Thursday, June 23, 2005

Freshly announced DVDs...

July sees the release of the '80s slasher pic Just Before Dawn in a 'special edition' (aren't they all)

A great stocking stuffer will the complete set of Afterschool Specials (previously available separately), a thirteen disc set (!) available for about $35-40 on the Net. '70s nostalgia freaks will thank you. It's out in August.

Also out in August is a box set of the original Korean Ringu movies, that inspired the American 'Ring' horror films.

September will see the 'special edition' release of the fun slasher flick Alone in the Dark, although there are currently no details on the 'special' part. See Murdoch from the A-Team attempt to survive such scenery chewers as Donald Pleasance, Jack Palance and Martin Landau.

September also see the long-awaited release of The Innocents, one of moviedom's most hailed ghost films.

Also out in September: Andy Warhol's Blood for Dracula and Flesh for Frankenstein (separate discs); the highly pointless 1962 remake of Cabinet of Dr. Caligari; The Doctor and the Devils, a british film based on real life grave robbers, and with a cast including Jonathon Price, Patrick Stewart, Timothy Dalton and Twiggy; a special edition re-release of Cronenberg's The Fly, along with a similar disc for the quickly forgotten sequel; a special editions of the classics The Sting and To Kill a Mockingbird; and the 1983 gory alien flick Xtro.

Then there's this: "Carmen Electra's NWWL: Volume 1 - Bush Vs. Hussein: Professional Wrestling Just Got Naked! Welcomeito Carmen Electra's Naked Women's Wrestling League Volume 1 Bush VS. Hussein. The NWWL features the absolute finest in women's professional wrestling, withia great new twist...These girls wrestle completely naked! Former Baywatch star Carmen Electra hosts this hilarious and sexy new action entertainment series that features full frontal nude women wrestling. Harriet Bush battles Layla Hussein, as the so-called "daughters" get involved in the family feud. The epic good VS evil battle unfoldsiin front of hundreds of live spectators; with a conclusion that must be viewed by every heterosexual man, at least on at least once in his lifetime. The second match features the truly evil Cruella Bleeds who battles the sexy and rhythmic Demonica Disco. This match features naked body slams, hip toss andirope moves. Log onto NWWL.comito find out more about up coming events and products."

Universal continues to please with another low-priced set of films. October 4th will see the release of their fourth collection of Abbott & Costello films, including Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops, Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, The World of Abbott and Costello and Abbott and Costello Meet Jerry Seinfeld. 'World' is a compliation, 'best of' sort of film, and the Seinfeld thing was a tribute to the duo. None of these are essential buys, but Hyde (with Karloff) and the Mummy make this a reasonable buy alone for monster buffs, and since you can buy the set for under $20, it's hard to bitch. It'll make a nice-add on to the similar Hammer and Lugosi sets coming out about that same time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

It Came from Netflix: Gunfight at the OK Corral (1958)

This proved a well-mounted, star studded, thoroughly professional studio Western. However, its flaws outweighed its strengths. Unsurprisingly based around the titular gun-battle, most of the film revolves around the growing friendship between the straight-laced lawman Wyatt Earp (Burt Lancaster) and tubercular gambler/gunslinger Doc Holliday (Kirk Douglas). The film concludes after the gunfight between the Earps and Holliday on one side and the Clanton and Lowrey Brothers on the other.

The film is ably—if not with much inspiration—directed by John Sturges (there’s a weird gag in the movie referencing the ‘Sturges Place’), who knew his way around a Western, most notably The Magnificent Seven. Ten years later Sturges would make Hour of the Gun, a follow-up film featuring the adventures of Earp (James Garner) and Holliday (Jason Robards Jr.) following the events in Tombstone. That as well has sort of a middling reputation.

The main problem with this film is that it looks pretty bad, both as a movie and as a historical retelling, compared to the recent Tombstone and Kevin Costner’s concurrent Wyatt Earp. Personally, I prefer the latter, although Tombstone is a very fun movie. In any case, either of those is heads and shoulders above this one.

Compared to those, this entry is almost comically artificial. Several outdoor sequences are shot on obvious sets. Real life characters are fictionalized. Sheriff Johnny Behan, a rival of the Earps, inexplicably becomes the fictional Cotton Wilson, Wyatt’s actress love Josie Marcus is recast as a gambler (?) named Laura Denbow, etc. And in emphasizing Earp and Holliday’s relationship, the movie wrongheadedly minimizes that of the Earp Brothers.

Meanwhile, the gunfight, mentioned in the very title, is woefully misrepresented. First of all, it didn’t actually take place in the OK Corral. More to the point, it involved a nearly pointblank exchange of shots between two groups standing directly opposite each other, and was probably over in under a minute. Here the gunfight lasts a good five minutes and involved people running all over the place. Even more oddly, the Earps well-known matching black suits and Stetsons are not employed here, surrendering a riveting visual that was historically accurate to boot.

