Sunday, June 30, 2013
Directed by Garry Marshall
Runtime: 113 minutes
I live in the only place on Earth that banned this movie. Way back in 1994 the Saskatchewan Film and Video Classification Board banned this film because it was felt the movie viewing audience of Saskatchewan was not ready BDSM romantic comedy. It is also a rumored that the film board banned this film without viewing it. Regardless of what happened, the Saskatchewan Film and Video Classification Board was shut down and an amazingly bad movie got more free publicity than it really deserved.
We are first introduced to a young Elliot (the older Elliot played by Paul Mercurio) as he get spanked by his hot house keeper. This incident sparks his interest in BDSM and is the reason he goes to the Island. The Island is BDSM, swinger club, sex therapy clinic and sex workshop for women all rolled into one. So Elliot gets interviewed by Dr. Halifax (played by Hector Elizondo) for admission to the Island.
Elliot meets the great looking but bad assassin Nina (played by Iman) and the never photographed smuggler Omar (played by Stuart Wilson). These two are diamond smugglers who Elliot has the misfortune of photographing. This leads to introduction to the LAPD officers Fred (played by Dan Aykroyd rocking an amazing porn mustache) and Sheila (played by Rosie O'Donnell) who are after Omar and Nina.
Fred is Joe Friday who gets squeamish when anything involving sex and Sheila will not shut up. Sheila is the narrator for all the cop parts of the plot and the character herself just goes out of her way to be obnoxious and annoying. It was at this point that I started drinking.
So Fred, Shelia, Omar and Nina all start the slow race to get to the Island so they can find Elliot and his photographs. Fred will go to the Island posing as maintenance staff, while Sheila, Nina and Omar will pose as guests. Back on the romantic plot, Elliot and the other BDSM enthusiasts have a nudity scene while more explanation is given about the Island. This happens a lot in the romantic plot.
On the Island we are introduced to Mistress Lisa (played by Dana Delany). All the new citizens of the Island are required to present themselves topless to Lisa and the guests of the Island for their approval. Elliot is disruptive and he is put on a work detail and out of sight of the comedy plot. At this point the comedy plot just pads out the movie. It is mostly Sheila alternating between being horny and uncomfortable and Fred being weirded out by everything happening around him.
Back in the romantic plot, Elliot gets a one on one training session with Mistress Lisa. This leads to a tame softcore sex scene. In the morning Lisa becomes worried she may be falling in love with Elliot and prepares to send him home. It is explained in flashbacks that she became a dominatrix because she had bad relationships and by being in control made her problems go away. Also being a dominatrix means you can not be in love with someone or something just as stupid. My interest and the plot stopped caring at the same point.
So for no reason Elliot talks Lisa into running away with him to New Orleans. The comedy plot not wanting to be left behind follows after a quick and pointless cat fight between Sheila and Nina.
In New Orleans, the romantic plot has more nudity and then a quick trip to a antebellum estate. At the estate the comedy plot comes to an end and arrests Omar. Back in the romantic plot, Lisa get frightened about losing control because she hears a victim of domestic abuse filing a police report. So she leaves Elliot and returns back to the Island.
Elliot is beside himself until Sheila tells him where Lisa ran to. So Elliot returns to the Island and gets himself tied up in a tuxedo to prove to Lisa that she can be in a relationship and still be a controlling dominatrix. So the two of them get married in off screen narration and everyone lives happily ever after. The movie finally ends.
The movie feels like that half way through filming someone realized that it was a BDSM movie with romance so they tried to pad it out with painfully bad comedy. Also this is an adaptation of an Anne Rice novel of the same name and she refuses to talk about this movie. The only three positive things about this movie are that is well done on a technical level, the actors are trying to make the horrible script to work and Dan Aykroyd's porn mustache.
Make or Break: The make for me is porn mustache and having Cuban rum as a co-pilot. As for breaks, the rest of the movie.
Score: 1.25 out of 10
Posted by Brett Ridley at 8:02 PM
Friday, June 28, 2013
Welcome to a new venture for the GGtMC!!!
THis week we cover our first disc with support from the great boutique label Vinegar Syndrome (vinsyn.com) and we encourage everyone to check this new up and coming label out!!! We cover the Blu Ray release of Massage Parlor Murders (1973) directed by Chester Fox and Alex Stevens. We also cover a good deal of feedback!!!
