Friday, October 28, 2011

Episode #155: The Baby's Room Near Dark

Welcome to the GGtMC!!!

This week we cobbled together an episode that should just be called an All-Star Who's Who of podcasting show because we brought the Thunder!!!

Sammy and The Brinn from Hammicus Podcast cover The Baby's Room (2006) directed by Alex de la Iglesia and Large William is joined by DeadleDolls Emily from Girls on Film Radio and GleeKast, Miles, Beef and Katie from ShowShow and Jake McLargeHuge from the Podcast without Honor or Humanity for a review of Near Dark (1987) directed by Kathryn Bigelow.

THAT is a podcast chock full of podcasting stars folks!!!

Direct download: The_Babys_Room_Near_Dark.mp3

Emails to

Voicemails to 206-666-5207


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Other Hell (1980)

In the early to mid 1980s there existed a widespread (at least in my area) state of satanic panic. Rumors abounded about kids being abducted (they had to be virgins and have blue eyes, so I was half-safe) by Satanists driving around in a dark blue van. Consequently, any blue vans in town were avoided, especially if spotted after dark. The Proctor and Gamble logo was accused of being symbolic of the company's concealed, satanic intent. It was posited that the band KISS's name was actually an anagram for "Knights In Satan's Service." 

Anyway, my friends and I used to play out in the woods, riding our bikes, shooting BB guns, what-have-you. One day, we came across a dilapidated pole building. Spray-painted throughout on the walls were what we took for Satanic symbols (pentagrams, trip-sixes, etcetera). In a corner of the building was a dead deer, its head smashed under a large rock. On seeing this, we all started getting pretty freaked out. And then we heard a deep angry voice exclaim the words, "Get out!" Turning, we saw a man standing outside the building. At his side was a very large German Shepherd. We didn't need any more coercion. We ran for it. In retrospect, one has to question; was this disused building a hangout/ritual site for Satanists? Were kidnapping devil worshippers cruising the streets looking for children to steal? Probably not, but uncertainty and the unknowable can breed fear, and we were young enough to be scared.

The Other Hell (aka Guardian Of Hell, aka L'altro inferno) starts with a nun lost in some seriously creepy catacombs (it looks much like those in Guanajuato, but I don't recall gleaning an actual location from the narrative). She eventually makes her way to Sister Assunta's (Paola Montenero) embalming morgue/laboratory (?) which is lit like a Mario Bava film. A half-naked nun lies on the table, and Assunta delivers a zealous screed about the improprieties of the deceased nun and how sin starts with the genitals, which she then cuts into. Father Inardo (Andrea Aureli), an old-school priest arrives to re-consecrate the convent and drive out the Devil, whom the nuns, to a person, believe is alive and well and actively causing havoc in their midst. But when Sister Rosaria (Susan Forget) breaks out in stigmata and goes off the deep end, the church decides to send in young priest, Valerio (Carlo De Mejo), who believes that all the eerie occurrences can be explained away with science and psychology. Meanwhile, a mysterious, masked nun (Francesca Carmeno) prowls the convent with her pet cat. Father Valerio digs deeper and begins to find that Satan may, in fact, not dwell only in the hearts and minds of men.

As a nunsploitation film, there is a pervasive sense of sleaze to be found here, but it doesn't feel as grimy as other movies in the subgenre. The only nudity is with the dead nun at the start. The nuns themselves all come off as touched-in-the-head, and when they're not glaring forebodingly, they're ranting like maniacs. But the film seems more interested in the "is-it-supernatural-or-not?" aspects of the plot.

The basis for the movie's conflict comes in the form of intellectualism versus spiritualism, and this is embodied not in the affected nuns, but in the priest characters. Inardo believes that Satan is a real being who can interact freely with the real world to spread his evil. Valerio is the champion of psychology and believes that there is no evil that is not created solely through human means. Of course, there is an answer to the mystery, and let's just say that neither priest ends up very happy with the truth they find. 

So, then, does the film itself come down on the side of the physical or the metaphysical? My take is it's a bit of both, actually. The acts of sacrilege portrayed throughout can be seen as a true challenge to religion and faith, but the depiction of religious characters can also be seen as taking shots at an easy target. If you've ever been around priests and nuns for any lengthy period of time (I attended parochial school for nine years, myself), you would know that while they can come off as odd in their devotion, they're certainly (well, mostly) not as insane as they are often shown in movies like this one.

While the setting of the film inherently invites theological debate (and any "serious" discussion about this movie and those like it springs more from the religious trappings or the beliefs of the people doing the discussing and not anything intrinsic to the plot or characters), much of the horrific imagery is based on the idea of shock and transgression. A burnt head turns up in the tabernacle where the host wafers are kept. A nun's mouth bleeds when she takes a host wafer in her mouth. A bible spontaneously combusts. This is all meant to be jolting to the audience, this idea that religious items are treated not only with disdain but they can be actively harmful to a person. This leads into the notion of mass hysteria that the film touches on. The nuns of the convent are so convinced that their place is a dwelling for Satan, they stage a bonfire in the courtyard and fling items onto the conflagration in an obviously misguided effort to divest themselves of evil. It's an interesting comment on how large groups of people can act irrationally when faced with the unexplainable and alludes to the infamous witch trials of the 16th and 17th centuries.

