Saturday, November 30, 2013
I'd never trust a guy in a spandex suit named Robin, but that's just me!
Written By: Judd Winick
Directed By: Brandon Vietti
Watching Batman: Under the Red Hood felt like a breath of fresh air. That's generally the feeling I get any time I watch a well made Batman film that isn't associated with the Christopher Nolan monstrosities. His insipid films, I've only seen the first two entries in his trilogy, have sullied the franchise to an unbelievable extent. It helps that Batman: Under the Red Hood is very well made, but even if it weren't it's different than the soul sucking film from Mr. Nolan and therefore it feels completely fresh. That being said, Batman: Under the Red Hood is a well made film, and that's why it's an enjoyable film to watch.
The story in Batman: Under the Red Hood is interesting, if a bit trite. The old friend comes back to haunt the hero shtick has been done in comic books for years. The question in a film like Batman: Under the Red Hood isn't how original the story is, rather it's how said story is handled. I'm happy to say that the story in Batman: Under the Red Hood has been handled in fine fashion. What the film does to make the story work is to couch so much of it in what exemplifies the Batman character. This isn't a Bruce Wayne story, it's a story of the man under the cowl. We see him be a detective, we get to see his process at work, and we get an almost tangible feel for why he makes the choices that define him as a hero. The destination of Batman: Under the Red Hood was never in doubt, but the journey to get there was interesting throughout.
Filming action scenes sounds like it should be easier in an animated film. The animators have the entire world at their disposal, they need not worry about physical limitations of any sort. The animated form often leads to problems in presenting coherent action. Because of the freedom that the animated form offers the desire is acted upon to do whatever the mind can think of in a scene. Batman: Under the Red Hood avoids such a pitfall by keeping the action well oriented. I was never lost for place or location in Batman: Under the Red Hood. The action made sense, and it ties into the strengths and weaknesses of the characters involved in said action. The action in Batman: Under the Red Hood is easy to follow, but it never comes across as lacking or haphazardly implemented.
Batman: Under the Red Hood is not without its flaws. The dialogue is clunky at times, and does in a few instances feel like it's coming out of a different character's mouth. My main beef was with the character of the Joker, simply put I did not like this version of the Joker. Joker in Batman: Under the Red Hood is too bland, with a performance by John DiMaggio that undercuts the contradiction that is the character of the Joker. Mr. DiMaggio is a great actor, but I'm not sure what he thought he was doing with his version of the Joker. This is probably a lot of personal bias coming into play, but if I don't believe in the Joker as a madman and a depressed funny man, then that's a big problem with a Batman film.
Flawed though it is, I still enjoyed Batman: Under the Red Hood. The folks at DC Animation are doing fine work in the superhero realm. Batman: Under the Red Hood is a well constructed action film that tells an interesting tale. The Joker isn't handled all that well, and the dialogue takes too many shortcuts. Still, I had fun watching Batman: Under the Red Hood. I appreciated the crispness of the animation and the adult themes that Brandon Vietti's film was willing to take on. If you're looking for a decent Batman yarn there's no reason to not give Batman: Under the Red Hood a spin.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Welcome to episode #263!!!
This week Sammy and Will couldnt get their schedules to mesh so Large William recorded Uncool Cat and himself in general conversation and GGtMC-ing all over Toronto!!
Direct download: GGtMC_263.mp3
Emails to email@example.com
Voicemails to 206-666-5207
Posted by Gentlemen's Guide to Midnite Cinema at 6:30 AM
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Back when it was in its heyday, I couldn’t breakdance worth a shit. Oh sure, I bought the instructional book from my school’s book club (and thus cementing my street cred for all eternity), and I studied the detailed breakdowns of each move. But there wasn’t a chance in Hell I was going to pull off even the simplest of steps. I’ve never been adept at things that require a decent amount of physical skill and agility. I played Pee Wee Football for one year (on the team seemingly constructed entirely of the worst players who tried out). I think we won one game. I could be wrong. It could have been none. When I used to skateboard, if there was a trick that required the board’s wheels to leave the ground, I couldn’t do it. Oh, I tried, but it wasn’t happening. So, my skateboard became basically a very hard, very coarse seat with wheels. I admire the skill of people who can do these things, some of whom probably even try hard at them. Of course, there’s also that bastard part of me that just wants to punch them in their stupid faces, but he doesn’t come out too often, and even when he does, he gets over it quickly, because I can assure you, there are things I can do a hundred times better than they. No, I won’t list them, but to twist around Dizzy Dean’s quote (and give a little credit to local journalist/personality L.A. Tarone), “If you can do it, it ain’t bragging.”