Direct download: ggtmc_241.mp3
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Posted by Gentlemen's Guide to Midnite Cinema at 3:00 AM
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
I have been to literally dozens of funerals in my life. I’ve probably been to more funerals than I’ve been to weddings. And I have been going to funerals since I was just a kid. So we’re clear, I didn’t seek funerals out and skulk around morgues or anything. My family simply had no problem with accepting that death is as much a part of life as birth is, and we should respect that whoever is in the casket is gone now and show that respect to the deceased and their family by being there and bearing witness as they’re interred in their final resting place. Going way back in my family’s history, when someone would pass on their body would often be kept in the house for viewings and so on. In fact, the house I occupy right now has had quite a few corpses hanging around in it from time to time. I’m surprised the place isn’t haunted (wait…did you hear that noise?).
It’s always interesting to me, then, when I hear from parents who won’t take their children to viewings and/or funerals. I’m not a parent, so I have no skin in the game on this, and certainly my opinion is not going to be fully informed because of that. But I would like to think that, were I a parent, I wouldn’t have a lot of trepidation about bringing my kids to a funeral. For the level of permissiveness I have seen from some parents toward their scions, to not acclimate them to the concept of death is just odd to me. It’s not the sort of decision I would get in an argument over, and I get where some parents are coming from with it, so I don’t fault them, per se. And now you know where I stand on kids and funerals. Onward and downward…
Lindsay Finch (Mary Wilcox) likes to attend wakes, and, once all the other mourners have left, she enjoys kissing and fondling the corpses being viewed. Mortician Fred (Timothy Scott) espies Lindsay’s secret, and he lets her in on one of his own: He (and several compatriots) are also necrophiliacs, and they often convene at his mortuary to desecrate corpses together. Meanwhile, Lindsay meets cute with art gallery owner Alex (Lyle Waggoner) while attending his brother’s wake, and the two soon form an amorous relationship. But Alex can’t figure out why Lindsay won’t consummate with him.
Jacques La Certe’s Love Me Deadly (aka Secrets Of The Death Room) is simply bizarre just on its face. To a genre film lover, this type of film should be on all sorts of favorite movie lists. But it’s not, and there are reasons for that, and we’ll get to them later. The instant this plot is put forth, it is almost impossible to not think of Joe D’Amato’s sleaze classic Buio Omega (aka Beyond The Darkness), though that movie was initially released about six years after this one. Both films deal with necrophilia, but more than that, they deal with characters who cannot let go of people who were in their lives, so they turn to necrophilia to satisfy their passions. Further, necrophilia represents a form of possession for these necrophiles of the most intimate kind, and since the corpses cannot object or defend themselves, this is also a violation of the people the deceased once were (there’s a reason it gets lumped under “Desecration of a Corpse” in most law books). Lindsay’s issues go back to her deep connection with her father (Michael Pardue). While it is never shown or even implied that their relationship was ever in any way incestuous (in the flashbacks throughout the film, Lindsay’s father is only ever shown as coddling toward his daughter), incestuous is exactly what their relationship became after her dad died. I mean, as well as necrophilic.
Lindsay knows that her desires are not culturally (or legally) acceptable, so she indulges them in secret. Also, the filmmakers hold back on showing her getting completely naked with a dead body, intimating that she has not taken her psychosis to the next level. It’s a quasi-chaste version of necrophilia, watered down for some level of palatability. Conversely, Fred not only indulges totally in the act, but he kills to acquire his play things. To some extent, Fred can be seen as a cult leader, the other necrophiles in his sect following his lead. When the group gets together, they not only want to have sex with a corpse, they want to mutilate it as well. They scratch them, whip them, and stab them, indicating a more sadomasochistic (read: deviant) angle to their obsession). There is also the implication that the cult is satanic in nature, though religion is never overtly brought up even once. Nevertheless, they behave like a satanic cult from the movies. They wear dark robes and nothing else. They look like filthy hippies. They act in unison, as if performing some sacred ritual. The idea for a sort of support group for necrophiliacs is interesting, but the only two who are in any way distinct are Lindsay and Fred, and they are separated by the line that Fred will cross and Lindsay (up to this point) will not.