The most interesting facet of the film to me, though, is the mystery of the masked nun and her cat. She's shown lying in a room festooned with hanging, naked dolls, and her appearance when wearing her habit is reminiscent of the killer from Bava's early giallo, Blood And Black Lace. While she appears at almost every instance of violence in the film, the viewer is left with the dilemma of whether or not she plays a direct part in them. When her secret is finally revealed, it's at once plausible and fantastical. The climax plays dramatically, and there is considerable tension, even pathos created. And then, it goes straight over the top. Afterward, there's a baffling epilogue which feels like it was written strictly for exposition (or the production ran out of money) and one last shock. Sartre is quoted as saying, "Hell is other people." Perhaps that was what director Bruno Mattei was going for with this film?

Mattei (credited here as Stefan Oblowsky) has always been considered something of a hack in Italian cinema. His movies are usually blatant rip-offs of popular films (egregiously so, even among Italian filmmakers), and The Other Hell is no exception. There are influences from Carrie, The Omen, Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, and even fellow Italian Lucio Fulci's Zombie. One thing is certain; you cannot accuse the man of not trying to please everyone. Mattei's movies, while never achieving greatness, are almost never (but not always) less than enjoyable, albeit workmanlike. Still, there's enough to keep one's attention here and provide a quick-paced ninety minutes for your delectation. 

MVT: Bruno Mattei, while not displaying a tremendous amount of style, does do an admirable job of creating a sense of atmosphere appropriate to the material. This is where films like this one succeed, uneasy impressions rather than overt scares. But there is enough grisly substance to keep exploitation fans happy, too.

Make Or Break: The first sighting of the masked nun creates a nice twist and foreshadows that there may be something more going on under the surface. It's unexpected and a great image.

Score: 6.5/10

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 10/25/11

Samurai's Pick: ATTACK THE BLOCK (Region 1 Blu-Ray & DVD; Sony)
This is one of the best and most fun filled films of 2011. I had an absolute blast watching this film and this is a MUST BUY!!! The interaction between the characters, the simple and effective creature design....probably in my top 10 for the year. TRUST.

Also guys, it should be said...this week is FREAKIN PACKED with choices...Island of Lost Souls Criterion, Serbian Film, Winnie the Pooh (which I am also buying), City of Life and Death, Shaolin, Dazed and Confused Criterion Blu, The Conversation on Blu and Rare Exports.....FUCK ME...I'm broke

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

Large William's Pick: CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH (Region 1 Blu-Ray & DVD; Kino)
We've all seen powerful films that show us the senselessness and tragedy that befalls all involved in War. How humans forget a little thing called humanity. The destruction at times of all that is good and pure, and how war isn't the noble, patriotic endeavor that we've been told time and time again.

Chuan Lu's City of Life and Death, simply put,, is the best made, most powerful anti-war film I've ever bared witness to. It chronicles the "Rape of Nanking", Japan's brutal 1937 occupation of the Chinese capital. There are things in this film that simply left my jaw agape. Things that I couldn't believe I was seeing. Things that brought tears to my eyes. What was and is most impressive about Lu's film, is that it never sensationalizes the atrocities, never throws s black hat dastardly villain's greatest hits package at you. Everything feels documentary-like, yet still incredibly cinematic. 2 years ago, this film was 3rd on my top 10 of the year, ahead of another little war film, far more based in fantasy, Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. I cannot recommend this film highly enough. It is an absolute buy..


Amazon Blu-Ray and DVD Review

Aaron's Pick: ZOMBIE: 2-Disc Ultimate Edition (Region 1 DVD/Blu-Ray; Blue Underground)
Just in time for Halloween, Lucio Fulci's splatter classic is now available for the first time on Blu-Ray, and in a 2-disc edition from Blue Underground jam-packed with extra features no less, although I'm not exactly sure how the supplemental material in this differs from the previous Shriek Show 2-disc version (I'm sure they're different, but I haven't been able to verify it myself). Personally, this is my favorite of Fulci's horror movies, and in my opinion easily one of the best films that the late Italian director ever made. It's an obviously flawed film in spots, but very effective as a horror movie. Highly recommended.

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

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Episode #154: Hisss-O-Mania

Welcome to another episode of the GGtMC!!!

This week the Gents are joined by the guys from the Entrails from the Skeleton Closet podcast and James McCormick from The Criterion cast and cineAwesome to cover some very different but equally strange cinematic fare.

Large William and the guys from Entrails from the Skeleton Closet review Psychomania (1973) directed by Don Sharp and James and Sammy review Hisss (2010) directed by Jennifer Lynch.

This is a beefy and fun episode and we thank the guys for coming on for some podcasting fun!!!