Kelly (Lucinda Dickey) dances her days away at the studio of skanky instructor Franco (Ben Lokey). Dancing buddy Adam (Phineas Newborn III) entices the eager young lady to come with him to see some “street dancing.” There, she sees firsthand the fresh moves of Ozone (Adolfo Quinones) and the distressingly high-pitched Turbo (Michael Chambers), and she even gets to partake a little bit, capturing Ozone’s attention. But the more Kelly hangs with her Breakin’ buddies, the more she struggles over where she belongs.
And that pretty much sums up Joel Silberg’s film to a T. Thematically, its primary interest is in the division between “serious” dancing and “street” dancing. What’s intriguing is how this is represented in the film. Kelly is interested in breakdancing, but is uncomfortable doing it at first. She has to be brought into that world by Ozone and Turbo. Her friend Adam can go between both worlds, but he understands that there is an implicit line between them (a bit more on this later). Franco thinks that breaking is lowly and undeserving of consideration as anything other than a sideshow. By that same token, Turbo disdains Kelly’s intrusion into his (and Ozone’s) dance world. Ozone, on the other hand, wants Kelly in his world, but he’s also interested in her romantically.
This brings me to the underlying notion about this division, and it’s one not only of class but of race. The breakers are largely underprivileged and non-Caucasian. Of course, their rough edges rub the upper crust a little raw. But there’s a character in the middle who helps to span the gap for those audience members not on board from the start (inconceivable, I know). Kelly’s agent James (Christopher McDonald) is incredulous when Kelly brings up the idea of getting behind an act with Turbo and Ozone. He’s even shown at one point lounging in a suit by his pool, feeding his dog by hand, just to hammer home that he is genteel and savoir faire. Yet after he sees them battle-dance their rivals (and as I’ve noted before, it is this sort of thing which is mirrored in many Martial Arts films where conflicts are resolved in equally choreographed but much more contact-friendly displays of prowess), he is ready to back them, not only because they’re talented and his client is involved with them, but because he can make some money off them. However, James’ capitalistic tendencies never undermine his genuine admiration for and interest in the street dancers.
On the race side of things, you have Ozone, a Latino who is clearly and amorously interested in the lily-white Kelly. Maybe with the more urban audiences this would be accepted without a second thought, but for middle class, suburban families in the Eighties, this would not have sat entirely easy. In this, we have a further illustration of the film’s internal conflict. Naturally, then, we have the various scenes where Ozone and Turbo go out of their way to tweak the noses of the White Establishment. Turbo dances at Franco’s studio and then tells the tightass that he is owed money “for teaching you how to dance, sucker.” Ozone and Turbo show up at a High Society function for James, where they are condescended to by pudgy White people and come back with a few snappy retorts. Oddly, Adam actually does exist in both dance worlds, but he’s Black, and we get the idea that he started in the serious dance world before getting into the street side, though I don’t recall this being stated outright. If true, however (and let’s say for the sake of argument that it is), it makes his dual existence easy to accept. Had he come from the other side, it would have been more difficult to swallow, and there would likely have been some form of suppression/subterfuge in the story that allowed him access to the White-controlled serious dance world.