La Certe and company do a nice job of editing the film, especially in their use of transitions. The film flows quite fluidly between present and past via cutting on action and form cuts. The best example I can think of is after the scene where Lindsay first stops by Alex’s gallery to find out about an upcoming showing (and by extension to stalk him). As she walks away, La Certe places the camera at street level, showing Lindsay’s legs strolling down the street from the knees down. We then cut to the same angle on a younger Lindsay in a flashback segment (which are almost always differentiated by being monochromatic). The third cut maintains the same angle, but we’re back to the adult Lindsay. Not only that, but she is now dressed for one of her little outings and about enter a funeral home. It’s as smooth a piece of transitional montage as you can get.
That said, much of the rest of the film doesn’t rise to this same level, and I feel that a lot (though not all) of the blame can be placed at the feet of the screenplay (co-written by La Certe). There are very upbeat (even risible) montages, replete with jaunty, television-level music, and they are inserted at the most awkward of times. Furthermore (and most infuriating for me), once the cult is introduced to us, they play almost no part whatsoever for much of the film. There is little to no consequence to pretty much every action the characters make (including and especially murder), and these are simply some of the dumbest people on the planet, if they can’t pick up on the sledgehammer-subtle hints being dropped about what’s actually going on. And did I mention that Lindsay is borderline infantilistic, to boot? But again, it’s only when the writers need something to pepper the story up. All of these wild inconsistencies effectively kill what could have been a fun, sleazy piece of cinema. To be fair, Love Me Deadly isn’t entirely horrible, but it never reaches for the brass ring that it needed to if it was ever going to be a contender for greatness. Consequently, I’d classify it as semi-stiff (cue rim shot).
MVT: I have to admit, it took a set of stones to produce a film like this in the early Seventies, and especially to do so in America. So, credit where it’s due; that this film exists at all is something of a miracle. But that it doesn’t live up to its own premise is something of a sin.
Make Or Break: The Make is the scene where Fred kills a male hustler (played with more than appropriate levels of histrionics by I. William Quinn). It’s actually a pretty graphic and disturbing scene, and the degree of discomfort is only accentuated by Quinn’s nudity, which provides a squirm-inducing vulnerability for the proceedings.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
I'll tell you what, I want to see Chicago featured in this series, oh yes, I do!
Written By: John Carpenter, Debra Hill, & Kurt Russell
Directed By: John Carpenter
Over the years Escape from L.A. has garnered quite the reputation. It's viewed as both a flop and a critical failure, and in some circles is viewed as the beginning of the end of Jon Carpenter's viability as a director. I'm not here to tell anyone that they're wrong, but I will gladly tell all those who aren't on board with Escape from L.A. they they are mighty crazy. This is the type of film that needs to be seen in the theaters, as large as possible and as loud as can be. It deserves to be celebrated for how absurd it is willing to be and how far it is willing to go to present its action. Don't get me wrong, Escape from L.A. never quite reaches the level of so terrible it's awesome. But, it does reach the level of a crazy film that throws everything it can at the viewer and succeeds in overloading the senses as only a 1990s action film can.
Of note is the type of action film that Escape from L.A. represents. It is a film of two worlds, the 1980s and the 1990s. At times the camera is almost static in the way it wants to frame Snake Plissken as a machine of death that can't be killed. Somewhere around the middle of the film Mr. Carpenter begins to shoot the film differently. He brings a kinetic energy to the scenes and instead of focusing on Plissken the action becomes a cacophony of movement. The camera doesn't necessarily take on more movement, but it becomes concerned with capturing as much action movement as it can. Visually Escape from L.A. is a bridge film from the panoramic action of the 1980s to the chaotic action of the 1990s.
That's not to say that Escape from L.A. is a visual triumph. It's very clear from the start that Mr. Carpenter is trying to implement green screen that either can't be achieved technologically or on his films budget. The surf scene is a perfect example of the awfulness of the green screen, but also of why the green screen in Escape from L.A. has a certain charm to its awfulness. This is another instance of Mr. Carpenter going for it in Escape from L.A.. I'm sure he could have filmed the green screen differently or cut those scenes out altogether. What I'm not sure of is if I would have liked Escape from L.A. as much as I did if the film was bereft of awful green screen.
