.

Direct download: Jackie_TerminatorRM.mp3


DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 12/20/11

Large William's Pick: THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE (1967-1975) (Region 1 DVD; IFC/MPI)
This one was a docco I'd been tracking for what seemed like close to a year, and finally had the chance to see fairly recently. Essentially, it's footage that a Swedish tv crew shot when they came to America in the 60's and early 70's to chronicle the Civil rights movement and the Black experience in America at that time. Bobby Seale, Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael and several other prominent Afro-American civil rights leaders are featured in footage, as well as numerous African American figures from today narrating(Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, etc). It's an utterly fascinating documentary about one of the most pivotal times in American history. It touches on several things, much like any good mixtape would. It made me smile, it made me misty eyed, it made me think; which is really the most you can ask from any film. This will absolutely be on my top 30 of the year when we do our "Year end show" in a few months. How high? You'll have to tune in to find out boppers..



Sammy's Pick: WARRIOR (Region 1 Blu-Ray; Lionsgate)
Well acted, well directed and this film made Sammy tear up at least three different times. It offers nothing original, it's just well done. Macho cinema with heart!!!!

Amazon Blu-Ray and DVD Review
High-Def Digest Review

Thursday, December 15, 2011

DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 12/13/11

Sammy's Pick: HEAVENLY CREATURES - Uncut Version (Region 1 Blu-Ray; Miramax/Lionsgate)
I will defend to my dying breath that this is Peter Jackson's best film. It is full of all the things Jackson adores, cinema history, violence...I miss the Jackson that made these types of films and hope he returns at some point but I doubt it will ever happen. This film features a very young looking Kate Winslet and is just gorgeous to behold...BUY!!!

Amazon Review

Aaron's Pick: THE ROCKETEER - 20th Anniversary Edition (Region 1 Blu-Ray; Disney/Buena Vista)
Between RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (a lock for my top ten of the year), Peter Jackson's excellent HEAVENLY CREATURES on Blu-Ray, and the extremely fun FIVE ELEMENT NINJAS on Blu-Ray, I was really torn as far as what to pick this week, but I have to go with ROCKETEER on Blu. I'm not sure why it took so long for this film to get released on Blu-Ray, but with this being the 20th Anniversary of the film and director Joe Johnston's CAPTAIN AMERICA playing in theaters over the summer, the timing makes sense.

Amazon Review
High-Def Digest Review

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Perfume Of The Lady In Black (1974)

The first time I smelled a woman's hair was magical. Before I go any further, this is not going to be some fetish article, so if that's your bent, prepare to be disappointed. Anyway, I was about eleven-years-old and attending a school dance (we had those back then). I recall wearing a white blazer with the sleeves pushed up and a pastel-colored shirt. My mullet was in full-swing at this time, which I'm sure is the only reason no woman would ever mistake me for Detective James "Sonny" Crockett. Nevertheless, I had worked up the nerve to ask a girl to dance (I'll spare her the ignominy of naming her), and she (having nothing better to do) accepted. I don't recall the song (it may have been "Cherish" by Kool & The Gang, but I was paying more attention to not stepping on my partners' feet), but with my head up close to hers, I caught a whiff of Prell and Aqua Net that stays with me to this day. Whenever anything even closely resembling those two smells wafts under my nose, I'm instantly transported back to that night. Granted, in the grand scheme of things it was a minor occurrence, but it's lodged in my memory like a wood tick.

Sylvia (Mimsy Farmer) is a young, successful, seemingly independent young woman. Her relationship with geologist boyfriend, Roberto (Maurizio Bonuglia), is bumpy, but seemingly not unworkable. Sylvia's trouble begins after dinner with some friends, where the conversation centers on black magic and superstition. The next day, Sylvia oversleeps and claims that she broke the glass from a framed photo of her and her parents when she was a child. Unbeknownst to Sylvia, she is being trailed by a mysterious man, and shortly thereafter, she espies the reflection of her mother spraying perfume on herself in a mirror. Sylvia's paranoia mounts, but how much is in her head, and what will be her ultimate fate?

The Perfume Of The Lady In Black (aka Il Profuma Della Signora In Nero) is a complex, nuanced, thought-provoking horror/thriller from co-writer/director Francesco Barilli. It is heavily influenced by the work of Roman Polanski, most notably Repulsion, The Tenant, and Rosemary's Baby, but it also bears a resemblance to Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now. Still, this is very much its own movie and is more accessible and thought-out that many genre films from Italy during this same time period. 

Conspiracies and paranoia lie at the heart of the film. We see Sylvia being watched by an enigmatic man, and when she drops her family photo off to be reframed, he runs in the shop immediately afterward to have a chat with the framer. Andy (Jho Jhenkins) appears at various times to grin nebulously in an "I know that you know that I know" manner. A vase which triggers memories of Sylvia's childhood disappears from the shop in which she spotted it, and the shopkeeper claims total ignorance of its existence. Seemingly everyone who has even a tangential relationship with Sylvia seems in on it. It's the mystery of "why?" that propels the narrative forward. However, it's the effect of the mystery on Sylvia's psyche that creates the film's emotional core.

