Thursday, September 29, 2011

Episode #151: Driving Livid

Welcome to the GGtMC!!!

This week the Gents' had to cobble together another "Frankenstein" episode and bring in guests to cover a couple flicks due to scheduling issues with William and Sammy...

We bring you a review of Drive! (1997) starring Mark Dacascos and Livid (2011) a TIFF selection directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury. Uncoolcat Chris joins Sammy to discuss Drive! and Jake McLargeHuge from the Podcast without Honor and Humanity joins Large William for the review of Livid.

We hope you enjoy!!!

Direct download: Driving_LividRM.mp3

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Voicemails to 206-666-5207


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Deathmaster (1972)

Two studio logos always gave me a thrill in my younger days when they would appear on my television screen. The first is Toho's, because it was more often than not followed immediately by the strains of an Akira Ifukube score (or even more exciting, the first few bars of "Save The Earth," as sung by Adryan Russ). This, of course, would be the lead-in to a Godzilla movie, and my ass would be planted for the next two hours. The other was for American International Pictures (the Washington Capital building or the stylized yellow "a" and "i" in a circle, it didn't matter). While AIP were always a bit riskier (they didn't only make monster movies [neither did Toho, but you wouldn't know it from what was seen broadly in America at the time]), you were usually entertained for a couple hours, at least. Our offering this week comes from the latter.

A coffin washes up on a quiet California beach (how Biblical). A curious surfer investigates but is strangled by giant mute, Barbado (LaSesne Hilton), who then drags the coffin off down the beach as the credits roll. Hippies, Pico (Bill Ewing) and Rona (Brenda Dickson), are hanging out with local square, Pop (perpetual nebbish, John Fiedler), when biker, Monk (William Jordan), and his chick, Esslin (Betty Ann Rees), roll into town. When Monk bullies Pop, Pico steps in with some Billy-Jack-esque kung fu, but the youths bond when the fuzz show up, and Monk and Esslin are invited back to the local hippie commune. There, amid all the folk-song-playing, Khorda (Robert Quarry) appears and displays seemingly miraculous powers to the kids. The hippies immediately adopt Khorda as their mentor. Very quickly, however, Khorda's true nature is made clear, and it is left to Pico and Pop to stop the Deathmaster and save his girlfriend.

Even more than being a vampire movie, Ray Danton's Deathmaster deals with the idea of cults. In the early 1970s, Charles Manson and the Tate-LaBianca murders as well as Anton Lavey's controversial Church of Satan were prominent in the public consciousness, and the film picks up on this. Khorda is presented as a bearded, long-haired, charismatic guru. He pontificates about how "to know love, one must first be alive" and about the sanctity of the eternal and so on. It's all gobbledygook in order to inveigle young minds, but at the same time, Khorda seems to believe it (whether or not he actually does is an issue for debate, but either way, Quarry sells it). The hippies sit around prior to Khorda's coming and ponder the meaning of life and try to figure out where their place in the world is. They are, for all intents and purposes, innocents (perhaps incredulously so), but their naïveté helps sell the idea of how easy the seduction of their minds by evil is. 

The only person who doesn't trust Khorda is Monk, but he's also slightly older and portrayed as having been around. Seeing as the film came out after the Manson Family effectively murdered the "Summer of Love" and after the biker movie became passé, it can be viewed as a statement on the end of the hippie movement and the tamping down of outlaw bikers (though much less so this latter aspect). The film is nihilistic and violent and antithetical to the utopian idealism hippies ostensibly held dear. As a matter of fact, it can be argued that Pico's cynicism and distrust is his ultimate strength in the face of evil. Conversely, these same qualities which insure his survival will ultimately doom everything he loves. This theme is punctuated by a metatextual final shot that I suspect Lucio Fulci saw at some point.

That the villain of the piece is a vampire seems to me almost an arbitrary decision. Aside from talking about how long he's been alive, occasionally sprouting fangs, and sleeping in a coffin, Khorda doesn't do a hell of a lot of vampire-y things. The closest he (and the film) comes to being traditionally vampiric is when he seduces Esslin. He caresses her body while whispering of the gift he wants to bestow on her. He doesn't appear in her mirror. When he finally bares his fangs and attacks, Esslin succumbs in a manner moving from rape to ecstasy. When the other hippies are turned, it happens (inexplicably) within minutes. Further, after they're in Khorda's thrall, all they want to do is dance around half-naked, while Barbado slaps the bongos. Interestingly, vampirism in the film can be seen as both a drug and as a holy sacrament. Tragically, not much is done with this idea.

The film is not action-packed, and I'm not so sure it was meant to be. Like any piece dealing with mysticism and spiritual issues, the emphasis is not on the physical. Unfortunately, as a vampire movie, that's something of a mistake. If vampires don't attack humans and drink their blood, they're pretty crap vampires. This is the film's biggest misstep. Even when Pico and Pop make their final raid on the commune, none of the characters seems to want to lay hands on one another. The climax is built on a steady, quiet tension rather than on escalating action. Pico's martial arts skills are never brought into play after his brief scuffle with Monk. Khorda circles around Pico, laughing and taunting rather than attacking. It's almost as if any victory for good or evil should be decided spiritually rather than corporeally. Of course, this metaphysical conflict will have consequences in the physical world in ways that cannot be undone.

And yet, despite its lack of action, despite its tinkering with the accepted rules of vampirism (or arguably enhancing them), Deathmaster is overall an enjoyable movie and a small gem of the horror genre. My personal feeling is that this is due to the all-encompassing, nihilistic feel the film is steeped in. There is no escape from the darkness, and self-indulgent indecision and childlike trust will prove destructive to both body and soul. These facets, to me at least, are more intriguing and frightening than getting bitten by a monster or stabbed by a madman. Annihilation of the self is the truth of horror, I feel. The filmmakers here do a great job of making this point, even if the film itself doesn't hold together one hundred percent under the weight of its genre trappings. 

MVT: Robert Quarry does a marvelous turn as the mellifluous wolf-in-sheep's-clothing. You can tell he believes everything he says, and his performance sells the fact that the character has been around almost since time began. 