There's not much to the story or the framework behind Escape from L.A.. Mr. Carpenter's film is a crazy ride that makes some interesting visual comments on the state of the action film in 1996. Escape from L.A. isn't going to be remembered for its great characters or amazing story. What Escape from L.A. should be remembered for is its willingness to be a balls out action film regardless of whether it has the necessary tools to film said action. Escape from L.A. works when it should fail, and I always have a ton of fun watching and dissecting what Mr. Carpenter was trying for in his follow up to Escape from New York. Cinephiles can continue to write off Escape from L.A., but I'll say it right now, you're missing out on an action gem.
Posted by Bill Thompson at 12:00 PM
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Welcome to a very special episode of the GGtMC!!!
This week Will and Sammy are joined by fellow podcasters Tom Deja from Better In the Dark podcast and Christine from The Feminine Critique podcast and part of the power duo behind Paracinema Magazine, as well as Todd who writes for our blog and Kelly, Master of the Blu Ray from our Facebook community!!!
We brought together these fine folks for a dissection of Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained (2012) and we go into massive detail, including spoilers, on the film and our thoughts on what worked and perhaps what didnt work? Tune in and find out folks!!!
We extend our gratitude to the guests that were on with us this week, all of the opinions provided we expected from this diverse and fun loving bunch of film fans...we love you all!!!
Direct download: ggtmc_240.mp3
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Voicemails to 206-666-5207
Posted by Gentlemen's Guide to Midnite Cinema at 10:50 PM
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
To the best of my knowledge, the whole idea behind ninja (the plural of which I’m pretty sure is “ninja,” in the same way that the plural of “moose” is “moose”) is that you don’t see them. They are “invisible” assassins, skilled in the arts of stealth, camouflage, and murder. But what do I know? I’m gaijin. If you were growing up in America in the Eighties, however, ninja were highly visible, at least in pop culture. There were ninja comic books (Grendel, Whisper, et al), magazines (Ninja, Ninja Combat, and Spirit Of Ninja, among many others), television series (The Master, natch), and films too numerous to mention.
My friends and I looked up to the martial skills of Sho Kosugi in Pray For Death as much as we lusted after Lucinda Dickey in Ninja III: The Domination (which also featured Kosugi, though even with his guy-liner, he could just never attract us in the same way), and we even wrote a “screenplay” (yes, that really should be in quotes) for a ninja movie we were going to shoot on video. Thankfully, it never came to fruition, but that didn’t stop us from buying cheap-ass shuriken and darts and whipping them recklessly at any object made out of wood that would stand still long enough to let us. We all dreamed of owning our very own ninja uniform (the best ads for these, in my opinion, came from a company called Asian World Of Martial Arts, Inc), but they were simply out of our (more specifically our parents’) price range, and we were too uninventive and too unresourceful to just make our own (then; today I could probably whip up a kickass ninja outfit in minutes, were I of a mind to, and no, I’m not of a mind to). But I would wager we derived more pleasure from simply fantasizing about being ninja than most actual ninja ever got from being ninja. I would also wager that any self-respecting ninja reading this review (ha!) would be more than happy to take that bet.
A giant and a lady in a red dress (pro wrestler Mayumi Ozaki) unceremoniously (and violently) kill several yakuza. Okay. Shinobu Nindo (Etsuko Shinkoda), daughter of prominent yakuza boss Takeo (Ikkô Furuya), has a dream wherein she is saved from villains by the three Ninja Defenders: Suzuka Hatai (Matsui Tetsuya), Jun Saruwatari (Cutey Suzuki, significantly also a pro wrestler), and their leader Ryu Momoji (Kenji Otsuki). Ryu hands Shinobu a dragon bell, which will glow and ring when she’s in danger to bring the Ninja Defenders to her aid. Meanwhile, Gô Ranjuji (Rikiya Yasuoka), begins his play to take over the yakuza’s rackets for the entire Kanto region. But there’s something odd about him and his cohorts (y’know, the giant and the lady).
The Ninja Dragon (aka Legend Of The Shadowy Ninja: The Ninja Dragon aka Kûsô-kagaku Ninkyô-den: Gokudô Ninja Dosuryô) is the first (in fact, the only) live-action feature directed by manga artist/author extraordinaire Gô Nagai. For my money, Nagai ranks up there with the best of the talents in manga/anime, and though he rarely gets the sort of accolades afforded to Miyazaki and Tezuka (at least not popularly in this country), I like to think he is just as influential as either (and if that statement doesn’t get me in trouble, nothing will). As I seem to so very often state, I am by no means an expert on the life and works of Nagai, but his oeuvre is singular in how groundbreaking it is (at least to me). One of his most popular creations, Cutie Honey, concerns a girl who can transform into a variety of take-charge women, the process for which involves her becoming stark raving nude for a few moments at a time. Or take Kekkô Kamen, about a superheroine who doesn’t wear a stitch of clothing aside from her mask and all the sadomasochistic misadventures she gets into. Or Mazinger Z (initially known in the United States as one of the Shogun Warriors line of toys from Mattel under the name Mazinga and slightly later as the titular anime character Tranzor Z) which standardized the template for damn near every Super Robot/Mecha show to follow straight on to today.
