Friday, July 27, 2012

Night of the Comet (1984)

“Night of the Comet” is pure eighties cinema. The leads are Regina (Catherine Mary Stewart) and Samantha (Kelli Maroney), two Valley Girl sisters who were colorful attires, chew bubblegum and speak in a hip fashion. You have zombies running amok due to a comet crash that’s left the world vaporized (and the sky in a permanent sepia tone). You’ve got a government agency picking off survivors out of fear they’ll spread the disease. You’ve got shootouts in a mall. Hell, you even have a montage of Regina and Samantha trying on clothes (well, sort of)!

It’s for all of these reasons that I enjoyed “Night of the Comet”. It’s a pulpy , fun film that never takes itself too seriously. This is prevalent in the way Regina and Samantha act during the situation. While Regina is a little troubled, her sister drifts through it like it’s a common occurrence. She almost revels in the fact that the world is empty. She still holds out hope that her father, a green beret, will save them, but she’s too air headed to worry too much. Regina is more levelheaded, but even she has no problem kicking back and enjoying the freedom. Why else would she gallivant around a mall trying on clothes?

Your tolerance of these characters goes a long way in whether or not you’ll enjoy this film. I’d argue that, as long as you can tolerate them, you should be fine. If they even tend to rub you the wrong way once, it may be a lost cause. I myself adored the characters! Regina is too perky and energetic not to like and Samantha’s doltish attitude is played innocently, making it easy to swallow. I even bought them as sisters, considering they’d bicker with one another one minute and be joking around the next. Some may call bull on that, but I was the same way with my siblings.

None of the other characters hold up for me as much as the leads. Hector (Robert Beltran) is the love interest of Regina. Not only is he one of the last surviving men, but he’s a gentleman to boot (what are the odds?). He traveled through the girls’ small town on his way to San Diego, taking a hitchhiker with him (whom apparently disappeared; I don’t recall the film ever stating). Despite some friction at first, the two fall for each other relatively quickly and they fend off zombies and crazy survivors (such as the gun toting maniacs in the mall). He’s basically there to have another gun in someone’s hand.

The film starts to derail a bit on the middle, but Thom E. Eberhardt quickly gets it back on track by introducing the government into the plot. They hear a radio signal that Samantha puts out and convince the trio that they’re going to rescue them. Instead, they’re going to capture them and give them a shot that will kill them. They fear that whatever virus is causing the zombie apocalypse has infected any and all survivors and they must be dealt with quickly. The only person who’s against this is Audrey (Mary Woronov), who tries her best to prevent the death of survivors (which includes children). She does fine in her role, but she’s not given too much to work with.

As for the zombies mentioned earlier, they’re not the typical slow-moving, brain devouring undead monsters we’re accustomed to. They move fast, usually attack with their fists (or, on one occasion, a wrench) and can speak. I can see many people being turned off by this, as it goes against the grain, but I’m fine with that. It’s a refreshing take on the zombie mythos. Besides, the zombies from the thirties only acted as slaves for a voodoo priest or black magic user. They never ate brains then; only slowed people down and held them hostage.

If you’re looking for a fun, cheesy eighties yarn, look no further than “Night of the Comet”. It’s got zombies, valley girls, government conspiracies, comets, crazy hair, colorful clothing, rock music, bubblegum and shootouts. The script is sharply written by Eberthardt, who directs it with a tight squeeze. The humor works more than not and the characters are likable. It’s a great popcorn flick for a rainy night!

MVT: Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney as Regina and Samantha. I couldn’t choose one, as they work off of each other so well. Chances are some people will hate them, but I loved them!

Make or Break: The first zombie attack. One of Regina’s coworkers gets socked with a wrench. I knew then and there that I was in for a fun treat.

Final Score: 7.5/10

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Red Heat (1985)

I am half-Italian (just the good half), and I think that this has largely influenced my love of Italian cuisine. Shocking, I know. It's not that I feel that Italian food is better than foods of other nationalities; it is just my preference. Granted, I have never eaten food in another country (unless you count Canada, but when I was there many moons ago I mostly grilled food I brought), so what I actually like is Italian food as prepared in America. Does that make me jingoistic? I would plead not. Still, the more I think on it, regional epicurean dishes like shepherd's pie or coq au vin, while I'm sure are quite tasty, simply don't appeal to my tastebuds. To my understanding, the cuisine of East Germany (you know, before David Hasselhoff brought down that pesky Berlin Wall) was much more potluck-y, due to the paucity of certain ingredients, and substitutions which, at least the way I imagine them to taste, would make my mouth pucker and seal like when Tweety poured alum into Sylvester's gullet. One has to wonder if the food in their prisons was better or worse. Sfortunato!

