Monday, December 30, 2013

Episode #268: Assault on Creepshow 13

Welcome back everyone!!!

This week it was Sammy's turn to program from our sponsor over at (please head over and tell them we sent you over for some movie sweetness) and he chose Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) directed by John Carpenter and Creepshow (1982) directed by George Romero!!! We hope you enjoy the episode!!!

Direct download: ggtmc_268.mp3

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Instant Action: Hummingbird (Redemption, 2013)

I'm not sure that this film understands what it means to be a good man...

Screenplay By: Steven Knight
Directed By: Steven Knight

Continuing my desire to use this column to seek out the work of action stars this week I bring you Jason Statham. I've rarely seen Mr. Statham outside of a Guy Ritchie film, and that appears to have been a mistake on my part. I really did not like Mr. Statham in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, or Snatch.. While I enjoyed In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale that wasn't due to it, or Mr. Statham, being great in the traditional sense. Hummingbird offers a different take on Mr. Statham, at least a different take from his work with Guy Ritchie. In Hummingbird Mr. Statham is a presence, he owns the screen. Charm isn't the right word, it somewhat applies, but not completely. There's just something about Mr. Statham that the camera loves. The best explanation I can come up with is that the way he carries himself intoxicates the camera. Mr. Statham exerts himself upon the film, his presence overrides the film in ways that it really shouldn't. That's presence, and that's something Mr. Statham has in spades in Hummingbird.

Hummingbird excels visually, and in its action scenes. The visuals are, well, gorgeous, but not too gorgeous. Cinematographer Chris Menges makes terrific use of the claustrophobic nature of the British underworld. Everyone knows everyone and the camera placement of Mr. Menges accentuates how close together the citizens of London's underworld live. There's a grimy feel to the work of Mr. Menges, for all the visual flare he provides Hummingbird with he allows the film to have a more lived in texture. The director, Steven Knight, focuses on the hands of his characters a lot, further adding to the textured feel of the film. This plays out even more in the action scenes where the fighting dynamic is one of brutal violence that seeks to end the fight quick. The action in Hummingbird isn't that of the dance, rather it's that of the car hitting the wall. Fancy moves are replaced by strikes intended to maim and end the fight in the swiftest fashion. So much action is based on the beauty of the dance that is fight choreography, and in that respect the quick and efficient action of Hummingbird felt very different.

Where I have trouble with Hummingbird is in the theme of the film. The story is fine enough, a simple sort of man against internal/external demons sort of fable. The script delivered by Mr. Knight is looking for something more than that simple tale though. That's where I think the film trips up, because I'm not sure Mr. Knight really knows what he wants his film to say. At times it feels like Hummingbird is going for a Robin Hood correlation. Then it will seem as if the film is acknowledging the fact that the protagonist is no better than the people he is fighting against. But, then the film will play up the actions of Joey, Mr. Statham, as those of a man of principle who deserves the respect of the viewer. It felt as if Mr. Knight could never come to grips with the Joey character and instead of a focused character he left one on the screen who is quite muddled. This, of course, leads to a muddled main theme. Th drive of said theme is never able to gain inertia because the dueling nature of the Joey character often works against the thematic drive of the film.

Mr, Knight's film makes for a very interesting watch. The film is confused about what it wants to be, at least that's the case in terms of its theme. Hummingbird works just fine as an action film, but the added drama muddies the water of the films intentions. I'm not convinced that's entirely a bad thing though, because the lack of focus displayed by the film is one of the films most interesting aspects. Jason Statham has become a big action star, and after Hummingbird I can see why. The film takes full advantage of the package that is Jason Statham, and that's one of the reasons why Hummingbird is an interesting film worth checking out.



Bill Thompson

Six-String Samurai (1998)

Directed by: Lance Mungia

Runtime: 91 minutes
So someone thought it would be a good idea to dump nuclear apocalypse, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, kung fu movies, Ogami Itto (Lone Wolf and Cub or Shogun Assassin(which ever works for you)), the sillier aspects of the 1950's and the invading Soviets into a blender. The result is a beautifully shot and absolutely insane movie. Let the madness begin.

The movie opens with a nameless child and his mother running away from post nuclear cavemen. In Disney fashion the mother quickly gets taken out of the movie and leaves the nameless child on his own. Before the cavemen can kill off the kill off the kid as well our hero Buddy (a.k.a. The Six-String Samurai) jumps into the scene and quickly cuts down the cavemen. As the Child tries to understand what just happened, our protagonist starts leaving telling the Child to just fly away.