Nagai loves pushing the boundaries of acceptability. He loves delving into transgressive material, but even at his most outrageous, his work (what I’ve seen) is always entertaining. Despite his sticking to certain generic contrivances, there is always something onscreen which must be beheld, not simply looked at. This film is no different. It is extremely lean in the story department. The characterizations are non-existent. But there’s a building up of weirdness beginning from the very first scenes, and once the inevitable showdown hits, Nagai removes all the stops (or more precisely all the stops he could afford to remove) and releases the hounds, so to speak.
Like a great many of Nagai’s narratives, this film deals with prophecies and fate. Characters are chosen to be leaders or warriors by forces beyond their control. So Shinobu is given the dragon bell, a talisman that marks her as special, someone whose destiny insists that she be protected over others. By that same token, Shinobu just wants to be a young girl. She wants to experiment with smoking, go shopping, ogle boys, and so forth. It’s the struggle between these two forces (service to a higher power on one side, personal satisfaction on the other) that has driven stories like this one for decades. It is also a very Japanese idea. Their culture (or my understanding of it) is built on an idea of honor in service to a group harmony which is supposed to provide a person’s ultimate satisfaction. To give one’s all to their employer is tantamount to the attainment of (private) happiness. Ryu and the Ninja Defenders embody this facet of selflessness for a common good. Conversely, Shinobu is taken out of her complacent comfort zone, and she has to deal with what that does to her life. Unfortunately, she never truly grows as a character in the film. Her arc is hinted at, but it is never explicitly depicted, and this is an aspect shared across the board in this film.
The film has other ideas that are teased; themes like maturity, personal responsibility, and so on, but none of them are developed. They are tinsel on a Christmas tree and little more. In fact, The Ninja Dragon is strictly surface-level on the whole. It is a pure entertainment, since it has absolutely no other purpose whatsoever. But on that level of amusement it modestly succeeds. Despite the broad humor seemingly endemic to most Asian genre films (and whatever you do, do not watch this film with the English dub on, as it will actually make you dumber, though I’m sure, being good little cinephiles, you would never dream of watching this in anything other than the subtitled version), I never found myself bored. Needless to say, I was never elevated, either, and though I don’t think this is one of Nagai’s best products, it also isn’t wholly offensive. This is a decent time-waster, and sometimes that’s all you need.
MVT: Nagai wins the MVT spot. This is his baby, and it bears his stamp all over it. That it doesn’t reach the heights of some of his other work is most likely a result of the obviously tiny budget of the piece. But the film still has its share of the bizarre and the quirks on which Nagai built his reputation.
Make Or Break: The Make for me is the “spontaneous” pro-wrestling-style melee that breaks out between Suzuki and Ozaki. It’s so out of left field while still being enjoyable and just a little sleazy, you can’t not like it.
Friday, June 14, 2013
Watching this now because no movie featuring John Rhys Davies will go unwatched.
Its kind of sad that this was directed by the same guy (Andrew C. McLaglen) who did THE WILD GEESE (Roger Moore & Richard Burton & Richard Harris), THE SEA WOLVES (Roger Moore, Gregory Peck & David Niven), FFOLKES (Roger Moore, Anthony Perkins & James Mason), MITCHELL (Joe Don Baker, Martin Balsalm & John Saxon) and, well, yes, also BANJO HACKETT: ROAMIN' FREE (Don Meredith, L.Q. Jones & Dan O'Herlihy). SAHARA came out in 1983 but it plays like it was made in the 1930s...it could only have been directed by an old-geezer-who-had-been-directing-(mostly television)-for-decades-by-this-point-and-who-was-probably-losing-his-grip-on-reality-because-he-was-63-years-old-when-he-made-this.