Christine Carlson (Linda Blair) flies to West Germany to meet soldier and fiancé Mike (William Ostrander), who's time in the armed forces is expiring. After some heavy petting, the mood chills when Chris discovers that Mike doesn't want to leave the military. Taking a walk to calm her nerves, Chris espies scientist Hedda (Sue Kiel) being abducted by (we assume) East German secret police. So, naturally, they abduct Chris, too, force her into a false confession on trumped up charges of espionage, and send her to jail. Inside, Chris learns that the big cheese in her barracks is Sofia (Sylvia Kristel), Warden Einbeck's (Elisabeth Volkmann) literal lapdog (in more ways than one) and just a plain old meanie. Meanwhile, Mike attempts every diplomatic avenue available to get his betrothed sprung but to no avail. Will Chris ever breathe in free air again?

Red Heat (not to be confused with the film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Belushi) falls under the auspices of the Women In Prison movie. In this regard (and so many others), it fulfills its obligations. You have the masculine lesbian warden. You have the shadowy interrogation scene. You have the obligatory shower scene. You have the obligatory love scene (and I have always had a problem with that title; they're sex scenes; the characters in them may love each other, but the only purpose they serve in the film is to get some skin onscreen). But like all things cliché, stereotyped, and old-hat, it's not what you have but what you do with it that counts. And the filmmakers behind this piece have certainly brought, if not their A Game, their B Game (which, if we were grading on a bell curve, would probably bring it up to an A anyway). The shower scene is anything but sexy, I thought. The interrogation scene is highly effective in its treatment of the action and the interrogators. The warden actually has some depth (not much but some) rather than just being some cardboard villain. There appears to be some pride taken in the final product, and the viewer can't help but appreciate it. 

Co-writer, (and according to IMDB) co-director Robert Collector brings an alarming degree of professionalism and thoughtfulness to what could easily have been a by-the-numbers WIP film. Both he and cinematographer Wolfgang Dickmann treat much of the shot compositions like a Classic Hollywood Film Noir. Many shots are bathed in pools of shadow and light. They aren't afraid to move the camera, and it's almost always motivated and unobtrusive. The filmmakers know how to reframe a scene within a single shot to give a sense of editing, as well as cutting back on set ups. The shot variety belies other films in this budget range (which couldn't have been more than a few million), though some of the compositions in the exterior scenes look a trifle flat.

The film gives us that perennial 1980s theme of the good guys, embodied by the United States Of America versus the bad guys, in the guise of the Union Of Soviet Socialist Republics. Quite cleverly, though, they did it in an end run sort of way. After all, most people (I'm sure Germans excepted) usually think of China or Russia when they think of communist countries. East Germany was underused cinematically in this regard, probably because so many other films used Nazis as their main villains. Yet, East Germany has that great, Eastern Bloc look to it, while also having the grace and grandeur of the natural countryside and the history of its ancestral architecture. The question, then, is do the filmmakers make full use of this resource? To some slight degree, yes, particularly in the early going, as the stage is set. However, the film is primarily set in a prison, so there are not many opportunities to utilize the regional charm. Still and all, the villains are communists, from Sofia, who is "Red" not only in her allegiance but in her hair, lingerie choice, even her lipstick, to the aphotic men who hold dominion over the institutions which hold our characters captive.

Another motif of films set in prisons is dehumanization. Even the most stalwart of characters with the noblest of hearts are tested inside prison walls. But the effect is the end result of a process. There is a system of inculcation that the prisoners go through. They all wear drab, formless gowns, marking them as sexless and nondescript (again, Sofia being the exception). Their lives are governed by mindless, robotic work, turning out product to feed the faceless State. The repetition of humiliating acts turns any sense of hope the victims may have into one of despair and surrender, until even rock bottom is not the lowest one can go. Of course, as consumers of this sort of cinema, you and I know that there's only so far and so long a person can be pushed before they push back, and when Chris hits that point, it gratifies completely. And in a film that is of a higher quality than it has any right to be, that's just sauce for the goose.

