Friday, August 26, 2005

What a world....

Per the IMDB:

"Hollywood hunk Ben Affleck has signed a $1.8 million deal to be the face of popular British deodorant Lynx. The Jersey Girl star, whose new wife Jennifer Garner is expecting their first child this year, will appear in TV advertisements directed by Danny Klienman. Affleck has previously starred in ads for Burger King as a child actor and L'Oreal Elvive hair products in 2003."

Nearly two million bucks! Amazing.

Incredibly cool B-Movie special replaying this week...

For those who missed the extremely well done and fun B-Movie Monsters Special on the cable network Animal Planet last year, it is shortly due to be replayed. Here's the schedule (times are ES):

Aug 28 2005 08:00 PM

Aug 28 2005 11:00 PM

Aug 29 2005 03:00 AM

Sep 04 2005 03:00 PM

The two-hour special examines the science (or lack there of) behind B-Movie monsters, focusing on the public domain titles Giant Gila Monster and Killer Shrews as models. (Extensive clips of each movie are featured.)

I liked this show so much last year I actually contacted the network to see if they'd be making it availabe on DVD, as some of their programming is. They said no, so if you can tape the show or better yet, burn it to disc. You won't be sorry.

Half off on seriously cool DVDs...

(Well, 47% off, anyway.)

Deep Discount DVD appears to be liquidating their stocks of Mondo Macabre DVDs, representing a very solid batch of insane and often sleazy Euro and Asian titles, including Lady Terminator, Mill of the Stone Woman, and many other flicks. MM is a company that puts a lot of work into their product, and if this sort of film is your bag, you probably won't be disappointed. Especially at these prices.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

It Came from Blockbuster! Raging Sharks

At first, I was prone to give amused credit to Raging Sharks for blaming the killer shark action on an extraterrestrial artifact instead of the usual bioweapons experiment gone awry. The idea of opening a killer shark movie with a catastrophic crash between two alien spaceships was so aggressively dumb that it bordered on genius.

That feeling lasted for about five minutes, before I noticed that a huge hunk of the movie—including pretty much each and every shark attack—had been lifted from previous films and stitched together in the most awkward fashion imaginable to make a ‘new’ picture. So obviously the spaceship idea was inserted purely because they had preexisting footage that they were told to incorporate into the movie.

Let me put it this way. If, during the course of the film, you see a space ship, an alien, a shark, a shark attack, a plane, a boat, a submarine, a swimmer, a surfer, a scuba diver, an explosion…in other words, shots featuring much of anything...then the footage almost certainly came from another movie. I recognized footage from such Nu Image fare as Shark Zone, the three Shark Attack movies and Octopus myself, and I was barely paying attention.

And man, they don’t care who knows about it. Certain shots (especially quick flashes of shark attacks) are used again and again, and continuity is not greatly treasured. During several scenes in which deep sea scuba divers are menaced by sharks—in a mix of real life footage with animatronics stuff—the featured sharks will be noticeably swimming directly under the surface of the water, despite the fact that the divers are supposedly several hundred feet under. And later, a seaplane briefly joins a rescue attempt in a mid-ocean location, but the stock footage they had featured it landing right along a coastal town.

Basically, an undersea research lab is under assault by weirdly aggressive sharks of various breeds (watch for the exact same four second CGI shot that is used about a dozen times at various stages of the movie). The Navy attempts a rescue, and the submarine they send apparently blows up several times, courtesy of stock footage taken from Octopus, but then the submarine isn’t blown up, so I guess they just make them really, really tough these days. In any case, the submarine crew doesn’t really do much of anything anyway, other than eating up some running time.

Meanwhile, just when I’d at least given the film points for not giving us the inevitable eee-vil military guys or murderous guv’ment spook, they introduce…a murderous guv’ment spook. Indeed, this guy provides the huge bulk of the peril for most of the film’s final half hour, with the sharks noticeably missing in action for a majority of the movie’s latter half. For a trained assassin, the guy is of course bizarrely inept, but equally indestructible, and naturally ends up being killed about four or five times.

My favorite line, by the way, was when the hero gets the villain’s gun and tries to shoot him, only to find that it’s out of bullets. “30 round clip,” the bad guy chortles. “You should have been counting.” First of all, it’s an automatic weapon, so ‘counting’ rounds would be a bit unlikely. Second, it takes a lot of balls to point out that the gun has a 30 round capacity when the guy’s just spent about ten minutes of screen time firing hundreds of shots without reloading.