Direct download: Hissss-O-ManiaRM.mp3

Emails to

Voicemails to 206-666-5207

No feedback again this week, we will get to it when we can folks, please don't hesitate to send as much as you please!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Terror Beneath The Sea (1966)

Pencil erasers are not that much fun, are they? They're generally pink or white, soft or hard as a rock, and they either do their assigned task (i.e. Erase pencil marks) or smear graphite everywhere and tear through your paper. Yet, there was a time I can recall when erasers (or, let's face it, toys disguised as erasers) were pretty damned fun for monster kids and sci fi fans. In the early 80s, a company called Diener Industries introduced the youth of America to their "Space Creatures" line of "pencil erasers." They were about two or three inches high, various colors (sometimes pink but never white, if memory serves) and looked to be based on some great low budget genre creations. The ones I recall having were a yellow amphibian based on the monster from Destination Inner Space, a beefcake version of The Fly, and a naked alien from I Married A Monster From Outer Space. I also recall having a Medusa and a couple of very soft (and chewy, might I add) robots, as well as a few dinosaurs. Though I didn't own one, there was also a bald alien with gills on his face. According to the "Neato Coolville" blog, he was inspired by an episode of "The Outer Limits" TV series. The fishmen in Terror Beneath The Sea (aka Kaitei daisensô) also bear a striking resemblance. Maybe it's something around the mouth?

A group of doctors and reporters are gathered on a submarine for a demonstration of the Navy's latest homing torpedo, the Bloodhound. Firing upon an unmanned target sub, Ken (Sonny Chiba), Jenny (Peggy Neal), and even Commander Brown (Franz Gruber) notice a badly-matted-in figure dive away from the sub seconds before the torpedo strikes. Their interest piqued, Ken and Jenny go skin-diving to investigate a bit further, and Jenny gets attacked by and snaps a photo of a fishman. When the authorities (read: Commander Brown) are incredulous, the duo go back down and discover a hidden underwater cavern. Attacked by fishmen, they are subdued and brought before the evil Dr. Moore (Erik Neilson). He reveals his plan to take over the world and rule it from under the sea and turn people into fishmen (actually "water cyborgs") to serve under him. And now kindly, old Professor Howard (Andrew Hughes) has also been captured. The trio has to escape and take down the mad scientist before Commander Brown and Captain Bob (Steve Queens) blow his hidden lair to smithereens.

After the massive success of the first four "James Bond" movies, every studio wanted its own superspy/espionage thriller or some variation thereupon. While many of the movies that came out were not even close to matching the quality of the Bond series, a lot of them successfully incorporated the most prevalent (read: exploitable) aspects in their bid for a piece of the box office pie. Arguably the easiest of these aspects to plug into a film is the outré villain, and Dr. Moore certainly fits the mold. He is always seen with sunglasses on, as if he's either hiding some hideous secret (a la the Bond villain's propensity to be less than machine but more than man) or he's just too cool to not wear them. His "utopian" civilization prototype/lair is completely sterile and functional. The only noticeable splashes of color are on a map of the world in the main control room. Other than that, it's whites, blacks, grays, and some powder blues. The suggestion is that under Moore's leadership, the world would be drab, devoid of variety and the oddball asymmetries that actually make life interesting.

This extends, then, to the water cyborgs/fishmen/process men/etc. They are created from humans but they are homogenized. Each one looks exactly like the others (with the obvious limitations of the FX budget and actors' body types), and their minds are blank memory banks with information fed into them. The controls for the fishmen are simplicity themselves. A knob is turned to "Fight" or "Work" or whatever one-word, blanket phrase an automaton would need to be effective. Of course, this sort of thing could only exist in a sci fi film of this era, and I'm sure that even then, it was probably quite risible. Further, and perhaps most horrifying, the water cyborgs are completely gender neutral. So, never mind losing the basest desire for sex. You couldn't do it, even if you tried. The transformation process is done partly surgically, and as with any procedure like this, it immediately calls to mind the idea of vivisection and surgical ethics. This is not explored at any great length in the film (and let's be perfectly clear, no one involved with this production is out to do anything other than entertain), but I find it intriguing, nonetheless.

The special effects and makeup effects are strictly functional, and they rarely achieve (or seem to have any desire to achieve) a sense of verisimilitude. The underwater shots are obviously shot dry, and the models all move with that iron-stiff non-deviation that hampers much miniature model work, particularly from this time period. The fishmen costumes are interesting but not for very long. The creatures look mildly cross-eyed, though I can't say whether that's just how they were filmed or how they were actually constructed. Either way, the suits were never intended to actually go underwater (and if they were, they weren't built to do much while submerged). In the scene where Jenny is attacked while scuba-diving, the film cuts from Jenny (very much underwater) to a medium closeup of a fishman (very much not underwater) against a black background. Then, as it strikes, the amphibi-man is now matted in, ruining the shot's perspective. Yet it's enjoyable as all hell, and when the cyborgs start sporting guns, you'll find you no longer care how threadbare their appearance is.