MVT: Dickmann displays a deft eye for composition and lighting. His shots are textbook chiaroscuro, and his camerawork is fluid and refined. His efforts go a long way in turning an exercise in formula into an attractive, satisfying film.

Make Or Break: The Make for me is the buildup to the film's climax (you'll know it when you get there). The filmmakers use precision crosscutting (okay that may be a bit overstating, but…) to raise questions and then answer them satisfactorily at the right moment, and it sets the tone for the onrushing finale, wherein (inevitably) all hell breaks loose.

Score: 7/10

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Episode #194: The Final Killing Score

Welcome back Gentle Minions!!

This week the Gents cover two films that are incredibly similar....okay probably not but either way this episode was a blast to record. We cover The Killing (1956) directed by Stanley Kubrick (this is the first time Kubrick has been on our show, amazing when you consider both Large William's and Sammy's feelings on the man) and Final Score (1986) directed by Arizal and starring Christopher Mitchum.

Direct download: The_Final_Killing_Score.mp3

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bonus #45: Interview with Simon Rumley

Welcome back to another bonus episode of the GGtMC!!!

This week Death Rattle Aaron interviews Simon Rumley, the acclaimed horror director of such films as Red. White and Blue (2010) and The Living and the Dead (2006), as well as a part of the upcoming anthology film The ABCs of Death (2012). Simon and Aaron have an interesting chat about his career and then give us a bonus review of the film Another Earth (2011) directed by Mike Cahill.

Direct download: IntSRrm.mp3

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Brain Dead (1990)

I’ll give credit where credit is due. Adam Simon is able to handle Charles Beaumont’s trippy script and make sure the plot makes sense. “Brain Dead” is one of those films that is a mind warp. It’s intention is to send the viewer on a psychedelic journey into madness and it does just that. Best of all, Simon is able to confuse the audience, but make everything tie together nicely. Most directors simply hurl content haphazardly at the audience simply because they can.

The only problem is I didn’t care. By the time the craziness strolled around, I myself felt like I was going through a lobotomy. I’ll admit, Simon did his best to hook me back in. I went from a comatose state of boredom to a drifting stupor. Not much of an improvement, but at least I was paying attention. That’s better than nothing, I suppose.

The film opens with Dr. Rex Martin (Bill Pullman) being approached by his old college roommate, Jim Reston (Bill Paxton), to help him out with a case at the Hillside Mental Institution. That’s right, both Bill Pullman and Bill Paxton are in a film together. Those of the belief that they are the same person will have their minds blown (at least somebody will). One of Jim’s partners, Jack Halsey (Bud Cort), went insane and murdered his wife and children. Reston doesn’t care about this, but of the information he’s holding in his brain for a project he was working on. He needs Rex, a successful brain surgeon, to perform a lobotomy on him and extract the information from him.

Sounds simple enough. For the first half of the film, it is. Nothing kooky or strange occurs. Bill Pullman slogs his way through the proceedings, seeming bored out of his mind (I could relate). Bill Paxton seems as if he’d rather be anywhere else. Bud Cort, on the other hand, brings an eccentric charm to his performance. He’s the only person who seemingly wants to be on set and livens up the proceedings. Granted, Pullman does get energized once the wackiness kicks in. By then, it’s too little too late.

Which is the best way to describe how I felt once said wackiness occurred. I won’t go into full detail of what transpires, as to not ruin it for those of you who still want to see this film. Let’s just say Rex Martin isn’t who he thinks he is and Jack Halsey may or may not exist. Jim Reston is still portrayed as a slimy bastard, though.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I didn’t appreciate this half of the film. I applaud Adam Simon for making the trip bizarre, yet comprehensible. I also applaud him for harkening back to events from earlier in the film. I know he found Beaumont’s script at a garage sale, so I’m pretty certain he tweaked to his liking. Whether or not that is the case, he’s responsible for wisely connecting every twist, all the while putting the viewer in Martin’s shoes. When he’s confused, we’re confused. We never know anything more than he does.