With the money saved by dint of only having to shoot half a movie (if that), the producers blow their budget on huge stars like Corin Nemec (Parker Lewis Can’t Lose) and the inevitable Corbin Bernsen as the submarine captain. The latter was obviously only hired for a day, if that, and one of the few real laughs I got was when he tells two other characters to “take your conversation elsewhere,” quite evidently so that Bernsen’s comparatively expensive presence wouldn’t be required for the rest of the scene.

Nu Image has been turning out crap for years now. Sadly, if Raging Sharks is any indication, their movies are actually getting even worse instead of better. Even by the rather forgiving grading scale I employ for DTV killer shark movies, this one is pretty horrendous.

Nice cover art, though.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

John Landis attempts to kill something else...

John Carpenter is questioned about a new TV project:

Q: What's going on with "Masters of Horror?" [An upcoming anthology show.]

CARPENTER: Well, it's a little series that we're doing for Showtime. We have an hour — each of us has an hour to shoot in 10 days. And the first director they got was John Landis. He's now way over budget and way over schedule. So there may not be any more "Masters of Horror." He may do them in.


You've still got that magic touch, Landis!

It Came from the Library DVD Shelf! Ice Station Zebra

A big, robust epic, Ice Station Zebra handily employs two extremely cinematic elements, submarines and the Arctic snowcaps. I suppose some modern viewers might not be able to get past the antiquated Cold War plotline, but save that, this is an extremely good espionage/action thriller.

Nuclear sub commander Rock Hudson receives covert orders to conduct a rescue mission at the titular British research station, which has suffered some undetermined sort of disaster. However, the actual objective is to recover a MacGuffin—like it matters what it is—that the Russians are also after. Thus a spook named “Jones” (Patrick McGoohan—Yay!) is along for the ride, as well as a squad of marines led by a spit and polish captain played by ex-footballer Jim Brown. Earnest Borgnine is also onboard as a cartoonishly avuncular Russian now working for our side. Or is he? Needless to say, there’s a double agent lurking around somewhere, and part of the suspense is trying to figure out who it is.

The stuff on the submarine is fabulous. There’s a great long sequence where the boat navigates perilously under the ice cap—those scenes must have looked dynamite up on a big screen—and some ill attempts at smashing up through the ice. An act of sabotage also ends up threatening the boat. The action isn’t ludicrously jacked up the way it would be today (and it doesn’t have to be), which serves to make it all the more effective.

Once the Ice Station is reached, the search for the MacGuffin comes to a head as the traitor plays his hand. The arrival of a large number of Soviet paratroopers then threatens to really escalate the situation. In the end, we get one of those cynical status quo resolutions so popular in Western spy movies. One wonders if Soviet cinema was quite so oriented towards such even-steven endings.

Hudson, not exactly an actor with a great deal of range, is perfectly cast here as the steady and implacable sub captain. And, as I’ve noted before, I could watch Patrick McGoohan all day long. His appearance here follows his classic spy shows Danger Man and The Prisoner, and his character is decidedly less upright than his protagonists in those series (or, as in generally assumed by buffs, protagonist singular). Moreover, the guy is a none-too closet alcoholic. He’s obviously a pro, but the strain of his work in the shadow is starting to get to him, and one wonders how many more missions he’d have in him after this one. In any case, watching McGoohan and Hudson circle each other with the natural antipathy of the military man and the spy is engrossing.

Compared to recent, pumped up sub flicks like Crimson Tide, the long sequences on the sub here seem entirely naturalistic. We actually can believe we’re watching a crew go about its paces—thankfully, nobody feels the need to explain to the audience what all the various bits of technical jargon mean—and not watching a movie about a submarine featuring a host of winsomely colorful characters. Indeed, there’s but one truly, horribly obvious cliché employed here, but the film was otherwise so straightforward that I didn’t even see it coming, and only was annoyed in retrospect. (I imagine most people won’t fail to detect it, however; it’s really in your face.) Other than that, though, the sub stuff is entirely and delightfully credible.