If you’re looking for a film that relates the facts with a light hand, you should stick with My Darling Clementine, which is at least a markedly superior movie. Indeed, you could do worse for a weekend’s viewing then watching that, Tombstone and Wyatt Earp.

The cast is fun, but not as much as you’d expect from the opening credits. A veritable roster of famous character and TV actors are on hand, but most of them have but cameos. Even so, it’s hard not to enjoy a cast that includes John Ireland, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam, DeForest Kelly, Whit Bissell, Earl Holliman, Dennis Hopper, Martin Milner and Kenneth Toby. How they heck they missed Strother Martin, I’ll never know.

Big name actors have been drawn to Earp and Holliday since they started making movies, but neither of the stars here does much with their role. Lancaster is playing Lancaster more than Earp, and the film’s insistence on portraying him as a typical one-dimensional Western Lawman sucks much of the juice out of the part. Certainly Lancaster isn’t nearly in the class of either Henry Fonda, Kurt Russell or Costner, all of whom do a much, much better job as Earp. Lancaster’s Earp is all straight spine and those Lancaster clenched teeth, and his romantic scenes in particular are almost painful.

Douglas is even worse as Holliday, mostly because he’s so woefully miscast. Douglas was in his manly prime here, and his suits couldn’t disguise the fact that his massively muscled torso was laughably inappropriate for a TB sufferer. Frankly, Douglas’ Holliday looks awful compared to Victor Mature’s in Clementine, and Mature isn’t remembered as the world’s greatest actor. Even more so is Douglas blown out of the water by Val Kilmer (Tombstone) and Dennis Quaid (Wyatt Earp), both of who provided one of the best supporting actor performances of the last ten or twenty years.

Gunfight at the OK Corral will be of interest mostly to omnivorous Western fans and Earp buffs. It’s an acceptable timewaster, but again, you’d be much better off with one of the other versions of this venerable tale.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Unlikely critic's statement of the month...

From a capsule review of the DVD of actor Tim Robbins' off-Broadway play Embedded, which, surprise, is an anti-Bush (who is called 'neopatriotic', whatever that means), anti-Iraq war piece.

"Its scabrous hilarity is worthy of Orwell as it exposes the lie that "war is a noble porno."

First, I have no idea what that means. I'm sorry, whose lie is it that 'war is a noble porno'? However, the comparison of Tim Robbins to Orwell had me about falling out of my chair. GEORGE FRICKIN' ORWELL!!! Remember in Annie Hall, how Woody Allen shut up a pontificating ass by reaching behind a sign and producing Marshall McLuhan? I'd love to be able to bring Orwell back to review Robbins' little agitprop play.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Time Magazine on "Sea Monster" DVDs...

My all too apparent fixation on killer shark movies et al is tied to the fact that I love underwater monster movies. Which is weird, since there are extremely few good ones and a gigantic crapload of bad ones.

This fact is indicated by the DVDs featured in the article "6 Best Sea Monster DVDs Ever." (Time, June 27, 2005; Page 72.) Admittedly, the fact that they are talking films released to DVD narrows it a bit...but not much at all.

Unsurprisingly, their number 1 choice is...Jaws. I mean, what else? It's really the only surpassingly good sea monster movie ever made. After that, things fall quickly. While I'm more than willing to call the Jaws movies sea monster flicks, even I'm a little leary about so designating their number 2 choice, Creature from the Black Lagoon. Admittedly, we see a lot of the Creature underwater, but in a lagoon, first of all, so it's hardly a 'sea monster.'

Number 3 is John Huston's Moby Dick, which again is stretching things as it's not really a monster movie. However, my larger problem is that it's not a really good movie of any sort. Personally, I think the Patrick Stewart mini-series holds up a lot better.

Number 4 is Godzilla, and...yes and no. Godzilla does start out sinking boats and stuff, but his main actions take place on land. On the other hand, he's killed in the water...meh.

Number 5 is Tabu, a film by F. W. Murnau featuing a "possessive shark". OK. From what I can see, the shark isn't what the film's about. If you're going in that direction, I'd include 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for the Squid attack.

Number 6 is The Abyss. Lame!!

But the really sad thing is that I can't think of much to put in the place of most of the above films. It Came From Beneath the Sea, maybe, just on the strength of Harryhausen's quintipus. That's about it.

Man, that's weak. There have been dozens and dozens and dozens of underwater monster movies, if you count all the killer sharks, octopi, etc. And almost every man jack of them sucks.


Postscript: Bonus points for this concluding sentence in the Time article, regarding The Abyss. "The sobering message: sometimes the monster on the ocean floor is man." Yeah, that's sobering, all right. (Rolls eyes.)