I’ll even admit that the ending is exceptional. It’s slightly unpredictable and makes sense in the grand scheme of things. This too is a task many directors fail to accomplish when dealing with a mindfuck such as this. As I mentioned in the beginning of this review, I’ll give credit where credit is due.

All the credit in the world still won’t allow me to give this film a positive review. This isn’t a highly negative review, mind you. Simply a lukewarm one. For all that’s good in the second half, there was nothing in the first half to hook me. If you can’t hook me from the start, it’ll be an uphill battle to draw me in near the end. Simon gives a valiant effort, but slips and falls.

MVT: Bud Cort. He’s the only actor in the film who felt he wanted to be there (the entire time). I enjoyed his performance and he was a welcome surprise.

Make or Break: The first half itself. It all drags and did nothing but push me away. Simon may have grabbed me from falling, but he never fully pulled me back in.

Final Score: 5.5/10

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Damnation Alley (1977)

Up until recently, I have never owned a four-wheel drive vehicle. Funny thing that, since I live in a mountainous area with notoriously crappy winters (it's often said we only get two seasons, Winter and August). No, my first vehicles were of the big sedan style (one nicknamed the Deerslayer after nailing said animal on the way back to college the day after my twenty-first birthday and one nicknamed the Fenceslayer for equally calamitous [but far less hungover] reasons). But I have always wanted one of the many fantastic vehicles that cinema has given us over the years (a desire no doubt shared by many of you out there, gentle readers). Who wouldn't want to fly around town in the Batmobile (1966 version, please)? Your daily commute would be ten times more enjoyable, I'd wager, if you owned a Land Speeder (never mind the hovercraft you could build yourself using old vacuum cleaner parts). If I ever learned to ride a motorcycle, I'd give my eyeteeth (okay, maybe your eyeteeth) for Kaneda's gorgeous bike from Akira. But if it's power and versatility you desire, look no further than the Landmaster, as designed by Major Eugene Denton (George Peppard) in Jack Smight's Damnation Alley (aka Survival Run). Me? I had to content myself with a Jeep. 

Major Denton and fellow soldier, Tanner (Jan-Michael Vincent) work at a missile base, where they are the guys in charge of firing The Big One. When incoming missiles are detected over American air space, the men do their duty, but sixty percent of the enemy rockets still hit their mark. The Earth's axis is thrown off, and the planet's environment turns to shit (as evidenced by the perpetual light show in the sky). Denton and Lieutenant Perry (Kip Niven) build two Landmasters in an effort to go cross-country to Albany, where radio signals have been detected. But after their missile base meets with an ignominious end (damn bed-smokers), Denton recruits Tanner and Keegan (Paul Winfield), who have both decided to eschew the military lifestyle now that the planet is seemingly doomed, to join in the quest. To reach their goal however, the quartet must first negotiate what Denton has dubbed "Damnation Alley."

The film, adapted from a novel by late science fiction and fantasy author Roger Zelazny, is first and foremost a Road Movie. That it is set in a Post-Apocalyptic milieu is almost tangential. The point of the film is the journey and the encounters that happen along the way. Like Stagecoach and so many before, the emphasis is on forward movement and what happens next. Unlike Ford's deservedly legendary Western, though, Damnation Alley never develops its characters for the most part, and a major portion of the objective of a Road Movie is the arc of its characters. The road (or dirt path or space flight or whatever) is only a metaphor which provides the characters seemingly transitory venues and obstacles by which they evolve. Keegan is only ever a non-conforming artist from the start of his journey to the end. Denton is a military man with a mind toward order and rules. By contrast, Tanner is a wild card who openly defies Denton at every opportunity, even though his disobedience is never proven to be the correct choice. By the film's end, they are essentially the same people. The trek has not changed them at their cores, and it takes away some of the resonance the film could have had.