Make or Break: The "Make" is the opening on the beach. It's quiet, creepy, violent, and surreal, and it adroitly sets the tone for the film.

Score: 7.25/10

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 9/27/11

Samurai's Pick: TORSO (Region 1 Blu-Ray; Blue Underground)
We reviewed this a while back for the show and now it is available on Blu. I am not sure if it was available before but I HIGHLY recommend this Sergio Martino film that is EASILY Top 5 giallo of all it, you wont regret it!!!

Amazon Blu-Ray
Diabolik DVD

Aaron's Pick: THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE (Region 1 Blu-Ray & DVD; Criterion)
I'm thrilled to see that this classic silent film from Sweden has finally been given the Criterion treatment. Haunting, visually stunning, and beautifully shot, PHANTOM CARRIAGE features groundbreaking visual effects for the time it was made and follows the Grim Reaper as he grooms his reluctant replacement on New Year's night. This is truly one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen and I can't recommend it highly enough; it's about as close to it gets as an antique piece of art come to life. The Criterion release is jam-packed with extras, including two alternate scores, interviews, essays (written and visual), a commentary track, and a remastered print.

Amazon Blu-Ray and DVD

Large William's Pick: SUGAR HILL (DVDR; MGM Burn on Demand)
How this film managed to get ignored on VHS AND DVD for 30 years, is beyond me. One of the most fun genre films out there, it breezily and effortlessly combines 2 of my favorite genres and perhaps my favorite sub-genre(Horror+Blaxploitation+Revenge). Really, it's your standard boy meets girl, boy dies, girl gets revenge on the white mobsters who killed him by using a Voodoo high priest's magic to wield a shiny, silver eyed army of the undead to even the score. Need I say more? (If I do, it's got that Afro rocking fox, Marki Bey as the titular Sugar, and Don Pedro Colley in a legendary turn as Baron Samedi). Buy, buy, buy!

William Samedi

Diabolik DVD

They Call Him Chad's Pick: MIMIC: The Director's Cut (Region 1 Blu-Ray; Lionsgate/Miramax)
I'll admit that there's not much out this week that catches my eye, but this release in particular intrigues me. I've read over the years that Guillermo Del Toro had a much better version of Mimic planned than what was actually released. Although, I was always under the impression these changes were forced at the scripting/pre-production stages.

This release is a great price, and I'm willing to roll the dice to see what improvements he was able to make. Regardless, I still found the original to be a pretty solid big bug/monster movie. And hey, I'm normally a fan of any movie that puts kid characters in danger rather than placing an unrealistic protective cylinder around 'em. I re-visit a number of Del Toro's works often so it's to have a good reason to give this one another look.

Amazon Blu-Ray Review
High-Def Digest Review

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Goyokin (1969)

Directed by: Hideo Gosha

With Goyokin, Samurai stalwart director Hideo Gosha has made one of the most complete chambara in the genre. This is a film where every area of the picture is something a spoke connecting into a singular connective hub. Of the sword-fighting films I've seen to date, I've not viewed one where all the cinematic facets support the primary motifs as strongly as Gosha's filmmaking represent in Goyokin. In large part, the completeness is abetted by an intrinsic backstory that encompasses our featured ronin and permeates the narrative focus.

The plot of Goyokin concerns the mysterious massacre of nearly all the townsfolk inhabiting the village known as Kurosaki. We discover the slaughter through the eyes of the lone survivor, a young woman named Oriha (Ruriko Asaoka), in a slow, chilling discovery that reverberates a haunting aura that hangs over the characters for the duration. We learn that the massacre was part of a plan by the impoverished Sabei clan to utilize the Kurosaki villagers to assist them with robbing a ship carrying goyokin ("gold") and then sink the vessel to mislead others to a conclusion that the gold capsized with it. In a plan orchestrated by Sabei leader Tatewaki (Tetsuro Tanba), he orders his clan to kill the villagers to eliminate all witnesses, forever concealing the truth from the Shogunate to whom Sabei is indebted and further hiding the massacre under tales of witchcraft and the supernatural.

Three years later, Magobei Wakizaka (Tatsuya Nakadai) is living in exile from his homeland of Sabei with painful regret and on the verge of giving up his sword for good. Magobei's exile is the only viable option given to him by his brother-in-law, Tatewaki, after voicing his disgust and protest toward the Kurosaki massacre. However, Magobei opts to hold onto his sword when discovering that the Sabei plan to stage another gold heist and massacre to once again repay their debts to the Shogunate. With help of another skilled ronin, Samon (Kinnosuke Nakamura), and Oriha, Magobei decides that he must return to Sabei and stop this massacre from taking place to amend his non-action years ago.

I often find assertions that describe non-actor aspects of certain films as "characters," such as set design, music or editing, are generally overblown. Although, I feel compelled to utilize such a description for the atmosphere created in Goyokin through the use of the natural elements. If that's pushing it a little far, I'd pose that the elements certainly characterize Magobei's inner turmoil. We witness torrid winds, harsh downpours and heavy snowfall. There's even something of an Earthquake manufactured after a large collection of timber is cut loose and thunderously rumbles down the side of a cliff. These forces conspire to form a turbulence that mirrors Magobei's self-proclaimed loss of being alive for not stopping the massacre three years prior and his desperate need to stop it from happening again to regain his sense of life. And while the obvious symbolization is clear, it is effectively administered; the fire a marks hellish representation and the snow-drfited field evokes a certain angelic look with wind-stirred cloud-like snow swirls.

Beyond the pure artistic use, the elements not only underscore all the fight scenes with this palpable brood, but they maximize the visceral coolness. Call it my inner-popcorn munchin' brainless moviewatcher, but I was simply fascinated watching samurai bloodshed and cold steel melees transpire amidst fiery structures, snowy landscapes and rain-drenched tableaus. Stripping away the elemental approach, the fights scenes themselves are numerous and well done. They're realistic, quick and not sensationalized. Aside from one or two blood sprays, the combat is not particularly gory, though there's no shortage of massive battles where our outnumbered heroes battle droves of adversaries. Nonetheless, the fights feel as intense, if not more so, as any I've viewed in comparison to other Samurai films, which is in no doubt powered by the visually chaotic atmosphere and guilt-driven remorse.