But Silberg and company seek to level the playing field, and there are several dance numbers that are lit and treated as respectfully and shot as thoughtfully as anything in Singin’ In The Rain (though without that earlier film’s production design or budget). Thus, we get sequences like Turbo and his broom, which is filmed as if it were mercury sliding across a tilting platform. Needless to say, the path to legitimacy for the breakdancers requires some clever (okay, not that clever) deception, but it is done with their tongues firmly in cheek. But gradually throughout the film, elements of Kelly’s style seep into her numbers with Ozone and Turbo as surely as elements of theirs seep into hers, until the final dance sequence fully integrates both approaches while being given the sort of treatment normally reserved for the “legit” dance world. Even through the haze of neon, smoke machine fog, and hideous fashions, it’s still a thing of beauty.
MVT: The MVT on this one is Joel Silberg (sorry, Lucinda, you got it for Cheerleader Camp). He treats his subjects with respect and films them with some degree of visual flair. Nevertheless, he understands enough about blocking what he is filming to allow the performers the onscreen space they need to show off the goods.
Make Or Break: I loved the Training Montage, partly because I’m a sucker for Training Montages, partly because I relish any chance I get to watch Dickey strut her stuff.
Writer and Director: Peter Hyams
Runtime: 112 minutes.
I do not have anything witty or even slightly interesting to start this review so I am just start.
The movie opens with a shot of the moon Io and an info dump that explains that Io is the home to Con Amalgamate mining town. It fails to explain why the movie's version of Io is not the volcanic mess that the moon is in real life but you can't win them all. The scene shifts to a trio of miners working and complaining about the random acts of management. One of the miners starts screaming about spiders in his suit and discovers that the atmosphere Io causes the human body to explode.
Elsewhere on the station, the new Marshall William T. O'Niel (played by Sean (one of the better James Bond) Connery) is getting ready for his first day on the job. Mostly by talking about what happen on the last shift with his deputy Sgt. Montone and meeting with the administration staff. Back at the mine, another miner decides that today is a good day to go for a walk outside without a spacesuit. Again this insanity ends in impressive and gory practical effect.
O'Niel returns home to find his wife and kid have left the mining town and are waiting on the supply station for the next ship back to Earth. Rather than dwelling on this O'Niel starts looking deeper into these mysterious suicides and accidents. He visits Dr Lazarus, the town doctor and a resident smart ass. She eventually agrees to look into the incidents.
O`Niel goes back to his quarters to brood over the fact his wife left but is interrupted by problem in the redlight district of the town. A crane operator lost his mind and has taken a sex worker hostage. O'Niel distracts the crane operator while Sgt. Montone goes through the air vent to sneak up behind the guy. Unfortunately Sgt. Montone just shoots the crane operator because he was holding a knife.
This is all getting a little too weird for O'Niel, so takes a blood sample from the dead crane operator and visits Dr. Lazarus. She confirms that the crane operator had synthetic amphetamines in his system and was the reason for his death. Armed with this O'Niel looks at who in the mining town has been arrested for previous drug experience. O'Niel has plot convenience smile on him in the fact that two people fit the bill and lead him to proof that the general manager is behind the drug smuggling.
So O'Niel tries to arrest on of the people responsible for distributing drugs to the miners. This leads to an epic chase through the miner barracks and a cafeteria. He arrests the drug dealer and then he goes to see the general manger. The general manager is not really concerned about the arrest and wants to know how much O'Niel will take as a bribe. O'Niel won't take the bribe and the general manger strongly suggests he takes it.
O'Niel goes to check in on his drug dealing prisoner only to discover someone killed him. He goes to see Montone about what is happening and discovers that someone also killed Montone. But before he died Montone left a message that the drugs are being brought in the weekly food shipments from the supply station. Our man O'Niel goes down to the docks and he starts looking for the drugs and is attacked by the remaining drug dealer with a garrote. However O'Niel came prepared for this and just played dead so the last drug dealer would find the drugs for him.
