Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Exterminators Of The Year 3000 (1983)

The end is nigh. Always has been. Prophets, scientists, and madmen have been prophesizing the end of the world for years, centuries even. An Italian prophet, Savonarola, convinced artist Alessandro Botticelli and thousands of others that the Apocalypse would occur in the 16th Century. Savonarola was eventually excommunicated and executed, Apocalypse-less. The Large Hadron Collider in Europe was feared for its potential to create a black hole big enough to swallow the Earth. It hasn't. Yet. Now they're using the machine to search for the hypothetical Higgs boson or "God Particle," and while there have been some murky results so far (at least from a lay perspective), it has also been speculated that the machine itself will not produce such a particle, because it knows that the consequences would very likely be catastrophic. That's like your car refusing to turn down a particular street, because it knows that a horrific accident awaits if you do. Super-chiseler-at-large Harold Camping predicted the Rapture would occur three separate times in three separate decades. Every time it didn't come to pass, a different, glib explanation was proffered as to why not.

Regardless of your personal religious/spiritual beliefs, the end of the world (and what will come after) has been big box office for decades. In the 1950s, movies like Arch Oboler's Five concentrated on the shakeup of American norms and mores. Would we maintain our stalwart values or devolve into animals in the face of civilization's destruction? In the anti-establishment, increasingly cynical 1960s, Earth-changing events took on a more fantastic element. From Day Of The Triffids to The Last Man On Earth, Armageddon was less likely to be caused by commie nukes than by viruses or aliens (of course, nuclear proliferation was still a consideration). Then in the 1970s, we were shown that not only had the much-feared nuclear holocaust already happened, but also the car stunts got about a million times better. 1979's Mad Max showcased a civilization holding on by its fingernails, where ultra-violent justice was meted out by leather-clad cops in super-charged cars. It was a game-changing film, and I would argue that every post-apocalyptic film since has borne a heavy influence from it and (at the very least) its first sequel, The Road Warrior.

Certainly, this is the case with Giuliano Carnimeo's (aka Jules Harrison) Exterminators Of The Year 3000. After the ozone belt portion of the stratosphere is destroyed by nuclear bombs, water becomes a scarcity. A small group of people hide out in caves, nurturing plants they plan to use to reinvigorate the planet's eco-system. The problem is plants need water, and the last person they sent out to get some still hasn't returned. Young Tommy (Luca Venantini) is more concerned than most, because it's his father that's missing. He stows away on the next tanker that is sent out to get water, but their convoy is attacked by Crazy Bull (Fernando Bilbao) and his dune-buggy-riding minions, who are lured by the sight of the tanker and the prospect of an easy target. Tommy escapes death along with the map to the secret water reservoir. Eventually, he comes upon thief, murderer, and all-around scumbag, Alien (Robert Iannucci). Tommy tries to convince Alien to help his people restore the planet, but Alien is only looking out for Alien. Will Alien finally become an altruist and discover true friendship and a purpose to life? Eh. Not really.

This is an example of what is sometimes referred to as "Pasta-pocalypse Cinema." Seeing as how it was an Italian/Spanish co-production, you can guess why. It has the "futuristic" fashions we've come to expect: Lots of leather and exposed skin (odd considering the lack of ozone in this future), motocross and football pads, studs, spikes, and chains wherever they can be added. And let's not forget the eyeliner/face makeup. All the vehicles are re-purposed from "the past." Apparently, every car in the future needs bars and grates across the windows and the front grill (and often over the wheel wells). Basically, they're "hoopties." Villains are required to ride in open-air autos. There are lots of dune buggies (though nothing as eye-catching as the one in Alabama's Ghost), dirt bikes, and pickups with the roofs removed. Settings are comprised of deserts and rock quarries, anything that can be done with a minimum of set dressing or permits. All of these requirements are met by this film. Unfortunately, it doesn't do much more than meet the basics. Even Alien/Crazy Bull's car, "The Exterminator," fails to impress as "the most powerful car in all the forbidden lands" (and if anarchy reigns, who declares areas "forbidden," anyway?). The interior consists of some flashing lights and a TV monitor for driving with the venetian blinds closed (yes, really). Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary is done with this vehicle. It doesn't talk, have flamethrowers or missiles, or even seem to handle all that well. The last of the V-8 Interceptors has nothing to fear from the Exterminator.

On the subject of Mad Max influences, the largest of them must be addressed. That would be car stunts. Miller's film, as it's been said dozens, if not hundreds, of times, captured the high adrenaline feel of super-fast car chases. The use of undercranked cameras and low-angle shots turned scenes of cars speeding around the roads of Australia into virtual car pornography. Carnimeo's film, by contrast, does not. Oh, there are enough car chases, and some of the stuntwork is even impressive. The problem is twofold. One, the style of shooting and editing these sequences together is flat. They're mostly shot from a good distance away and the shots hold for so long (probably for padding reasons), they lose any dynamism they may have had. Two, the sequences themselves overstay their welcome. Hard to believe in a film where they're the main attraction, but when the action is so lackluster, you'd prefer them not to stick around. There are some nice, slow motion shots, but they're rare and simply not enough to sustain prolonged interest.

Generally speaking, these films are thematically concerned with two ideas. One is how we got here. This is typically an anti-war/anti-nuke sentiment and is used more as exposition than having anything intrinsically to do with the story. In Max's world, gas becomes a rare commodity, in Alien's world, it's water. This reflects the second theme – how we get to tomorrow. Funnily, Carnimeo's movie has the more interesting variation on this idea. After all, you can't live without water, but you can get from place to place without a car. The mistake the filmmakers make is in giving this aspect short shrift. The quest for water is nothing more than a McGuffin to string together action scenes (and is presented as such). This apathy pervades the film and only helps drag it down, in my opinion, particularly once we get to the end.