It's also a tad disheartening the level of padding that this film has in it. Ken and Jenny go scuba diving not once, but twice. Each time, we're treated to lengthy, sub-Cousteau-ian shots of underwater non-wonders. When the process for creating the water cyborgs is explained to our protagonists, it is displayed onscreen in the minutest detail. And while the transformation shots are effective (Jenny looks like she may actually vomit), they go on for far too long and much of the operation could have been elided. I can only assume that, since the film was geared towards kids, the filmmakers couldn't take for granted that their target audience would get what was happening one hundred percent without showing them. Also, this is the kind of shit kids love. However, for a seventy-nine minute movie, this extraneous stuff eats up a bit too much runtime. I think this is both the greatest attraction and biggest deficiency of the film. The story itself is so pared down that it can't make feature length, but the padding used to get it there is largely (but not all) the stuff the audience wants (action and monsters). It's nothing to get overly-enthusiastic over, but as a fast, popcorn movie, Terror Beneath The Sea goes down nicely. 

MVT: Chiba showcases the charisma that would later catapult him into the cult cinema pantheon. The hand-to-hand fights are not monstrously exciting or well-choreographed, but the man throws himself completely into everything he does, and he is the main attraction every time he's onscreen.

Make or Break: The "Make" is when the first water cyborg pops up sporting a gun. It gives the film's finale a different flavor than similar climaxes like Island Of Dr. Moreau. Plus, it looks super-cool.

Score: 6/10

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 10/18/11

Large William's Pick: THE LAST CIRCUS (Region 1 DVD & Blu-Ray; Magnet/Magnolia)
Alex De Iglesia's latest film was at tiff last year and sadly, I was not able to swing seeing it, but was happy to hear from some friends that it was excellent. Incredibly strong visually and with a scathing absurdist commentary of fascist Spain and human nature in general. This is a film that will look absolutely STUNNING in blu as De Iglesia has a strong command of imagery and a sublime visual flair. Equal parts grotesque and beautiful. Don't miss this one gang, or you just might be the one playing the sad trumpet*rim shot*


Amazon Blu-Ray and DVD Review

Sammy's Pick: KURONEKO (Region 1 DVD & Blu-Ray; Criterion)
We all know about Kurosawa and Ozu....but one of the hidden, or at least less talked about . talents from Japan is Kaneto Shindo. Shindo was born in 1912 and is still working today, he directed Postcard in 2010!!! That's 98 years old folks!!! I am personally not a big fan of ghost stories, they just don't scare me and sometimes if the mood and tone aren't spot on I find myself bored and uninterested. Shindo directed this film and Onibaba, two of my favorite Japanese films of all time and two very solid, and similar, ghost stories. He was also one of the pioneers of feminism in films and sexuality...educate yourself on his buffs should adore!!!

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

This actually came out last week, but due to a shameful oversight on my part, I'm recommending it this week.


Franco Nero plays a fucking NINJA in this! Done.

Amazon Instant Watch
Diabolik DVD

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ninja (2009)

Directed by Isaac Florentine.

The sensei of a Japanese dojo is on the verge of picking a replacement to take over training, and the frontrunners are his two top students: Masazuka (Tsuyoshi Ihara) and Casey (Scott Adkins) - the latter being a token white guy who sticks out like a sore thumb amongst a bunch of Japanese folks. Without going into too much detail, Masazuka turns bad and eventually assumes the role of a rogue ninja who works as an assassin for a criminal organization. Masazuka later makes his presence known to the sensei, vowing to get revenge for his banishment from the school. The story moves to New York City, which is where Casey and a few other students are instructed by the sensei to transport a chest of sacred weapons for safe-keeping. Masazuka hunts Casey down, the hooded footsoldiers of the criminal organization get involved, and it's not long before the film explodes with action set-pieces, ninja shenanigans, and insane fight sequences that spill into subways, back alleys, and even a police station.

I'm not too familiar with Scott Adkins, but I understand he's becoming somewhat of a star in the straight-to-DVD action market. I saw him in a horror movie called STAG NIGHT a while back but didn't think much of him because of his limited screen time. Now after seeing NINJA, I still don't think much of him... not as an actor anyway. Adkins could probably give Jason Statham a run for his money if he had charisma, but at least he's got everything else down: dude can fight (or at least pretend to fight) and he's built like a brick shit-house.

One thing of note is the criminal organization I mentioned earlier. When you first see them, they look like a Satanic cult in the midst of an initiation ceremony, which is being conducted by the group's leader. Everyone in the room is wearing robes and hoods, and there are symbols of unknown meaning on the walls. In a perfect world there would have been a supernatural twist to the proceedings, but it wasn't the case. Still though, it at least provides an interesting aesthetic when we do see these guys pop in the film. The group's leader seems to be some sort of small-scale wannabe Illuminati figure, and the uniform look of his henchmen provide a subtle but cool gang aesthetic that wouldn't feel too out of place in a modern-day version of THE WARRIORS.