After the drugs are found O'Niel beats up the drug dealer, destroys the drugs and tell the general manager that he destroyed the drugs. The general manager in turn gets a couple of hired guns to come to the mining town to kill O'Niel. O'Niel is one step ahead of the general manager and learns about this from intercepting the general manager's video calls. At this point in the movie the large clocks that are all over the mining town become important as they show the time remaining until the next shuttle from the supply station is due to arrive. This also is great at adding tension to the movie, kind of like the clock approaching high noon does in westerns.
O'Niel prepares a few traps for the hired killer and goes around the town looking for people to help him. The trap preparation goes well but the residents of the mining town are less than interested in fighting hired killers. The killers arrive early and the next seven minutes is cat and mouse hunt where the hostile environment and practical effects are used to great effect. Also a bonus traitor on O'Niel's staff shows up and is killed for his trouble. With the killers and traitor dead, O'Niel confronts the general manger and punches him out. Proving to himself and the mining town he is more than a glorified mall cop he heads to the supply station for a trip back to Earth with his family.
MVT: This is an impressive western. Yes it is set in the future and in space but it is still a western. It captures what it is like to be in the middle of nowhere with a corrupting influence.
Make or Break: Make for me is Sean Connery and the gritty feel of the mining town. I am a bit of Sean Connery fan and you can see how Alien had an influence on the set design. It looks lived in, dark and unearth like as possible. The Break for me was how it ended. O'Niel gets back with his wife and kid, everyone is ok with him destroying several parts mining town and none of the people O'Niel have to answer to have an issue with him punching out a general manager instead of arresting him.
Score: 7.8 out of 10
Posted by Vldster at 12:38 AM
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Welcome to another episode of the GGtMC!!!
This week Sammy was detained and couldnt make the show, which is a shame because the films chosen were given some great conversation this week. Large William and Tom Deja (Better in the Dark Podcast) bring you reviews of Thirst (1979) directed by Rod Hardy and Special Effects (1984) directed by Larry Cohen!!!
We want to thank Tom for being such a great friend and supporter of the show over the years and we are grateful to have a genre giant in the house!!!
Direct download: ggtmc_262.mp3
Emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
Voicemails to 206-666-5207
Posted by Gentlemen's Guide to Midnite Cinema at 5:33 AM
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
It’s kind of alarming the things people will do for money. I’m not thinking here of illegalities like bank robbery or murder, but what they’ll do for legit, above-board (though perhaps under the table) money. People will donate plasma, sperm, even their organs. People will humiliate themselves in public just to be able to pay some bills or buy something they want. They will even subject themselves to experiments, the outcomes of which are nebulous even from the outset. Famously, Robert Rodriguez raised much of the budget for El Mariachi by participating in medical experiments. Bear in mind, the film was made for about seven thousand dollars (that we’re told, at any rate; I’ve heard debate about that, but this isn’t the time or place). That’s seven thousand dollars to risk your health and even your life. It’s been calculated that the human body is actually worth (in chemical elements) a little less than two hundred dollars. This doesn’t take into account the value of human life, and that’s really what it all boils down to; is the content worth more than its context? Is the coffee worth more than the coffee mug? At the end of the day, we all add it up differently, I suppose. All I know is you would have to pay me a fuck of a lot more than seven thousand dollars to strand me on the moon with no way back and watch me die. Like, seven thousand, five hundred, at least.
And that’s how Luigi Bazzoni’s Footprints On The Moon (aka Le Orme aka Primal Impulse) opens. An unconscious astronaut is dragged onto the moon’s surface and abandoned. Meanwhile back on (we assume) Earth, the sinister Dr. Blackmann (played by the sinister Klaus Kinski) watches the events play out from his high tech headquarters. And then Alice (Florinda Bolkan) wakes up. Though unnerved by her dream and a torn postcard in her trashcan, she goes about her job as a translator, transcribing government hearings. But when she delivers the transcripts, she finds that she has also lost not only a couple days worth of time but also very likely her job. Alice sets about finding the missing puzzle pieces and trying desperately to put them back in the right order.