It's obvious from the first time we see childhood Sylvia (Daniela Barnes/Lara Wendel) that there are issues in the family. As the film's opening credits roll, we see a tinted photo (the same one Sylvia smashes the frame of) of Sylvia staring sweetly up at her father, while her mother, Marta (Renata Zamengo), stares at the camera. As Sylvia recalls more from her youth, her memories encroach more and more into reality. This is shown cinematically by the inclusion and interaction of the adult Sylvia with the people from her past - in the same frame. If these scenes were blocked in a shot/reverse shot fashion, we could just say that she's hallucinating, but by having present and past together onscreen, it makes the threat more tangible and punctuates that Sylvia's world is changing. This will take yet another turn when Sylvia begins to interact with one of her memories in the present rather than as a representation of her remembrances (though it is that, as well).

The movie also contains a heavy reflection motif. The very first shot of the film itself (post credits) is of the water in a fountain outside Sylvia's apartment building. The water is roiled by toy boats scooting into frame. The idea of reflective surfaces and childhood/the past will carry on throughout the remainder of the film. The first time Sylvia sees her mother's "ghost" is in a mirror. Sylvia's apartment has large mirrors on almost every wall. Sylvia sits in on a session with a mystic in a room with multiple mirrors. As well as having reflective qualities, water also plays a large part in the film. Sylvia's dad was a seaman. Several scenes take place during thunderstorms. In her old home, Sylvia finds a fountain (now dried up) as well as a mosaic of a boat on water, which she places a cheek against. Because of her attachment to her father, water becomes a strong reminder of her past as well as a symbol of mental erosion and tumultuous emotions.

Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures In Wonderland provides yet another touchstone for the movie. Sylvia is reading Carroll's work. Andy provides a subtle reference to the White Rabbit when he states, "It's later than I thought." Later in an effort to center herself, Sylvia quotes from Carroll, "Life, what is it but a dream?" These allusions then extend to Sylvia's psychosis when she sees herself as a young girl, the hallucinatory, dreamlike aspects crisscrossing, ultimately creating a whole new role for Sylvia to inhabit.

There's very little in this film with which to quibble (and much, much more to discuss). That said, the biggest (and I hesitate to use this term) misstep is that this feels like two movies converging. On one hand, you have the conspiracy story. On the other, you have the descent into madness story. The two don't always mesh, and the final scenes create several questions that remain unanswered (for good or ill). Not to mention that the final twist feels so divergent (even though it has been foreshadowed earlier in the narrative), you feel as though you've just been smacked with a wet sock. And yet as the film fades out, you cannot help but feel somber, astonished, and satisfied simultaneously. Even without the sense of smell to spark it off, The Perfume Of The Lady In Black will live in your memories for a long time to come.

 MVT: Barilli herein has crafted a movie loaded with style, revolving around interesting characters, and showcasing an interesting, multi-level story that invites repeat viewings.

Make or Break: The "Make" is the scene where Signor Rossetti (Mario Scaccia) stops by Sylvia's apartment. He seems fine, but there is a drop of blood on his right shoe, and we just know there's something going on. I was instantly reminded of an interview I saw with artist Bernie Wrightson (most famous for his work with horrific subjects, notably the "Swamp Thing" comic book) years ago. When asked what his definition of horror is, he described a man standing on a sidewalk, waiting for a bus. Everything about the man is perfect, except there's a spot of blood on his shoe. Maybe Mr. Wrightson saw this movie? Either way it's a strong image, and I think it elicits more terror than all the graphic violence in the world ever can.
Score: 8/10

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Episode #162: Sympathy for the Unjust

Welcome to the GGtMC!!!

This week we bring in Jake McLargeHuge from the Podcast Without Honor and Humanity to review a couple of films for our Program for Japan charity event we ran earlier in the year. We cover Sympathy for the Underdog (1971) directed by Kinji Fukusaku and The Unjust (2010) directed by Seung-Wan Ryoo.

Kick back and enjoy!!!

Direct download: Sympathy_for_the_UnjustRM.mp3

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Visitor (1978)

"This series presents information based in part on theory and conjecture. The producers' purpose is to suggest some possible explanations, but not necessarily the only ones, to the mysteries we will examine." Thus plays the introduction to what I feel is one of the most interesting, outlandish, and downright creepy programs ever broadcast. I'm speaking, of course, about "In Search Of," hosted by Leonard Nimoy and running from the late 1970s into the early 80s. Each show would focus on a particular mysterious subject (the real Sherlock Holmes, etcetera) and posit some of the most insane hypotheses conceivable (the real Sherlock Holmes, etcetera). Whether there was much actual research done or the writers simply smoked a whole lot of something, the show was entertaining, and the recreations they shot on grainy 16mm film used to freak me out as a child. But the bizarre and the unexplained is what people wanted to see, and the quality of films, television programs, books, magazines, etcetera on the subject vacillated from the good, to the bad, to the indifferent. So you just know that the Italians would get involved somehow, some way.

Katy Collins (Paige Conner) is a precocious young girl who strolls around like her crap don't stink, makes things explode, and makes vague threats to her mother, Barbara (Joanne Nail). See, Katy wants mom to marry beau, Ray (Lance Henriksen), and give her a brother (presumably to mate with). You might think that's a bit taboo, but it's really okay, because Katy is possessed by the spirit of Sateen (not to be confused with the fabric of the same name), an evil alien mutant who mated with Earth women to pass on his spirit before being destroyed by a flock of birds trained by his archenemy, the eponymous Visitor (John Huston). The forces of good and evil eventually collide (sort of) over the fate of Barbara's womb and Katy's soul.