I was initially a little disappointed by the somewhat low-budget look of the film and especially the cheesy logo that pops up during the opening credits (and again when the movie's over), but NINJA ultimately proves to be a surprisingly stylish affair with interesting camera work. Whoever shot the fight scenes (which are all extremely well-choreographed and performed) and later edited them really did a great job of capturing and pacing the action, respectively. A female character assumes the damsel in distress role at a certain point, with, of course, Scott Adkins playing the knight in shining armor and following a familiar path when it comes to action/adventure cinema, but even that aspect of the film is well done. It should be noted that the damsel in distress character holds her own for the most part, even participating in one of the film's better fight sequences (see: Make or Break Scene) and creatively using a crutch as a weapon.

It's been said plenty of times before, but every good hero needs a villain. While Masazuka isn't the most despicable or memorable antagonist I've ever seen, he's still a great contrast to Casey's character. Masazuka is sort of like the wrestling heel who gets "cheap heat"; he may not necessarily seem like a bad guy, but some of his actions automatically make him a villain by default. In Japanese culture, however, some of his actions would undoubtedly make him an undesirable person because of the amount of disrespect he shows and how he spits in the face of honor and tradition, whereas in American culture he could easily be seen as an anti-hero. However you wanna look at Masazuka, one thing can not be denied: he's a bad-ass. Like an ideal ninja, he's stealth and kills without much effort.

Make or Break Scene: The train sequence. It's the first full-blown, over the top fight sequence in the film. There are a few moments of bad-assery leading up to it, but we only get them in bits and pieces, whereas it felt like the train sequence really kicked everything into gear and set the momentum for the rest of the film.

MVT: The fight choreographer, Akihiro Noguchi.

Score: 6.75/10

True story: As soon as this movie was over, I added a ludicrous amount of ninja movies to my Netflix queue. I had enough fun watching NINJA that I developed a sudden interest in ninja films that will most likely be short-lived due to my lackluster attention span. The key word with this film is "fun". If you lower your standards and avoid going into this with a critical mindset, I can't see any reason why you wouldn't at least be impressed with the great stunts and the relentless pacing of the fight sequences.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Primal Rage (1988)

Music and cinema have been linked together since the invention of the motion picture medium. While most films had their own scores written for them for a long time, the idea of source music (that is, pre-existing music) and movies combined has been around since before the talkies. Pianists and organists used to play either improvised scores or a compilation of repertory numbers over a silent movie before the studios homogenized the experience with cue sheets to be played with specific pictures. 

This symbiosis sometimes went the other way, with many films taking their titles and sometimes stories from popular songs. Everything from Take This Job And Shove It to Harper Valley PTA inspired films. Sam Peckinpah got into the act with Convoy, and The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia took its story from Tanya Tucker's cover of Vicki Lawrence's popular Southern Gothic song (the lyrics are somewhat different between the two). It's interesting that Hollywood took songs which were already heavy on storytelling (and story) for their bases. This inevitably brings us around to today's subject – Vittorio Rambaldi's Primal Rage (aka Furia Primitiva), inspired by the classic house music anthem by CLS & Wax. Wait a minute. That's completely incorrect. Aw, crap.

On a Florida college campus, filled with Jazzercising coeds and atrocious synth rock, young student (really?) newspaper photographer, Sam (Patrick Lowe, I don't believe he's a relation to Rob), scooters around, snapping pix. He Meets Cute with Lauren (Cheryl Arutt) and the two hit it off. Fellow cub reporter, Duffy (Mitch Watson, but I'll leave the His Girl Friday jokes to you), wants to nail local vivisectionist and all-around bizarro, Dr. Ethridge (Bo Svenson, sporting a very Clayton-Forrester-esque pony/rat tail), whose work in revitalizing brain cells involves baboon torture. Needless to say, Duffy and the now-even-more hostile monkey don't hit it off (unlike our adorable leads), and soon Duffy breaks out in ropy saliva and broken blood vessels and takes to creating havoc around town. As more people are infected and killed, Sam and Lauren endeavor to put a stop to the carnage and save their friends.

This is an odd, little thing of a movie. It essentially plays like a tween/young adult school story/soap opera with gore and rape (okay, attempted rape). We have all the elements: Two young, pretty, fairly innocent but resourceful youngsters who fall in love but find obstacles to their happiness, a new friend who is returning to school after a trying emotional experience, a free-thinking, truth-seeking rulebreaker who gets in over his head, and evil jock/fratboys who think only with their muscles and penises (I guess that would still be muscles, wouldn't it?) are mixed together as we've seen a thousand times before. You could take a list of movies produced in the 1980s for the 16 to 25 crowd, throw a dart, and almost always hit some slight variation on this formula. Add in some gore effects, and the confection is complete. And like many a delicacy from this time period, once you get done, you feel a curious mixture of satiation and malaise.

The jock characters, in particular, are singled out as almost comically villainous. They sneer and snarl at Sam and Duffy. They leer at Deb (Sarah Buxton) and Lauren. They work out and booze it up, even after being infected (come on, you didn't honestly think they wouldn't be, did you?). They kidnap and attempt a brutal rape on Deb. There is nothing even remotely tethering these characters to reality. I have always found this a curious movie trope. For how many millions of people enjoy and play sports (I am not one of them, just so all our cards are on the table), jocks are almost always portrayed on film as thugs, animals, and morons. Why don't more jocks complain? The other characters are just as stock, but they don't stick out quite so markedly.