Gosha constructs a feature that resonates much like well-crafted drama. With that in mind, there is no shortage of action. In fact, a multitude of action exists throughout the runtime, which speaks volumes of the filmmaking that the dramatic undertone sticks. It is impressive that the entirity of the picture is geared toward the inability to leave the past behind and unending desire to set misdeeds right in the future. This verisimilitude is embodied through the flashbacks. In most films, flashbacks are typically lazy narrative devices to fill in perceived backstory beats for the audience or to patch illogical potholes. Here, the flashbacks enhance the overall thematic. In a story centered on a horribly unforgettable past, it makes sense to allow key plot points to unfold through flashback and imbue the viewer with a similar inability to relinquish compunction and constant reflection.

Make or Break scene - Once again, I'm surprised to admit that the pivotal scene in a Samurai film for me is not one featuring clashing swords. The scene that makes Goyokin is the dramatically-driven one between Magobei and his beloved wife, Shino (Yoko Tsukasa), wherein he states his intention to return to Sabei. Shino pleads with him not go, fearing for his safety. Magobei equates his situation to already being dead and that stopping the next attack is the only way for him to return to the living. The drama is further heightened since we've learned that Shino's brother, Tatewaki, is the leader and instigator of the original bloodshed. This a lengthy scene and played deeply with heartfelt emotion by both Nakadai and Tsukasa, cementing simultaneously the past agony and foreboding dread.

MVT - Tatsuya Nakadai's work as Magobei anchors Goyokin to the central themes. I've seen various reviews that describe Nakadai's as devoid of emotion and stoic, but I disagree with this analysis. While there is a modicum of these traits present, I clearly see Magobei as a man carrying immense baggage and remorse beneath the surface, which resounds in all phases of the film.

Score - 7.5/10

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Episode #150: Deep Red Rituals

Welcome to the GGtMC!!!

This week Sammy and Will are back together again and they bring with them goodies and reviews for Deep Red (1975) from Dario Argento and Rituals (1977) with Hal Holbrook. It was good to be back in the saddle again with the good ole' boys in leather and fanny packs!!!

We didn't get a chance to go over feedback unfortunately, but we will get to it so don't hesitate to send more to us!!

Direct download: Deep_Red_RitualsRM.mp3

Emails to

Voicemails to 206-666-5207


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dust Devil: The Final Cut (1992)

In my opinion, the 1990s were (mostly) a cultural wasteland for the arts, where almost every hope raised was dashed on the rocks of mediocrity and formula (the more things change...). Alternative music assaulted the airwaves with its mix of punk rock aesthetics and corporate rock attitude. Bands that were once great turned out watered down music in an attempt to cash-in (not that I particularly blame them, because almost everyone likes money). But seeing a new album from a band like Sham 69 and listening to the album were two different experiences, altogether. In movies, for every Fargo or Rushmore, there were dozens of House Arrests or Batman & Robins. Around this same time, the American "Indy" film movement was getting started with work like Reservoir Dogs and Clerks. Unfortunately, in the same way that the alternative music scene spawned countless, bland imitators, so did the Indy film movement, and it made me, personally, nervous to rent a movie or go to the theater for fear of being disappointed yet again. I realize it would only be a couple hours wasted, but these are hours I will never get back. 

In 1990, Richard Stanley's Hardware, however, signaled a major, new talent in genre filmmaking. Here was a name you could trust (at least I did), and the future seemed bright, indeed, for the young South African director. Sadly, his next film, Dust Devil, was hampered by studio meddling and a sketchy, direct-to-video release. After being unceremoniously dumped from the 1996 version of Island of Dr. Moreau, Stanley mostly occupied himself with screenwriting and producing a handful of documentaries, but he has recently returned to genre fiction filmmaking with his portion of the portmanteau film, The Theatre Bizarre. Here's hoping that he's back to stay. But we're here today to talk about Dust Devil.

A trenchcoat-wearing wanderer (Robert Burke) stalks the bleak roads of Namibia. He listens to the ground, like a native tracker, and signals an approaching car. The woman inside, Saarke (Terri Norton), brings the wanderer back to her house. As the two make love, the stranger snaps the woman's neck, just at the point of climax. He leaves her dismembered body, along with tribal paintings drawn in her blood behind and torches the house. Meanwhile, Wendy (Chelsea Field) is dissatisfied with her marriage and walks out on her husband, Mark (Rufus Swart), hitting the road in her VW Bug. Veteran police inspector, Ben (the late Zakes Mokae), is called in to investigate the death of Saarke, but the more he discovers, the more unbelievable the case becomes. The Dust Devil senses Wendy's approach and hitches a ride with her, determined to make her his next victim. As the separate hunts progress, the Dust Devil, Wendy, and Ben move inexorably towards their final reckoning. 

The Dust Devil himself is presented as a monster, but the character and Burke's performance are so complex, he becomes much, much more. At several points, we see him distinctly as a monster, but each time, the makeup is different. From this we can infer that either we're seeing different stages in one transformation or we're seeing different manifestations of the Devil's shapeshifting nature. The movie also asserts that he is a demon and a sorcerer, as well as a tormented serial killer. While we see all these aspects of the character onscreen at one point or another, the film never locks onto one as definitive. True to his name, the Dust Devil as a character is constantly swirling and changing. This approach allows the audience to make up their own minds about what he is.

The Devil's pursuer, Ben, is wracked with guilt over the death of his son during Namibia's war of resistance with South Africa. His dreams are vivid and creepy, and they inform Mokae's performance. He needs to catch Saarke's killer to help assuage his shame. Mokae is not the greatest actor, but he brings a level of reality to his performance, and if nothing else, you'd like to see the man earn some well-deserved peace.