Brooke Shields is predictably bad (she even pulls a YENTL by dressing up as a man, complete with mustache), but that has its charms, its just a matter of whether you will ask yourself, on your deathbed, as you leave this mortal coil, be it slowly, quickly, peacefully, or violently: "Did I really spend precious time of my life watching SAHARA with Brooke Shields?!?"
John Rhys D. is in full-on Connery/THE WIND AND THE LION mode, complete with turban. He is attacking Brooke right now, mounting her, ripping her clothes, Brooke's screams are bad-actress-feeble but I do think John Rhys D. really did cup Brooke's breasts right there, he is downright mauling her. Oh, now she got away in a not entirely convincing fashion (blame the director).
The score by Ennio Morricone is uncharacteristically terrible. I was expecting some lush theme(s) that, I dont know, highlighted the beauty of the desert or something, but no, his heart isnt in this project, his action cues sound like what you would hear accompanying desert action scenes in ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY, faux Egyptian-y type things. Here's the love/sex scene between Brooke and her Saharan prince but Morricone just aint bringing it. Maybe Morricone wasnt inspired because Brooke's love/sex scene is so bad-actress-awkward-bad.
Maybe Morricone wasnt inspired because the cinematography is so...nothing. I was expecting at least beautiful vistas but, no, this may as well have been filmed on a studio set, its so flat. The cinematographer was some guy I never heard of (with the unfortunate name of David Gurfinkel) but, oh, look, it turns out he seems to have been the house cinematographer for Cannon Films: he shot RETURN OF THE NINJA, DELTA FORCE, THE APPLE, AMERICA 3000 and, yes, even RAPPIN'.
Did I mention that SAHARA is a Golan/Globus production? You knew that already, I didnt need to tell you. I dont think Cannon has made a worse film than this.
I dont think Brooke has made a worse film than this (and this is a person whose filmography includes BRENDA STARR).
(random insert of a Brooke poster)
Did I really spend precious time of my life watching SAHARA with Brooke Shields?!?
Posted by Blofeld's Cat at 11:24 PM
Welcome to another episode of the GGtMC!!!
Thie week special guest Fnord steps in to help the Gents with reviews that were selected as part of our Kickstarter campaign. Fnord and good friend of the show Blake chose Massacre Mafia Style (1978) directed by and starring Duke Mitchell and Ninja Wars (1982) starring Sonny Chiba and Hiroyuki Sanada!!! We want to thank Blake and Fnord for the support of the show!!!
Direct download: ggtmc_239.mp3
Emails to email@example.com
Voicemails to 206-666-5207
Posted by Gentlemen's Guide to Midnite Cinema at 3:06 AM
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Given the option, most people would consider themselves to be either dog people or cat people. Now, there are all-around animal lovers, and people who love both dogs and cats but not other animals (and even other animals but not dogs or cats), but we’re not talking about them. Personally, I’m a dog person. Dogs seem to want to be friends (you know, barring the ones that want to take a piece out of you), and they love letting you know it. They love when you give them some attention, and they’ll wait all day for it, if they have to. Cats, not so much. If you’ve ever been on the internet, you’ve seen at least one photo of a cat doing whatever it damn well pleases along with a sentence or two describing how selfish and aloof cats are. I’ve been around cats that loved being petted. I’ve been around cats that couldn’t care less if you lived or died, so long as they stayed fed. But this is the defining difference in the perception of the two animals. Dogs are seen as warm and friendly. Cats are their polar opposites. I don’t think preferring one or the other defines a person in any way whatsoever in the same way I don’t think the animals prefer the type of owner they have if that person simply cares for them. So, before the five of you who read these reviews decide to bombard me with passive-aggressive hate mail or just your garden variety hate mail (I know, I laughed at the thought of hearing anything from anyone, good or ill, too), kindly bear two things in mind. One, I know this is not an in-depth dissection of the psychology of our four-legged friends. It’s not meant to be. It’s an introduction to a crummy film review. Two, I do not hate cats. I simply like dogs more.