This movie is not done any favors by the writers or actors either. The dialogue is in the realm of "So Bad It's Good." Witness: "Once more into the breach, you mother-grabbers. Let's purloin that water." "A snakebite's better than a kiss from you." "Even a son of a bitch has a soul." And many more. Tragically, it just doesn't help to elevate the movie, even on a kitsch level. The thespian antics are spastic and po-faced simultaneously, but they're nothing more nor less than what you would expect from the time and place of the film's production.

The only scene that I found truly engaging was in the warehouse with the underground reservoir. There are a bunch of great, pulp-style deathtraps, including a spiked, whirling log on chains and light-triggered arrows. Plus, the place is guarded by fire-and-brimstone-shouting mutants dressed like members of A.I.M. But it's just too little, too late to bring this movie out of the morass of mediocrity. When all's said and done, Exterminators Of The Year 3000 is strictly middle-of-the-road.

MVT: The car stuntwork is plentiful, and there are some decent enough gags. It's their monotonous handling that drains the excitement from them.

Make or Break: The "Break" for me was the final scene, where a Deus Ex Machina of the highest order negates everything that came before. In a film that's not about much to begin with, somehow they managed to make it about even less.

Score: 5/10

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 8/30/11

They Call Him Chad's Pick: IF... (Region 1 Blu-Ray; Criterion)
If.... is one of the strangest films I've ever seen. I first saw it during film school at a screening and Q&A honoring Malcolm McDowell in which the man himself hand-picked If.... as the film he most wished to show us from his expansive filmography. At the time, I'd never heard of the film and it wasn't something readily available on video. I didn't know what to expect, and that made If.... even better because it's a movie that defies expectation. The film starts off rather straightforward (and maybe a tad mundane) then unspools in a maniacal stylistic mash-up of Kubrick, The Coens and Lynch. While I don't want to spoil anything, there's at least one moment in If... that'll make you utter "what the hell?" in laughter at the unadulterated lunacy. If you don't know what you're in for, I suggest that you avoid all measures to educate yourself and fully enjoy the mania. God bless you, Lindsay Anderson!

Amazon Blu-Ray Revew

Large William's Pick: POLICE, ADJECTIVE (Region 1 DVD; Kimstim/Zeitgest)
One of the films from tiff a few years ago, that got a boatload of hardware at Cannes, etc, finally come to region 1. I had the pleasure of finally seeing it last year, and it really is in line with the best films of the recent celebrated Romanian new wave. Absurdist, blackly comic, commenting on the inherently broken nature of their once communist society. It follows a police officer and his tailing of a low lever drug dealing youth and the implications that come of it. It's worth the price of admission alone for the philosophical, dictionary pulling final scene. Check it out gang!


Amazon DVD

Friday, August 26, 2011

Episode #146: A Bullet with Zeke Pinheiro

This week the Gents tackle a different approach from our regular programming by interviewing film maker Zeke Pinheiro and discussing his short film The Price and other projects he is working on...and also giving you a film review by covering A Bullet for the General (1966) directed by Damiano Damiani.

We had a great time discussing cinema with a great friend from the show and trust me, this is a funny episode, if not just for the fact that Sammy puts his foot in his mouth often with tasteless humor....pretty much what you have come to expect from GGtMC!!!

Direct download: A_Bullet_With_Zeke_PinheiroRM.mp3

We are providing a limk to Zeke's Kickstarter campaign to help with his project The Cheerleaders Must Die.

Please go over and help a friend of the show out!!!

Emails to

Voicemails to 206-666-5207


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Slaughterhouse (1987)

Buddy Bacon (Joe B. Barton) lives forever in my memories for one image. It was in a horror magazine ("Gorezone," "Toxic Horror," or another, I cannot recall). Anyway, the photo shows Buddy, a hulking, scruffy man in filthy bib overalls, leaning casually with one foot up on a broken chainsaw. In his hand is a knife-fingered glove reminiscent of that Elm Street fellow (I think Buddy might even be picking his teeth with one of the blades, hinting that Mr. Krueger sure was tasty). Somewhere on the floor is a beat-up hockey mask. Where Godzilla was announced in America as "King of the Monsters," we are to intuit from this oh-so-subtle picture that Buddy is "King of the Slashers." Well, not quite. What the image does do well is convey the overall tone of Slaughterhouse (aka Bacon Bits; I love that one). This is a fun little slasher movie that has its tongue planted firmly in its cheek (almost poking out the other side), that never received much recognition for what it gets right.

Jerk slaughterhouse owner Tom Sanford (Bill Brinsfield) has been trying for some time, with the help of his attorney Harold Murdock (Lee Robinson), to buy old man Lester Bacon's (Don Barrett) dilapidated property, on which also stands a slaughterhouse. Along with Sheriff Borden (William Houck), the men visit Les and his obviously not-all-there son, Buddy, and inform him that his property is going into foreclosure. Lester, who laments the death of craftsmanship in the slaughter industry and is Tom's former mentor, basically tells them to pound sand. Meanwhile, the sheriff's daughter Liz (Sherry Bendorf) – get it? – is preparing with her pals to shoot a horror video for some vague reason (a competition, maybe?). Guess where they wind up shooting. However, Lester has discovered Buddy's handiwork on a couple of whippersnappers who messed with his pigs and decides to lure his enemies to his abattoir and kill them, one at a time.

The film starts with a relatively non-graphic (yet decently bloody) double kill. The titles then come on with shots of pigs in a slaughterhouse going through their daily "routine." This is accompanied by a Bacharach-ian musical number. The entire movie bears this dichotomy. But it's not comedy versus horror. The two seem well-blended, so one doesn't overshadow the other. Some of the later kills in the film are fairly graphic in their depiction. Buddy himself is the center of both comedy and violence, but more on that later. Lester, on the other hand, is funny for all the wrong reasons. Despite his groan-worthy, pun-filled dialogue (which is not his fault), Barrett's delivery is so over-the-top, you start to wonder if it's really John Carradine in disguise. I'm thinking of starting an award for the most immoderate of performances. I'm undecided whether it should be called the B.E.M. (Bug-Eyed Monster) or Robert Marius (first commended for his efforts [okay, the only time so far] in my Zombi 3 review viewable here) Award. Food for thought.