This extends to the film's treatment of the military. We would expect Denton to be an overbearing, even brutal man whose tactics are not only misguided but outright perilous. Tanner, his opposite number, we expect to be the one whose unconventionality to be the key to successfully completing the mission. This is not so. The soldiers are good, competent, and even get the moral high ground at several points ("it doesn't mean you're right, and I'm wrong. It means [he's] dead."). In fact, it's the capricious actions of Tanner that land him in trouble more than anything Denton orders him to do. This is an intriguing aspect of the film, considering when it was made. Only a few years after the Watergate scandal and the end of the Vietnam War, the public's view of authority and the military was not exactly soaring. Yet, the filmmakers never overtly state that one side is superior to the other or the correct path to follow. Whether this was a conscious choice or simply the producers wanting to appeal to as broad an audience as possible without alienating either, I cannot say, though I personally would suspect the latter. The end product is too light in approach to suggest the creators wanted to inspire deep discussions (and yet, here I am).

The film also centers on the reformation of the family unit, and the attempts by the characters to reconnect to humanity in various ways. So, Denton becomes the "grandfather," Tanner the "son," Janice (Dominique Sanda) becomes the "wife" to Tanner, and Billy (Jackie Earle Haley) becomes the "son" of Tanner and Janice. While there are, of course, other characters, these are the four who constitute the film's focus, and though not formally a family, their interdependence emphasizes the theme of reconnection. In the worst of times, people will cling to the most tenuous of things to make themselves feel like they still exist, they still live and matter. Keegan paints his dwelling with a mural. In Las Vegas, the group happily plunk coins in the remaining one-armed bandits, and even though the thrill of gambling is hollow (money meaning nothing here), it still reconnects them to who they were (emphasized by the use of crowd sounds over this scene). Both Denton and Tanner want to teach Billy different things, not only so that he can help, but so that they can pass down knowledge to the next generation, to perpetuate the species. At a gas station, one of the Mountain Men (Robert Donner) wants to hear Janice play the piano. He needs to feel human again, even if he intends to commit some heinous acts in the immediate future.

The film is also biblical in several ways. There are floods that come up out of nowhere, mirroring the story of Noah's Ark. Billy gets the chance to act out the climactic showdown of the tale of David and Goliath. Las Vegas stands in for Sodom and Gomorrah, though Janice never turns into a pillar of salt (for good or ill). Regrettably, the film then culminates with a Deus Ex Machina that takes much of the steam out of the pilgrimage that has come before, and feels far too neat and easy to be plausible. And that's the thing about Damnation Alley; it poses some interesting questions and sets up some interesting relationships and then leaves them completely uncomplicated. Despite this striving for a surface-only experience, the movie still manages to be thoroughly entertaining, almost daring us to not ask any questions of it. I still did, but that's just me.

MVT: Peppard? Landmaster? Peppard? Landmaster? Since I already went on about vehicles enough in my introduction, I'm going to give my MVT to the late, great Mr. Peppard. I have been a huge fan of his, whether he was snarky insurance investigator Thomas Banacek, snarky Colonel-on-the-run Hannibal Smith, or any character in between. And as always, he puts his all into his performance and pulls out a likable character that could have easily been just another straitlaced, cantankerous career soldier.

Make Or Break: The instant that the Landmasters roll out, your first thought has nothing to do with whether or not these things would actually be practical. Your first thought is, "I want one." I still do.

Score: 7/10

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Episode #193: The Baba Four

Welcome to another episode of the GGtMC!!!

Thie week we bring you our special sponsored episode and as always we want to thank the special folks at Diabolik for sponsoring the episode and supporting the GGtMC!! We cover a couple picks from Sammy this week and he chose Baba Yaga (1973) directed by Corrado Farina and starring George Eastman plus The Ruthless Four (1968) starring Van Heflin, George Hilton, Roland Gilbert and Klaus Kinski!!!

Direct download: The_Baba_Four.mp3

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bonus #44: The Poltergeist Trilogy

Welcome to a very special bonus episode of the GGtMC!!!

This is a MAMMOTH episode covering the Poltergeist Trilogy from Death Rattle Aaron, Ghetto Tim and James McCormick. The Gents cover every detail and get into some interesting discussion involving the trilogy while also retaining the GGtMC spirit you have come to know and love!!!

