Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Escape From The Bronx (1983)

Film actors can come from literally anywhere. Many spend years studying (and understudying) their craft, hoping for that big break. Others seem to just fall into it. For example, Marilyn Monroe started on her fateful path to stardom after being photographed at the munitions plant in which she worked. Johnny Depp accompanied a friend to an audition when director Wes Craven asked him to read for the part of Glen in A Nightmare On Elm Street. Harrison Ford worked as a carpenter building cabinets for George Lucas when he was cast in American Graffiti. All went on to successful careers showcasing their particular talents. Yet for every diamond-in-the-rough happenstance deems worthy of bestowing on the world, there are dozens, if not hundreds (and sometimes it feels like thousands), of onscreen personalities pulled from obscurity simply because they looked good and happened to be in the right place at the right time. If IMDB is to be believed (though it seems very plausible to me), Mark Gregory (aka Marco Di Grigorio) was discovered in a gym in Rome.

The Bronx has become a war zone. "Deinfestation Annihilation Squads" patrol the neighborhoods, evicting residents and blowing buildings up. Meanwhile, Trash (Gregory) rides the wastelands on his motorcycle, running weapons to the underground (literally) resistance, led by Dablone (Antonio Sabato). The president of General Construction Corporation, Mr. Clark (Ennio Girolami, aka Thomas Moore), has plans to level the Bronx and build a nice, clean city of the future on top of its ashes, and he has clandestinely ordered DAS leader, Floyd Wrangler (Henry Silva), to deport and/or exterminate the low class residents. As the Bronx residents become more and more embattled, the resistance hatches a risky scheme in a bid to force the corporation to negotiate.

Enzo G. Castellari's Escape From The Bronx (aka Fuga Dal Bronx) is really nothing more than a sequel to his own pasta-pocalypse film, 1990: Bronx Warriors (aka 1990: I Guerrieri Del Bronx). Its title is strictly a ploy to cash in on John Carpenter's vastly superior Escape From New York (and if you've ever seen the amount of non-Django movies with the word "Django" in the title, you'll be very familiar with this practice). From its first shots, the film embodies a distrust of government and big business. As the silver-suited armies tramp through the streets, shooting and burning everyone they see, there is a loudspeaker reassuring residents that they only want to relocate them to housing in New Mexico, and "there is nothing to fear." The instant those words are uttered, we know they're untrustworthy and up to no good. With this setup, the film alludes (consciously or unconsciously) to the Warsaw ghetto under the Nazi regime, and on that level, the film works, though the reference is a tad heavy-handed, I think.

Along those lines, the film is also a play on the battle against homogeneity. The Annihilation Squads dress exactly alike (or as alike as a shoestring budget will allow). We cannot see their faces clearly behind the visors of their helmets. They are the same, interchangeable. The only one who dresses any different is Wrangler, but that's only to distinguish him as the leader (though Silva's cheekbones alone could do that). The Bronx denizens are more individualistic. Though they generally dress in tatters, we can see their faces. The various gangs have distinctive styles of dress (zoot suiters, cabaret tap dancers, pirates, and so on), but each character has a slight variation of their own. The city Clark and company want to erect is full of clean structural lines with no individualism allowed, and it is planned to be built right on top of the Bronx, in effect stamping out any distinctiveness with the sheer weight of sameness. The future will be bright, shiny, and dull.

Trash fits into the antihero archetype snugly. He has no gang anymore, and his only interest in the resistance is in how he will profit from it. When Dablone says he should move underground with them, Trash basically says they're all idiots, and they're not any safer underground than above. He doesn't want responsibility, and the only time he accepts it is when it is thrust upon him. When the film starts, we get a Robin Hood feel about Trash. The government/corporation knows him by name and even seems to be looking for him specifically. His parents have a full-sized poster of him in their home. He brings necessities to the resistance. Problem is, rather than robbing from the rich to give to the poor, Trash robs from the rich to sell to the poor. It isn't until the struggle is made personal, that he takes a proactive hand. As Edmund Burke said, "When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." Trash cannot stand apart from his fellow men. The only way they can triumph (in fact, survive) is united.