The two of them go walking through a picturesque and barren locations while Buddy tries to get rid of the Child. The Child lets out a rather annoying yell shout thing that he does for about two thirds of the movie and the pair go to the next plot point in the movie.

The reason Buddy and the Child are on this strange journey is because The King of Lost Vegas is dead and Buddy hopes to wear the crown. Back story time, back in 1957 the Soviet's launch an nuclear attack and invade the United States. This leaves the US in ruins except for one city Lost Vegas. Lost Vegas is ruled by Elvis Aaron Presley making him both the king of Rock and Roll and the king of what was Las Vegas. Fast forward to where the movie takes place and The King is dead and anyone who play an electric guitar and use a weapon is heading to Lost Vegas to be the next king.

Along the way Buddy and the Child meets neo-cavemen, bowler assassins, cannibals that still think it is the 1950's, assorted weird and colourful nuts, survivors of the Red Army, and Death and his bow packing band. Death is also on his way to Lost Vegas as well to kill rock and roll and make death metal the music of choice.

This is the movie as a whole. Scene, some somewhat witty dialogue or no dialogue, a silly but fitting adversary that Buddy skillfully takes out, the Child being annoying, Buddy going further down the road with the Child in tow and repeat with a new scene. This is also the only negative point I had with the film and this is more something I found annoying instead of something that damages the film.

 It was an enjoyable watch overall and I strongly recommend watching this if you can find it. It is also a shame that Jeffrey Falcon never did another film after this. He reminds me of Bruce Campbell that is skilled martial arts.

MVT: The best lines from the film:
: If I were you, I would run.
Buddy: If you were me, you'd be good-lookin'.  

Make or Break: The make for me is a three way tie between the soundtrack by The Red Elvises, the landscape shots and the insanely fun plot. The break for me was the repetitiveness of the story.

Score: 7.5 out of 10

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

City Hunter (1993)

Action and stunts, whether they’re live or filmed, are eaten up by audiences the world over.  Sometimes this is because they marvel at the physical skill involved.  Watching the razor-sharp choreography of someone like Charles Chaplin or a show like “Cirque Du Soleil,” we are amazed at just what the human body is capable of, and we may even be a little jealous that we’re not at that level (maybe you are, but I’m not).  It puts paid to the expression “poetry in motion.”  Sometimes, however, our excitement doesn’t come from the appreciation of a performer’s abilities.  It comes from our dark, innate desire to see if someone is going to be injured or killed while in the execution of an act.  This is not to say we would wish bad results on these people, but there is a mighty large “if” at the center of spectacles like those Evel Knievel used to do.  Without the danger, though, there is no thrill.  It’s an odd dichotomy.  We may not want to see these people die, but we totally want to see if these people are going to die.  If you think about it, it’s actually a pretty morbid, and pretty large, part of our collective psychic makeup.  Even when the stuntwork has been practiced, and filmed, and edited to within an inch of its life, we are still amazed.  This is the beauty of performers like Jackie Chan.  He shows us the end result of his efforts.  But in a lot of his films, he also shows us the screw ups.  We get it all, and we know that since Chan is still alive and kicking by the end, it’s all good, no matter how many times he had to be whisked to the hospital.  De-mystifying his stunts makes them all the more impressive, because it humanizes (at least in part) the superman we see on screen, and we go from the darker end of why we love these things to the lighter side.  It’s uplifting, sort of.

Ryu, nicknamed the City Hunter (Chan), is a private detective with a carefree streak a mile wide.  When his partner (Michael Wong) is gunned down, Ryu promises to raise Wong’s sister Carrie and never chase after her amorously.  Naturally, this lasts right up until Carrie matures into Joey Wong in the next scene, and then the two have to deal with their feelings, or at least Carrie does.  The search for missing teenager Kyoko (Kumiko Goto), complicates matters, and puts Ryu and Carrie in the path of terrorists, gold diggers, and one of the weirdest musical duos ever.