The movie is presented as a slasher movie, and while it uses many of the subgenres tropes, it also twists some of them around. It contains the standard POV shots of Buddy stalking his victims on a couple of occasions. I never understood this convention, personally. The whole concept is fait accompli. You know where it's going. You know how the shot's going to end (with little variation). It doesn't generate suspense (I refer again to Hitchcock's "timebomb" theory [aka "the desire/frustration theory of suspense"]). Maybe it worked the first few times it was used, but certainly not by 1987 and certainly not after. Also, the victims are all dispatched in different ways. This has always been solely to keep the audience from being bored. If a killer (serial or otherwise) has an effective death implement, one would think they would tend to stick with it. It's the same reason why if you start off a video game with a .22 revolver and you're finally able to upgrade to a nuke-powered shotgun or what-have-you, you would be reticent (not to mention pretty dumb) to go back to the revolver.

On the flip side, the action doesn't focus primarily on the "teens" (I hesitate to call them that, because they don't look like teens, but they act like teens, kind of) but on the conflict between the adult characters. I actually found this refreshing. It gives the film a slight 1970s horror feel, which is almost always welcome. The teens themselves are almost indistinguishable from each other, as if writer/director Rick Roessler didn't care whether they were in the movie or not. They also don't seem to want to get in each others' pants, get drunk, or smoked up. How odd. The young'uns won't come under direct threat until the third act (and then arbitrarily, because you need teen victims in a slasher movie – and now you know why they're not developed as characters). It's not typical of the genre, but it works.

Slaughterhouse, regardless of its 1970s shadings, also keeps itself steeped in the 80s. There is some direly bad synth-rock that pops up whenever we get an establishing shot of the younger protagonists. The shooting of the horror video is presented in a devastating, soda-commercial-esque, kids-just-havin'-fun montage. I still found it funny. The big "Pig Out" party sponsored by radio station KFAT – get it? – features some of the most spastic 80s dancing ever captured on film (but sadly not the "Rerun", whose time I guess had passed by then).

The film borrows heavily (as any film with this setting and premise must) from both The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Motel Hell. Buddy wears the rubber mask stolen from a victim a la Famer Vincent's glorious pighead and Leatherface's, um, leather face. Effigies fashioned out of animal remains festoon Lester's slaughterhouse. There are hints at cannibalism as the bodies start piling up. As an interesting aside, there is brief mention of Buddy having a younger brother that mysteriously disappeared. Nothing is ever made of this, but I found it to be a nice touch. And then there's Buddy himself, a Brobdingnagian man-child who, in fact, squeals like a pig.

It's Buddy, funny enough, who is the center of pathos in the movie. He looks like one of the Moondogs crossed with Randall "Tex" Cobb in Raising Arizona. Nonetheless, he's portrayed as a sort of ani-man. He has a tremendous affinity for his pigs, and the inference we're lead to draw is that there's some bestiality going on. He kills, yes, but he doesn't really mean it, because he doesn't know better, and he's following his dad's lead anyway. He's a slightly less sociable "Lenny" with a giant cleaver. And it is his childlike demeanor that drives the humor of the film. It's gallows humor, to be sure, but humor nonetheless, and it comes from character, which makes it work. Consequently, Buddy (as all popular horror characters do) generates sympathy, and a modicum of empathy, for himself while feeling none for his victims. I think it would be hard to continue stories with this character, because he could very easily become self-parodic. Still, the final time we see Buddy in the movie, while not unexpected and highly improbable, was nicely satisfying.

MVT: Buddy is the most valuable thing here. I think the above paragraph explains my thoughts as to why.

Make or Break: The "Make" scene is when Buddy dresses up like a cop and takes a cruiser out for a spin. It's, by turns, funny and horrific and it cogently encapsulates the tone of the film.

Score: 7/10

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 8/23/11

Samurai's Pick: TROLL HUNTER (Region 1 Blu-ray; Magnet/Magnolia)
This film was a blast, I thought it was really well photographed and it kept it's story nice and tight. It is a found footage type film, which I honestly am tired of, but it takes a nice spin by having some really nice special effects and a great performance from the lead actor, Otto Jespersen.

Amazon Blu-Ray and DVD
Diabolik DVD and Blu-Ray Review

They Call Him Chad's Pick: ROUNDERS (Region 1 Blu-Ray; Miramax/Lionsgate)
If you can get past the horrendous photoshop cover art, Rounders is one great little film centered on the underground poker scene. John Dahl has long been a favorite under-the-wire director of mine, consistently churning out small films (not to mention some great television episodes) that usually develop followings yet not one large enough to propel him into bigger budget features. His natural modern noirish aesthetic fits perfectly here and exudes the gritty NYC atmosphere. The cast, of course, is stellar, featuring outstanding work by Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Malkovich and John Turturro. If you're familiar with screenwriters David Levien and Brian Koppleman, this is them at their best, crafting a script packed with fun moments and slick dialogue exchanges. Rounders is one of those films where you'll find yourself latching onto numerous characters and wondering what a spinoff movie featuring some of these supporting players might be like. Released slightly prior to the poker boom, it's too bad that Rounders was a bit ahead of its time and wasn't profitable enough to warrant a logical sequel set during the rise of poker, online card playing and televised tournaments.

Amazon Blu-Ray Review
High-Def Digest Review

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Kindred (1987) @ CineFamily

When I attend an art house revival cinema if there's one thing I desperately hope for above all else -- even more so than discovering a fantastic film -- it's that I'm about to have a one-of-a-kind movie experience. In my first visit to The CineFamily Theatre in Los Angeles to see the 80s horror gem The Kindred all the ingredients for such an experience were apparent immediately. A lively and talkative crowd. An exuberant pair of highly knowledgable programers. A cool screening room that felt more like a loungey basement replete with couches, theater seats with pillows for cushions and food n' drink stands between the armrests.