Castellari has been around the block a few times, and he knows what he's doing with a camera, and he certainly realizes this is an action film above all else (the science fiction aspects are fairly tangential). There are scenes of immolations, shootings, explosions, blunt force traumas, and mayhem of all types. The problem is (and it always pains me to complain about things like this) there is too much of a good thing here. The carnage is wall-to-wall, but it's so pervasive (and scattershot), it loses its impact. Add to that, the main plot/plan of the characters takes so long to get to, it feels arbitrary. It literally feels like there was a two-sentence synopsis of the movie, and Castellari just made everything else up. 

It's been argued (and I think the best James Bond films are sterling examples of this) that the better the villain's plan is, the better the action movie is. Unfortunately, the villain's plan in Escape From The Bronx never goes past level one. The whole movie proceeds not in peaks and valleys but in a straight line. Consequently, there's no cathartic payoff at the climax. Finally, the pell-mell narrative structure leaves an unfocused, shrug-inducing feel in the viewer. It's worth a view and could even be useful as something to keep on in the background of a party, but on its own, this one just left me kind of cold.

MVT: Henry Silva owns every scene he is in (no shock there). With no meat on the bones of this check-cashing gig, he still winds up with plenty of gristle between his teeth.

Make Or Break: Trash owns a revolver that is even more powerful than Harry Callahan's .44 Magnum, apparently. You'll know the scene when you see it. 

Score: 5.75/10


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 12/27/11

Sammy's Pick: SID AND NANCY (Region 1 Blu-Ray; MGM/20th Century Fox)
This film will always be Alex Cox's masterpiece in my opinion. It's his most complete film and it captures an era I have great affection towards as it reminds me of my youth and how I was anti EVERYTHING. Gary Oldman puts in an amazing performance and Chloe Webb (whom many have forgotten) puts in just as good a performance as Nancy. I highly recommend this film.

Amazon Review
High-Def Digest Review

Aaron's Pick: FINAL DESTINATION 5 (Region 1 Blu-Ray & DVD; New Line/Warner Home Video)
I don't particularly care for this movie too much, but I got a chance to see it in theaters in 3D and thought it was a fun enough film with some decent kills, an impressive collapsing-bridge sequence, and a nice twist ending. The 3D was a bit disappointing, as I felt they didn't really exploit it as much as they could have, but it was perfectly fine, and as a whole this is pretty much everything you'd expect from a FINAL DESTINATION movie. I originally wanted to pick Uwe Boll's latest, IN THE NAME OF THE KING 2 (starring Dolph Lundgren!), but who am I kidding; we all know it's gonna be garbage.

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

Large William's Pick: MONDO KEYHOLE (MOD; Allied Vaughn)
Other than its awesome title and the pedigree of the director(Jack Hill), who I have a great deal of affection for(in fact, we would have reviewed more of his films on the show, if so many people in our circle hadn't done so already). Basically, it plays like a domestic version of Powell's tremendous Peeping Tom. An otherwise normal man has a voracious appetite for rape, and one night, his heroin addicted wife follows him to a costume party to see what a gwan. Needless to say, things don't go well.. Check it out gang, to see a genre godfather honing his craft early on



Monday, December 26, 2011

Episode #164: The Uppercut Exterminator

Welcome to another episode of the GGtMC!!!

This week the Gents cover two films from one of our sponsors Diabolik DVD (, we go over The Exterminator (1980) from director James Glickenhaus and starring Robert Ginty and Uppercut Man (1988 aka The Opponent) from director Sergio Martino and starring Daniel Green.

Next week we are going over all of our feedback from the past months and getting caught up on all of the back log we have been building since we had some schedule changes, the show is back in it's stride (as if we ever left it?).

Direct download: The_Uppercut_ExterminatorRM.mp3

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Big Alligator River (1979)

From the late 1970s to the early/mid-1980s, you would be hard-pressed to find an Italian-produced horror/science fiction film that didn't have at least one scene with a helicopter in it. From Luigi Cozzi's Contamination to Lucio Fulci's Zombie and beyond (okay, maybe not The Beyond), a helicopter is seen either carting people into the heart of a jungle or spotting some unmanned craft (in a callout to Dracula's Demeter?) floating like an open door to a spider's web. My understanding is that helicopters had been around for some time, so it's not as if they were exploiting some new technology or craze. Does Italy have a corner on the helicopter-building market? Are helicopters free to rent for Italian citizens? Much like the Easter-egg-ish bottles of J&B whisky that pop up in the better-furnished studies of Italy like Hitchcock in his own films, helicopters seem to turn up like thumb prints on many Italian films of the time.