I’ve not seen tons of Chan’s filmography or director Wong Jing’s either, but I would be interested to know whether or not this one is the furthest removed from reality.  It’s adapted from a manga, and the filmmakers embrace the comic/cartoon aspects of same to the nth degree.  Consequently, we have things like sound effect balloons during a fight.  The sound effects proper throughout the film appear to have been foleyed by the good folks at Hanna Barbera.  The musical score is a quasi-ragtime-style piece of work perhaps better suited to Mickey Mouse’s earliest efforts.  Ryu’s garage looks like the set of a mid-Eighties music video.  A song and dance number breaks out in the middle of the film, with characters inexplicably taking part as dancers (though this sequence fits in a narrative sense, allowing it to play out and observing how other characters react to it emphasizes its oddness).  But because elements like these are embraced with a gigantic smile on the producers’ faces (and most certainly on Chan’s), we more readily accept them.  Sure, there are still instances of the sort of wince-inducing “comedy” that plagues a great many of the airier Asian films I’ve seen.  You know what I mean: the pronounced facial mugging, the overdone slapstick that would give Moe, Larry, and Curly the fits, and so on.  It’s the sort of thing that either hits or misses wide.  Thankfully, it mostly hits here.  

Bearing that in mind, there is little to no attention paid to either plotting or characterization, and this is probably my biggest beef with the film.  Not so much that these things aren’t developed, but that the action-oriented tangents the film goes down are so divorced from the film’s story, that they simply become extensive vignettes.  Like porn loops for stuntwork enthusiasts.  Not a bad thing, by and large, but it can become stale after prolonged exposure.  Just not enough to hate.  

With this film we again have a pronounced emphasis on performances, and not simply from the physical efforts of Chan and company.  The very first scene is a bit of self-reflexivity with Ryu directly addressing the audience.  There is the aforementioned song (“Gala Gala Happy”) and dance from Soft Hard and their cohorts.  Carrie puts on a performance with her cousin (Bei-Dak Lai) aboard the cruise ship, partly in an effort to make Ryu envious.  The two femmes fatale (Chingmy Yau and Carol Wan) put their wares out there (so to speak) to attract rich men, but one of them keeps a briefcase loaded with weaponry.  This presentation aspect is perhaps best summed up by the scene in the movie theater.  Ryu is matched up against two towering black goons.  Meanwhile, Bruce Lee fights Kareem Abdul Jabar in Game Of Death on the movie screen.  Ryu takes his cues from Lee, and after his enemies have been dispatched, Lee gives Ryu verbal and visual thumbs ups.  

This leads me, circuitously, to another facet of this film, and Chan’s films in general, that I’ve noticed over time (again, I can’t speak to his entire oeuvre).  There is a sort of sexless sexuality at play, which at once appeals to the prurient interest of fourteen-year-old boys while simultaneously being remarkably chaste.  When Ryu sleeps, he dreams of scads of swimsuit-clad women fawning over him in a pool.  Ryu touts himself as a womanizer of the first order, yet he doesn’t kiss a single woman the entire film (or none that I can recall).  We get semi-lurid shots of women lounging poolside, but none ever take their clothes off.  It relies on what parts of the human body are allowed on display (and they are some darn fine parts, no argument there), but there is never any sort of consummation happening.  Like Sheriff Buford T. Justice once said, “You can think about it.  But don’t do it.”  This is a flirtatious, wholesome sexuality.  It doesn’t even quite rise to the ribaldry level of something like The Benny Hill Show.  Nonetheless, it absolutely has an easygoing charm about it.  It’s not aggressive.  It’s more like the first time you took notice of those suspect lumps under a girl’s shirt when you were twelve or thirteen.  It has a good-natured heart behind it.  Is it sexist?  Maybe.  But it’s innocent, too.  I suppose this is an odd way to end a review of an Action film, but I think it nicely reflects the disposition with which I left this film.  So there.      

MVT:  The “anything goes” sense of fun is infectious, and it goes a long way in bolstering the film’s ample charms.  To play a film like this any more seriously than this one is would be a mistake, in my opinion.

Make Or Break:  The Make is the scene where Ryu scans the fingerprints on Kyoko’s butt, trying to determine who the bad guys are.  There’s a terrific payoff to this, and it is handled remarkably deftly here.  I know it’s not as visually impressive as something like the Street Fighter scene, but I simply loved this little moment.

Score:  7.25/10

Monday, December 23, 2013

Episode #267: Hong Kong Blood Hands

Welcome to another episode of the GGtMC!!!

