Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fangoria Flashbacks: 1989

Note: Starting with this article, we'll be kicking off our Halloween Countdown.  One full month of nothing but horror.

1989 was an interesting year for the genre and business as usual for the magazine.  In many ways, 1989 was essentially 1988 part 2 with tons of sequels.  Let's take a look...

Note #2: Due to a change-up in release months the issue numbers might be a little off.  Also, from here on in we'll going with brief capsule reviews of each issue, unless one comes up that I feel requires a little more attention.  I would like to get caught up with the current product at some point.

 1989 gets off to a good start with issue 81 which feature such highlights as a first look at Pet Sematary; The Fly II, a look at the underrated anthology series Monsters, a cover story on The Horror Show (released some places as House III for some reason), looks at Freddy's Nightmares and Deep Star Six, and a preview of Toxic Avenger Part II.

As you can see, not much retro stuff as 1989 will turn out to be just as jam-packed as the previous year.  Still, a good issue to kick things off.

 #82 is really more of the same with a little bit of retro stuff thrown in (an interview with character actor Reggie Nalder) and looks at the second Swamp Thing move as well as Leviathan-the second of several underwater movies released in 1989.
 Things begin to ramp up a bit with 83 as we kick off a Friday the 13th tribute as well as taking a look at Puppet Master from Charles Band, info on Clive Barker's Nightbreed, more on Pet Sematary and an interview with 50's actress Yvette Vickers.  Issue 83 is a winner.
 Issue 84 continues the Friday the 13th love and throws in a bunch of summer movie previews: Ghostbusters 2, Stepfather 2, a look at the debut of Tales From the Crypt on HBO and a refreshing return to more retro content as now the first article, as it was the last issue, is an interview with an older horror/sci-fi star.  This time around it's the great Michael Gough who just so happened to be co-starring in the biggest movie of that summer.  We also get a good interview with Hammer screenwriter Christopher Wicking.

Like the cover says, Freddy and Jason are the main attractions here as the eighth Friday the 13th film and fifth Nightmare on Elm Street movie are covered here as well as some lower budgeted films such as Chud II and Blood Salvage.  Looks at horror trading cards and an interview with Fay Wray fill things out and make for a very good issue.

Like the cover says, more of the same.  I honestly have very little to say about this one.  You get Freddy, you get Jason, you get a closer look at Nightbreed.  Solid issue, but very predictable.
More of the same with a good Stephen King interview, looks at Halloween 5 and Nightbreed (this movie was highly touted and ended up bombing due to lousy marketing) and the first part of a fantastic article on the script development of Nightmare 5.
The Nightmare on Elm Street 5 script article wraps up here and we also get looks at Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, more on Halloween 5 and tons more.  This is a very strong issue, though the magazine does seem to be getting a little stale.
A very good issue with the first part of a Richard Matheson interview (always a good sign); more on Chainsaw 3, an interview with Donald Pleasence, and another article on Monsters highlighting things.
We end things with a look at some stuff coming for 1990.  Yep, more Nightbreed (I think my disappointment with the movie might have something to do with how heavily it was covered here); even more on Chainsaw 3, an interview with Joe Lansdale and looks at some smaller horror films.  Not a bad way to end things.

1989 was a decent enough year for the genre but it was sort of plain.  It shows in the magazine as this run of issues has a few highlights but for the most part just seems to repeat itself.  1990 will be somewhat similar.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

My Favorite Era: 48 Hrs. (1982)

There were a lot of breakout stars in the early 80's.  Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jackson, but maybe the most impressive was the rise of Eddie Murphy as a comedy juggernaut.  He joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in the hideously bad sixth season and was the lone spark of hope that season.  By 1982, however, he, along with Joe Piscopo was the only thing keeping the show on the air.  Ferociously funny,  he had a huge array of great characters that had the audience rolling in the aisles and at home.

In 1982, he made his film debut with this early Joel Silver outing, a nicely violent, funny buddy film co-starring Nick Nolte and directed by Walter Hill.  Nolte is San Francisco cop Jack Cates who gets involved in a shootout with escaped con Albert Ganz (James Remar) and his accomplice Billy Bear (Sonny Landham) that ends with two fellow officers dead.  He finds a way to catch Ganz in the form of Reggie Hammond (Murphy), a former associate he stole some money from.  Getting Hammond out of prison for 48 hours, they go after the villain, bickering and fighting all the way.