Sergio Martino's The Big Alligator River (aka The Great Alligator, aka Il Fiume Del Grande Caimano) opens with a helicopter carting Joshua (Mel Ferrer), the owner of the new Paradise House resort, into the heart of the jungle (see?). Accompanying Joshua are photographer, Daniel (Claudio Cassinelli), and the oddly-mute model, Sheena (Geneve Hutton). At the hotel, along with being introduced to the cruel Peter (Romano Puppo) and the voluptuous Ali (Barbara Bach), we discover that Joshua has been using the local native tribe, the Kuma, to help build and staff the resort. Soon, a very large alligator (the Kuma believe it is their god, Kroona) turns up to gnaw on the defilers of his people. Not good news with the first guests arriving soon for the resort's big, grand opening. 

The first thing that leaps out at you when watching this film is its resemblance to both King Kong and Jurassic Park (and, yes, Jaws, but to a lesser degree, I think). The first is obvious. You have a giant animal worshipped as a god by natives. You have our protagonists watching a secret ceremony and being discovered. You have a woman kidnapped and splayed out as a sacrifice to appease said god. On the later film, you have a nature preserve located in a remote location. You have the guests getting picked off by the preserve's attractions. Mel Ferrer takes the Sir Richard Attenborough role, though Joshua is far more avaricious than John Hammond ever was. You have the "child in peril" angle. Of course, Michael Crichton's novel was written about eleven years after The Big Alligator River was released. Still, there are a great many similarities (and dissimilarities, to be fair).

Martino's movie does seem to have a point to make (in much the same way as Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust), however. The natives are exploited by Joshua for his own ends. As their reward, he gives them blue jeans and Coca Cola. The natives are overjoyed, and the viewer is slightly horrified. It's this more than anything else (not the dynamiting of the landscape or deforestation) which seems to trigger the appearance of Kroona. Whenever venal, rich, white characters go into the jungle, they are invariably abusive and exploitive toward the native populace. There are almost always depictions of the despoiling and "civilizing" (or attempts at "civilizing") of these "savages." This invariably winds up biting the venal, rich, white characters in the ass, much to the audience's satisfaction. Nevertheless, sympathy toward the natives' plight does not guarantee a character's safety (especially in Italian films), and of course, the natives who align themselves with the white folks' objectives are the first to go.

Kroona as a character is firmly in the Kong-ian mold, yet he is portrayed as being truly an old, vengeful god. At no point do any characters say that he is just an enormous alligator (which we're told are non-indigenous to the area) with a taste for human flesh. And since his coming is presaged by his peoples' turning from him to American consumerism/status symbols, he becomes a representation of the wrath of the gods. Like the fickle Greek gods, who would strike down or transform in some ironic fashion their venerators as soon as look at them. Or the Catholic God of the Old Testament, who destroyed Sodom and turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt just for watching its decimation. And yet, Kroona displays no true intelligence or supernatural power. It's hinted that he may have pulled the helicopter into the river to prevent the humans' escape, but it could just as easily have been the Kuma who did it (and this is also suggested in the narrative). He never makes it onto land to attack anyone (as if he becomes powerless out of water), and there's never even a moment where he and a human stare into each others' eyes, taking the measure of each other. The avenging deity is an interesting idea for the character, but there's no character in its execution to be found herein.

Which brings me to the most interesting twist on the film's basic premise; namely the natives turning back to their god. Once the Kuma realize Kroona is angry over their transgressions, they decide to attack the resort and everyone in it as recompense and atonement. It's a marvelous way to ratchet up the danger level, because now there are menaces on all sides. This is where my reference to Cannibal Holocaust comes in. If the" alligator god" angle was removed from the film entirely, this could have been an engaging and worthwhile siege/cannibal flick (never mind that the Kuma never show a predilection for anthropophagy). Between the natives' revenge and the vengeance of Kroona, the film hues closely to Freud's notion of "the return of the repressed." By turning away from their true nature, trying to tamp it down, and embracing Western culture, their past comes back to haunt them (and the white interlopers) in a huge way (pardon the pun).