Direct download: PoltergeistTrilogy.mp3

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Nesting (1980)

I hate the outdoors. No, wait, let me restate that. I loathe the outdoors. Don't misunderstand me, I find nature to be wonderful to look at. I recognize its importance in the ecological balance of the planet. I like animals. But I don't like being out in nature. I used to, when I was young and even into early adulthood. But I think that my love for the woods ended around the same time I stopped imbibing large quantities of hard liquor on a regular basis (the prospect of waking up on a clump of odd-smelling dirt had lost its shine, somehow). Now mosquitoes and flying, blood-sucking pests of every stripe find me to be something of a delicacy. I can cover myself head-to-toe in Deet-formulated repellants, but I think to insects (in relation to me, at any rate) it's like A-1 on a steak. I burn in minute amounts of sunlight. Some would say that's because I don't go outside to begin with. I would say that's one of the reasons I don't go outside. Heat is not my friend, and most people who want to be out in the woods for any length of time typically want to do so on nice, muggy, sweltering days. I start sweating at about sixty-five degrees and up. I don't begrudge anyone their enjoyment of all things out-of-doors; I simply don't partake in them. I certainly do not suffer from agoraphobia like Robin Groves' character in Armand Weston's The Nesting (aka Massacre Mansion, aka Phobia). I just prefer air-conditioning. 

Suffering from the aforementioned malady, author Lauren Cochran (Groves) can hardly make it out of her New York City apartment for more than a few minutes at a time, and she has a horrible (but not too horrible) fear of men. Trying everything from New Age meditation to seeing a shrink, Dr. Webb (Patrick Farrelly), Lauren decides that she needs to get out of the city to reduce her stress level. Accompanied by her unrequited would-be-suitor, Mark (Christopher Loomis), Lauren comes upon a rundown mansion, which she has never seen before, but she described vividly in her titular novel. She convinces weird old coot, Colonel LeBrun (John Carradine), and his physicist son, Daniel (Michael David Lally), to rent the place to her. Soon thereafter, Lauren has visions of "painted ladies" and phantoms moving about the place, and strange, deadly occurrences start taking place.

The late Armand Weston was a writer/director of porn movies before he made his only attempt at a "legit" film with this piece (according to IMDB, he was fired from Dawn Of The Mummy). And while the film does bear some mild adult influences (the brothel scenes, Lauren's self-caressing scene, the obligatory love scene, etcetera), it is also indicative of the adult industry of the time. By that I mean it is not strictly utilitarian in its technical aspects. The porn directors of the 1970s were often people trying to make real movies that happened to contain scenes of explicit sex in them. In this film, there are two ways that this mindset is in evidence. The first is in Weston's depiction of Lauren's ailment. When she goes outside and has an anxiety attack, he uses POV handheld camerawork with a fish-eye lens to accentuate the disorientation and menace felt by the character. The second is when Lauren imagines an out-of-body experience. Weston here employs a double-exposed ghost image of Lauren rising up from her prone physical form and moving about. It's an old school technique, but it is effective, and it helps the audience form some type of bond with the lead character (though this bond is tenuous and will be undone by the film itself later).

Films have utilized the defective lead/POV character for years. Just look at Harry Caul in The Conversation, the eponymous Barton Fink, or Mabel Longhetti of A Woman Under The Influence. What they do, essentially, is provide the story with an unreliable narrator, so that the audience can freely question almost everything it sees and hears; Was there a dead body in the truck, or was it all in her mind? You get the idea. For the sort of supernatural mystery that Weston has set-up here, it starts off on the right foot. Unfortunately, he also makes the mistake of not leaving the mystery to play out in the viewer's imagination (and, thus, question the film's reality). He explicitly answers the question of whether or not the house is haunted with a resounding "yes," which robs the story of much of its potential impact. When handyman, Frank (Bill Rowley), starts floating awkwardly in the middle of the living room, any sense of nuance goes out the window. There is a reason why Robert Wise didn't show anything unequivocally in his superlative The Haunting, and Weston would have done well to learn from that veteran director's work.