Oddly, Wendy is the least well-defined character of the three (possibly due to issues arising during the film's production?), and Field's affectless performance is either just bad acting or spot-on. She plays a woman at the end of her rope, contemplating suicide (the reason the Devil is attracted to her in the first place), but she's supposed to have a spark of life left in her, a fading light to which she still desperately clings. It never comes through fully in Field's acting, but again, it could just be that her take is to give nothing up as a display of Wendy's numbness inside.

The final character I want to mention here is Joe (the late John Matshikiza). He is the film's narrator, as well as the expositional character for Ben and our edification. Further, he is a shaman and a former movie projectionist. I find it very interesting that the second most mystically plugged-in character in the movie also used to show movies to people. And did I mention he has one dead eye? So the person who can see clearest, and who we (and Ben) rely on for clarity and aid is a half-blind man whose life was at one point in time occupied with dealing artifice to the masses. Joe's worldview will ultimately be made clear to Ben when the detective has a self-reflexive moment in an abandoned movie theater. This juxtaposition of mentor and unreliable narrator in Joe's character is deftly handled by Stanley, and further deepens the multiple meanings one can glean from the film.

Visually, the movie is a feast, and like all good filmmaking, the camera and writing reinforce the themes. Most prominently, the film teems with spiral imagery. A windmill spins against the smoke of a house fire. Joe sits at the center of a giant stone-made spiral he adds rocks to, as if constructing the narrative of the story we're watching. The camera itself spins around as the Devil opens himself up to Wendy in bed. The only straight lines that I can recall are in the scenes set on the main road that seemingly intersects the characters' lives and the film's narrative, driving it to its eventual conclusion and beyond. The circular motif is indicative of the multiple (and equally valid) facets by which the film can be viewed, and frankly, it's brilliant filmmaking. I'll leave my review at that (and Lord only knows, there's much, much more to be said about this film), because you owe it to yourself to watch this movie and make up your own mind. Then watch it again and change it, but you will never be disappointed by Dust Devil.

MVT: Richard Stanley, as a modern storyteller and mythmaker, weaves an intricate tapestry that invites and rewards multiple viewings as well as interpretations. He's smart enough to give his audience what they want but confident enough not to spoonfeed them all the answers.

Make or Break: The "Make" is the second scene. As soon as Burke's ear touches the road, and he flags down Saarke's car, you know there's something more going on. And, man, is there ever.

Score: 8/10

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 9/20/11

Samurai's Pick: LE BEAU SERGE (Region 1 DVD & Blu-Ray; Criterion)
Many call this the real beginning of the French New Wave, Claude Chabrol crafted an interesting story about friendship and despair. The leads are playing against each other but are ultimately two angles of the same despair. This film is a bit arty so be is the story of people suffering through the end of a town's life cycle and ultimately the pressure this brings on the humans that inhabit it. For an interesting experiment if you end up enjoying this film check out Les Cousins, which is essentially the same film, with the same leads except the lead actors change roles....good stuff and Criterion is releasing both this week on Blu.

Amazon DVD and Blu-Ray

Large William's Pick: DUMBO - 70th Anniversary Edition (Region 1 Blu-Ray; Disney)
You wanna know something? This movie fucking SLAYS me. The trunks through the cage scene ruins me every time. Every. Single. Time. All of that aside, this film truly does deserve the much bandied about title "classic". In the pantheon of such a cinematic luminary as Disney, this one deserves to be at the very top. Seeing animation over 50 years old in blu ray is really a site to behold. You can get a great sense as to the craftsmanship, love, and, attention to detail that was put into each project. If you have kids, it's a must buy, and even if you don't, a break from the sleaze and grime every now and then can be a good thing...

Kisses(while I wear my pink cardigan),
Large William

Amazon Review

They Call Him Chad's Pick: DEAD HEAT (Region 1 Blu-Ray; Image Entertainment)
Not sure what else I can add, but this is a lot of fun and something like a very poor man's Lethal Weapon meets Re-Animator. Joe Piscopo's finest work! Treat Williams' most enduring performance! Terry Black proving he's not just Shane Black's brother! Check it out!


Sunday, September 18, 2011

The New Gladiators (1982)

I'm a recent convert to the wonders of cult Italian cinema, the delirium of Fulci and the grandeur of Argento opened doors to the mania of Umberto Lenzi and beyond. I've always loved Spaghetti Westerns, I dug Leone before I'd ever heard of Ringo Lam believe it or not. There's something about Italian cinema at its most excessive that reminds me a lot of Hong Kong cinema. Probably the broad humour and lurches in style more than anything else. On its worst day, even the goofiest piece of shit like 'Puma Man' is a bag of fun.

Actually 'Puma Man' might be Spanish but who cares.

However, Lucio Fulci's 'New Gladiators' is not 'Puma Man'. Sure you can laugh at it and it's not very good but it rides that cinematic groove that gets people like us going, goofy plot and action along with some lurid violence and crunching action. What more could you want?

Plot wise there is not much to say. In 2072 a television station in Rome pumps out a show that styles itself on the old gladiator battles, but substituting motorcycle combat for swords and sandals. One such combatant, Drake, becomes aware of a conspiracy at the heart of the station and tries to expose it to the wider world, along the way merely trying to survive.

With a b-movie cast featuring Al Cliver and Fred Williamson, 'New Gladiators' is merely a low budget knock off of 'Rollerball' or 'Logan's Run'. What makes it tick is its mish mash of action, dreary dialogue, crap effects and insane 80s ideas of what the 21st century will resemble.

It's all so wrong, yet all so right.

Fulci dresses the sets to resemble 'Blake's Seven' with people in tinfoil suits and shoulder pads yammering on about 'laser satellites' but then takes strange diversions into gothic sets for a giallo type murder sequence and one crazy throat slashing by pendulum that seemed to walk in from another film.

He has sticks that shoot 'hate beams' that cause people to freeze and frown whilst the screen crackles with bad lightning, lasers that go 'feep-feep' and computers that take the guise of old balding men sitting in a blue room. George Lucas had nothing to worry about in 1984.