But then, we're informed that the night's screening would be plagued by technical difficulties in the form of a broken equipment, relegating our viewing to a single projector. Translation: we'd have to endure a five minute plus intermission after each reel concluded (or about every 20 minutes) so the projectionist could cue up the next one. Refusing to let this damper the event, the programmers turned this complication into that unique benefit that I'd craved upon arrival. After each reel, we would be treated to a short Q&A hosted by co-director Jeffrey Obrow, incorporating the cadre of crew members on-hand that included numerous visual effects artists, the co-writer and editor, the set nurse (?!) and even Obrow's sister (?!?). What resulted was something along the lines of live director's commentary albeit one with large gaps of silence. A very one-of-a-kind experience indeed. A few of the great bits this produced were:

- After receiving crappy direction, Rod Steiger ordered the entire crew to take a break so he could ask Obrow if he'd directed actors previously. Steiger reminded Obrow that he attended the Actor's Studio and then proceeded to teach Obrow a few things about providing actors with better motivation.

- Another recipient of bad direction, Kim Hunter stopped Obrow to similarly ask if he'd ever directed anything before this movie. She also reminded Obrow that she attended the Actor's Studio and tried to give him pointers on communication with actors.

- Obrow's sister stepped forward to recount the nightly dinners where her brother's anxiety would manifest routinely with a stressed-out statement like "I only have 27 days to turn a woman into a fish and I have no idea how I'm going to do it!" This same thing happened every night after, only difference being the countdown lessened by one day.

- One of the producers invested money in The Kindred based on a concept video/short film without ever reading the screenplay. Upon reading the script, this producer frantically called Obrow to say that they needed to find a real writer (i.e. - not Obrow, who also served as the writer) to fix the script. And thus, enter Joseph Stefano (Psycho, The Outer Limits).

- Obrow's father, who had no artistic background at all, read the script and offered a single note that greatly enlightened the writers and impacted the story. He suggested that one of the male characters should be changed to a female in order to create love triangle tensions for the main character and his love interest.

- And best of all, one of the F/X guys brought up The Kindred itself, one of the original puppets utilized during filming, to show off to the audience.

- Obrow also confirmed that Synapse would distribute the film on Blu-ray & DVD in 2012.

The Kindred concerns Dr. Amanda Hollins' (Kim Hunter) deathbed plea to her son, John (David Allen Brooks), to destroy all of her remaining lab notes that she didn't have time to dispose of before falling ill. She's worried that her work will fall into the wrong hands, like those of the diabolical Dr. Phillip Lloyd (Rod Steiger), a former colleague that does not have good intentions for Amanda or her research. In urging John, Amanda accidentally lets slip that John may have a brother named Anthony the no one else knew existed.

After arriving at his mother's secluded house, John soon discovers his illegitimate brother is actually real. Except, Anthony isn't really his brother, but rather a fish-like Lovecraftian beast created from John's cell tissue. Worse, John's monstrous sibling still stalks the premises and turns his anger toward John's companions, horrifically dispatching of them one-by-one. This leaves John with no other option than to kill this creature, but Dr. Lloyd locates them and will stop at nothing to preserve this monster to serve his own interests.

The Kindred was co-directed and co-written by Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter who double-teamed The Power and The Dorm That Dripped Blood prior to this film. If I were to pay compliment with a comparison, The Kindred feels like a poor man's Stuart Gordon film, which is a comparison I don't believe I've ever made in relation to other films and perhaps illuminates Carpenter and Obrow's weird nuance. With this in mind, the overriding characteristic is the sheer lunacy of the characters, effects and story. The filmmakers embrace a genuine B-movie quality, not manufacturing that through intentional campiness to conceal larger faults. This is a film that sees a pregnant watermelon give birth to a hideous monstrosity. The Kindred is like a mix tape of genre staples, utilizing elements from Re-Animator and It's Alive! as well as facets inspired by John Carpenter's The Thing, Alien and Dr. Moreau.

The incredible Rod Steiger leads the cast and honestly sets the tone in a lively performance. Steiger dances all over the fine line between devious and insane, making for a performance that's both playful and intense. In a fantasy world, I wouldn't have minded Steiger rocking a slight accent and changing his character to be Herbert West's mentor Dr. Hans Gruber in a quasi-spin off/prequel based on Re-Animator. That said, Steiger renders some curious line deliveries where it is difficult to tell if he's intentionally poking fun at the absurdity; it's as though Dr. Lloyd is daring others to acknowledge that he's going to kill them in typical scenes foreshadowing unavoidable deadly outcomes. But when it counts, Steiger always hits the correct notes, especially when dialing up his fervor, and he truly sells the final scene.

From the various Q&A segments, one great strength that I learned from Obrow's recollections is that he's a strong collaborator, constantly turning the reigns over to those with more expertise to shape the picture in certain areas. It is this approach that no doubt resulted in some of the best effects works I've seen in any horror film short The Thing. In an age of CG and watered-down visuals, it was refreshing to witness exquisite practical effects on display at this superb level.

Led by special makeup effects master Matthew W. Mungle, the crew does, in fact, quell Obrow's fears and gloriously pulls off stunning visual and makeup work in transforming a woman into a fish. At another juncture, Mungle's believable makeup forced many in our audience to cringe and look away when the creature's tentacle entered a woman's ear canal, bulged her through cheeks and face before exiting through a nostril. It came as little shock that Mungle would go on to win an Academy Award for his work on Bram Stoker's Dracula. The usage of the effects in the film are not only impressive, but they're well paced, starting small and steadily escalating through the duration until erupting by the film's conclusion.

Make or Break scene - Make all the way. I've gone back and forth between two scenes here, but I'll go with the final confrontation that sees Dr. Lloyd meet the monster over the fish woman transformation. It's a riveting confrontation that Steiger completely commits to and sells. There's also a cool effect where we see John's face revealed within the monster, which is something Obrow himself never realized until watching the film this latest time.