At 148 minutes, the film was considered long enough at the time of release (1968), to be afforded an intermission. Today films routinely run that long, but here the running time adds to a sense of scale rather than just butt fatigue.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

New on DVD...

The disc of the week is another Retromedia double bill of Larry Buchanan schlock classics, Zontar Thing from Venus and The Eye Creatures. The disc runs about $15.

TV Sets (Key: S = ”Season”, i.e., S1= Season 1. A slant between numbers—1/2—indicates a set that packages two seasons together.)

It’s a big day for baby boomer nostalgia buffs.

First, they will be glad to hear that the earnest, old-school cop show Adam-12 S1 is out today. One-Adam-12, One-Adam-12, please respond to your local video emporium. “Boasting high-caliber guest stars such as Karen Black, Barry Williams and Harry Dean Stanton.”

The previously released discs featuring episodes of ABC Afterschool Specials have all been collected into one 13 (!) disc set, featuring 26 separate tales and available for under $40.

Other releases: Alf S2, Boy Meets World S3, Emergency S1, Good Times S5 (!), Kung Fu S3, Life As We Know it Compete Series, The O.C. S2, Once & Again S1, Once and Again S2, Six Feet Under S4, That’s My Mama S1, That’s My Mama S2, What’s Happening S3.

On the high end is Criterion’s release of the venerable French social comedy Bondu Saved from Drowning, which was remade as Down and Out in Beverly Hills some years ago.

Andrew McCarthy’s career is officially dead with the release of Crusader, a DTV ‘telecommunications thriller’ costarring Bo Derek (!), Richard Tyson and Michael York.

Audition is another Japanese horror flick.

Oldboy is a critically acclaimed Korean revenge thriller.

Anchor Bay releases two Argentos today, The Card Player and Trauma.

Party Nerds Toga Bash Double Feature: Assault of the Party Nerds/Heavy Petting Detective collects two nudie comedies starring the quintessential ‘80s scream queens, Linnea Quigley and Michele Bauer. Astoundingly, the second movie appears to be a sequel to the first.

It’s hot telephone action as Ring 2, Ringu 2, and the Ringu Anthology of Horror (four films in the Japanese series) pay a call.

Brentwood releases another slew of horror movie sets, with transfers that no doubt range from OK to terrible, but at least the collections are cheap.

Back From the Grave features SLAVE OF THE CANNIBAL GOD (1979), THE SEVERED ARM (1973), I EAT YOUR SKIN (1964), THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS (1966) MURDER MANSION (1970), NIGHT OF BLOODY HORROR (1969), IT HAPPENED AT NIGHTMARE INN (1973), LEGACY OF BLOOD (1978) NIGHTMARE CASTLE (1965), I BURY THE LIVING (1958) INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN (1956), HORROR HOTEL (1960).

Blood Soaked Tales collects BACK FROM HELL (1997), PROJECT VAMPIRE (1993), THE PASSING (1988), BEYOND EVIL (1980), DEMON UNDER GLASS (2002), HOW TO SLAY A VAMPIRE (1995), BLOOD SLAVES OF THE VAMPIRE WOLF (1996), SORORITY HOUSE VAMPIRES FROM HELL (1998), BROKEN SKULL (1999), MANSION OF MADNESS (1972), MALIBU BEACH VAMPIRES (1991) and CREEPTALES (2004)

Kiss of Death features LITTLE COREY GOREY (1993) BIRDS OF PREY (1985), SLASHDANCE (1989), KISS DADDY GOODNIGHT (1987), DEVIL'S NIGHTMARE (1971), PIECES (1983), KILL BABY KILL (1966), KISS ME, KILL ME (1973), SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1973), DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT (1973), SATAN'S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS (1973) and HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1958).

Taste of Evil collects THE BLACK ROOM (1984 THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION (1975), INVASION FROM INNER EARTH (1974), HOW AWFUL ABOUT ALLEN (1970), BRIDE OF THE GORILLA (1951), THE GIANT GILA MONSTER (1959), EEGAH (1962), ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES (1959), SHE BEAST (1966), KING OF THE ZOMBIES (1941), THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE (1962), BLOODY PIT OF HORROR (1965).