The film posits, again primarily through the jock characters, that we are all animals at heart. The infection started by the baboon is merely a key for people to act the way they actually want to, to live out their wish fulfillment fantasies. And then things turn bad. This hues closely to David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly, but where his treatment of the subject was intelligent, trenchant, and horrifyingly sad, Rambaldi's take sticks strictly to the surface. Of course, this also plays into Cronenberg's depiction of disease and body horror. Here, at least, Primal Rage does attempt to inject some pathos into the proceedings. Sam and Lauren want to help their affected friends, but Deb and Duffy only want to attack, slaves and victims to their infection. They try to fight back their murderous urges, sometimes even successfully, but ultimately they succumb to sickness.

Svenson is the consummate professional in the cast, and he truly does strive to bring something interesting to his character. Admittedly, coke-bottle glasses and a nasty pony tail aren't character but characteristics. Yet, Svenson plays Ethridge as a man who is playing God but probably shouldn't be. He's quiet, his mannerisms are quirky, and he speaks as if he is obviously better than everyone else. Ethridge contains a subtle hubris and the performance here is a pleasant change of pace from mad scientists of the past. Don't get me wrong, he's still batshit crazy, but Svenson's aloof placidity conveys a deeply creepy vibe about the man, his actions, and his motivations. In a movie loaded with over the top aspects, it's nice to see something which is still hammy but underplayed.

When it's all boiled down, though, Primal Rage exists only as an entertainment, and that entertainment's value is focused on and built around Carlo Rambaldi's special effects. The baboon animatronics are effective, if slightly exaggerated, but that gives the audience the sense that the monkey has changed in a substantial and fundamental manner. The gore is plentiful and nicely handled. It all culminates with the big campus Halloween party (doesn't it always?). Of course, this is a great excuse for mass butchery. But the film then puts the focus on the infected jocks stalking and hunting Sam and Lauren through the school's desolate hallways. There's some compelling tension built in these scenes. The problem is they stick around just a tad longer than they should. The final scene and shot of the film is quintessentially 80s, music and all. If you can stand the cheese, you'll find a nominal diversion, but outside some nice special effects work, there's nothing here you haven't seen before.

MVT: Carlo Rambaldi's effects are the showcase of the film, and they deliver when they finally show up.

Make or Break: The "Make" is the scene with Ethridge experimenting on the baboon. It's a cogent set up, has some solid puppet work, and gives Svenson a chance to establish how he's approaching this particular mad scientist.

Score: 6/10

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Episode #153: Black Sabbath Stakeout

Welcome back for another episode of the GGtMC!!!

This week we go over some Program for Japan choices from Shawn from Chicago, the Gents cover Black Sabbath (1963) directed by Mario Bava and Stakeout (1987) directed by John Badham. Interesting choices from our good friend Shawn....kick back and enjoy!!!

Direct download: Black_Sabbath_StakeoutRM.mp3

Emails to

Voicemails to 206-666-5207


DVD Pick Of The Week - 10/11/11

Large William's Pick: TREE OF LIFE (Region 1 DVD & Blu-Ray; 20th Century Fox [US]/E1 Entertainment [Canada])

Tree of Life. A film that had cinephiles chomping at the bit, opened to mixed reactions at Cannes this past year, but ultimately, garnered top prize there. Terence Malick has become increasingly more fixated on the enormous, profound beauty of life, earth, the heavens, and how man's relationship to each of those things are intertwined. Whether it's insects or flowers, Malick finds the transcendent poetry in them. With his latest offering, it would seem that he's tackled the elusive mystery of life through the dynamic of Father/Son bonds and the lifelong ripple effects those bonds have on all involved. How things seemingly small and insignificant in a boy's life can be magical or tragic.. A missed baseball game, fireworks with your Father and myriad other snapshots in the proverbial photo album of one's life. By now, allow me to provide full disclosure, I have not yet seen the film*. I've merely seen the trailer twice. Once during the theatrical run of the film and once before writing this. The first time I watched this trailer, it literally moved me to tears. I immediately proclaimed that based on the strength of the trailer alone, Tree of Life would be my number one film of the year. The beauty of Malick's lyricism, and of course, the skin I have in the game; my relationship with my own Father and the gift I've had bestowed on me of Fatherhood to my own two young boys. The constant striving to be the best man I can be, the questioning of whether the tremendously important decisions I have, no matter how altruistic my intentions, are going to bear out as the right ones... Malick seems to have captured the enormity of it all, an emotional epic that seems to be to Father/Sons what 2001 was to space and time(and so much more..)

If you buy one film I suggest all year, let it be this one. Malick is still an artist, untainted by the drone of the Hollywood machine. Still as wide eyed and fascinated by his surroundings as ever...