This week Sammy and Will are joined by Mattsuzaka ( and Karl Brezdin ( for a Christmas episode we think you will really enjoy!!! The gents cover Blood Hands (1990) directed by Teddy Page and starring Sean P. Donahue and Hong Kong Godfather (1985) directed by Lung Wei Wang!!! We wasnt to thank Karl and Matt for coming on the show, we had an absolute blast!!!

Direct download: ggtmc_267.mp3
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Midnite Ride #22: Elves

Kick back and relax as the GGtMC brings you another Midnite Ride!!!

Karl Brezdin and Mattsuzaka bring you some holiday cheer with coverage of Elves (1989) directed by Jeffrey Mandel and starring Dan (Grizzly Adams) Haggerty!!!

Make sure to check out Mattsuzaka's blog ( and Karl Brezdin's ( when you get the chance for more interesting insight into cinematic mayhem!!!

Direct download: MidniteRide_Elves.mp3 
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Maniac Cop (1988)

I thought about being a police officer for a brief period of time.  I’m sure that, much like how the amount of FBI applicants rose when The X-Files became popular, this desire sprang from a love of shows like Beretta, Starsky And Hutch, and Hunter.  Unlike the sexier private detective characters , police (on television) most likely wouldn’t be roughed up and intimidated by polyester-clad goons.  No, they would do the roughing up, because that was life on the streets, baby, and you had to be tough as nails.  And that’s when it dawned on me: tough as nails, I ain’t.  Watch any detective show, and the crap these guys go through looks inordinately painful (if not at present then certainly the day after).  There was also the requirement of being able to run after perps in uncomfortable-looking footwear.  I have wide, flat feet, and just finding the shitty New Balance sneakers I wear around was a task and a half.  I’d hate to see how far I would have to go to get an agreeable pair of work kicks for walking a beat in the naked city.  Naturally, I don’t think most cops on the job go through anything even remotely approaching the level of action of Hawaii Five-O.  As a matter of fact, I tend to imagine that, in reality, there is a ton of paperwork to fill out.  I’m pretty good at paperwork, ironically enough.  I don’t love it, and I would rather be leaning on suspects, but all things considered, it’s probably safer than getting shot at.  Okay, I definitely should not be a police officer.

As Cassie (Jill Gatsby) is walking home from work one night, she is attacked by a pair of vicious muggers.  No shrinking violet, Cassie manages to fend them off long enough to make a break for it.  Spotting a policeman across a dark playground, Cassie darts for him, but her ersatz rescuer lifts her by the throat and snaps her neck.  As detective Frank McCrae (Tom Atkins) investigates, the victims of the Maniac Cop (Robert Z’Dar) continue to pile up.

The central idea behind William Lustig’s film is really simplicity itself.  In fact, it’s all right there in the title, and this is one of the big appeals of the film: It is plain in its intentions.  This is a quasi-Slasher about a maniac cop.  It has all of the puzzle pieces it needs, and it puts them all down in the proper order, so the audience never completely has time or reason to question the sillier aspects of anything that’s going on.  Add to that, good performances from solid character actors like Atkins, Bruce Campbell, and William Smith, and the film becomes a nice bit of comfort viewing.  Like a quiche at twenty-four frames-per-second.  

Of course, part of the simplicity of why the film works also leads to its more interesting facets.  At this point in time, the idea of the vigilante cop and vigilantes in general were still very popular in cinema.  The year before this film was released saw the fourth installment in the Death Wish series of films, and the same year as its release, the final Dirty Harry film, The Dead Pool, came out, just for two examples.  But what Maniac Cop does is turns these premises on their heads.  Our antagonist still kills with impunity, but he’s not cleaning up the streets from the scum of the Earth.  No, he’s killing innocent people, and inexorably he will turn on the brotherhood of which he at one time counted himself a member.  So, he’s sort of a vigilante for evil (isn’t that a contradiction in terms?).  Okay, you say, so he’s like every other Slasher antagonist, hacking up people left, right, and center?  Well, yes and no.  He has the physical traits of a standard slasher (imposing physique, seeming imperviousness to harm, relentless tenacity), and his kills are set up and executed like vignettes with a gruesome payout.  But his initial victims are completely unconnected and innocent.  There is no punishment of characters for having unmarried sex.  There is no punishment of characters for violating his territory.  Cordell’s victims are strictly victims.  But what they feel like in the terms of the film is practice for what is coming.