If this film can be said to be anything outside of a dizzyingly complicated Mystery, I feel that it is an attempt at correlating the worlds of dreams, films, and the subconscious. Alice quickly realizes that her recurring dream is from a film (also called Footprints On The Moon), which she claims had a profound effect on her as a child. Already the three have been linked thematically in just a little bit of exposition. A film from her youth haunts Alice in the present. Clearly, there is something about this and how it relates to her childhood which is causing her to reach back in her non-waking mind to these images, and this story. Alice’s subconscious is trying to tell her something vital, but it is trying to do it (primarily) through representational images rather than through straight images from her memories. It does this for two reasons. Number one, there is the falseness of film in and of itself (and the probability of false/misremembered memories), something which Alice must discern from reality for herself. And number two, there is the importance of this fake film’s themes and how they relate to Alice’s life.
Footprints On The Moon (the fake one; yes, I get the humor in that statement) is essentially about loneliness. The unnamed astronaut is left to die but is observed from afar like he were in an ant farm. His final moments are (or would be in the real world) marked by silence (no sound in outer space, don’t ya know), surrounded by a landscape that may as well be the Serengeti. His death throes are an agonized grasping for some final human contact which he will never feel. Bazzoni reflects this in Alice’s “normal” life and in her quest for answers. Her apartment is Spartan in decoration, and it is as white as the dirt on the moon. Even when she has people around her, Alice is kept at a distance, and the locations are shot to enhance this solitude. The Hotel Garma is an imposing structure from the outside, while inside it is cavernous but lifeless. Alice sits on the beach under a tree which appears half-dead, cut off from the world, removed from life. There is a frigid detachment in every shot of this film, and this mirrors our protagonist’s mental state. The world Alice inhabits is essentially her own mind, and it is the secrets therein which will provide her with solutions to her mystery if not to what will happen to her next.
The film-within-the-film is in black-and-white, distinguishing itself from the “real” world Alice inhabits on a day-to-day basis. But from a formal perspective, the audience would just as easily accept the differentiation in color as being between dreams and being awake. There are other uses of color throughout the film, however. Nominally, there are the characters of Madame LeBlanche (White), Madame Verde (Green), and Dr. Blackmann (I’ll let you parse that one out), though the first two are peripheral characters (there is some semblance of significance granted them, but it is fleeting in the narrative). Alice dresses almost always in white. Later, yellow will be her color, and she will wear it while lit by strikingly yellow light cast through a stained glass window (which will also seemingly change colors a short time later). Her later flashbacks in the film will also be tinged with a heavy yellow cast, though this may be due to the aging of the physical film used in production (I prefer to think not, but you likely already knew that). Harry (Peter McEnery) is signified by the blue sweater he wears, and his house is dominated by the color, particularly at night (becoming another reference to the eternal night of a short life on the moon). Paula (Nicoletta Elmi) is a young, red-haired girl who may unknowingly have more of the mystery put together than any other character in the film. This distinguishing of characters by color occurs after Alice travels to Garma, essentially bisecting her life into two parts. There is the part in Italy which is torpid and barren and haunted by a black and white film/dreamscape and for all intents and purposes false. Then there is the part in Garma which is revealed as truthful while being equally barren. After all, the one person we, none of us, can ever escape from is ourselves.
MVT: Bazzoni puts together a carefully constructed story, whose answers always seem one step further away than the last one was. The film is not a sprint but a marathon, and while it doesn’t engage a hundred percent of the time (and even if it did, the buildup to a resolution would have to be more impressive than the actual answers at the risk of sacrificing the entire story), it does so more than enough to be considered strong filmmaking by anyone’s standards.
Make Or Break: The opening is vague enough to be mysterious and clear enough that your mind immediately begins trying to connect the dots. Gripping stuff, indeed.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
When has putting walls up ever been a good idea, really?
Written By: Luc Besson & Bibi Naceri
Directed By: Pierre Morel
The first fifteen minutes or so of Banlieue 13 feature some truly electrifying action. Maybe dynamic would be a better word, because I found the action in this first fifteen minutes to be truly different than any other action I’ve seen before. I have little to no knowledge of parkour, the only previous experience I had with parkour was on an episode of the United States version of The Office. Based on that episode, and the little word of mouth I had heard, I never imagined parkour to be much besides people jumping off the aides of buildings. If Banlieue 13 is an example of the best usage of parkour, then count me in as a parkour fan.