MVT - Matthew W. Mungle, easily. The Kindred is a lot fun without the masterful visual effects, but the effects are simply the best trait of the film and the driving force to searching this out.

Score - 7.5/10

Episode #145: Johnny Boogens

Welcome to another episode of the GGtMC, with possible audio issues causing us problems in the morning...the very early morning...

This week we have a Cinema de Bizarre show for you Gentle-minions, we cover Johnny Hamlet (1968) from director Enzo Castellari and The Boogens (1981) from director James Conway. We also cover some feedback and we get a report from Ben (aka dissolvedpet) on the Melbourne International Film Festival!!!

Direct download: Johnny_Boogens.mp3

Emails to

Voicemails to 206-666-5207


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Who? (1973)

You may or may not have heard of Croatian music teacher, Frane Selak. A train on which he was a passenger derailed and pitched into a frigid river. Flying on a plane, a door blew off; He was sucked out of the plane and landed on a haystack. A bus he was aboard careened into a river. Two of his cars exploded in flames with him in them. He was hit by a bus. He jackknifed a car through a mountain road guardrail and landed on some tree branches. His car exploded hundreds of feet below. Then, in 2003, he won over one million dollars in a lottery. Mixed blessings, huh?

Whether you see Mr. Selak's luck as good or ill, it really can't compare to that of Dr. Lucas Martino (Joseph Bova) in Jack Gold's Who? (aka The Man With The Steel Mask). While in East Germany (this is before the power of Hasselhoff made the Berlin wall topple), Martino's car is run off the road and explodes. The East German doctors are able to save Martino by replacing most of his sensory organs with metal and robotics. They then release Martino back to the Americans, but before he can return as head of the Neptune Project, it must be established that this is, in fact, Martino. This is agent Sean Rogers' (Elliott Gould) task, and when he finds out that communist spymaster General Azarin (Trevor Howard) was involved in Martino's recovery, he becomes even more skeptical of Martino's identity. Now, Mr. Selak may have blown up a couple times and taken a few bad tumbles, but that's arguably better than being turned into a cyborg and having Elliott Gould on your ass.

Based on a 1958 novel by science fiction author Algis Budrys, Who? is set during the height of the Cold War. In 1973, the Vietnam War was at its apex, and though most Americans were hopeful for the success of "détente," many were still checking nightly for a "Red" under their bed. This innate distrust and anxiety over an imminent war with the USSR is what propels this movie forward on a narrative level. Rogers is the ultimate cynic, and even when everyone else is convinced of Martino's authenticity, he remains the sole holdout. Consequently, Gould plays Rogers with an icy aloofness, but you can see that he wants to trust Martino. Azarin's involvement, though, precludes this luxury.

On the technical end, the film is well-made, though the sets are spartan at best and utilitarian at worst. The few scenes of action are handled smoothly, if not particularly breathtakingly. The performances are all solid but not Oscar-worthy. It's unfortunate that the cyborg makeup is so poor. I kept thinking of Andy Kaufman in Heartbeeps with the puffy, Jô Shishido-esque cheeks. But this is a low budget film (produced by Barry Levinson, no less), and these are the constraints of that situation. Further, the film is not about being ostentatious and flashy. It wants to engage us on a more intellectual level, and it does so admirably.

The film is set up like a political thriller in the vein of The Manchurian Candidate or Three Days Of The Condor. However, aside from a couple of low-adrenaline action scenes (including an assassination attempt by thugs in a car bearing a very large red-and-white-checkered flag), the film is more melodrama than thriller. As a result, the audience becomes drawn in not by exhilaration but by the mystery of Martino. The viewer is teased into trying to outsmart the movie, to figure out if he is who he says he is before Rogers does, and it does a nice job of maintaining pace and interest in this way.

This bread trail, if you will, is laid down in the movie by the concept of the unreliable narrator. Whereas films like The Usual Suspects have deceitful onscreen characters, here it is the movie itself that is deceptive. The structure of the film bounces between the present situation, flashbacks to Martino's time behind the Iron Curtain, and flashbacks to Martino's memories themselves. Yet, the flashbacks, with only two noticeable exceptions, are not set off visually by the filmmakers. There are no dissolves, wipes, or wavy transitions. We are simply shown General Azarin and Dr. Korthu (Alexander Allerson) discussing Martino. We can't be absolutely certain that these are flashbacks, per se, because we have not established if Martino is Martino. Is the man in the bed Martino and the man sent back a mole? Is the man interrogated by Azarin Martino or a mole undergoing training? The film doesn't tip its hand in this regard until about the last quarter, but by then we've moved away from the Cold War angle of the film (though we're still intrigued by it). No, by this point, we've moved into the real theme of the film: identity.

It's been said that science fiction is the literature of change, and I suppose that statement can be interpreted socially or personally. The point is that the advancement of technology affects us as human beings, and good science fiction deals with these issues explicitly. Here, the same technology that saved Martino's life also makes him a suspect. Only Martino knows if he is Martino or not (or does he?), but without his face (and even in possession of Martino's right arm), he cannot be allowed to reclaim his life. This idea is very interestingly revealed in the scenes of Martino's personal memories. Gold employs POV camera techniques to be Martino's perspective as we watch events in his past. We are not allowed to look directly at Martino during these scenes. In fact, we never see what Martino looked like pre-accident at all. It raises the issue of what defines us as individuals. Certainly our outward appearance is unreliable and even events in our past can be retold by ones other than ourselves, but we know who we are at our core. Our individual viewpoints are unique. The quest for Martino's outside identity is ultimately the path by which Martino discovers who he is inside.

MVT: Joseph Bova does a great job with a difficult role. He is able to make us both believe in and distrust him, by turns, and portray a good deal of humanity under a lot of (bad) makeup. No small feat.

Make or Break: The "Make" is the scene when Martino goes to visit his former love, Edith (Kaym Tornborg). On the one hand, her reaction to Martino is supposed to supplant any misgivings we may have about his identity, but the actual content of the scene also gives us more reason to be suspicious. An elegantly complex scene.