This kind of leads into another element of the film.  It is very much concerned with ideas of betrayal.  One of our ostensible heroes is caught cheating on his estranged wife (Victoria Catlin) with our female lead (Laurene Landon).  He is then accused of being the maniac cop, thus creating a faux betrayal of the brotherhood of police.  Cordell’s friend Sally (Sheree North) actually does betray the police, though she initially has good intentions in what she does.  Cordell himself is a victim of betrayal by the police he had counted as his brothers (though he was reputedly a bit of a gunslinger even before his ordeal).  But more than all that, at its core, Maniac Cop is about the betrayal of the public trust (see how it’s all right there in the title?).  This is developed a bit in the story with a scared citizenry shooting first and asking questions later (what Cordell was accused of by some of his higher ups and colleagues).  Yet, the filmmakers never take it all the way to its logical conclusion, perhaps because of budget constraints, perhaps because of genre constraints, I can’t say.  

But it gets at a deeper concern many people have.  Can we really trust the people with whom we’ve placed our security?  Who, after all, will guard the guards themselves?  And how can you trust those guardians?  Ideas of police brutality are tossed around, and while the movie at the very least raises the questions, it also never really answers them.  Partly this is because to do so would make a very good Action/Horror film into a pedantic philosophical discussion.  Partly this is because I think Lustig, along with screenwriter/producer Larry Cohen, has enough faith in the audience to either know their feelings on the subject and even whether or not they would care to consider it.  Consequently, they give the viewers the ingredients and the instructions and leave the actual cooking up to the individual (another quiche reference?  How droll).  Using straightforward direction as well as some unobtrusive but still very impressive cinematography by Vincent J. Rabe (who only shot one other film, unfortunately), the filmmakers produced an entertaining little film that has something of a brain underneath, if you’re so inclined to dig that deep.  But you don’t have to in order to enjoy it.

MVT:  Lustig has always had a very unpretentious hand behind the camera, and his direction works because it doesn’t put on airs while simultaneously acknowledging that there is some thought at play.  It doesn’t pretend that it’s more than it is, but it also doesn’t pretend it’s dumb.

Make Or Break:  I think the first kill scene does a fantastic job of setting up the premise and the tone.  It has an edge to it, some unexpectedness (Cassie’s more of a badass than one would think at first blush), and a nasty little ending.  What more could you ask of a film titled Maniac Cop?

Score:  7.25/10                

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Episode #266: Underground 2000

Welcome back for another episode of the GGtMC!!!

THis week we have a couple Kickstarter picks from Martin and Ryan and they chose some diverse films for us to discuss. Martin chose Underground (1995) directed by Emir Kusturica and Ryan chose any Billy Blanks joint so we went with TC 2000 (1993) starring Blanks, Bolo Yeung, Jalal Mehri and Matthias Hues!!! We thank them for the support and the selections!!!

Direct download: ggtmc_266.mp3 
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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Instant Action: The Stranger (2010)

Slow and awkward equals great action now, good to know!

Written By: Quinn Scott
Directed By: Robert Lieberman

The sort of casual approach I've been taking to this column is to attempt with each new review to focus on a specific type of action, or a movie starring a specific action star. Back in the days when I watched professional wrestling all the time I never thought I'd be writing about Steve Austin, action movie star. I'm still not sure if I'm doing that, because while Mr. Austin is in a movie he certainly isn't a star and the action he delivers hardly qualifies as action. That lets the cat out of the bag I guess, but The Stranger is very much an awful movie with an awful actor in the lead role.

The thing about an action star is usually, not always, they can make even the worst movie seem eminently watchable. Cynthia Rothrock, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jackie Chan (for example) have been in their share of movies that should have been horrendous. The very presence of those actors helped to elevate the film, to make it more than the rest of its surrounding parts. The Stranger puts all of its eggs in the basket that is Steve Austin and hopes that he can carry the film with his style, persona, and presence. That's the biggest mistake The Stranger makes, because Mr. Austin is not able to carry a movie and that means all the poorly done elements of the rest of the film stick out even more.

The biggest problem with The Stranger is Mr. Austin, specifically his ability as an action actor. The film tries to hide his lack of acting chops by keeping his talking to a minimum. That was a smart choice, but the film is counting on the action actor part of Mr. Austin to do more than it can. He's clumsy, awkward, without any flare, and most importantly, super, super slow. Mr. Austin's action scenes move like a cow making its way across the pasture. His moves can be seen two steps before they happen, and his slowness only serves to slow down the actors he's interacting with. As a professional wrestler Mr. Austin was a brawler, and it worked. In the context of a wrestling match his boorish, wear you down with brief flashes of speed, style worked in spades. Translated to the big screen his style is just boorish, and slow, and a pain to watch.