The remaining action in Banlieue 13 is pretty good, but it never lives up to the first fifteen minutes. For reasons that I can’t quite comprehend Pierre Morel tones down the parkour influence throughout the rest of the film. It does pop up from time to time, but the free flowing nature of the first action sequence slowly gives way to the same action scenes we’ve seen for years now. Those action scenes were still decent mind you, but they lacked the inventiveness and energy found in the first sequence.
Story is not something for Banlieue 13 to hang its hat on. Put simply, the story in Banlieue 13 is a whole lot of been there, done that. It’s serviceable, and it gets the job done as far as getting the characters from point A to point B. However, as some of the recent action I’ve watched- Dredd, Haywire, and Get the Gringo for example- has been able to show, story need not suffer for the sake of action. The two can live and breathe together quite nicely, but that’s never the case in Banlieue 13. When the action kicks in the story sits down, and when the story pops back up it feels out of place with the action.
I was disappointed, yet impressed by Banlieue 13. It could have been a whole lot better, but the action was enjoyable and I ended up having a decent time watching the film. Monsieur Morel’s film never lives up to its first fifteen minutes, it would be most appropriate to say that it did shoot its wad far too early. Still, those first fifteen minutes are something special, and help to bolster the more traditionally choreographed action scenes that follow. Banlieue 13 didn’t rock my action world like I thought it was going to following the first fifteen minutes. It’s a decent film though, and the energy of the film stayed with me long after I finished watching. That is something that cinema should strive for more often, and I’m all for a movie that exudes energy.
Friday, November 15, 2013
Welcome to another episode of the GGtMC!!!
This week the Gents are joined by Scott from Married with Clickers podcast (marriedwithclickers.libsyn.com) and we discuss Rififi (1955) directed by Jules Dassin and The Silent Partner (1978) directed by Daryl Duke!!! It was great conversation with a great friend of the show!!!
Direct download: ggtmc_261.mp3
Emails to email@example.com
Voicemails to 206-666-5207
Posted by Gentlemen's Guide to Midnite Cinema at 3:54 AM
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
**I’m afraid there will probably be SPOILERS of some sort in this review. Sorry about that.**
In the accursed village of Vandorf, dandy artist Bruno (Jeremy Longhurst) sketches his topless paramour Sasha (Toni Gilpin) for a future painting. After revealing she is pregnant with his child, Bruno, naturally, overreacts and heads off to confront her father who already had a low opinion of the painter in the first place. Giving chase, Sasha runs into something in the woods which petrifies her. Bruno is found hanged the next day. Sasha’s stone body is brought to local Doctor Namaroff (Peter Cushing). The Gorgon Margera has returned.
There are several interesting things going on in Terence Fisher’s The Gorgon just from the concept on down. First of all, the Gorgon in question isn’t the infamous Medusa. It is one of her sisters, Margera. To my knowledge, though, the three Gorgons were Medusa, Sthenno, and Euryale. There never was a Margera according to any Greek myths I was able to get a hold of, but I could be wrong in this. But, by not using Medusa, they keep that portion of Perseus’ myth intact, and they also sort of hint at the idea that the other two had to flee in order to escape destruction (the method of flight also tensing the two siblings’ immortality). It’s as if they were expanding and extrapolating on the extant fable, and this sort of implied backstory rears up at several points in the film. Further, it is not an eternal Margera living in Castle Borski, though of the three sisters, Medusa was the only mortal. It is her spirit which haunts the village. Further, Margera’s spirit has taken over the body of one of the village people (hopefully not the Cowboy – sorry), so this adds a possession aspect. To make things even more gonzo, Margera’s spirit is most powerful during a full moon, thus making her a quasi-Were-Gorgon, truly a unique creature. Why, it’s almost as if the folks at Hammer had a werewolf script with a Dracula plot, but through some insane quirk of fate they just didn’t want to do it, and someone raised their hand at a meeting and said, “How about a Were-Gorgon?”