This is Fulci though, logic and cinema conventions are farted into the air for his own riff on whatever it is he's filming that week, trying to squeeze in as many of his hallmarks as possible. 'New Gladiators' manages some gore and a lot of eyes looking, then looking some more.

This is not a film to cut apart. Highlights are the climactic motorcycle contest along with the general camaraderie between the contestants. There's one guy who looks like Chuck Norris who has the funniest attempt at electrocution acting I have ever seen, along with an asian gentleman who constantly screams into the camera and pulls martial arts poses, probably in some vain home that American Ninja's producers would see his work. Sadly, Fred Williamson makes little impact in this which is crap but since he's around so much during this era I'm guessing his part had to be slimmed down due to overwork.

Technically also there's actually some incredible miniature work showing the future Rome, resembling a plush Euro disco city remix of Blade Runner, along with the propulsive score of the film itself which isn't a bad piece of Euro synth music.

Not as memorable as 'Raiders Of Atlantis' but certainly a fun romp of 80s Italian action. Also slots as average in Fulci's filmography but I'd sooner rewatch this than 'New York Ripper'.

Dig it!

MVT: Probably the production values, a pretty lousy idea is rendered into a nice slice of Euro cheese.

Make Or Break: The electrocution scene. Amazing.

Score: 6.5/10

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Episode #149: Airport and TIFF Coverage

Welcome to another episode of the GGtMC!!!

This week Sammy and Miles from Show Show cover Airport (1970) with Burt Lancaster and many, many others and William brings you some TIFF coverage with You're Next from director Adam Wingard and Bunohan AKA Return to Murder from director Dain Said.

Direct download: Airport_and_TIFF_CoverageRM.mp3

Emails to

Voicemails to 206-666-5207


We will get to feedback as soon as we can gang!!! Hang tight!!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Up From The Depths (1979)

 When Up From The Depths was originally released, I was enthralled by the trailer. This wasn't just a big fish like in Jaws. This was a monster fish, and that's even cooler. One of my siblings proclaimed to have seen the film. I kind of doubted this, as he was not old enough to get into an R-rated movie (and we all know how strict theater owners are about adhering to the age limits). Regardless, I asked my brother how the film ended, because at this time, monster movies tended to climax with a memorable setpiece, usually involving dynamite and a last minute leap to safety for the protagonist, and I would act out these spectacular finales with my friends (or action figures, if no one was around). It didn't matter if I had seen the movie or not. After my brother told me the end, I was incredulous. This was just too morbid and odd to be true. He had to be pulling my leg. Nevertheless, I used this scenario when playing and got a good bit of mileage out of it. After finally seeing the film, I can honestly say, it was more satisfying when I did it.

Set on an unidentified island in the Hawaiian Archipelago (actually the Philippines, producer Cirio Santiago's stomping ground), the film starts with Dr. Whiting (Charles Howerton) and one of his assistants out on the ocean. The assistant dives down, and we are treated to leering shots of her derriere. While swimming along a ridge, the camera shakes, some rocks fall, and the assistant is killed by...absolutely nothing. But we know she's dead, because we see all of her blood rising to the water's surface. Meanwhile, Rachel (Susanne Reed) is busy at the island's resort, keeping the clientele of drunk, ugly white folks happy. Her boss, Mr. Forbes (Kedric Wolfe) is the ultra-tense Larry Vaughn character, who denies that anything bad is happening and abrogates any and all responsibility to the point of criminal negligence. Rachel's boyfriend, Greg (Sam Bottoms) is a degenerate swindler who dresses alternately like a beach bum or an extra from a Victorian-era-set porno and smirks a lot. He and his drunken, boat captain friend, Earl (Virgil Frye), take tourists out diving and plant fake treasure to con the rubes out of their money. All this time, the monster fish (which was released from its briny prison by the earlier earthquake) is swimming around eating people. Eventually, panic sets in, and the monster must be destroyed.

Since I try very hard to find at least something good to say about every movie I review, I'll make the same effort here. Susanne Reed is gorgeous, and she plays the only likeable character in the movie, but she still has nothing to do in it. In fact, the rest of the movie is so shitty, I'm only going to post images of Ms. Reed with this one, even if they're not from Up From The Depths (but they are anyway). There. I've met my obligation. 

Obviously, this is a rip-off of Steven Spielberg's monumental Jaws, and there have been scores of them both before and after. From Enzo Castellari's Great White (aka L'ultimo Squalo) to Joe Dante's Piranha and everything in between, a virtual cottage industry sprang up in the wake (sorry) of the progenitor of the modern summer blockbuster. The films trade on people's fear of the unknown, but instead of the darkness of night, the bogeyman (or in this case, animal) is hidden from the characters and the audience by the darkness of the water (the ones set near water, anyway). It's an elegant conceit that showcases the fact that despite the beauty found below, there is also swift-moving death with rows of jagged teeth. Sadly, director Charles Griffith (perhaps better known as the screenwriter of Roger Corman's The Little Shop Of Horrors and Paul Bartel's Death Race 2000) does not successfully take advantage of this aspect. In Spielberg's movie, the shark is rarely seen, but the attacks are effective, because the effects of the attacks are graphically and stylishly portrayed. In Griffith's film, the monster fish is rarely seen, but the attacks are ineffective, because they are un-dynamically and confusingly portrayed. 

The editing of the film on a whole is terrible. I'm not saying that a picture of this caliber needs to be orchestrated like JFK, but the audience should have some idea of what's going on onscreen. The attacks invariably consist of shots of a person shot from underwater. Cut to an explosion of blood. Cut to a beef shank (best guess) thrusting at the camera. Cut to a hand puppet of the monster thrusting at the camera. Repeat until sequence ends. The duration of the shots is so short, by the time your brain has registered the first cut, there have been at least three other cuts in the mean time.

The special effects are about the level of what you'd expect from the Hungarian version of the Universal Studios Tour. The monster fish looks nothing like the creature depicted on the poster, aside from it having fins and a mouth. The full size prop is tugged through the water (in some relatively decent shots; there, that's two nice things I've said about this turkey) and occasionally breaks the surface of the water, consequently breaking our suspension of disbelief. The creature is so ludicrous-looking it makes Larry Buchanan's The Eye Creatures look like John Carpenter's The Thing.