Giulio Paradisi's The Visitor (aka Stridulum) is about as New Age and paranormal as a film can get. It presents itself as a science fiction/mystical film, but it is actually a demon possession movie couched in science fiction/mystical tropes. The forces of good and evil herein are not named outright, but they both come from other planets and possess extraordinary powers (sometimes aided by an onscreen adjustable wrench). The good guys wear white (mostly), the bad guys wear black (mostly). But the most important aspect on either side is that they are preoccupied with the concepts of good and evil and the cosmic balance that hangs between the two. The bad guys want to destroy, the good guys want to save (and more specifically want to save a soul). They are, for all intents and purposes, angels and demons. However, religion is never spoken of overtly in the film. Instead, characters are concerned with astrology, stellar light shows, and trucks lit up like the craft in Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Sateen is not Satan (or Pazuzu) but a malefic extraterrestrial bent on annihilation. His spirit just happens to inhabit the body of a young girl (sound familiar?).

The concept of evil as something which can be passed on or inherited has been around for years. Fritz Lang's The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse is based on this idea. Eric Red's Body Parts also relies on this notion, though there it is the result of receiving an actual piece of an evil person. The list goes on and on. Here, Katy received Sateen's spirit in her mother's womb. Like The Bad Seed's Rhoda Penmark, who is bad because her ancestor was a killer who started young and passed on the genes, Katy's knack for misbehavior was forced upon her, as well. With that said, Katy is one of the most obnoxious, slap-worthy characters you will ever see, and you will feel a thrill when Shelley Winters does what you have been dying to do for over an hour.

Katy's misanthropy plays into many adults' pedophobia. Does this fear come from children's' ability to embarrass us due to their lack of social filters? Is it because they haven't yet developed a moral compass (and often don't seem capable of doing so or concerned with its absence)? Is it because they will replace us in time, and we adults want to maintain power for as long as possible (not to mention that this usurpation has been told of in violent terms in myths like those of Electra and Oedipus)? Of course, when a child like Katy actually makes threats and throws things, wounds, and all but kills the parent, there can be little doubt that the maternal power structure is in heated contention. Is it any wonder then that Barbara is completely uninterested in spawning any more progeny?

Since this is an Italian-produced film (courtesy of Ovidio G. Assonitis), you can bank on (and you shall receive) a dearth of logic and enough plot holes to fill the Lincoln Tunnel. Chief among them, and the thing that nagged me worst of all throughout was that no one at all ever does anything about the things Katy gets up to in public. She lays waste to a group of teenage boys at an ice rink, actually sending one flailing through a restaurant window and cracking the skulls of the rest against the rink wall. She habitually knocks out her babysitters so she can play "Pong" in peace. At her birthday party, an "accident" occurs that winds up in disaster. Granted, Glenn Ford makes his brief appearance as a cop investigating the little malcontent, but nothing comes of this, either. You're just waiting for someone to finally wise up and directly step in to take action. That's why Katy's tête-à-tête with Phillips (Winters) is so gratifying, if fleeting.3

The special effects are passable and not much more. There are a lot of composite/matte shots utilizing cloud tank effects for roiling clouds. They do what they need to do, but it seems to me the elements were all lit differently (most discernibly in the shots of Huston, which never appear to be lit from the correct direction), thus undercutting a full suspension of disbelief. The finale contains some of the funniest animal effects you may ever witness. The film is shot well enough (and there are even some very nice compositions here and there) for the most part. However, action scenes are blocked and edited confusingly, and while you'll get the overall thrust of the scene, you'll be hard pressed to actually describe what you saw. 

The writing (credited in part to Assonitis and Paradisi) is confused and ultimately confusing, with the writers throwing just about everything they could at the screen and then hoping that some moderately thoughtful visuals would be enough to pacify the audience. Thus, the film starts off intriguingly and ends up a mess, buried under the weight of its ambitions (though I hesitate to use that word, because it feels more like simply a desire to shoehorn as much as the filmmakers could into a feature film). Nonetheless, the cast is loaded with talent and, frankly, better than the material deserves. I recall an interviewer asking Assonitis how he got such monumental actors in his cheap genre movies. He said he paid them. At one point, the Visitor tells Barbara that her confusion has been transmitted to her "from another time, another place." That's kind of how I look at my DVD of The Visitor.

MVT: The cast is stellar, and they really give it their all. It's a shame they couldn't appear in something a little more coherent and worthwhile.

Make or Break: The birthday scene, while being characteristically baffling in its presentation, does have a nice twist that I genuinely did not see coming.

Score: 6/10

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Episode #161: South Beach Configurations

Welcome back to the GGtMC!!!

This week Sammy and William bring you reviews of South Beach (1993) directed by Fred Williamson and The Ninth Configuration (1980) directed by William Peter Blatty. Both of these films have AMAZING casts and some of the most GGtMC moments we have had on this show in some time.

