Tuesday, November 29, 2011

VHS Memories VI: Cornucopia Grab Bag

Here are some random VHS covers/ads.

Ah, the good old days when KTLA would devote their evenings to monster movies, Chuck Norris, Charles Bronson and Jean-Claude van Damme.  Good times.

Next up are three from the really early days of VHS.

Magnetic Video would eventually morph into CBS/FOX.

Ah, my favorite horror film from 1979.  Yes, even more than Alien.

This is a pretty damn good documentary which I believe is on the Blu Ray set that came out a few months ago.

Academy tended to release...Well, tons of really crappy low budget movies, most notably the Witchcraft series of soft-core horror movies.

This is a cheesy blend of Shocker (which came out the same year) and A Nightmare on Elm Street as Lance Henriksen tries to protect his family from a berserk Brion James as a serial killer who somehow manages to survive the electric chair.  Pretty much worth seeing only for the gore and Brion James doing his thing.

This is a neat little low budget horror movie from the early eighties.  I caught it on TCM a year or two ago and found it quite entertaining.

Prism Home Video ad

This is one of Lucio Fulci's more middling movies.  Some good ideas, some good gore but overall it's a bit of a mess.

Here's one from the "Thank god Orion is having financial troubles.  We won't get our asses sued into the next century now!" file.  No idea how they got away with using Robocop.

This was a neat little show that sadly had too short a run.

Here's an interesting action film from the late eighties out of Italy.  It's a cheesy mix of cannibals, religious cults and gore that has a nice role for Richard Lynch.

Here's one of my favorite tapes from my youth.  A compilation of horror clips and trailers hosted by horror host Zacherley.  Great tape if you can find it.

And to finish things off...Horror beyond all imagination.

Well, it makes me shiver to think about it!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Code of Silence (1985)

Chuck's first sort of A-list picture is a bit of a troublesome one for me.  On the one hand, it is a very well made, tense action movie with a surprisingly decent Norris performance, a fun supporting turn from Dennis Farina, Henry Silva as the main baddie and some nicely choreographed action scenes.

On the downside, it does a few things that are surefire ways for a movie to piss me off.

Norris plays Eddie Cusack, your basic tough guy hero cop who heads a task force on crime in the Chicago area.  We see the team in action as they take down one of Luis Comacho's (Henry Silva) operations.  It all goes fairly well apart from an incident on a rooftop where drunk cop Craigie (Ralph Foody) shoots an unarmed kid and plants a gun on him, warning his rookie partner to not tell anyone about it.

Cusack learns about this and advises the rookie to testify against the veteran cop as well as testifying himself, an act that gets him blacklisted by the entire squad with the exception of his partner, played by Dennis Farina.  In addition, Comacho ends up back in the fold as he starts a brutal war with an Italian crime boss in the city played by Mike Genovese.  Naturally, he has a daughter who gets involved with Cusack and all the plots end up being resolved in a warehouse shootout featuring a rather silly (yet awesome at the same time) armored robot Cusack uses to thin out the bad guys before going in himself.

The main problem with Code of Silence is that there are quite simply too many plots for the lean 100 minute running time to sustain.  Andrew Davis (Under Siege, The Fugitive, The Package) is a good director and he usually has a very good command of his story but here he gets mired in an overstuffed script that tries to be so many things at once that it just ends up muddled.

The action is decent with a nice fight on an elevated train but for every good action sequence there is a long,m drawn out trip through the gun planting subplot that just wrecks any tension the film builds up.  It gets to the point where the plot with Comacho and the Italians is almost glossed over  and as the film progresses, it becomes achingly clear that Davis is trying to make a serious cop thriller starring Chuck Norris as opposed to a fun Chuck Norris movie.  Yes, counting on Chuck to act.  It almost works, to be fair.

I have no problem with a complex thriller as there are few things more frustrating than a movie that just sits there and expects you to cheer simply because things are exploding.  The problem is in the execution.  The cop subplot is well acted and all but it takes up far too much time and is done in a deeply unoriginal manner.  Cusack learns about the rooftop incident and has a heart to heart with the rookie.  Craigie is clearly a burnout who probably should be riding a desk but of course, since he has seniority when the hero who all the other cops have supported before the movie started complains about him, the entire squad room turns on him to the point of refusing to send backup for a bar brawl.

This would be tiresome enough but the way it all ends is nothing short of infuriating.  After the gun planting is revealed, the squad feels bad about it and rides out to back up Cusack but of course, by the time they get there he's already killed every bad guy in sight.  Rather than being rightly pissed off at them, he simply forgives them and walks off as the credits roll.  I have a major problem with this just on a personal level.  Sorry but if I'm a cop and my squad is that quick to go from loving me to hating me and back again, I don't ever want to go through a door with them behind me for the rest of my life.

I'm not saying it should have ended with Cusack telling his squad to stick it where the sun doesn't shine but if you're going to be giving this much time to the cop plot, a little more in the way of resolution is helpful.  Ironically, Davis would do a similar riff on this movie three years later with Steven Seagal's debut Above the Law which is a much more cohesive movie.