The acting is uniformly god-awful, with Mr. Wolfe taking home the B.E.M. Award for overacting. None of the performances are assisted by the post-dubbed nature of the film. It gives the whole proceeding the feel of a foreign movie (which, technically, it is) and a crap one at that. The music sounds like it was taken alternately from films of the 1950s and Don Ho "Best of..." albums. It is grossly inappropriate, distracting, and worst of all, completely not timed to the onscreen action. The script also partakes of the malfeasance, with subplots brought up and unceremoniously dropped, a pervading sense of "humor" which is broad and unfunny, and a main plot that lays there like a carp wrapped in last week's newspaper.

Don't misunderstand. I'm not down on the movie because it's not as slick as a big-budget, Hollywood film or as nuanced as a Wim Wenders piece. I also bear no malice to filmmakers whose sole purpose is to cash-in on a trend. What I am unforgiving of, though, is when the filmmakers' cynicism and apathy is so starkly apparent onscreen that an overwhelming sense of antagonism is engendered between film and viewer. Up From The Depths takes your money and then delivers absolutely nothing while giving you the finger. Worse than that, it does it all ineptly.

MVT: Susanne Reed. See? Now I'm getting apathetic, too.

Make or Break: The "Break" is every scene in the film, barring a few (and I mean few) where Ms. Reed gets to do something (anything) or look great in swimwear. 

Score: 3/10

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 9/13/11

Samurai's Pick: HALLOWEEN II - 30th Anniversary Edition (Region 1 Blu-Ray; Universal)
This is still the best slasher set in a hospital I have ever seen, and honestly this film is one of the best pure slashers ever made. If Halloween was a game changer for the genre, I would say this is the best of the stuff that cane after and was influenced from the original film. Rick Rosentahl doesnt get the credit he deserves for crafting an exceptional slaher film.

They Call Him Chad's Pick: HALLOWEEN II - 30th Anniversary Edition (Region 1 Blu-Ray; Universal)
While it may not be saying much, Halloween II is one of the best horror follow-ups ever made. There are a number of elements to enjoy; the first being that this sequel picks right up where the original left off as Michael Myers stalks final girl Laurie through a Haddonfield hospital, creating one big movie when watching the pair back-to-back. There's also more of a standard slasher approach taken that emphasizes more action and gore over atmosphere and substance, though I feel small Italian vibes in spots. Like Poltergeist, I like the rumors and intrigue that John Carpenter ghost-directed the sequel even if this has mainly been since relegated to shooting 2nd units and some finale re-shoots. I love that scene where we finally get to meet Laurie's crush Ben Tramer, too. In addition to all this, this release even comes with the much sought-after 1984 horror-documentary Terror in the Aisles hosted by Dr. Loomis himself, Donald Pleasance.


Large William's Pick: MEEK'S CUTOFF (Region 1 DVD & Blu-Ray; Oscilloscope)
while Catherine Bigelow is good, she ain't the only female director on the block. Kelly Reichardt has been making fantastic, quiet, poetic films for about a decade now. Ms. Reichardt has decided to try her hand at Westerns with, Meek's Cutoff, about a group who take a wrong turn on the Oregon Trail, and have to deal with hunger, outside forces, and a myriad of other things. Can't recommend Reichardt's films enough. Bolstered by a fantastic cast, this one is can't miss

Large William

Amazon DVD and Blu-Ray
DVD Talk Blu-Ray Review

Friday, September 9, 2011

Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (1972)

Directed by: Kenji Misumi

An iconic anti-hero hellbent on grisly revenge. Fantastical fight scenes. Slow-mo mayhem. Arterial blood geysers. Cool weapons galore. Awesome film adaptation of a revered comic series told in a non-linear narrative. This enticing cocktail probably sounds like something you might see in cinemas today. However, the film I'm actually describing was released nearly forty years ago. If you've seen Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance, you've already witnessed these seemingly mismatched elements come together to form this groundbreaking samurai film.

In this first entry of a six film series, official Shogunate executioner Ogami Itto's wife, and mother of his young son Daigoro, is murdered in an attempt to drive him to seppuku (suicide) in a conspiracy orchestrated by the mysterious Yagyu Shadow clan to takeover his coveted position. The Yagyu Shadow also frame Ogami for treason to further force him toward seppuku as a means of retaining his honor. The plan backfires when Ogami renounces his humanity and proclaims himself as a demon walking the land, unbound by laws or codes of honor, and sets out on a path of vengeance against the Yagyu Shadow in which he pushes his son along the way in a baby cart.

Father and son wander the land as Ronin (masterless samurai) killing anyone for 500 gold pieces and establishing their deadly reputation as Lone Wolf and Cub. The first job we see Ogami accept is offered by a chamberlain, who requests the assassination of a rival and his henchmen that plot to kill the chamberlain's lord. Ogami and Daigoro travel to the remote mountain village where their targets dwell only to discover that the rival's henchmen, known as The Oyamada Three, have taken the town hostage, raping and pillaging at will. Caught off guard, they apprehend Ogami and he and his son are taken captive. Now, Ogami must carefully devise a plan of attack to safeguard himself, his son, a sympathetic prostitute and other townsfolk hostages while overcoming the Oyamada Three and the chamberlain lord's rival.

If this story sounds familiar yet you do not recall seeing Lone Wolf & Cub: Sword of Vengeance, there's a strong possibility you did see the film albeit re-edited to include material from the sequel Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx and dubbed for release to American audiences under the title Shogun Assassin. It's a genuine testament to the source material that it made such a profound impact on Eastern and Western filmgoers alike despite existing in vastly disparate forms. No doubt this lasting impression is attributed to filmmaking that was decades ahead of its time.