Doctor Grey (director, writer, producer Greydon Clark) and assistant Paul (Paul Martin) work at a genetic testing lab. Discovering something odd about an orange tabby (I think) called Subject ST-618, they decide to have a look-see, but before they can sedate the little bugger, he manages to get away. While in pursuit, it’s revealed that there’s an angry, mutant cat monster (cat-ster?) living inside ST, and it swiftly takes out its pursuers and makes good its escape. Meanwhile, Wall Street honcho Walter Graham (the ever-crusty Alex Cord) and cronies Albert (Clu Gulager) and Mike (George Kennedy) need to cruise to the Cayman Islands before the SEC (that’s the Securities and Exchange Commission, for those who don’t know) can close in on them. The naturally charming Walt manages to tempt Spring Break bimbos Bobbie (Clare Carey) and Suzanne (Shari Shattuck) aboard his yacht. Of course, the girls want to bring along more age-appropriate companions in Corey, Lance, and Martin (Rob Estes, Beau Dremann, and Eric Larson, respectively). As well as a certain orange tabby.
Uninvited has at its center a premise which is both keenly interesting and fundamentally ludicrous. The cat-ster lives inside the normal cat. Actually, it would be more accurate to say it wears the cat as a disguise (which I suppose makes some sort of sense from a predatory perspective), making the tabby a kind of Trojan horse. By that same token, I can’t help but think that this particular mutation would really only be useful in very specific circumstances (say, stuck on a yacht with a bunch of jerks?). So, was the mutation created to produce some type of living weapon so that the military could just drop cat-sters into the homes of feline-loving despots and let nature take its course? Was it an unforeseen mutation that still doesn’t make any sense, since it’s the monstrous equivalent of a jack-in-the-box? In an odd way, the creature is reminiscent of the armpit penis from Cronenberg’s Rabid, but whereas in that film (and in the films of most storytellers presented with a basis like this) the ridiculous aspects were a jumping-off point for the story. Here, it is the story in total.
Conversely, the aspect of symbiotes and parasites is intriguing as it relates to the characters in the story. The cat-ster has a kind of symbiotic relationship with the tabby (though, the more I think about it, and not to get too graphic, the cat-ster and cat have a relationship closer to foreskin and penis rather than human and tapeworm). Just about everyone in the film forms a parasitic relationship with Walt, needing what he has to get what they want or need. Mike and Albert want money from him. Rachel (Toni Hudson) wants ownership of her boat from him. The other guys and gals want to use what he owns to enable their own carefree good time. Walt, on the other side of this coin, is happy to grant these things, so long as he remains on top and richer than all of them. He’ll let the others leech him, but he can get rid of them any time he wants, or so he believes (ever tried removing a tick you can’t see?).
While these wants (most of which are strictly of the base variety) drive the characters’ actions, it’s also interesting to note that the truly bad characters (creature notwithstanding) are all older. The young characters are basically dumb and want to get their rocks off and have a good time, and Corey is even outright venal, but they’re not out to hurt anyone. It’s the older characters who kill to get their way. Most people’s natural inclination is to look to their elders for proper guidance of some type (at least for a few years). In Uninvited, however, you can’t trust anyone over thirty. The filmmakers equate the point-of-view of the film with the film’s target audience. For my part, I give Clark and company credit for matching up the disparate generations, and the first two-thirds of the film actually works fairly well developing the relationships between the characters and creating some compelling conflicts and foreshadowing.
The last third of the film, on the other hand, just disintegrates, trying to satisfy generic tropes, both Horror and Exploitation, in general and not quite doing either. The film’s climax is so farcical and impossible to swallow, I refuse to believe that the filmmakers didn’t go in with that knowledge and just played it up to the nth degree. The film is still entertaining to some extent. It has aerobicizing, some wicked hot licks, and Cord, Kennedy, and Gulager in a three-way race to see who can eat every last ounce of the scenery before they all drown. Plus, the silly cat-ster puppet does have a cheapjack charm all its own. You know, I thought about writing this review as a dialogue between myself and my dog, Pepper Ann. In retrospect, I probably should have.
MVT: As stated, the cat-ster is pretty neat as a monster. Despite the monster’s ever-changing size, it’s still the thing I looked forward to seeing most throughout the film (not including the female skin I was deprived of setting eyes on). The creature looks like a shrunken-head version of King Seesar from Godzilla Versus Mechagodzilla (1974), which is probably why I like it as much as I do, since Seesar was basically a giant dog with a jewel on his forehead. Irony, no?
Make Or Break: The monster makes its presence known on the boat in quasi-spectacular fashion. There’s a little bit of blood, some chaotic violence, and George Kennedy swinging for the fences of Histrionics Memorial Field.