Direct download: South_Beach_ConfigurationRM.mp3

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Voicemails to 206-666-5207


DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 12/6/11

Large William's Pick: POINT BLANK (Region 1 Blu-Ray & DVD; Magnolia)
Apologies for the long hiatus in getting a dvd/blu pick of the week out, I've been absolutely swamped, but my fellow Gentlemen have been holding it down proper in the meanwhile. This week, there were a decent amount of rock solid under the radar releases that one could choose from. Although I've never seen it(or my pick of the week, for that matter), I almost went with Lamberto Bava's Late Cycle Giallo, Body Puzzle. Raro is putting it out, and they always do a great job picking films and providing some good content to back up the feature film itself. But I digress, my pick this week has a Gallic flavor to it, I decided to go with a French thriller entitled A Bout Portant(a.k.a Point Blank), to be clear, it's not a remake of the fantastic Boorman/Marvin joint, but what it is, is a breakneck paced, absolutely frantic 86 minute film about a man in over his head, desperately trying to get his Wife back from criminals. He's not an ex-special Ops guy, he's not a former police officer, he's a nurse. An everyman, who's going to need to pull out all the stops to get his Wife back. From what I've seen from the director, Cavayé, he's a more than capable helmer. His 2008 film Pour Elle, was remade here in the U.S with Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks, a few years ago. I bring this up, as like a lot of modern French directors, he brings an American adrenaline and sensibility with French flair and technical prowess. Check it out gang!

Le Grande William

Amazon Blu-Ray and DVD

Aaron's Pick: CAPTAIN POWER AND THE SOLDIERS OF THE FUTURE - The Complete Series (Region 1 DVD; Video Service Corp.)
Children of the 80's unite! A group of soldiers, led by Captain Power, attempt to put an end to a robot uprising that has led to the enslavement of the human race. Ring a bell? To tell you the truth, this show was completely erased from my memory until I hit the internet in search of new DVD releases, and I'm recommending it right now purely on a nostalgia high. For those of you who aren't familiar with the show, CAPTAIN POWER, which combined live action with animation, only lasted one season because it was deemed too dark for children and also because it was a bit too costly to produce, which is understandable considering its ambitious nature. (to be exact, the show nearly cost one million dollars per episode to produce - and that's 1987 money we're talking about!) And now, thanks to the fine folks at Video Service Corp., it's been dug out of obscurity and given a DVD release with loads of special features, including a documentary on the making of the show.


Friday, December 2, 2011

DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 11/29/11

Sammy's Pick: HORROR EXPRESS (Region 1 Blu-Ray/DVD Combo; Severin)
Fun little film with Cushing and Lee seemingly having a good time. There are many scenes with them together on screen (for a change) and Telly Savalas really hams it up, sans lollipop unfortunately. Good price as well....GRAB IT!!!

Diabolik DVD Review

Aaron's Pick: CHILLERAMA (Region 1 DVD & Blu-Ray; Image Entertainment)
First of all, I second Sammy's pick for this week. HORROR EXPRESS is a great, underseen horror movie, and I'm glad the boys at Severin finally cleaned it up and gave it a decent, much-deserved release. However, I decided to go with CHILLERAMA as my pick of the week despite not having seen it yet. It's been making the rounds at festivals and whatnot over the last few months, and everything I've heard about it this far has been positive. Plus, I'm a sucker for anthology horror movies.

Amazon DVD and Blu-Ray Review

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Werewolves On Wheels (1971)

There are ideas which, on their face, seem incredibly cool and intriguing. Extraterrestrials visited ancient humanity, inspiring a polytheistic religion as well as architectural accomplishments. Dracula fires a vampire army at the Earth from his sanctuary on the dark side of the moon. A man has to cut off his demon-possessed hand and, in its place, rigs a chainsaw. Satan is a swirling, green liquid that sits in the basement of an old church. There exist points in space which contain infinity and, when peered into, the viewer can clearly discern everything in the entirety of the universe at the same time and be able to comprehend it. Whether they just get your geek motor revving or launch your mind down a thousand theoretical avenues, the sheer imagination involved in concepts like those above is the reason imagination was invented in the first place. 

This brings us to today's movie, Werewolves On Wheels. The idea of a werewolf motorcycle gang should set just about any genre/exploitation fan to salivating. Unfortunately (and all too typically when it comes to films of this sort), the actuality does not equal the hype. But this is still a movie that has something to offer film fans, if they're willing to change their expectations a bit.

The Devil's Advocates motorcycle gang like to cruise around, get into fights, get high, and cruise around (that's not a typo). Mystically connected member, Tarot (Duece Berry), likes to read the cards for other members, even though leader, Adam (Stephen Oliver), gives him crap about it. When Tarot reads Helen's (D.J. Anderson) future, he foretells a fate intertwined with the Devil. The gang visit a mountain monastery populated with satanic monks. The monks drug the bikers and the abbot, One (Severn Darden), performs a ceremony transforming Helen into the Bride of Satan. After the gang comes to, beat up the monks, and rescue Helen, they take off for the desert but become lost. During a makeout session shortly thereafter, Helen bites Adam. Soon, bikers start getting knocked off by someone with very hairy hands.

For those expecting a slam-bang lycanthrope flick, look elsewhere. There are werewolves here, and there is some blood and gore on display. Nevertheless, the film is not centered on werewolves as monsters, per se. Rather, the majority of the film is focused on the gang's search for themselves, even though they say that they reject any concept of spirituality. This is shown in the many, many montage sequences of the bikers riding down roads, usually accompanied by either the driving, catchy Don Gere score or by elegiac folk/country songs. The further the group travels, the more lost they become, until they are literally lost in the desert at one point. Since their world view is generally nihilistic, they are incapable of gaining any positive spiritual enlightenment and in fact, are made easier targets for Satan and his machinations (if the Prince of Darkness actually has any in play here to begin with). 