Kenji Misumi directed a film that perseveres over time through challenging genre conventions with insane action, forward-thinking camera techniques and kinetic energy unlike any other film of its ilk at the time. Misumi deserves credit, as I understand it, for closely following the manga source material. I could easily see another filmmaker stripping away the comic origins as opposed to embracing them to manufacture a risk-averse Kurosawa imitation. Instead, we see heads hacked-off and legs cut-in-half, leaving red-spurting severed ankles behind. The blood sprays exemplify sensationalism at its finest as bright red crimson arcs several feet in the air, maximizing entertainment value and also offering something of a bombastic cathartic release amid the general dread interwoven throughout the duration. You practically have to be dead inside to not enjoy a baby cart turned weapons chest and the array of carnage-inflicting instruments such as pole-arm blades, chains, sickles, swords, etc.

If the stylistic action preserves the film's relevance then it is the characters that allow Lone Wolf and Cub to endure decades later. It is admirable that a narrative tightly bound to passing judgment shies away from leading the viewer to make a specific judgment on the characters. A constant duality surfaces in which one moment contrasts another scene to keep any strict persuasions at bay. Ogami might sacrifice his own pride to save a whore's life then in turn threaten her life when she persistently attempts to join him and his son on their journey. Likewise, there's a quick beat where we observe a crazed woman who has lost her child look to Daigoro to briefly fill the void by breast feeding him. After reluctantly obliging, it is clear that Cub has zilch interest in this woman or her bosom, creating the two-sided sentiment that this a mother who needs a child but not a child who needs a mother.

The overriding dichotomy is visualized in the colorful screen cards where Lone Wolf and Cub are captured traveling on a bright white path, not unlike the flat of a sword, that divides a fiery, orange-red half of the screen from the vibrant, crackling blue side of the shot, which presumably represents the crossroads of Hell and Heaven. The filmmakers favor devising empathy over force-fed sympathy. It'd be easy to pander for tears through Daigoro and further utilize him to redeem Ogami's past (especially one horrible moment at the film's onset), but rather the film appeals to your understanding of their vengeful needs.

Enough can't be said about the choice to anchor Lone Wolf and Cub on a father-son relationship and making that relationship unique. In terms of genre films, I find that fathers and sons get the short shrift in comparison to the overabundance of mother-daughter explorations, which is likely attributed to the ease in extrapolating pregnancy subtext. Considering the release date, the emphasis on a father-son pairing is especially new-fangled and fresh. The story construction resists framing Ogami and Daigoro's relationship as decidedly masculine or radicially averse from maternal. Instead, the pair simply exist within their situation, living through their journey with callousness certainly driven by vengeance yet sub-textually redolent of a motherless upbringing. This also resonates more fully when juxtaposed against earlier scenes prior to the murder of Ogami's wife where the most emotional and nurturing moments, though fleeting, reside.

All this aside, the film would never reach same heights without the couplet of Tomisaburo Wakayama playing Ogami and Akihiro Tomikawa as Daigoro. Together they imbue their roles with a palpable screen presence. Wakayama isn't the type of lead I would've envisioned. He's something of the anti-Mifune; haggard, seemingly chubby and aged. These physical traits convey the immense weight of his plight, loss and perhaps struggle in living with his past deeds and continued defiance. For Tomikawa, it's impressive enough given his age that he's able to steer clear of joining the ranks of incredibly annoying child actors in genre movies. More than that, the kid delivers a fantastic performance through inaction and remaining unaffected. He's like a little resolute stonewall.

Make or Break - I'm not gonna be cute here and go with something unexpected. The scene that makes this film is where Lone Wolf offers little Cub, who is obviously too young to understand, a very hair-raising choice. He explains that his son must choose between his toy ball or the sword stuck in the floor. If Daigoro opts for his toy ball, it means that he wants to join his mother in Heaven and his father would then kill him. However, if Daigoro chooses the sword, it means that he wishes to remain with his father and Ogami would take him along on this bloody path of revenge. Despite obviously knowing the outcome, the tension welled-up within me as Daigoro crawled toward both the toy ball and the sword. Additionally, I appreciated the inherent underlying commentary about nature vs. nurture as Daigoro arrived at his choice.

MVT - There's a few good options to go with, but I'm going to honor the original creators of the Lone Wolf and Cub manga and screenwriters of the film adaptations, Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima. While I've not yet read the comic series, all the research indicates the films are very faithful to the manga in all aspects, including story, shot compositions, the bloodshed, maniacal combat scenes and overall stylistic choices. If not for the platform they established, it seems as though the on-screen product would not have congealed in the same manner.

Score - 8.5/10

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Episode #148: Beasts and Guns

Welcome to the GGtMC, your ticket to all that is questionable in cinema!!!

This week Large William and Sammy were on different schedules so they had to whip a show together Frankenstein style and bring in some help from the bench. Will brought in editor-in-chief of the GGtMC blog, Aaron to cover Beast with a Gun (1977) directed by Sergio Greico and Sammy brought in help from the wonderful podcast Married with Clickers. Scott from Toronto and Sammy cover The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977) with Burt Lancaster and Michael York.

Splendid conversation and mucho movie talk, sit back and enjoy!!!

Direct download: Beasts_and_GunsRM.mp3

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Voicemails to 206-666-5207


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Psychomania (1972)

 While this is not something I particularly want to get into, and it is not something reflective of the quality of Don Sharp's Psychomania (aka The Death Wheelers), it is virtually impossible to not at least mention the fact that George Sanders killed himself shortly after completing the picture by downing five bottles of Nembutal. Aside from the helmets the gang in the film wear, it's the most talked (and written) about aspect of the movie. The full text of his suicide note is as follows: "Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck." It is rumored that he saw a rough cut of Psychomania just before committing the act. I do not wish to make light of the tragedy of suicide, nor will I speculate on Sanders' thoughts before the end, but I wanted to get this out of the way so we could discuss what is a damned good film. Which is unfortunately about suicide.