In the end, Code of Silence works just fine when it sticks to Chuck vs. the bad guys but it grinds to a halt when the cop subplot comes into play which is far too often.  If you really want a good serious thriller from Andrew Davis, I recommend The Package with Gene Hackman.  It's well made, well acted and it doesn't get in the way of its own story.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fangoria Flashbacks: Fangoria Issue #44

Fangoria #44 May, 1985: Jason is Back!...Sort of

Issue 44 is a pretty great issue with tons of good stuff.  Let's take a look.
  • After an editorial announcing a big party the magazine is putting on, we kick things off with a nice thee page interview with Nightmare on Elm Street actor John Saxon.  Saxon has been around for a long time and is one of the best b-movie stars out there.  Saxon gives some nice info on his general career as well as talking a little about his role in NOES.
  • We go retro for the next article with an interesting interview with Curt Siodmak, screenwriter of several Universal classics such as The Invisible Man and The Wolf Man.  Curt is very outspoken and opinionated  and isn't shy about coming off as a bit of a grumpy old man (which he is).  It's a nice, long piece and very candid.
  • Dr. Cyclops is up next and it would seem it was either a tight deadline for the man or a really lean release slate that month as there are only three movies reviewed.
  1. Invasion of the Blood Farmers (1972): Notorious bad movie classic about a bunch of deranged Druids who are into blood draining as a means of resurrecting their goddess.  It's even worse than it sounds from what I hear.
  2. The Man They Could Not Hang (1939): Another Boris Karloff mad doctor flick that's supposed to be pretty decent.
  3. Fiend Without a Face (1957): Classic 50's monster movie about invisible brain-sucking monsters.
  • We whip back to new stuff with a brief piece on Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning.  The production was shrouded in secrecy so the article is a little shorter than one would generally prefer.  That being said, it's a nice preview of the movie with some gory photos.  Sure the movie stinks but still!
  • An amusing little side note before we move on:  The Scream Greats poster for this issue is a shot of Jason from the new Friday the 13th movie.  I think this is pushing the concept a bit.
  • Alex Gordon is up next with a column on the Boris Karloff flick The Black Room and after that we get a chat with f/x artist David Miller who chats about his work on Nightmare on Elm Street and the underrated sci-fi movie Dreamscape.  He also touches on some of the other films he's worked on, some of which are Beastmaster, Swamp Thing and Sword and the Sorcerer.
  • Next, we get a nice interview with author Robert R. McCammon and another article on The Company of Wolves, this time covering the general production.  Not sure why this ran after the f/x article (it makes sense to do it that way to me) but it's still a high quality piece of writing.
  • A review of The Talisman is up next and I have to say I really dig the notion of doing one long essay on a book as opposed to covering several in shorter reviews.  It's pretty cool.
  • More Stephen King related content is next with an interview with Silver Bullet actor Everett McGill.  McGill is a very solid character actor with a nice long career which gets good coverage in the article (well, what he was doing up until '85 at any rate).
  • Up to bat now is an interview with Return of the Living Dead director, the late Dan O'Bannon.  It's a good piece and Dan is...amusing.  I dig the guy's movies and it sucks that we won't get any more but there always seemed to be a certain bitterness in most of his interviews (sometimes justified, sometimes not).  I get the sense that team work wasn't one of his strong suits.
  • We return to exploitation-land with a piece on indie distributor Almi Pictures who put out After the Fall of New York (reviewed on this blog).  As with other articles of this type, it's a fascinating look at a side of the film industry we don't get to see much of.  There's also a nice little companion piece in the form of an interview with After the Fall... Star Michael Sopkiw.  It's a brief but well done interview.
  • Dark Shadows star Jonathan Frid is up next to talk about...Well, Dark Shadows.  What the hell else would he be chatting about in Fangoria?
  • The last article is a nice five page piece on director Robert Wise and after the Nightmare Invasion section, the issue comes to a triumphant end.
Issue #44 is a real knockout of an issue.

Coming Soon: Fangoria #45, We Axe the Questions!

      Friday, November 4, 2011

      Syngenor (1990)

      In 1990, a sequel was made to the 1980 William Malone horror film Scared to Death.  Not sure anyone ever asked for it, not exactly sure why it got the green light.  There is one thing I am certain of, it's a damn fine piece of cheesy film making.

      A young woman played by the impressively named Starr Andreeff (I'm not sure but I think she might be from California originally) learns her father has been killed by the creature he helped develop, a genetically engineered super soldier called Syngenor.  She is helped by a reporter who doesn't seem to pay much attention to where he parks (he seems to be attracted to the handicapped spots for some reason) and it all revolves around Paula Gorski (Riva Spier) an ambitious executive at the research lab trying to use the father's death as a way to oust C.E.O. Carter Brown, played wonderfully by the late, great David Gale.

      Gale is truly the highlight of the movie.  It's not enough to say he goes over the top and chews the scenery.  He hurtles over it with reckless abandon and practically devours every single set he comes across.  Giggling madly as he injects himself with...something, jumping up and down madly as he shoots a security guard, he single-handedly gets this movie two or three extra points.  Without him, the film would simply be just another quick DTV horror movie.

      The f/x work is also really good for a low budget flick.  The Syngenor design is pretty neat and at the end, there's a really cool looking mutation that ends up offing David Gale in a fittingly over the top manner.  There's some decent gore elsewhere in the movie but that last shot is a real showstopper.

      There some flaws though.  The story is fairly pedestrian and apart from Gale, the performances don't really stand out.  Pacing is also a little lax as it takes a bit of time to get moving.  Once it does though...Wow!

      It pretty much lives on the performance Gale provides which happily enough, is more than enough to make it a worthwhile experience.  It's not exactly a good movie but good lord is it entertaining!

      About Me

      I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.