The Devil's Advocates don't seem to truck with any religion really, probably because the whole idea of obedience and organization in general would be antithetical to their individualistic ethos. The only organized religion the bikers encounter is that of the satanic monks, and then the only reason they seek the monks out is to make fun of them. The monks, in turn, drug the gang with wine and bread, here a play on the Catholic sacrament of Communion. Later, the monks will again use the bread and blood motif (though this time with "real" cat's blood) in their transformation of Helen into the Devil's betrothed. Helen then dances (and it must be stated here, Ms. Anderson's not much of a rug-cutter) with a python and skull in a symbolic consummation with Satan. This scene is shot with moody lighting, heavy shadows, and is edited together using dissolves, imbuing the goings-on with an eerie quality that overlaps and (seemingly) compresses time.

The acting is passable for the most part. No one flubs their lines, and the bikers all act like outlaws. They fight and bite their enemies (putting paid to the film's title, figuratively if not factually) with abandon. What I found most interesting in this aspect is that the dialogue which feels most authentic and is delivered most naturalistically are the lines that have nothing to do with the diegetic story. It's all bon mots, idioms, and ballbusting, evidently improvised by the actors. These bits create a strong sense of kinship between the gang members and consequently draw us into their world. While Anderson has not much to do in the story other than strip, strut, and curse Adam's soul, Oliver and Berry dig into their roles as agnostic and believer, respectively. Both do an adequate job limning the opposing forces that drive the film.

The cinematography is well-done throughout, and there are some nice locales/setpieces utilized. A barren, desert road is swathed in an uncanny fog. The desert itself is shot from afar, showcasing its expansive desolation, threatening to swallow the gang whole. The bikers' riding scenes are shot usually from either right in front of or alongside the riders or from a low angle, capturing the power of the motorcycles in tandem with the heat shimmering off the blacktop. Mellow, fluid shots of birds, either in flocks or solo, create a metaphor for the bikers' freedom. They can come and go as they please and soar along the highways, but eventually, they must come back down. The birds also make a predator/prey connection to the gang. Which are they, and can this dynamic change at any time?

The werewolves and the killings are handled mostly in shadow. Like with the monks' rituals, this makes the fantastical scenes more effective. There is also an abundance of slow motion employed here, and unlike with the "wedding" scene, here the device is used to expand filmic time. The horror is dwelt on at length, increasing our uneasiness. The slow motion also helps build some tension at the film's climax when the bikers react to the lycanthropic revelation. The actual makeup effects are decent. They're hardly Oscar-worthy, but I've certainly seen far worse.

I have to say (and thanks to Aaron for suggesting I review this film), I was pleasantly surprised by Werewolves On Wheels. I went into this with low expectations. Everything I have ever read about the film has been fairly negative. However, when you look a bit deeper than the surface, exploitation level, there is something else going on in this movie. Its message may be a tad muddy, weighed down with the psychedelic trappings of the day and New-Age, mystical gobbledygook, but it does give one something more to think about. At least, it did for me. 

MVT: Director Michel Levesque and co-writer David M. Kaufman's screenplay is deeper than first glance would suggest. And while there is considerable padding in the film, the story's themes support it rather than treating it like excess baggage to reach feature length.

Make or Break: The opening bike run sets the tone for the movie and introduces us to the land of the outlaw biker. If this scene intrigues you, you'll probably find something to like in the rest of the film.

Score: 6.5/10

Monday, November 28, 2011

Episode #160: Sweet Prudence and the Erotic Adventures of Bigfoot

Welcome to a special episode of the GGtMC!!!

This week the Gents got a sneak peek at the upcoming genre film Sweet Prudence and the Erotic Adventures of Bigfoot (2011) directed by Bill Burke!!! We were happy to take a look and want to thank Bill for giving us the opportunity.

This film is special because it has a GGtMC connection as it was edited by Uncool Cat Chris, a fellow Gent!!!

We didn't get to any feedback but we did interview Mr. Burke and had a great discussion about film and his process, including some stories involving Wings Hauser and Henry Silva!!! You can find out more about the film at or follow the Facebook group by searching for Sweet Prudence!!!

Direct download: SweetPrudenceRM.mp3

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Jenny Ringo And The Monkey’s Paw (2011)

Self-reflexivity (for those that don't know, the pointing out of a piece's artificiality by the piece itself) has been around for a long time. In movies, you could even say it goes all the way back to the very beginning, when Justus D. Barnes pointed his six-gun directly at the camera and fired in the closing moments of The Great Train Robbery in 1903 (lovingly homaged by Scorsese in Goodfellas). As with any art form, film itself and the processes of its production and exhibition would inevitably be incorporated into the final product and eventually become another tool in the filmmakers' arsenal. While not a standard device, self-reflexivity has been widely enough used in films that it has become accepted by audiences worldwide. So, why the history lesson for things you probably already know, you ask? Because writer/director Chris Regan's short film, Jenny Ringo And The Monkey's Paw makes extensive use self-reflexivity and intertextual devices to tell its story.

We begin inside an art film. Black-and-white footage of a man and a woman sitting on a beach, smoking (what appear to be) clove cigarettes and talking in vaguely-emotion-revealing gibberish. Suddenly, our protagonist, Jenny Ringo (Rosie Duncan) interrupts, telling us, the audience, that we need to witness her tale. We then get a brief history of Jenny and her slack-ass roommate, Gavin (Lukas Habberton). Though they're friends, Jenny needs a break and heads off to a wiccan retreat. On her return, she discovers that Gavin has come into possession of an enchanted monkey's paw and, out of desperation, wished into existence two friends to keep him company. To say that Jeff Awesome (Scott Haney) and (the dying-to-be-commented-on-by-James-Bond) Candy Gorgeous (Dominique Bull) are not nearly as nice and perfect as they at first appear would be an understatement.