Tormented Souls brings together UNHINGED (1982) THE HARVESTERS (2001), DIE HARD DRACULA (1998), GIRLS NITE OUT (1983), CATHY'S CURSE (1976), GOOD AGAINST EVIL (1977), GOD TOLD ME TO (1977), THE GHOST (1963), DOMINIQUE IS DEAD (1979), DEATH AT LOVE HOUSE (1975), THE INVISIBLE GHOST (1941), CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962).

Monday, August 22, 2005

It Came From Netflix! Race with the Devil

I hadn’t seen this film since I was a teen (I believe I saw it playing on a late night CBS movie slot), and had only spotty memories of it. However, it has recently joined the official ranks of Hollywood’s new commitment to Remake Every Horror Film of the 1970s. The redo is expected next year.

Having just reacquainted myself with the original, I can now say that it’s pretty decent. More heretically, however, I think it could actually be improved upon in the remaking, if they do it right. (Which they won’t, but anyway.) Even so, Race with the Devil is a solid candidate for an update because any version of it made now would almost certainly be markedly different in approach than the old one. So one can, at least, see the point of it all. Aside from making money, that is.

Two married couples, Peter Fonda and Lara Parker (a veteran of the gothic soap Dark Shadows) on one hand, and Warren Oates and Loretta Swit on the other, have plans to take an extended road trip vacation together in what was in that era a pretty swanky RV. Early on, Oates parks them in a beautiful and remote tree-filled canyon, and they all sit back and enjoy Nature’s Splendor.

Sadly for everyone concerned, however, Fonda and Oates stay outside that night getting tipsy. Seeing a fire across from where they are parked, they make their way through some trees and espy what they at first believe to be an outdoors orgy. (It was the ‘70s, after all.) Unfortunately, it turns out to be a Satanic ritual, and the men are literally flummoxed when they witness a human sacrifice.

As they stand there befuddled—both because it’s hard to believe what they’ve seen, and because they have been hitting the sauce—the coven’s attention is drawn their way. I won’t go into how they get spotted, but it’s a nice horror movie moment, in which someone who doesn’t know what going on just obstinately refuses to do what they are told by someone who does.

The campers are chased, but manage to escape in their RV. The next day, Fonda and Oates return to the scene with the local police. Neither man is much impressed with the investigation, and they decide to stop at the first big city they come across and alert a higher level of authorities. Sadly, they’re not overly covert about these plans, and soon they are engaged in a highly deadly roadside pursuit with a swarm of Satanists.

Well, not soon exactly. And there’s the rub. After they leave the small, ominous town behind, the movie detours for a good thirty or forty minutes. On the one hand, they do so to slowly build the mood, and the other, no doubt, they wished to marshal their budgetary resources for the big chase finale. Still, if Race with the Devil is a horror/action film, which it is, one could definitely see how at least the action elements could be severely ramped up.

Now, in execution this means the remake could well turn out to be a Michael Bay-ian exercise in witless cinematic Elephantitis. However, the first film left some weird holes that could logically be exploited this time around. When we meet Fonda, for example, he’s introduced as a professional, highly skilled dirt bike racer. Moreover, the campers take a couple of dirt bikes with them on vacation. Oddly, though, neither the bikes nor Fonda’s skills are ever used during the chase scenes. That just seems strange, and will presumably be rectified in the new version.

Race with the Devil is certainly worth a look. However, modern horror fans might find its pace and discursions offputting (the best horror part of the film is the truly creepy opening credits). In pretty much the entirely middle third of the picture, nothing much happens. To some, this serves to lend the film more verisimilitude, but others will no doubt wish somebody would just, you know, do something. Also, the way the leads nonchalantly putter around hither and yon after just narrowly avoiding being murdered by Satanists will strike many viewers as manifestly unlikely. Maybe the characters in the movie just didn’t watch a lot of horror films.

Assuming that the low-key horror stuff was written with a mind towards keeping the film grounded in reality—nothing really occurs that necessarily smacks of the supernatural—that makes the often silly and exaggerated action scenes even odder. A good part of the film’s final half hour is a Mad Max-like chase scene, and it’s pure ‘70s hokum, with vehicles inexplicably exploding at the drop of a hat, and a truly unlikely sequence where a guy manages to drive on two wheels for way too long a time.

The 2006 version is to be directed on a novice helmer, but one who worked as a producer on the road trip horror flick Joyride. Presumably that provides some indication of what the remake will end up being.