*Update- 10 minutes after writing this, I put my Loonies and Toonies where my mouth is, and ordered the blu/DVD combo pack

Amazon Blu-Ray/DVD Combo
Amazon Instant Review

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Dead Are Alive (1971)

Many, many years ago, advertisements for a fascinating type of pet were profligate, especially among the comic book set. The pet? Sea-monkeys. The ads depicted a family of the beasts lounging on the grounds outside their undersea castle, their creepy, pink bodies and trident-pointed heads a clear indication that these were unlike any other pet you could buy anywhere. For the measly sum of $1.25, you could own "the real, live fun-pets you grow yourself," and you were assured they were "so eager to please – they can even be 'trained.'" Never mind the small disclaimer in the bottom corner stating, "Caricatures shown not intended to depict Artemia." What you got in the mail was a plastic fish bowl with magnifying bubbles to look through and a sealed paper pouch (like what Pop Rocks candy comes in) containing the sea-monkey eggs. Following the instructions to the letter, the eggs would hatch before your very eyes to reveal...brine shrimp. What the hell?! 

I had the same sort of reaction to The Dead Are Alive (aka The Etruscan Kills Again, aka Overtime, aka L'etrusco uccide ancora). The poster graphically depicts a man half-flayed, viscera exposed and spurting, staring right out at you. Reading about the film, you'll find many references to the Etruscan god, Tuchulcha, and you'll be lead to believe that, somehow, this wrathful deity is set free and starts killing folks who come back to life as his zombie army. Here's where I give you the information that the sea-monkey shills wouldn't. This film is not a horror film. There are no supernatural aspects to it at all, so if you buy or rent this looking for a bloody monster movie, you will be disappointed. However, viewed through the proper filter, you'll find a decent Giallo with its fair share of problems.

Alcoholic archaeologist, Jason (Alex Cord) is exploring an Etruscan tomb with a probe and camera. Along come Jason's ex-girlfriend, Myra (Samantha Eggar), her son-in-law, Igor (Carlo De Mejo), and their flamboyant friend, Stephen (Horst Frank). While developing the photos, Jason notices a mural featuring the god Tuchulcha (more specifically, his eyes, as the rest of his face is indiscernible). Soon after, a pair of nubile teens sneaks into a nearby tomb and are brutally beaten to death after some brief heavy petting. Meanwhile, Myra's husband, conductor Nikos (John Marley), is concerned that sparks between Myra and Jason may be reigniting. When Jason's missing steel probe is found to be the murder weapon, the besotted tomb raider finds himself being framed for the killings. As the bodies start to pile up (and don't come back to life, might I add), Jason takes the initiative in clearing himself of the crime and uncovering the real killer.

The film is suffused with the lurid, pulp feel of the Italian Giallo subgenre. This is not surprising, as the story is adapted from a short work from writer Bryan Edgar Wallace. The name may be familiar to you, because he's the son of writer Edgar Wallace. Wallace's work became the source of the German Krimi films as well as heavily influencing Gialli-to-come. It doesn't hurt that he was also the screenwriter of King Kong (1933). The emphasis here is on two-fisted action, and Cord plays Jason so hard, he makes Ralph Meeker's Mike Hammer look like Pee Wee Herman. The killer kills in POV shots mostly, and the murders are both graphic and jarring. We're clued into his (or her, but for brevity, I'll just refer to the murderer as male) cracked mental state through the use of raspy breathing, an indication (or red herring, if you prefer) that when the killer is killing, he has devolved into little more than an animal. The murders (and most action scenes) are also set off by quick insert shots of the painted eyes of Tuchulcha, a further indication the murderer is not himself, but possessed of the evil god's spirit (not literally, of course). Interestingly, the one Giallo staple missing from the film is the black-gloved killer, made popular by Dario Argento's early work, but it's not greatly missed here and feels almost inappropriate for the material and setting.

The Giallo film is almost always concerned with style and atmosphere over story structure and coherence, and The Dead Are Alive is no exception. In fact, the film's biggest problem is its head-scratching method of doling out clues and building the plot, and I believe the editing to be the main culprit in this regard. Myra walks away from Jason, we get a shot of two teens dead in a tomb, we hear a scream, and Myra's suddenly in Jason's arms, distraught. A little later, we find out that the killer has stolen two pairs of red shoes from the local theater's costume department and placed them on victims, but it's mentioned offhand, as if we were made aware of this earlier. Things occur offscreen, and we're told nonchalantly about them later. I think it's one thing to place aesthetics over storytelling, but it's frustrating when the audience is posed with a "whodunit?" scenario, and then not be given clues that are common knowledge to all the characters. Still and all, the film does create some effectively tense ambience through the use of chiaroscuro (I finally got to use that one), and the camerawork is solid. 

One of the main motifs of the film is theatrics and artifice. We see several plays at various stages of rehearsal, and the killer even steals from the theater and uses props in his murders. Dead bodies are displayed in a staged manner. Every aspect of the story is an act put on by the killer to illustrate his mental state. Of course, the murderer's identity is hidden from the audience and the other characters through his outward appearance of normal behavior, an act to illustrate how others see him. His true personality is presaged by shots of Tuchulcha's painted eyes, both peering into his soul and stating his intent. The juxtaposition of opposites (what we see versus what is truth) is a key theme throughout, and it extends to other characters. For example, scumbag blackmailer, Otello (Vladan Milasinovic), plays the charming tomb guide for the tourists, but secretly enjoys immolating insects. Nikos is the classic temperamental artiste, pitching manic fits over just about anything, and this aspect is mirrored by his filmic opposite, Jason. Jason is also prone to quick flares of temper, but where Nikos is older, accustomed to opulence, and works in the arts, Jason is younger, accustomed to living unpretentiously, and works in the sciences. It's a classic conflict of obverse characters, but both men's melodramatics further inform the movie's sense of theatricality.