Of course, this presents us with one of my very favorite themes in film, in case you hadn’t noticed (or haven’t been reading my reviews; for shame), and that is one of duality. The Gorgon is two people, one evil, one innocent. Naturally (for anyone who has seen Clash Of The Titans, or, I don’t know, ever read anything), the only safe way to gaze upon Margera is in her reflection, and there is a nice sequence where Paul (Richard Pasco) encounters her and looks at her in a pool of water, a window, and so on. A brief tangent; Fisher is also careful to not show the monster clearly for the majority of the film, and this is an effective way to hide a rather disappointing makeup. Fortunately for the filmmaker, though, it also masks her from the audience in such a way as to heighten her menace. After all, we know what she can do. It’s right there in the title. And Fisher and company are protecting us by not showing her directly. Back to the point; the reflective aspects of the film point out not only Margera’s weakness but also the idea that what is in the mirror is opposite in appearance and nature from what is in front of it. It’s an interesting way to delineate this Jekyll/Hyde, Leon/Werewolf doublet.
This also plays on the role of art in the film. Bruno is a painter, and he is about to create a representation of his ladylove on canvas. She becomes a literal statue, no longer represented in a medium, but the medium itself. In the same way that some groups believe that photographs and so on can capture a person’s soul, here art takes your life. People are transformed into another state of being. Their corporeal bodies exist, but they are vacant now (presumably). Thus are they robbed of their identity, a major theme in Horror films for as long as they have existed. This act of transformation also changes its victims into something hideous, with welts breaking out on their brows, before finally becoming smooth and arguably beautiful, in a very definite final repose. This mid-stage equates Margera’s victims with her own ugliness. She gets to “live” with it, though.
Furthermore, the transformations in the film represent a sort of sexual repression and punishment for defiance of sexual mores (as a great many Hammer films seem to discuss). People are either lured to their doom by a kind of siren song or run into Margera as a consequence of following their hearts (and consequently their loins). Even though women can be victims too, predominantly they are men, and that they turn to stone is an interesting metaphor for male turgidity. The Gorgon in its human form has been in a form of remission (read: repression) for some time, and when the human side begins to fall in love, Margera gains power and begins killing more. This plays into the horrible past/conspiracy of fear angle of much of the story. The history of the Gorgon’s human side can be seen as a sexually liberated one (this is tacit, not overtly stated), and it was this promiscuity which brought about the curse of the Gorgon in the first place. Repression is forced, and the human side’s personality is quashed in order to save lives.
Fisher’s direction is as solid as it has ever been, and the production design is up to Hammer’s normal high standards. Naturally, seeing Cushing and Christopher Lee (the DeNiro and Pacino of British cinema) onscreen together is an absolute delight, and Lee’s Meister is a wonderful curmudgeon in opposition to Namaroff’s icy dispassion. However, the film focuses largely on the romantic Melodrama aspects of its story to the detriment of its Horror aspects. This also causes the majority of the mid-section of the film to falter in pacing, essentially forming a cinematic spare tire around its gut. This is despite some of its more outré facets, and this is startling since these outlandish elements are so left-of-field, one would almost think that they could carry a movie on their own. Disappointingly, they can’t. The film is still worth seeing, it’s just not top tier Hammer for me in the same way that their more oddball films like The Abominable Snowman or Quatermass and the Pit are. Perhaps if Nigel Kneale had a hand in this one too, I might feel different.
MVT: Cushing takes the honors. I mean, you really can’t elaborate more on that. He’s Peter Cushing. You’re not.
Make Or Break: After a mildly interesting opening scene, the Make is when Sasha’s body shows up at the hospital. When her gorgon-ized hand appears from under the white sheet, we know we’re off to the races. It’s just more like Shetland ponies rather than Thoroughbreds.