Not helping matters is the direction of Robert Lieberman. I swear, if the same flashback isn't repeated over and over this hour and a half movie would only be about an hour and ten minutes. Some of my umbrage towards the flashback usage I throw at script writer Quinn Scott, but it's Mr. Lieberman who presents the flashbacks in the same manner every single time. The direction of Mr. Lieberman matches the boorish nature of his star for the most part, but during the action scenes he attempts to compensate by filming them as if they were shot in a blender. There's a car chase scene that is bereft of tension or suspense because we're never given any visual space to work with. Mr. Lieberman moves his camera around as if it doesn't matter where the motorcycle or car are in relation to one another and their surroundings. There's nothing worse than a lazy action director who confuses rapid camera movement with the implementation of visually interesting action.

When the best thing I can say about your film is that it's awful it's clear that a lot of mistakes were made in the production of said film. There's very little left to say about The Stranger other than that it is an awful representation of an action film. It's biggest sin is that it gives the very alive and vibrant genre of direct-to-video (or in this day and age I suppose it would be direct-to-BD/DVD) action a bad name There are plenty of great action films that never saw the darkened effect of a theater screening room. The Stranger isn't one of those movies, it probably would have been for the best if both it and Mr. Austin were never delivered upon the wold of action cinema.



Bill Thompson

Friday, December 13, 2013

Episode #265: Velvet War

Welcome to another charming and enlightening episode of the GGtMC!!!

This week Sammy was once again detained by resposibility but Large William, Red Waffle Paul and Manchester James carried on the good deed and put together this nearly 3 hour episode for you guys and gals!!! The Gents covered Blue Velvet (1986) directed by David Lynch and Drug War (2012) directed by Johnnie To!!!

Direct download: ggtmc_265.mp3 
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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Seventh Victim (1943)