SCORE: 7/10

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 8/16/11

Samurai's Pick: THE KILLING (Region 1 Blu-Ray; Criterion)
Kubrick is my favorite film maker and this film is close to perfect in my opinion. Great performance from Sterling Hayden and possibly one of my favorite endings of all time. Don't even hesitate, just buy...seriously!!!

Amazon Blu-Ray and DVD Review

They Call Him Chad's Pick: DEMOLITION MAN (Region 1 Blu-Ray; Warner Home Video)
Demolition Man always felt like a film a little ahead of its time. The mixture of serious hard-hitting action, satire, social commentary and self-referential narrative seemingly confused Sylvester Stallone fans back in the early 90s (not me, though -- I was a stupid kid and I just wanted to see Sly blow crap up and cuss. So, I was enthralled and couldn't spell "satirical" let alone figure it out), making the film something of a cult movie as it has gradually developed a stronger following over the years. The plot focuses on a cryogenically frozen cop, who was too reckless for his own good and received a sentence as a human popsicle, thawed out 36 years later in a much less dangerous, near pacifist-like future to apprehend an ultra-violent nemesis from his era that's escaped a similar icy hibernation to continue his killing spree.

It's odd that both Sly and Arnie tried to pull off similarly stylized films in the same year, though The Governator's Last Action Hero goes full blast in satirizing the genre and its star. As for Demolition Man, it works on all those aforementioned levels -- great action and genuinely humorous moments. The three sea shells is almost a classic bit by now, in terms of Stallone's career, at this point. This is the last great Sly film, for my money. He's bad ass, charismatic and witty as John Spartan. This is the niche that I hope The Rock could finally settle into one day. Wesley Snipes is just off-the-charts electric as Simon Phoenix. And to me, Sandra Bullock earned her Oscar for portraying officer Lenina Huxley in this film (unfortunately, they gave it to her like 15 years too late). She's honestly never been better nor more attractive. I'll say it, this is one of the great Stallone films. Check it out and maybe have yourself a Stallone double deuce with another classic Sly offering, Cobra, which is also out on Blu today (and that some here's bound to recommend)!

Amazon Blu-Ray Review

Large William's Pick: COBRA (Region 1 Blu-Ray; Warner Home Video)
In one of the more painstaking decisions I've made for this column, I've chosen trash over class this week by taking Stallone's Cobra over Kubrick's The Killing. The Killing is essential studio noir from Kubrick, but is an incredible noir that is absolutely worth your chingoleros. Cobra, well that's a pantheon GGtMC film if there ever was one. In fact, it's my favorite non Rocky Stallone film, hands down. Quintessential 80's action featuring a too cool for school hero with a pearl inlaid handgun, an amazing batmobile with his old Merc, the most imitated knife in the history of action cinema, and perhaps the greatest improvised Italian culinary dissection in the history of cinema. If you have the disease of never seeing Cobra, then this blu ray release is most definitely the cure...

Kisses(after I remove the match from my mouth),
William Cobretti

Amazon Blu-Ray Review

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Episode #144: One Tough Manhunt

The GGtMC is back and on the internets for your listening pleasure!!!

This week the Gents dedicate an episode to our good friend, The Stone Cold Norwegian Beef Bjornar, and cover One Tough Bastard (1995) starring Brian Bosworth and Manhunt in the City (1975) starring Henry Silva and directed by Umberto Lenzi.

It's an episode made for GGtMC coverage and it was great to get some icons of our podcast back on the air.

Direct download: One_Tough_ManhuntRM.mp3

Emails to

Voicemails to 206-666-5207


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Aurora Monsters: The Model Craze That Gripped The World (2010)

I used to have a photo of one of my brothers from when he was a kid. Granted, this, in and of itself, is nothing to get excited over. In the image, my brother," Hans" (not his real name), is wearing a "Snidely Whiplash" mustache which was probably cut out of a loose piece of faux fur that was lying around (hey, it was the 70s). This is not the interesting part (it is, unfortunately, the funny part). No, what is most interesting is in the background. Standing majestically on a table behind "Hans" is a model of Jack Kirby's Devil Dinosaur, the cherry red co-protagonist (along with semi-primate, Moon Boy) of the comic book of the same name. I wanted that model. I still do. Of course, it wasn't until decades later that I discovered that what I thought was the coolest toy in the universe was actually a Tyrannosaurus Rex model from Aurora's "Prehistoric Scenes" line. Sadly, this photo has been lost to time, but I know deep down that it was really a Devil Dinosaur kit, just disguised as a T-Rex.

This is the overall feeling both informing and evoked by The Aurora Monsters (for brevity's sake, we'll skip the subtitle in this review), a documentary love letter to, specifically, Aurora's line of monster and horror-themed model kits first produced in the 60s. Sadly, there are no Devil Dinosaurs presented herein. Produced for The Witch's Dungeon (a museum dedicated to classic horror) by Dennis Vincent and Cortlandt Hull (the Dungeon's founder and great nephew of Werewolf of London's Henry Hull), the documentary is set up in segments of individual interviews bookended by short skits and introductions with legendary horror host Zacherley and puppet sidekick Gorgo the gargoyle as a framing device. While trying to cure Gorgo's sinus problems, the duo find some old Super 8 film reels and play the interviews therein. That's basically it.