The film's special effects are hit-and-miss. The first few times we glimpse Kroona, it's through a combination of quick closeup shots. The full-size creature is never seen at first, and the model work is of a high enough quality that it pulls off the illusion relatively well. Sadly, there is a plethora of miniature model work in the second half which not only destroys the suspension of disbelief but also the sense of scale and the very idea that Kroona is anything other than a rubber toy in a bathtub (which is exactly what it looks like in these shots). For a filmmaker as capable as Martino, that he would linger so on these shots tells me he was desperate to stretch the film's runtime out. 

With that in mind, this film's pacing is its biggest drawback, and it's enough for me to dislike the film on the whole. Scenes go on forever, dragging out conflicts that have petered out of their own momentum well before the movie moves on. Scenes seem to have been included simply to give the characters something to do for five minutes at a stretch. At the end of the film's first forty-four minutes, there has been only one, not-very-graphic Kroona attack. Granted, the third act is almost wall-to-wall carnage, but this too wears out its welcome after about ten minutes. It truly is a case of lather, rinse, and repeat. Perhaps if Martino and company had more story than film stock, The Big Alligator River wouldn't have turned out to be such a giant turkey.

MVT: The themes are the most intriguing aspects of the film. They just seem wasted on a project that feels like it's 100% filler, all additives.

Make Or Break: The "Break" is the first kill scene, which manages to go on interminably, crosscuts without building an iota of tension (or titillation, for that matter), and then (perhaps most egregiously) culminates in a staid attack.

Score: 5/10

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Episode #163: Jackie Terminator

Welcome back for another trip into the cinematic abyss with the GGtMC!!!

This week the Gents bring you a special gift for Christmas as we delve into the woderful world of Quentin Tarantino and his film Jackie Brown (1997) and the other side of the wonderful world for Indonesian exploitation and Lady Terminator (1989) directed by H. Tjut Djalil.

Kick back, relax and have a cup of eggnog with a splash of J&B Gentle-Minions because the GGtMC is here to entertain and kiss all body partys under our mistletoe.

Direct download: Jackie_TerminatorRM.mp3


DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 12/20/11

Large William's Pick: THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE (1967-1975) (Region 1 DVD; IFC/MPI)
This one was a docco I'd been tracking for what seemed like close to a year, and finally had the chance to see fairly recently. Essentially, it's footage that a Swedish tv crew shot when they came to America in the 60's and early 70's to chronicle the Civil rights movement and the Black experience in America at that time. Bobby Seale, Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael and several other prominent Afro-American civil rights leaders are featured in footage, as well as numerous African American figures from today narrating(Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, etc). It's an utterly fascinating documentary about one of the most pivotal times in American history. It touches on several things, much like any good mixtape would. It made me smile, it made me misty eyed, it made me think; which is really the most you can ask from any film. This will absolutely be on my top 30 of the year when we do our "Year end show" in a few months. How high? You'll have to tune in to find out boppers..



Sammy's Pick: WARRIOR (Region 1 Blu-Ray; Lionsgate)
Well acted, well directed and this film made Sammy tear up at least three different times. It offers nothing original, it's just well done. Macho cinema with heart!!!!

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

Thursday, December 15, 2011

DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 12/13/11

Sammy's Pick: HEAVENLY CREATURES - Uncut Version (Region 1 Blu-Ray; Miramax/Lionsgate)
I will defend to my dying breath that this is Peter Jackson's best film. It is full of all the things Jackson adores, cinema history, violence...I miss the Jackson that made these types of films and hope he returns at some point but I doubt it will ever happen. This film features a very young looking Kate Winslet and is just gorgeous to behold...BUY!!!

Amazon Review

Aaron's Pick: THE ROCKETEER - 20th Anniversary Edition (Region 1 Blu-Ray; Disney/Buena Vista)
Between RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (a lock for my top ten of the year), Peter Jackson's excellent HEAVENLY CREATURES on Blu-Ray, and the extremely fun FIVE ELEMENT NINJAS on Blu-Ray, I was really torn as far as what to pick this week, but I have to go with ROCKETEER on Blu. I'm not sure why it took so long for this film to get released on Blu-Ray, but with this being the 20th Anniversary of the film and director Joe Johnston's CAPTAIN AMERICA playing in theaters over the summer, the timing makes sense.