There is something about the Three Stooges which makes them infinitely watchable.  They didn’t have the finesse and athletic skills of performers like Charles Chaplin or Buster Keaton.  They didn’t have anything original going for them in terms of the stories in their productions.  What they did have was a capacity for sheer jocular brutality that was unsurpassed by other comedy teams.  Perhaps this is why a lot of women (but not all, certainly) don’t particularly care for them.  I believe it was Jay Leno (and I may be incorrect here, but I’m going off memory) who said that men love the Stooges (this is paraphrasing) because they love to watch ugly men beat the shit out of each other.  I believe there is a lot of truth in that thought, and I believe that it extends beyond the realm of comedy.  I think that this also explains, at least in part, why people love things like boxing, hockey, and just about every contact sport known to man.  Sure, there are men who could be considered handsome in these arenas, but by and large, they tend to look like the Gashouse Gorillas in various uniforms.  
But the Three Stooges were clowns first and foremost, and this is reflected in their hair styles (not hair again, Todd!).  Curly was shaved bald at a time when this wasn’t the norm, unless maybe you were in the military.  Larry had that fright-wig-esque set of curls that looked like a canyon with a shiny, bald pate serving as the bottom (and which provided many a guffaw from having chunks of it torn out at the root from time to time).  Which brings us to Moe and his number-three-salad-bowl coif, which bespoke as much of buffoonery as it did of his leadership in the group (Shemp’s mop was too wild and greasy for him to claim supremacy; plus, he was even more unsightly than Moe).  Moe’s hair was reflective of the Cleopatra bob hair style which can be as alluring as it is icy, and this is exemplified in the character of Jacqueline Gibson (Jean Brooks) in Mark Robson’s The Seventh Victim.  I’m not sure if she was adept in the art of the two-finger eye poke, though.
Young Mary Gibson (Kim Hunter) is informed that her (older) sister Jacqueline has gone missing in New York City.  Leaving the confines of her all-girl Catholic school, Mary sets out for the big city to find her sister.  However, she discovers that the world her sibling has inhabited is not only “underground” but also quite deadly.
The thing most people talk about when discussing this movie is the element of Satanism in it.  However, like most of producer Val Lewton’s films, he used the sensational aspects he was handed by the studio to discuss other things of interest to him.  Like Hitchcock, Lewton was a master of the MacGuffin.  In some respects, then, The Seventh Victim (I don’t recall hearing too much about the other six) deals with Mary’s journey into womanhood.  She moves away from her private school, where she has been surrounded by nothing but other girls into the big city, where she has to contend with the amorous advances of adult men.  We can also assume that she is a virgin based on the background shown in the film (she is named Mary for a reason), and this is something coveted by the men who try to win her heart.  While tracking her wayward sister down, she begins at Jacqueline’s cosmetics company, La Sagesse (Wisdom), and it is here that Mary starts her trek toward some variety of sagacity (though the title of the corporation can have another meaning in the context of the film’s story).  Mary has to take a job as a kindergarten teacher, a sort of surrogate motherhood, if you will.  Yet she (kinda, sorta) resists the propositions set forth by Greg Ward (Hugh Beaumont, who, ironically or not, would go on to play Ward Cleaver on the Leave It To Beaver television show), who is significantly older than she is, instead turning to the younger poet Jason (Erford Gage).   Where Greg offers stability and a traditional home life (he’s a lawyer), Jason offers her beauty and art with a less secure financial future.  Jacqueline had chosen Greg (making him a bit of a jerk, really), but she has also vanished from his life, and this points to another aspect of the film.
A key (perhaps THE key) metaphor of the film is about the choice between death and life (or to put it in Shawshank Redemption terms, getting busy living or getting busy dying), and this plays out among three characters, all of them women.  In choosing Jason over Greg, Mary is choosing all of the things young people find enchanting about life.  His is the world of grandeur and imagination, of the ability to do anything your mind may proffer you, but with feet still planted (slightly) on the ground.  Jacqueline, by contrast, is essentially a thrill seeker.  The room she rents over an Italian restaurant is bare aside from a plain wooden chair and noose hanging from the ceiling.  Jacqueline takes comfort in this room, because it means that she has the power to choose life or death.  She is not beholden to anything or anyone.  Thus, the Satanists’ pursuit of her is taking away that choice, and this is why she resists them at all turns.  But Jacqueline is also aloof, as shown by her pale skin set against her jet black hair.  She betrays little to no emotion in her speech.  She is never seen without being robed in a heavy fur coat, as if she were trying to keep her dead body from cooling.  She is, in effect, dead already.  Perhaps this is because she has tried to wrest control from fate.  Perhaps this is because she has finally made the wrong decision in her life.  No matter what she may have been, she has become the antithesis of Mary now, and there is the slightest hint that this bleak mindset will eventually seep into the younger sister’s mind.  But not today.  The third woman is Mimi (Elizabeth Russell), a fellow boarder of Jacqueline’s.  Mimi has been dying of tuberculosis (her omnipresent coughing being the big giveaway), and she has holed herself up in her room, waiting acquiescently for death to claim her.  She is what happens when people give up and abrogate their power of choice and simply live in the fear engendered by this concession.  Whether or not she reclaims what time she has left, it is perhaps she who gains the most insight by the film’s end, short-lived though it will be.
The film looks phenomenal, thanks to Nicholas Musuraca’s cinematography, which positively drips pools of impenetrable darkness throughout the frame.  The narrative is staid, all things considered, and this isn’t a film filled with thrills, though there are absolutely scenes of such magnificent suspenseful execution, you would be hard-pressed to find much that surpasses them to this day.  This is more pensive, more introspective than something along the lines of, say, Race With The Devil.  While frustrated with a studio executive (and I’ve seen several variations on this story, so I’ll just skip to what was said, rather than where and when) who told Lewton to keep messages out of his Horror films, the producer came back with, “…we do have a message.  And our message is that death is good!”  While this was certainly said more out of irritation than anything else, I can’t say that I agree with it, especially as it would pertain to this film.  I think, rather, that he’s saying that death is inevitable.  It is choosing to live your life in the face of this that is good.
MVT:  Lewton and his skill at turning exploitative material into thought-provoking, prescient stories are the winners here.  There is a reason why he is so acclaimed in the halls of Hollywood producer-dom.  This film is a sterling example of it.
Make Or Break:  The subway scene is cited as a highpoint of this film, and I would agree with that.  The scene leading up to it is almost as masterfully orchestrated, but it is the reveal in the subway car here that turns the screw fully on an already excellent film.
Score:  7.75/10