Now, I like nostalgia. I think, in general at least, nostalgia is a good thing (hell, it's given Joe Franklin an entire career). It's only when your sense of nostalgia prevents you from moving forward that it becomes restrictive and harmful. If it weren't for nostalgia, I probably wouldn't watch and review half the movies I do. If it weren't for nostalgia, you probably wouldn't be reading this at all, I'd guess (unless you're one of the people I bribe to read it). And it is the sense of nostalgia as an inspirational factor that really drives this doc. The filmmakers are not so concerned with history (only about a half-hour is devoted to the people involved directly with Aurora at the time the line was introduced) as they are with the "monster kids" who were fans of the kits and how their future endeavors were stimulated by them. For Example, there's artist Daniel Horne who paints and sculpts classic horror characters. Actor Jeff Yagher sculpts garage kits that more closely resemble the James Bama box art than the Aurora originals did. And so on…

If the producers' point of view regarding the subject is under any doubt, their use of the "Cool Ghoul" as emcee eradicates it handily. Touted as one of the first (and certainly the most famous this side of Elvira) television horror hosts, Zacherley gives it his all in each of his segments. It is easy to see how the man has maintained so rarefied a career for over half a century. He delivers his lines, hits his marks, and most of all, sells the character and his situations. As cornball as it sounds, on some level you have to believe that a horror host is more than a collection of bad puns and crappy slapstick with a tinge of the horrific, and Zacherley accomplishes this with an exuberant ease (especially praiseworthy considering the man's almost 100-years-old). This was my first experience with Zacherley, and his mastery of the form is in full evidence. The effectiveness and need for this framing device is open to debate, but to me it's like chocolate and peanut butter, spaghetti and meatballs, Captain and Tennille, etcetera. Yes, it is incongruous and tangential to the subject matter, but it feels right. Monster kids build Aurora monster models and play with them while watching late night horror movies hosted by characters like Dr. Morgus, Uncle Ted (our own local talent), and Zacherley.

In documentary films, the idea of objectivity has been at the center of debate since the medium was invented (even before, probably). While some feel that the camera presents truth, others feel that its mere presence constructs truth. Personally, I fall in the latter category. Once there is a person behind the lens, no matter what the intent is (or says it isn't), some form of editorializing takes place. You can give ten people ten cameras, have them all film the same event (you can even stipulate the intent), and you will get ten different documents with ten different points of view. But that's a discussion for another day. Suffice it to say, The Aurora Monsters doesn't worry itself with ideas of objectivity at all. After all, the filmmakers aren't out to attain any lofty societal goals. They are all about spreading their affection for this short-lived and much-loved trend. Does that make this a "good" documentary or a "bad" one? Well, as a documentary, it won't have the Frederick Wiseman's and Errol Morris's of the world in fear for their jobs. But that's not really the point, is it? Mash notes don't have to be particularly well-written or be transcendent. They only need to be heartfelt. And this is.

I was astounded at how little of the film deals with the people who were personally involved with Aurora at the time of the line's inception. What's here, though, is fascinating, and listening to the three interviewees (James Bama, Andrew Yanchus, and Ray Meyers) is informative and entertaining. These interviews are interspersed with (what I'm sure are rarely seen) behind-the-scenes artwork and photos. Sadly, I wanted more of this history but didn't get it. Perhaps there are practical reasons behind this. Perhaps there's no one else from then still alive. Perhaps the historical aspect was only intended as a springboard into the monster kids' later exploits. Only the producers know for sure, but for something titled The Aurora Monsters, you'd think it would have a stronger emphasis on the eponymous objects.

Which brings me to structure, and this may be the films' biggest problem. It plays like this: Zacherley and Gorgo do a little sketch, Gorgo finds a reel of film, they roll the film, and we watch the interviews (ostensibly from the film reels), one at a time. The interwoven photos do some of the heavy lifting at fending off boredom (and they are thankfully shown with notations of who they portray), but the monotony of the formula gets old. Ultimately, it gives the proceedings the feel of a show on the Discovery channel (not that that's necessarily bad). I believe that, had they intercut between interviewees, they could have built and maintained a nice sense of momentum, even including Bama, Yanchus, and Meyers throughout the whole film instead of only at the start. They could have still had Zacherley in it, and it would have been a more unified whole. Still and all, if you were ever a monster kid (or ever wanted to be one), you can certainly do much worse than wasting a couple hours with The Aurora Monsters.

MVT: The James Bama interview. If you ever saw any of the man's artwork, you'd understand why this interview is such a treasure for his fans. Plus, he seems like a damn nice guy.

Make or Break: The Mad Geppetto segment is the "Make" for me. These guys take their love of classic monsters to a new level. This is the best example in the film of innovation over imitation (not that the others herein are just imitators). Great stuff.

Score: 6.5/10

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Help Paracinema Magazine grow!


"In the summer of 2007 the idea for Paracinema Magazine blossomed and was fostered by a naive “let’s just do it” attitude. By that fall it was a reality; our first issue was printed. It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t exactly how we envisioned it, but it was ours and we loved it. Over the years our incredibly loyal readers enabled us to learn from our mistakes and keep printing new issues, each one better than the last. If you count yourself as one of those readers (new or old) allow us to thank you. Without your support there wouldn’t be a Paracinema Magazine. If you’re not yet a reader of Paracinema we hope you’ll give us a try in the future. Each issue is a labor of love, every article featured is written by someone with an immense passion for movies. If you share even a fraction of that passion and you’re not reading Paracinema, you’re seriously missing out.

Recently we’ve been given the opportunity to expand; of course it’s not as simple as it sounds. Being a labor of love (read: usually in the red) our budget is quite tight. So we’re proposing a bit of a fundraiser. Think of it as a donation, but instead of a tote bag you get a sweet Warriors shirt out of the deal."

“For All You Boppers Out There”
by Raz /
Whether you’re fighting your way back home or partying with the Lizzes, this tee is the ultimate homage to a classic 70′s film! See size chart HERE.

Check out to place your orders


DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 8/9/11

They Call Him Chad's Pick: SUPER (Region 1 Blu-Ray & DVD; IFC/MPI)
Rightly or wrongly, James Gunn has been labeled something of a cinematic imitator amongst genre fans with his feature film offerings to date. This began with his debut horror comedy feature, Slither, which drew natural and obvious Night of the Creeps comparisons due to the usage of similar slug-like aliens and zombiefied victims. For the record, I loved Slither and have long anticipated Gunn's sophomore effort. Well, Gunn's no budget superhero follow-up, Super, will do nothing to dispel notions of film thievery with a plot line evocative of Kick-Ass that encompasses a regular joe who transforms himself into a costumed avenger to fight real world crime (in Gunn's defense, Super was seemingly in development long before Kick-Ass was even created as a comic book series).