The film also deals with the divide between the heart and the mind through the supernatural elements. Lauren's psychiatrist believes that she is making connections in her mind that don't exist. Daniel believes in the possibility of the unknown, but his faith in science is stronger. By contrast, Lauren is an artist (a tortured one, to be sure) and accepts, even runs toward the embrace of the otherworldly. The first time she sees the house, she has to rent it. She follows furtive specters, no matter where they lead her (and they lead her to some odd places). Since we see all of the things happening to and around Lauren (even when she does not witness them directly), we side with her, and consequently we side with emotion. Yet again, the filmmakers try to marry the two together by the time the finale rolls around in a confused, rather hamfisted way. And it's this mash-up of the two that ultimately makes the film so unsatisfying. Rather than choose one side or the other (and actually develop it), they opt for both, and the audience therefore cares about neither. What's worse is that this attempted merger comes so late in the film, it feels like some egregious afterthought to the flat, blasé, exposition-laden info-dump that makes up the film's ending. Much like the matryoshka dolls the filmmakers almost certainly had in mind as a clever metaphor for the film's themes (nesting, get it?), it instead mirrors the observer's enjoyment, as each piece of the film opens to reveal smaller and smaller ideas, until there's not much left at all.

MVT: The best thing the filmmakers did for the film was trying to imbue it with a Southern Gothic feel, and it works when they care enough to try maintaining it. They just didn't try maintaining it for the entire runtime.

Make Or Break: The GGTMCers out there who enjoy watching unbelievably bad cinematic moments will revel in the scene where Lauren meets the slovenly Abner Wells (David Tabor, winner of this week's BEM Award). Seeing him pound on a car's windshield, his face a caricatured grimace, and his pants split down the crack of his ass is a moment you won't soon forget (no matter how much you'd like to).

Score: 5.75/10

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Episode #192: Incendies

We are back in your earholes and we bring you more GGtMC goodness you have come to love!!!

Thie week our episode is programmed by and it was Large William's pick. He selected Incendies (2011) directed by Denis Villeneuve which finished high on his top 10 of 2011.

We also go over some feedback and devolved into random silliness...pretty much a normal but lovely time.

Direct download: Incendies.mp3

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Episode #191: Majorettes of the Hand

Welcome back to another episode of the GGtMC!!!

This week our show is programmed by The Back of Forest Whitakers Neck for his Kickstarter campaign selection...Neck chose Band of the Hand (1986) directed by Paul Michael Glaser and The Majorettes (1987) directed by Bill Hinzman. These films are soaked with 80's aesthetics and Large William and Sammy dig into their mesh half shirts to bring you in depth reviews of both films!!!

Direct download: Majorettes_of_the_Hand.mp3

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

TerrorVision (1986)

Plato's Retreat was a Manhattan swinger's club started in the late 1970s by Larry Levenson. It basically gave people who want to have unfettered, heterosexual (and this was stressed by the management, though lesbianism was okay) intercourse a place to do so. The club and its owner(s) espoused the sort of hedonism that the era was known for before the rise of HIV/AIDS called attention to the perils of promiscuous, unprotected sex. Reportedly, Levenson structured the rules to ensure that the women outnumbered the men, and he provided multiple amenities for its members, including a sauna and pool. If you've ever seen the type of people who frequented discos (or were one yourself), then you know that they had a sort of primitivistic quality that seemed to produce a fine coating of…something with which they were perpetually glazed. I can only hope that Plato's Retreat had the overwhelming smell of chlorine permeating every square inch, at least some indication that the proprietors attempted to keep the premises and its (very) public conveniences somewhat hygienic. Unfortunately, I'd be willing to gamble that this was not the case, and the pool alone probably looked like the chunder-filled pool of Ted Nicolaou's TerrorVision. Now I don't know (nor do I care to know) what your particular bent is, but the mere thought of fuzzy, chunky, possibly-living things crawling all over my nethers is simply unromantic, my son.

Over a marvelously cheapjack alien world establishing shot, we are informed that we are on the planet Pluton looking at the Mutant Creature Disposal Unit section of the planetary Sanitation Department. Alien Pluthar (William Paulson) wrestles a mutant into the disposal and zaps the being off into space (via a cleverly undisguised USS Enterprise [the interstellar one, not the nautical one] model). After bouncing (replete with "funny" sound effects) off multiple planets as if they were pinball bumpers, the signal carrying the mutant winds up hitting (you guessed it) Earth. Meanwhile, jumpsuited, ascot-sporting dullard, Stanley Putterman (Gerrit Graham), finishes up installing his new satellite dish, while wife, Raquel (Mary Woronov), aerobicizes. Son, Sherman (Chad Allen), runs war games with military- and absent-minded Grampa (Bert Remsen), and punk daughter, Suzy (Diane Franklin), leaves to go on a date with metalhead boyfriend, O.D. (Jonathan Gries). I'll give you three guesses where the monster from the prologue lands.