Tom (Nicky Henson) is the leader of British bike gang The Living Dead. His mother, Mrs. Latham (Beryl Reid), is a psychic medium for rich jerks and is always assisted and accompanied by butler Shadwell (Sanders). It seems the whole Latham clan has had a proclivity for the black arts and the supernatural, and Tom has often wondered why his father mysteriously died in "The Locked Room." After Tom faces down his inner demons in "The Locked Room," his mother inadvertently exposes the secret to immortality and coming back from the dead. Tom commits suicide by riding his motorcycle off a bridge and comes back, invulnerable and stronger than ever. He convinces the rest of the gang to join him, but his girlfriend, Abby (Mary Larkin), is the sole holdout. Mrs. Latham doesn't want Abby to join the gang in immortality (she proclaims them "evil," go figure), and finally Abby is given a choice: Shoot herself and unite with The Living Dead, or be killed by Tom and just die.

In a strictly technical sense, this could be considered a zombie movie. The monsters are humans who have come back from the dead to torment the living. That's about where the zombie motif ends. Depending on how you define zombies in general (and zombie movies in particular) though, this doesn't meet the broadest criteria. The gang is not hungry for human flesh. They are not mindless, rotting husks, shambling around. They are not the rank and file of some arch-villain's army. They are, in fact, exactly as they were pre-death, only now more willing and capable of taking human lives. Between these facts, the ambiguous magical goings-on, and the mystery of Shadwell's origin, the film actually sits squarely in the realm of occult horror. 

In the wake of Rosemary's Baby, The Devil Rides Out, and others, Satanism and the occult were of massive interest in pop culture, and this film capitalizes on both that and the fading biker movie subgenre. The problem is it never fully commits to either. The black magic aspects feel more like window dressing than a focus for the film, because their handling is so murky. Tom's trial-by-fire in "The Locked Room" is indicative of this. He stares into a long mirror where he doesn't cast a reflection. Fog swirls in the mirror along with a frog (which is a visual touchstone of the film and a symbol for transformation and resurrection) and images from a deal with the Devil that Mrs. Latham made apparently also involving Tom. What the consequences are to Tom, we're never told. If she signed away her son's soul in return for her own immortality, one, it didn't take because she looks older in the present than she does in the flashbacks, and two, if Satan already owns Tom's soul, why would he grant him immortality in a separate bargain? It's this sort of make-the-rules-up-as-you-go attitude that undermines the overall effect of the film, but some effective atmosphere is created, nonetheless.

As a biker gang, The Living Dead are no Hell's Angels. They're no Pink Angels, either. As a matter of fact, I had some friends who I used to ride around on Big Wheels with that raised more hell than this gang. Okay, that's not entirely true. The Living Dead roll around town, knocking bakery trays out of deliverymen's hands, running cars off roads, and spending an inordinate amount of time playing "Follow The Leader" around a poor man's Stonehenge known as "The Seven Witches." Post-resurrection, they continue with this same sort of grabassery, but now they actually commit murder. The most shocking example is when Jane (Ann Michelle) rams a carriage with a child in it. But again, it's the handling (or mishandling) of the violence that takes what should be a sharp edge off it. There is no blood in this film (or very little from what I could see). Further, when we do see a violent act, the filmmakers cut away quickly and spare us the aftermath, or they'll show us the aftermath but not the act. This separation of cause and effect diminishes any sense of terror we may have as well as our revulsion of what are supposed to be the film's villains. I'm sure Don Sharp felt it was classier (certainly more "old school") to depict the violence this way, but it just doesn't have the impact it should. While we're at it, why does the gang continue in its old, hooligan ways after achieving immortality? Wouldn't you think they'd expand your horizons? Let's just chalk it up to the impetuousness of youth, shall we?

By now you're probably thinking that I didn't like Psychomania (despite my statement to the contrary in the first paragraph), but you would be dead wrong. No, the movie succeeds because of, not in spite of, its flaws. This is very much a film of its time, when ambiguity was a hallmark of avant-garde filmmaking (or at least pretending to give the audience credit for having a brain when many filmmakers just didn't know what to do with a film's themes [or just how to end the damned things]). As I said previously, the movie does have some nice atmosphere as well as some beautiful, iconic imagery. The very first sequence of the film is of the bikers riding around in the (early morning?) fog in slow motion. It bestows the film an ethereal quality that permeates the film but is rarely explicit. The shot of Tom blasting out of his grave on his motorcycle is one of the great images of horror cinema, I think. Add to this, a brilliant, mood-casting score from John Cameron that sounds like it belongs in one of the better Italian gialli films. The acting is solid across the board, and whether he liked it or not, George Sanders stands out with his enigmatic portrayal of Shadwell. It's heavily implied, though never overtly shown, that he is the Devil (who is always shown in a black hat and cloak), but Sanders still plays the butler role and remains (at least on the surface) to be a servant to Mrs. Latham. 

There's a mile-wide streak of black humor running through the film which helps immensely in keeping the entertainment value up. Tom explodes out of his grave and runs a pedestrian down. The next shot is him gassing up his motorcycle. Jane hangs herself by the neck from a tree outside Abby's house. When Abby reacts in horror, Jane smiles and starts mugging for her friends. The medical examiner's assistant is taken by surprise when Hatchet (Denis Gilmore) taps at the glass on the morgue's refrigerator and is subsequently asked by the biker if he's deaf. Tonally, it's incongruous with the satanic facets, but it works and helps distinguish the film as unique.

 I was trepidatious when I popped this one in the DVD player. I had only seen it once previously, and that was decades ago on late night television (you know, before it was all infomercials). However, any fears I had about ruining a childhood memory were not only allayed, but I also found myself liking the film even more than I did the first time around. I would ride with The Living Dead anytime. You should, too.

MVT: Sanders' performance does an outstanding job selling the occult angle of the film while not going broad and overplaying his hand. Granted, there's not a ton to work with scriptwise, but this consummate professional makes it work. Not the worst thing to be remembered for.

Make or Break: The "Make" is the final shot of the film. In the aftermath of what she's gone through, we're given a heavy indication that life for Abby is not necessarily going to improve. Sharp's keen sense of atmosphere delivers a memorable coda and instills a desire to watch the film all over again.

Score: 8/10