It would be a mistake to overlook Super purely out of Kick-Ass similarities as it is a high-charged, action-packed and hilarious picture. And for those that faulted Kick-Ass for deviating from the marketed "this is what would really happen" thesis, you might find Super more successful and satisfying by sticking to the real world consequences applied to the central characters. Further to this, it's great to see the principal cast play against type -- Rainn Wilson plays it straight and dreary as cook-turned-vigilante Crimson Bolt, Kevin Bacon taps into his inner-baddie and Ellen Page cuts loose as the bloodthirsty and maniacal sidekick. Michael Rooker even shelves his standard rugged and outspoken routine to play a quiet and subdued goon albeit in a minor role. Maybe this is the start of a no budget hero sub-genre to superhero films. Highly recommended.

Amazon Blu-Ray and DVD

Samurai's Pick: FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (Region 1 Blu-Ray; Universal)
Arguably the "Citizen Kane" of 80s teen sex comedies...Fast Times has a great cast and it hits all of its notes perfectly. It seems dated now but at the time this film was an amazing break through and a film that shaped a young Sammy's life in wonderful ways....Whoa Hamilton!!!

Amazon Blu-Ray Review
High-Def Digest Review

Large William's Pick: CAMERAMAN: THE LIFE & WORK OF JACK CARDIFF (Region 1 Blu-Ray & DVD; Strand Releasing)
Jack Cardiff is one of the most respected cinematographers film has ever been blessed with. He worked with everyone from Powell/Pressburger to Lewis Teague. In saying that, this doco looks at the man, his work, the influence he's had and does so through speaking to Marty Scorsese and a myriad of others. Check it out gang!


Amazon Blu-Ray and DVD

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Shark (1969)

Directed by Samuel Fuller. Starring Burt Reynolds, Arthur Kennedy, Barry Sullivan, and Silvia Pinal. Unrated.

Somewhere in Sudan, an American gun runner and con artist named Caine (Burt Reynolds) is stranded and looking for a way out of the port town he ended up in. Long story short, he eventually lands a job working out on a boat for a professor who specializes in marine biology, with hopes that he can steal the boat sooner than later and take it to who-knows-where. But when Caine is made aware of the fact that the professor is conspicuously searching for sunken treasure in shark infested waters, he uses intimidation to force himself into the situation, declaring himself a partner of the professor and insisting that he's entitled to half of whatever he finds. The professor's female assistant is thrown into the mix, double-crosses ensue, and at some point the characters find themselves underwater, face to face with man-eating sharks.

The behind the scenes stories of the film's troubled production are certainly much more interesting than the film itself. A stuntman was killed on camera by a shark, so the producers decided to exploit his death and capitalize on it by more or less promoting the tragedy as an attraction. Also, director Samuel Fuller lost the rights to the film, and the same producers decided to butcher Fuller's cut of the film in order to put more of a focus on the sharks and market it as some sort of "animal attack" movie rather than a thriller - even Fuller's original title of CAINE was nixed in favor of its current title. Fuller's subsequent requests to have his name removed from the film were denied. I'm not sure how Fuller's original version played out, but anyone who's seen the current cut of this film can probably attest to the fact that it's a fucking mess.

Hidden somewhere underneath the awful pacing, annoying score, etc., are a couple of memorable moments and lines of snappy dialogue, but for the most part there's not a whole lot to say about this movie. It's a sluggish film in which nothing really significant happens in the plot until over an hour in. In the time leading up to that, Burt Reynolds befriends a young cigar-smoking boy (Fuller's ode to himself?) who helps him con people, he has an affair with the professor's female assistant, there are a couple of really awkward-looking fight scenes, and we get some overlong underwater diving sequences. All of the characters are very bland, forgettable, and - especially in the case of Burt's character - unlikable.

Make or Break: For once I'm going with a "Break", and that would be the opening scene of the film, where a diver is attacked and killed by a shark. There are two noteworthy shark attack scenes in the film - one at the beginning and one towards the end - and I don't know which of these scenes, if any, contains footage of the stuntman being legitimately killed, but the reason why I'm going with this scene as a "Break" is because it does nothing to initially grab your attention, and it fails and setting any sort of pace whatsoever. Sure, there's a guy getting killed by a shark, and had the scene been filmed and edited well it would have been somewhat effective, but it's unfortunately not the case.

MVT: I have to give it to the shark attack scenes. Despite the unfortunate and tragic events that took place while filming these scenes, it's rare - especially in this day and age when filmmaking is a lot safer and less barbaric - to see something as dangerous as an actor or stuntman tussling with a live shark.

Score: 4.75/10

This is only the second Samuel Fuller movie I've seen; the first one (WHITE DOG) was given the Criterion treatment, and this one was released by Troma - opposite ends of the DVD distribution spectrum. Surprisingly, the Troma release of SHARK is actually pretty decent. Of course you get the overwhelming amount of shameless self-promotion on Troma's part, but there's also a section of bonus content dedicated to Sam Fuller, including an interesting interview with someone who talks about how and why filmmakers such as Fuller were blacklisted once upon a time, and Lloyd Kaufman's personal memories of meeting Fuller.

If you're a Fuller or Burt completist, keep this low on your list of priorities, Otherwise, skip it.

P.S. I originally intended on posting a review for Enzo Castellari's SHARK HUNTER, but was unable to give it a fair assessment due to unforeseen issues with the copy that was provided to me by Netflix. However, I did manage to watch over an hour of the film, and found what I saw of it to be quite amazing for a number of reasons, namely the amazing De Angelis brothers' disco score and Franco Nero's unbelievable blonde wig. Perhaps one day I'll have the opportunity to watch the entire film and review it, but until then Mike di Donato sends his regards.