Amazon Review
High-Def Digest Review

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Perfume Of The Lady In Black (1974)

The first time I smelled a woman's hair was magical. Before I go any further, this is not going to be some fetish article, so if that's your bent, prepare to be disappointed. Anyway, I was about eleven-years-old and attending a school dance (we had those back then). I recall wearing a white blazer with the sleeves pushed up and a pastel-colored shirt. My mullet was in full-swing at this time, which I'm sure is the only reason no woman would ever mistake me for Detective James "Sonny" Crockett. Nevertheless, I had worked up the nerve to ask a girl to dance (I'll spare her the ignominy of naming her), and she (having nothing better to do) accepted. I don't recall the song (it may have been "Cherish" by Kool & The Gang, but I was paying more attention to not stepping on my partners' feet), but with my head up close to hers, I caught a whiff of Prell and Aqua Net that stays with me to this day. Whenever anything even closely resembling those two smells wafts under my nose, I'm instantly transported back to that night. Granted, in the grand scheme of things it was a minor occurrence, but it's lodged in my memory like a wood tick.

Sylvia (Mimsy Farmer) is a young, successful, seemingly independent young woman. Her relationship with geologist boyfriend, Roberto (Maurizio Bonuglia), is bumpy, but seemingly not unworkable. Sylvia's trouble begins after dinner with some friends, where the conversation centers on black magic and superstition. The next day, Sylvia oversleeps and claims that she broke the glass from a framed photo of her and her parents when she was a child. Unbeknownst to Sylvia, she is being trailed by a mysterious man, and shortly thereafter, she espies the reflection of her mother spraying perfume on herself in a mirror. Sylvia's paranoia mounts, but how much is in her head, and what will be her ultimate fate?

The Perfume Of The Lady In Black (aka Il Profuma Della Signora In Nero) is a complex, nuanced, thought-provoking horror/thriller from co-writer/director Francesco Barilli. It is heavily influenced by the work of Roman Polanski, most notably Repulsion, The Tenant, and Rosemary's Baby, but it also bears a resemblance to Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now. Still, this is very much its own movie and is more accessible and thought-out that many genre films from Italy during this same time period. 

Conspiracies and paranoia lie at the heart of the film. We see Sylvia being watched by an enigmatic man, and when she drops her family photo off to be reframed, he runs in the shop immediately afterward to have a chat with the framer. Andy (Jho Jhenkins) appears at various times to grin nebulously in an "I know that you know that I know" manner. A vase which triggers memories of Sylvia's childhood disappears from the shop in which she spotted it, and the shopkeeper claims total ignorance of its existence. Seemingly everyone who has even a tangential relationship with Sylvia seems in on it. It's the mystery of "why?" that propels the narrative forward. However, it's the effect of the mystery on Sylvia's psyche that creates the film's emotional core.

It's obvious from the first time we see childhood Sylvia (Daniela Barnes/Lara Wendel) that there are issues in the family. As the film's opening credits roll, we see a tinted photo (the same one Sylvia smashes the frame of) of Sylvia staring sweetly up at her father, while her mother, Marta (Renata Zamengo), stares at the camera. As Sylvia recalls more from her youth, her memories encroach more and more into reality. This is shown cinematically by the inclusion and interaction of the adult Sylvia with the people from her past - in the same frame. If these scenes were blocked in a shot/reverse shot fashion, we could just say that she's hallucinating, but by having present and past together onscreen, it makes the threat more tangible and punctuates that Sylvia's world is changing. This will take yet another turn when Sylvia begins to interact with one of her memories in the present rather than as a representation of her remembrances (though it is that, as well).

The movie also contains a heavy reflection motif. The very first shot of the film itself (post credits) is of the water in a fountain outside Sylvia's apartment building. The water is roiled by toy boats scooting into frame. The idea of reflective surfaces and childhood/the past will carry on throughout the remainder of the film. The first time Sylvia sees her mother's "ghost" is in a mirror. Sylvia's apartment has large mirrors on almost every wall. Sylvia sits in on a session with a mystic in a room with multiple mirrors. As well as having reflective qualities, water also plays a large part in the film. Sylvia's dad was a seaman. Several scenes take place during thunderstorms. In her old home, Sylvia finds a fountain (now dried up) as well as a mosaic of a boat on water, which she places a cheek against. Because of her attachment to her father, water becomes a strong reminder of her past as well as a symbol of mental erosion and tumultuous emotions.

Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures In Wonderland provides yet another touchstone for the movie. Sylvia is reading Carroll's work. Andy provides a subtle reference to the White Rabbit when he states, "It's later than I thought." Later in an effort to center herself, Sylvia quotes from Carroll, "Life, what is it but a dream?" These allusions then extend to Sylvia's psychosis when she sees herself as a young girl, the hallucinatory, dreamlike aspects crisscrossing, ultimately creating a whole new role for Sylvia to inhabit.

There's very little in this film with which to quibble (and much, much more to discuss). That said, the biggest (and I hesitate to use this term) misstep is that this feels like two movies converging. On one hand, you have the conspiracy story. On the other, you have the descent into madness story. The two don't always mesh, and the final scenes create several questions that remain unanswered (for good or ill). Not to mention that the final twist feels so divergent (even though it has been foreshadowed earlier in the narrative), you feel as though you've just been smacked with a wet sock. And yet as the film fades out, you cannot help but feel somber, astonished, and satisfied simultaneously. Even without the sense of smell to spark it off, The Perfume Of The Lady In Black will live in your memories for a long time to come.

 MVT: Barilli herein has crafted a movie loaded with style, revolving around interesting characters, and showcasing an interesting, multi-level story that invites repeat viewings.

Make or Break: The "Make" is the scene where Signor Rossetti (Mario Scaccia) stops by Sylvia's apartment. He seems fine, but there is a drop of blood on his right shoe, and we just know there's something going on. I was instantly reminded of an interview I saw with artist Bernie Wrightson (most famous for his work with horrific subjects, notably the "Swamp Thing" comic book) years ago. When asked what his definition of horror is, he described a man standing on a sidewalk, waiting for a bus. Everything about the man is perfect, except there's a spot of blood on his shoe. Maybe Mr. Wrightson saw this movie? Either way it's a strong image, and I think it elicits more terror than all the graphic violence in the world ever can.
Score: 8/10

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Episode #162: Sympathy for the Unjust

Welcome to the GGtMC!!!

This week we bring in Jake McLargeHuge from the Podcast Without Honor and Humanity to review a couple of films for our Program for Japan charity event we ran earlier in the year. We cover Sympathy for the Underdog (1971) directed by Kinji Fukusaku and The Unjust (2010) directed by Seung-Wan Ryoo.

Kick back and enjoy!!!

Direct download: Sympathy_for_the_UnjustRM.mp3

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Visitor (1978)

"This series presents information based in part on theory and conjecture. The producers' purpose is to suggest some possible explanations, but not necessarily the only ones, to the mysteries we will examine." Thus plays the introduction to what I feel is one of the most interesting, outlandish, and downright creepy programs ever broadcast. I'm speaking, of course, about "In Search Of," hosted by Leonard Nimoy and running from the late 1970s into the early 80s. Each show would focus on a particular mysterious subject (the real Sherlock Holmes, etcetera) and posit some of the most insane hypotheses conceivable (the real Sherlock Holmes, etcetera). Whether there was much actual research done or the writers simply smoked a whole lot of something, the show was entertaining, and the recreations they shot on grainy 16mm film used to freak me out as a child. But the bizarre and the unexplained is what people wanted to see, and the quality of films, television programs, books, magazines, etcetera on the subject vacillated from the good, to the bad, to the indifferent. So you just know that the Italians would get involved somehow, some way.

Katy Collins (Paige Conner) is a precocious young girl who strolls around like her crap don't stink, makes things explode, and makes vague threats to her mother, Barbara (Joanne Nail). See, Katy wants mom to marry beau, Ray (Lance Henriksen), and give her a brother (presumably to mate with). You might think that's a bit taboo, but it's really okay, because Katy is possessed by the spirit of Sateen (not to be confused with the fabric of the same name), an evil alien mutant who mated with Earth women to pass on his spirit before being destroyed by a flock of birds trained by his archenemy, the eponymous Visitor (John Huston). The forces of good and evil eventually collide (sort of) over the fate of Barbara's womb and Katy's soul.