When W.W. Jacobs first wrote the short story, "The Monkey's Paw," in 1902, it was intended as a parable. Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. It was also fatalistic in the sense that when we try to circumvent the universe's plans for us, we only bring sorrow on ourselves. This is why no one, not even Homer J. Simpson, is capable of making a wish that won't in some way, shape, or form backfire on the wisher. Jenny Ringo And The Monkey's Paw follows in this pattern. Gavin wants a perfect friend, who then wants a perfect girlfriend, and naturally the whole affair is not about to go according to Hoyle. However, Regan's film doesn't display much of the irony that pretty much every other iteration of the story does (example: you wish for a cup of coffee, and you receive it, but it has cream and sugar in it, and you're lactose intolerant and diabetic). The supernatural aspects of the new friends (they're telepathic, for starters) feel "out of left field," but I can respect their inclusion, because when dealing with a plot device like a monkey's paw, it's (almost) anything goes. When the plot finally does comment on the underlying problems between Jenny and Gavin (located in Gavin's room), it's genuinely interesting, and I felt as if the rest of the main plot should have been in this vein.

It is impossible to think about this film without talking about stylistic techniques, and Regan and company employ a slew of them. Aside from the more embedded techniques (see first paragraph), there are also animations used to tell a story within a story (or start one anyway) and to visualize (in a very well-played pun) a theatrical principle. The Magician (Simon Messingham) who foisted the monkey's paw on Gavin in the first place does a full-on song-and-dance number with ghost dancers to illustrate the futility of Jenny and Gavin's efforts. The monkey's paw is actually from a stuffed monkey doll. There are tons of clever things going on throughout, and they help maintain interest for the runtime. And this leads me to my biggest criticisms of the piece.

It is difficult to get a movie made at all, especially with the slickness of this one. The cinematography is gorgeous. When the filmmakers allowed themselves to open up the frame. Since the majority of the film takes place in a cramped apartment, the majority of shots doesn't go wider than about medium/medium-long (and are often closer). I was yearning for some more variety in shot choice, and the tightness made me feel slightly claustrophobic. Additionally (and larger), I didn't come away with any emotional connection to the characters. This is not to say that the characters are flat or the performances bad (though they could have all been taken down about 50% in intenseness), they're just not fully-realized onscreen. In twenty-five minutes, there are so many imaginative goings-on, the characters, whose story and "lives" we are supposed to be invested in, get lost. We get hints, we almost get an emotional reveal, but we're whisked off so quickly to the next plot point, it ultimately doesn't resonate. That said, Jenny's destiny (if this is, in fact, to be hers) is brilliant not only in its manner but also in its elliptical nature.

As far as I'm aware, this is Regan's first narrative directing credit, and as a first-timer, he shows a tremendous amount of promise. I'm grateful that there are filmmakers out there willing to take chances with their work like this. Does Jenny Ringo And The Monkey's Paw always work? No, but I would rather watch an imperfect film that has the balls to step out of line a bit than a perfect one that always plays it safe.

If you're interested in hearing more about the film, its universe, and future, go on over to and sign up for the mailing list. 

MVT: Chris Regan shows that he's someone to keep an eye on in the future.

Make Or Break: The first scene sets the overall tone, and it does so quite well, right down to the non sequitur intertitles.

Score: 6.25/10

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Terror Within (1989)

I would like to take a moment to chat about a tragic malady that has plagued Caucasian males for the past forty years (possibly longer, though it was only really diagnosed prominently from the 1970s and beyond). I'm talking about the White Man's Overbite. For those who are unfamiliar, it consists of the ludicrous facial expressions employed by the white male (sometimes females are equally afflicted, but these cases are far less widespread) during the act of dancing. It gained its name from the propensity of men with little to no rhythm who insist on hitting the dance floor to actually bite lightly at their bottom lip in futile concentration. 

Sadly, it is rarely commented on, except as the object of derision. An explosion of cases occurred in the disco era, when people felt it was okay to expose as much of their flabby, fur-covered torsos as possible and do things in public they would probably be ashamed of doing in private. Plus, there was lots of cocaine around, so inhibitions were at an all-time low. Nevertheless, once the diagnosis became popular, it only became more and more prevalent among white folks, right up to the present day (though this infirmity knows no true racial boundaries; for every Screech, there's an Urkel). You may have seen this disorder firsthand. You may even be a victim of it yourself. But I'm telling you now, the monster in The Terror Within has you beat by miles (and he doesn't even dance). 

After 99% of the Earth's population are destroyed by a mysterious plague (known as "the Accident"), the remainder of humanity is left to scavenge the planet's surface for sustenance. A small band of survivors subsist in an underground bunker, sending foragers topside occasionally to deal with the dearth of victuals and try to avoid mutant creatures affectionately nicknamed "Gargoyles." While trying to rescue two of their group (spoiler: They don't), David (Andrew Stevens) and Sue (Starr Andreeff) come upon Karen (Yvonne Saa), who is pursued by a Gargoyle. Bringing Karen back to their complex, it's discovered that she's with child (actually "with monster," but…), and the baby's sire is hanging out by the bunker's entrance, waiting not-so-patiently. When the Gargoyle is born, it promptly escapes into the air ducts, growing at an accelerated rate, and begins to pick off our intrepid cast, one by one.