Nicolaou's film (produced by the Brothers Band under the Empire Pictures banner) is first and foremost a satire of the "Me Generation" and their progeny. The screenplay (also written by Nicolaou) divides the characters up into three distinct subsets, each a broad stereotype. So, Stanley and Raquel are hedonistic swingers solely focused on their own pleasures. Suzy and O.D. are dimwitted, heavy metal enthusiasts. Sherman (as in the tank, get it?) and Grampa are warmongers who want to shoot first, ask questions later. When MAD Magazine does a satire (or at least when they used to), they very cleverly highlighted the most egregious faults of a movie, show, and/or genre in the short space they were provided. It helped that they were drawn in a caricatured style by such greats as Mort Drucker, Angelo Torres, Jack Davis, and others. They played, because they were already removed from reality by their medium, but to do the same in a live-action feature film is not nearly so easy. For starters, there's a lot of time to fill, and if you repeatedly crack the audience over the head with the same joke, they will tire of it quickly. Further, you have to overcome the hurdle of dealing with actors rather than drawings. Viewers instinctually want to connect with actors they see on screen (this is, after all, one of the primary reasons they go to the movies in the first place). But when they see a live-action cartoon peopled with one-dimensional parodies, there is a disconnect. 

Naturally, a film can still be effective and even enjoyable despite these things, but they are obstacles that require a deft hand behind the camera. Nicolau tries by filming the movie primarily on soundstages, thus granting himself a large degree of control (in theory). His lighting is garish and unnatural, similar to Bava's, and even the sky in the distance is purple and pink. The Putterman's are art consumers ("I know a place where you can get all this stuff real cheap") of the tackiest sort. Every painting on their walls has at least one bare nipple, and several depict light bondage. The Roman-style statue in the foyer has breasts that act as fountains. Every character is self-centered in one way or another, and their immobility in this regard makes them unappetizing (to the viewer, perhaps, but not to the monster). As I said, though, since the characters are only skin-deep in every conceivable way, you not only don't care what happens to them, but you want it to hurry up and happen faster. It's possible that this dearth of character was intended by Nicolaou as part of the lampoon, but it comes off mostly as lazy writing.

The filmmakers also use the film as a mild critique of television culture. The monster enters the house through the televisions. The characters think that Pluthar is a character in a movie when they see him pleading for us humans to render our TV sets inoperable for the next two hundred years. Grampa believes that only war stories and horror movies are educational, because they focus on survival (that's actually pretty sound reasoning). Horror host, Medusa (Jennifer Richards), dresses like a monster and puts on a performance while on air, but off air, she's just another egocentric phony. The concept of television being both alluring and dangerous is nothing new. Cronenberg's Videodrome covered the bases on the subject thoroughly. It's a subject that is ripe for investigation, but TerrorVision only gives it cursory attention (except in its background/symbolic context). The filmmakers also use real B-movie footage, rather than taking the time and (more importantly) money to come up with their own mini-parodies. And this leads to one of the film's biggest weaknesses. It is never consistent enough or fully committed enough to come together at the end. The characters flip-flop from likable to unlikable, reasonable to unreasonable and back for no other reason than that's how the director needs them to act for that scene. While there are some interesting notions in the film and it's worth a perfunctory glance (and it must be said, Graham and Woronov are excellent, as always), it's as if Nicolaou were channel-surfing in his mind as he wrote the screenplay. And that can be really annoying when you're not in control of the remote.

MVT: Buechler's monster is slimy and interesting to look at (and you get to see a lot of it), and best of all, it's huge. You have to give the man credit for being able to pull off a creature creation like that for a low budget film. You get the feeling that everyone was so impressed with it that they included it in more of the picture and rightfully so.

Make Or Break: The moment that Grampa shows up in military dress with toy fighter jets glued to his hat, the viewer suddenly realizes that they can erase all hope for any attempt at subtlety from their minds. From that point on, whether you enjoy the film or not depends completely and utterly on how easy you are to please. I admit I can be a little more difficult in this regard than some.

Score: 5.5/10

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