Giulio Paradisi's The Visitor (aka Stridulum) is about as New Age and paranormal as a film can get. It presents itself as a science fiction/mystical film, but it is actually a demon possession movie couched in science fiction/mystical tropes. The forces of good and evil herein are not named outright, but they both come from other planets and possess extraordinary powers (sometimes aided by an onscreen adjustable wrench). The good guys wear white (mostly), the bad guys wear black (mostly). But the most important aspect on either side is that they are preoccupied with the concepts of good and evil and the cosmic balance that hangs between the two. The bad guys want to destroy, the good guys want to save (and more specifically want to save a soul). They are, for all intents and purposes, angels and demons. However, religion is never spoken of overtly in the film. Instead, characters are concerned with astrology, stellar light shows, and trucks lit up like the craft in Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Sateen is not Satan (or Pazuzu) but a malefic extraterrestrial bent on annihilation. His spirit just happens to inhabit the body of a young girl (sound familiar?).

The concept of evil as something which can be passed on or inherited has been around for years. Fritz Lang's The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse is based on this idea. Eric Red's Body Parts also relies on this notion, though there it is the result of receiving an actual piece of an evil person. The list goes on and on. Here, Katy received Sateen's spirit in her mother's womb. Like The Bad Seed's Rhoda Penmark, who is bad because her ancestor was a killer who started young and passed on the genes, Katy's knack for misbehavior was forced upon her, as well. With that said, Katy is one of the most obnoxious, slap-worthy characters you will ever see, and you will feel a thrill when Shelley Winters does what you have been dying to do for over an hour.

Katy's misanthropy plays into many adults' pedophobia. Does this fear come from children's' ability to embarrass us due to their lack of social filters? Is it because they haven't yet developed a moral compass (and often don't seem capable of doing so or concerned with its absence)? Is it because they will replace us in time, and we adults want to maintain power for as long as possible (not to mention that this usurpation has been told of in violent terms in myths like those of Electra and Oedipus)? Of course, when a child like Katy actually makes threats and throws things, wounds, and all but kills the parent, there can be little doubt that the maternal power structure is in heated contention. Is it any wonder then that Barbara is completely uninterested in spawning any more progeny?

Since this is an Italian-produced film (courtesy of Ovidio G. Assonitis), you can bank on (and you shall receive) a dearth of logic and enough plot holes to fill the Lincoln Tunnel. Chief among them, and the thing that nagged me worst of all throughout was that no one at all ever does anything about the things Katy gets up to in public. She lays waste to a group of teenage boys at an ice rink, actually sending one flailing through a restaurant window and cracking the skulls of the rest against the rink wall. She habitually knocks out her babysitters so she can play "Pong" in peace. At her birthday party, an "accident" occurs that winds up in disaster. Granted, Glenn Ford makes his brief appearance as a cop investigating the little malcontent, but nothing comes of this, either. You're just waiting for someone to finally wise up and directly step in to take action. That's why Katy's tête-à-tête with Phillips (Winters) is so gratifying, if fleeting.3

The special effects are passable and not much more. There are a lot of composite/matte shots utilizing cloud tank effects for roiling clouds. They do what they need to do, but it seems to me the elements were all lit differently (most discernibly in the shots of Huston, which never appear to be lit from the correct direction), thus undercutting a full suspension of disbelief. The finale contains some of the funniest animal effects you may ever witness. The film is shot well enough (and there are even some very nice compositions here and there) for the most part. However, action scenes are blocked and edited confusingly, and while you'll get the overall thrust of the scene, you'll be hard pressed to actually describe what you saw. 

The writing (credited in part to Assonitis and Paradisi) is confused and ultimately confusing, with the writers throwing just about everything they could at the screen and then hoping that some moderately thoughtful visuals would be enough to pacify the audience. Thus, the film starts off intriguingly and ends up a mess, buried under the weight of its ambitions (though I hesitate to use that word, because it feels more like simply a desire to shoehorn as much as the filmmakers could into a feature film). Nonetheless, the cast is loaded with talent and, frankly, better than the material deserves. I recall an interviewer asking Assonitis how he got such monumental actors in his cheap genre movies. He said he paid them. At one point, the Visitor tells Barbara that her confusion has been transmitted to her "from another time, another place." That's kind of how I look at my DVD of The Visitor.