If the plot sounds familiar, that's because it is. I counted no less than thirteen (and probably many more, if I'm left to reflect on it) "influences" on this Roger Corman production (under his Concorde banner). The most prominent citation is, of course, Alien (Ridley Scott's movie itself heavily taking from It! The Terror From Beyond Space). The monster can impregnate other species to propagate its own race, though it does it more traditionally than Alien's hermaphroditic face hugger. The creature escapes after being born, hides out in the complex's ducts, and whittles down the humans. The characters share a great many similarities as well. But the filmmakers didn't stop there. They chuck in everything from Day Of The Dead (the underground bunker/survivalist angle) to Inseminoid and Corman's own Humanoids From The Deep (monster rape/monster birth) to The Thing From Another World (the siege angle).

In this vision of a post-apocalyptic world, motherhood is something which is sought after by the survivors, and when Karen is found to be pregnant, our heroes are hopeful. The only holdout is Hal (George Kennedy), who cautions that they will have to abort the fetus at the first sign of an abnormality. So when the infant is found to be Gargoyle-spawn, it turns the concept of motherhood in this universe from a boon to a bane. Not only can human babies no longer be conceived, but the human race's new natural enemy has the power to continue its own species by exploiting the human womb. When the monster birth occurs, it does so explosively, killing the lifegiver and cutting off the chance of the mother giving birth again, as well as decreasing the faltering human population by one.

Of course, you can't have a monster birth without a monster impregnation. Though never explicitly shown, the Gargoyles force themselves upon their female victims, and this plays into the fear of rape and the terrifying vulnerability that the act creates. This fear extends beyond the physical act, because the mother is now faced with the fact that, in very short order, she will die rather violently. The creatures' "super sperm" also flies in the face (pause for laughter...) of the human males' sterility and effectuates notions of sexual impotence. The men cannot protect their female counterparts and cannot perform with them, either. To be fair, there is a love scene (though it's oddly non-explicit for an exploitation film), but it is not in the service of procreation, and since the audience doesn't really see anything, there's no way we can be sure there wasn't "failure to launch."

This future is also one of very limited resources. There are not even many animals left, and the humans are barely scraping by. There is reference to rationing food and decreasing everyone in the complex's caloric intake to fewer than one thousand calories per day. That said, to look at them, you certainly wouldn't think any of them were under- or malnourished (Kennedy being the standout example). When Karen and her impending bundle of misery are brought in, it's again brought up that everyone's rations will have to be shorn further still. The idea that food supplies are dwindling quickly is an interesting one, and an entire movie could have been built around this alone. In Thierry Notz's film, however, it's perfunctory, an expositional device to illustrate the desperation the human race is in (though none of the characters act very desperate at all, by my estimation). The film's pedigree is as an exploitation/creature feature, not a sociological thesis.

The special effects are effective, and the monster, if nothing else, is unique in its facial design. Though when viewed in long shot for any length of time, its low budget, rubber-suit origins become blatantly apparent. But this isn't detrimental to the film. If anything, it enhances the enjoyableness. It is also to the filmmakers' credit that they got a workable cast who never go too far over the top to pull you out of the movie (even Stevens' ever-present aura of smugness is thankfully toned way down) and are capable of handling loony material like this. Lastly, there is plentiful action afoot, and the film's pace is breakneck, so you never dwell too long on the faults. The filmmakers build some decent tension and escalating crosscut action going into the finale, and I was surprised at how well these climactic scenes were structured. The Terror Within is easily in the top five most derivative films I have ever seen, but damn if it wasn't just satisfying and brisk enough to keep me in my seat.

MVT: Stevens actually makes the cut as a non-smug, likeable, capable hero, and he doesn't go overboard on the angst other actors may have chewed down on.

Make or Break: Karen's birth scene is everything you would want in a movie like this and the "Make" for me. There are copious amounts of gore, rubbery monster effects, body horror, and mayhem. What more can you ask for?

Score: 7/10

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Episode #159: Memphis Heat

Welcome to another episode of the GGtMC!!!

This week Will and Sammy cover the documentary Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin' (2011) directed by Chad Schaffler. We also go over some feedback that was sent in some time ago, it was good to finally get to some of film but trust us, we talk for A WHILE on this one gang!!!

Direct download: Memphis_HeatRM.mp3

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Episode #158: To Be Benjamenta

Welcome to the GGtMC!!!

This week Large William and Sammy are back together for another episode and it feels so right!!! We cover Fernando Di Leo's To Be Twenty (1978) and The Quay Brothers Institute Benjamenta (1995).

Next week we are going to try to tackle the majority of your feedback and cover a film, so thank you for being patient with the GGtMC schedule.

Direct download: To_Be_BenjamentaRM.mp3

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Voicemails to 206-666-5207


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Laughing Dead (1989)

Humor is not universal. Mel Brooks once said, "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die." He would know. He used to be very funny. However, his statement is true on several levels. Not only is humor subjective, but it's all about the ridiculousness of others' pain. Allow me to illustrate. In college, I lived in a courtyard apartment (nothing like Melrose Place, in case you're wondering) along with a gaggle of friends from my hometown. To say we were uninhibited would be an understatement. One evening, knee deep into a half barrel, one of my cohorts decided it would be funny to tear the screen door off our apartment and smash it to pieces. He thought this was hilarious. I disagreed, but the door's destruction continued and ended with a piece of wood from the frame flying up and smacking me square in the giblets. Had someone with a video camera been around, I may have been a richer man today, exploiting my pain to the masses for their amusement. Instead, I spent a week not sitting right and cursing my pal's name. And yet, had I been bystander rather than participant, I may very well have wet myself laughing (in between bouts of asking if the victim was okay, of course). Se la vie.