Like with many a film noir, the Giallo is often concerned with memories and how the past comes back to hurt us. The killer in Gialli has more likely than not been scarred by some event in his past (usually sexual and always violent in nature). The audience is keyed into this aspect here via the archaeological angle. Archaeology is literally digging up the past, and it's only after this particular tomb has been opened up, that the killer finally snaps. The demon mural and its overt connection with the madman's mind links the past with the present. As more clues are dropped on the viewer (some seemingly out of thin air), the connections between events of the past and the present solidify. And while the final reveal of the killer and his motivations ultimately come off as implausible, the plotting is ridiculous, and the editing is confusing to say the least, it's the film's more thoughtful components that raise it a notch or two above average.

MVT: Samantha Eggar plays her meager, thankless role totally straight, and while just about every other actor engages in wild histrionics, she remembers that it's acting, not ACTING.

Make or Break: The final reveal sequence nicely pays off what we've endured ninety minutes of confused story and editing for with a tense stalking sequence and decent melee between our pro and antagonists. That's a "Make."

Score: 6.5/10

Episode #152: Django the Revenger

This week Sammy and Will are joined by Brian from The Hammicus Podcast to cover some cinematic goodies.

The Gents cover Django the Bastard (1969) with Anthony Steffen and The Revenger (1989) with Oliver Reed!!!

We didnt get a chance to get to feedback yet again but please dont stop sending it, we are still working out some kinks in our schedules but we are getting close to getting it back under some degree anyway.

Direct download: Django_the_RevengerRM.mp3

Emails to

Voicemails to 206-666-5207


DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 10/4/11

Samurai's Pick: JACKIE BROWN (Region 1 Blu-Ray; Miramax/Lionsgate)
I personally still think this is Tarantino's masterpiece...not sure if this is a re-issue but BUT IT ANYWAY!!! Robert Forster gives arguably his best performance in a film ever and Pam Grier is glorious. Sam Jackson, De Niro, Keaton...the acting is all solid and Tarantino gets Elmore Leonard better than any film maker ever has or possibly ever will...this one isnt as flashy as some of Tarantino's other work but it's the film that made me realize he is the REAL DEAL when it comes to writing and directing. Pulp Fiction got the acclaim, Jackie Brown will age better over time.

Amazon Review
High-Def Digest Review

Aaron's Pick: AMER (Region 1 DVD & Blu-Ray; Olive/Opus)
I currently have this film on DVD in my possession but have yet to watch it. AMER is a French thriller/neo-giallo that has been getting high praises from genre and cult cinema fans for its heavily-stylized look and the fact that it pays homage to the works of Dario Argento (older Argento, mind you) and Mario Bava. I don't know whether or not all of you out there will enjoy it, but this has been one of my most anticipated releases of the year (I wasn't cool enough to get a screener copy last year, nor did I seek out a Region B disc).

Amazon DVD and Blu-Ray
OMG Entertainment (Region B Blu-Ray) Reviews: Region A and Region B

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Review: Ratman 1988

'Ratman' opens with a mad scientist voiceover, babbling on whilst two men fumble in what looks like a mop cupboard. One of them uncovers what looks like a wire bin. Inside that bin lies the Ratman, who is actually some kind of little man with obvious disabilities made to look dirty. The film then follows various people wandering about, including David Warbeck as some kind of mystery writer, some falling to the bite of the Ratman, others not.

Directed by Giuliani Carnimeo, 'Ratman' stars the 'world's smallest actor' Nelson De La Rosa ,who was 72cm tall. He certainly seems to have fun clawing people but the rest of the movie is so damned dreary, it's a pain in the arse. David Warbeck is suitably lantern-jawed but seems to be dubbed and hardly does anything. The gore is pretty minimal, apart from someone getting clawed in the vagina whilst in a warddrobe and is pretty much just red paint daubed about the screen.

Carimeo made some pretty average spaghettis but displayed a good eye for tension and silliness in his giallo 'The Case Of The Bloody Iris'. Ratman is sadly as entertaining as a tin of dog food. My major complaint is the ending, in which some stock footage is used and some people scream. It's awful. I suffered major depression after watching this. I actually just went to my bed. AND I was drunk while I watched it, on 5 litres of cheap dry cider.

Now I have a tolerance for cinematic trash but this film was just awful, not even funny bad. Taken as a proper film it's rubbish, taken as a piece of trash it's rubbish. you just cannot win with Ratman, it's fucking rubbish.

Most valuble thing: Nothing.

Make Or Break: The whole damn film is broken.

Score 1/10