MVT: The cast is stellar, and they really give it their all. It's a shame they couldn't appear in something a little more coherent and worthwhile.

Make or Break: The birthday scene, while being characteristically baffling in its presentation, does have a nice twist that I genuinely did not see coming.

Score: 6/10

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Episode #161: South Beach Configurations

Welcome back to the GGtMC!!!

This week Sammy and William bring you reviews of South Beach (1993) directed by Fred Williamson and The Ninth Configuration (1980) directed by William Peter Blatty. Both of these films have AMAZING casts and some of the most GGtMC moments we have had on this show in some time.

Direct download: South_Beach_ConfigurationRM.mp3

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Voicemails to 206-666-5207


DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 12/6/11

Large William's Pick: POINT BLANK (Region 1 Blu-Ray & DVD; Magnolia)
Apologies for the long hiatus in getting a dvd/blu pick of the week out, I've been absolutely swamped, but my fellow Gentlemen have been holding it down proper in the meanwhile. This week, there were a decent amount of rock solid under the radar releases that one could choose from. Although I've never seen it(or my pick of the week, for that matter), I almost went with Lamberto Bava's Late Cycle Giallo, Body Puzzle. Raro is putting it out, and they always do a great job picking films and providing some good content to back up the feature film itself. But I digress, my pick this week has a Gallic flavor to it, I decided to go with a French thriller entitled A Bout Portant(a.k.a Point Blank), to be clear, it's not a remake of the fantastic Boorman/Marvin joint, but what it is, is a breakneck paced, absolutely frantic 86 minute film about a man in over his head, desperately trying to get his Wife back from criminals. He's not an ex-special Ops guy, he's not a former police officer, he's a nurse. An everyman, who's going to need to pull out all the stops to get his Wife back. From what I've seen from the director, Cavayé, he's a more than capable helmer. His 2008 film Pour Elle, was remade here in the U.S with Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks, a few years ago. I bring this up, as like a lot of modern French directors, he brings an American adrenaline and sensibility with French flair and technical prowess. Check it out gang!

Le Grande William

Amazon Blu-Ray and DVD

Aaron's Pick: CAPTAIN POWER AND THE SOLDIERS OF THE FUTURE - The Complete Series (Region 1 DVD; Video Service Corp.)
Children of the 80's unite! A group of soldiers, led by Captain Power, attempt to put an end to a robot uprising that has led to the enslavement of the human race. Ring a bell? To tell you the truth, this show was completely erased from my memory until I hit the internet in search of new DVD releases, and I'm recommending it right now purely on a nostalgia high. For those of you who aren't familiar with the show, CAPTAIN POWER, which combined live action with animation, only lasted one season because it was deemed too dark for children and also because it was a bit too costly to produce, which is understandable considering its ambitious nature. (to be exact, the show nearly cost one million dollars per episode to produce - and that's 1987 money we're talking about!) And now, thanks to the fine folks at Video Service Corp., it's been dug out of obscurity and given a DVD release with loads of special features, including a documentary on the making of the show.


Friday, December 2, 2011

DVD/Blu-Ray Picks Of The Week - 11/29/11

Sammy's Pick: HORROR EXPRESS (Region 1 Blu-Ray/DVD Combo; Severin)
Fun little film with Cushing and Lee seemingly having a good time. There are many scenes with them together on screen (for a change) and Telly Savalas really hams it up, sans lollipop unfortunately. Good price as well....GRAB IT!!!

Diabolik DVD Review

Aaron's Pick: CHILLERAMA (Region 1 DVD & Blu-Ray; Image Entertainment)
First of all, I second Sammy's pick for this week. HORROR EXPRESS is a great, underseen horror movie, and I'm glad the boys at Severin finally cleaned it up and gave it a decent, much-deserved release. However, I decided to go with CHILLERAMA as my pick of the week despite not having seen it yet. It's been making the rounds at festivals and whatnot over the last few months, and everything I've heard about it this far has been positive. Plus, I'm a sucker for anthology horror movies.

Amazon DVD and Blu-Ray Review