Father O'Sullivan (Tim Sullivan) suffers from guilt over having relations with a nun (Wendy Webb) and knocking her up twelve years ago. Nevertheless, he takes his place as host for the annual archaeological tour of Oaxaca, stuffs his misfit assortment of nonentities and types out of Central Casting on the bus, and heads south. Along the way, they pick up the aforementioned ex-nun (Tessie) and her obnoxious, foul-mouthed son, Ivan (Patrick Roskowick). Meanwhile, Dr. Um-Tzec (S.P. Somtow) sacrifices children to prepare for the party's arrival. You see, he's the physical incarnation of the Mayan death god and he is looking to pass the mantle on to the padre so he may retire. The only thing missing is a sacrifice of a certain boy by a certain man during a certain astrological occurrence to complete the transfer.

S.P. Somtow's (aka Somtow Sucharitkul) The Laughing Dead has an interesting take on religion (and this is, I think, a movie more about religion than monsters and zombies). Essentially, there is a struggle going on between ideologies. On one side is the old religion of the Mayans and on the other is modern Christianity. But what's interesting is that the filmmakers don't favor the more popular of the two. If anything, Christianity is portrayed as weak, its disciples spiritually asthenic and prone to giving in to temptation. There is also a take on New Age mysticism that takes part in the proceedings. Wilbur (Larry Kagen) and Clarisse (Krista Keim) are first shown humming comically and playing with their crystals. Yet at the finale, it's their beliefs and trappings that have more effect on the bad guys than anything else. Consequently, the film becomes about Old versus New Age, with traditional modern religion dismissed almost in its entirety.

In that same respect, the film deals with faith, the loss thereof, and rebirth. O'Sullivan has lost all faith in God, and this makes him incapable of resisting his possession by the spirit of Um-Tzec. Of course, this all began with his weakness in regards to his sexual desires with Tessie years ago. This is then reflected in the scene where Um-Tzec's assistant (Lydia Marano) first exposes her breasts to the priest and then pulls out both her heart and his and exchanges them. It's a vivid equation of sex with death, and it further cements O'Sullivan's turning away from his religion. Tessie has already been defrocked because of her pregnancy, and she has kept their son away from O'Sullivan, so the two were not only brought together but also torn apart by their religion. Their spirituality is, for all intents and purposes, dead. It's through their trial against Um-Tzec (which incidentally also mirrors the story of Abraham from the Bible in the sense that he too was asked to sacrifice his child for faith) that they are reborn (not necessarily in a spiritual sense but certainly in a character sense and a sense of knowing what they do believe in). This is made crystal clear at the end when a character states that the Festival of the Laughing Dead is about rebirth as well as death.

Bearing in mind that this film is an extremely dry (there's very little winking at the audience), black comedy, there are still some aspects I found myself puzzled by with respect to whether they were intentional or not. First is Somtow's depiction of his characters. None of them is anything even resembling well-defined, except via stereotypes. Wilbur and Clarisse are presented as New Age dupes until the end, when they realize that karma is just a word until you act upon it. Dozois (Raymond Ridenour) is the ugly American of the group with his ridiculous afro and crude jokes. His traveling companion, then, is the more refined, cane-bearing Frost (Gregory Frost). Together, the two make quite the odd couple (get it?). You will want to strangle Ivan every second he's onscreen. And we spend half an hour or better of screentime on the bus with these people. If Somtow didn't want to flesh out the characters, he definitely should have shortened our time getting to loathe them.

On top of this, every character says whatever is on their mind to people they just met. The worst offender is Laurie (Premika Eaton), and that also goes to her acting chops (she gets the B.E.M. Award for this movie). O'Sullivan makes no bones about telling people that he has no faith and even cries out to heaven in front of perfect strangers for its restoration. I kept thinking that, since Somtow was a writer and musician prior to this stint, his inclination was to tell rather than show what the characters are going through, thus the expositional and overwrought dialogue. However, when looked at as a humorous dissection of horror films (or just melodrama in general), their tropes and motifs, you can see the comedic value of his writing. If that's what he intended. The problem is that the viewer is always left with an uncertain feeling whether they should be laughing at the film for its intentional or unintentional humor. 

The bits of humor that are intentionally comedic do work fairly well. The "giant" monsters at the end engage in what is essentially a slap fight. Our heroes have to engage Um-Tzec's undead hordes in a game of Mayan basketball. O'Sullivan puts a fist through a woman's head in an explosion of grue. A man's decapitated cranium arcs through the air and lands in a basketball net. Um-Tzec comments that he'd like to become an investment broker. But since everything else in the film is played so po-faced (or slyly un-commented-on) it leaves you up in the air. Sure, you're still laughing, but are you supposed to be? Either way, The Laughing Dead is still better than a chunk of screen door to the nards.

MVT: The special effects by John Carl Buechler. They're squishy when they should be and creepy when they should be. Even though they're definitely shoestring level, they make trudging through the rest of the film almost worthwhile.

Make or Break: If you ever wanted to know if zombies could be 'ballers, wonder no more.

Score: 6/10