It's 96 minutes of gloriously violent, funny, politically incorrect entertainment.  Let's take a closer look.
  • James Horner's music sets the tone nicely in the beginning.  Horner really had a great 1982 with this film and Star Trek II.  Two great movies, two entirely different sounds.
  • The escape scene that opens the film is typically well done bit of action from Hill who has always been good at this sort of rough and tough movie.  James Remar makes for a good bad guy and as usual, Sonny Landham is solid support.
  • Nick Nolte is just fantastic as Cates.  Grumpy, sarcastic, drinks like a fish, pretty much the typical slob movie cop in the early 80's.  Also rather typical (for this sort of movie at least) is his relationship with Elaine (Annette O'Toole) which is strained to say the least as neither one of them is exactly what you could call 'likable'.  In fact, the role is pretty thankless and just is there to show Cates has a slightly soft side to him.  On the bright side, at least she isn't shoehorned into the plot as someone to be rescued at the end.
  • One thing against the movie is that as good as it is, it does have to be said that there isn't one single female character in the movie remotely likable.
  • David Patrick Kelly is a favorite of mine.  He's done quite a few films with Joel Silver and here he plays Luther, an associate of Ganz and shockingly enough one of the more likable roles on Kelly's resume.
  • The shootout in which Cates loses his gun and two of his fellow officers are killed is quite good.  One of the great things about Walter Hill is that his movies generally feature gun battles with the sound effects ramped up to deafening levels.
  • Kind of amusing to have Brion James here considering the rather out there twist in the second movie where he turns out to be the bad guy.  It adds another level to watching this film, but the sequel still stinks.
  • Frank McCrae is also amusing as the requisite pissed off boss, though the real priceless moment is one I'll get into later.
  • 25 minutes in and Eddie Murphy is finally introduced, sitting in a cell loudly screeching "Roxanne" by The Police.  It's a funny intro and right away Murphy is on a role.  The chemistry he has with Nolte is fantastic and the sheer amount of racially charged banter is nothing short of astonishing.  Like I said, the film is very politically incorrect.
  • At around 40 minutes we get, and I don't think I'm being too hyperbolic here, the single most important scene in Eddie Murphy's career.  Watching him intimidate the hell out of an entire redneck bar all by himself is a thing of foul-mouthed beauty.  It's not the funniest thing the man has done, but it's certainly the most memorable.
  • The fist fight that follows a few minutes later is another highlight.
  • As much as I enjoy the film, I could get rich if I had a thousand dollars for every time Cates is stalled by one of his fellow officers.  It gets a little old after the first three times.
  • The subplot of Reggie trying to get laid is an entertaining one as it gives Murphy a chance to be as hilariously crude as humanly possible.
  • The car vs. bus shootout is another nice one, though how one finds an almost empty couple of blocks in downtown San Francisco is a mystery for the ages.
  • After Ganz gets away, we are treated to the usual "cop gets chewed out by his boss" scene though there is something very special and amusing about it for me.  I love seeing edited for television versions of films simply for the dubbing choices that are made when the language gets a little too salty for primetime.  Here, at one point Hal McCrae drops the "N-bomb" while referring to Reggie twice.  In the edited for TV version, that's switched to 'convict', making Jack's tired "Oh crap" reaction funnier than it should be.
  • The film ends with a nicely done shootout and an equally nice bonding moment between Cates and Reggie.
48 Hrs. is a solid buddy movie that ended up not only setting the template for pretty much every buddy movie for the next thirty years but also helped make Eddie Murphy a mega-star.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Striking Distance (1993)

Sometimes you come across a movie that you know is bad, no doubt about it, but you end up getting a kick out of it anyway.  Striking Distance is one of those times as Bruce Willis plays Tom Hardy, one of Pittsburgh's finest who has just ratted out his partner and cousin for excessive force.  While chatting about it with his father (played by John Mahoney) on the way to a ball, a call comes in that a serial killer has been spotted nearby.  A great car chase ensues (one that manages to cover the entire Pittsburgh area though not intentionally) but the killer gets away and Tom's father is killed.

Tom's partner, Jimmy (Robert Pastorelli) no-shows the sentencing and next thing you know he's on a bridge with his father (the great Dennis Farina) and brother (the somewhat less great Tom Sizemore) trying to talk him down.  Tom shows up as well buy Jimmy ends up jumping.

Cut to two years later as Hardy has been given a job with the city's river rescue squad (I have it on good authority from a buddy of mine that Pittsburgh doesn't have this) after announcing his belief that the killer was a cop (based on his driving technique and other things) and assigned a token female partner played by Sarah Jessica Parker.  Bodies start turning up, apparently intended for Hardy to find and our hero comes to believe the serial killer from two years ago is at it again, now targeting women he knows in an attempt to frame him...I think.

Striking Distance is a tired, predictable movie with way too much plot (pretty much everyone but Bruce Willis has an ulterior motive for their actions), a killer whose identity is quite obvious if you look close during the opening scene and some laugh out loud moments.  And for the record, this was not intended to be a comedy.

In spite of this, I do find the movie reasonably entertaining as the first half is actually pretty amusing, though the second half drags until the last fifteen minutes.  The car chase at the beginning is really good though from a geographic standpoint it's hilarious since every other shot is in an entirely different location; the cast is good-Willis and Farina are their usual solid selves and Brion James is just hysterically bad as the typical aggressive jerk detective who has a beef with Hardy that manifests itself in some really, really bad acting.  I love the guy and wish he was still around but man is he bad in this one!

Tom Sizemore and Parker are just sort of there and Robert Pastorelli is...Well, he's pretty incoherent the few scenes he has since he tends to sound like he's got a mouth full of food any time he talks.

The film is a maze of twists and turns and director Rowdy Herrington (his Road House is so much better than this) does what he can and the finale is decent enough but in the end it's just a mess.  A sort of fun for all the wrong reasons mess, but still a mess.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Favorite Era: The Howling (1981)

The early 80's were a fantastic time to be a horror fan, especially if you dug cutting edge special effects.  The Howling is based on a novel by Gary Brandner and tells the story of news reporter Karen White (Dee Wallace) who is traumatized after nearly being killed by serial killer Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo).  She is sent to a retreat in the woods of California by a doctor played by Patrick Macnee and as bad luck would have it, it is a colony for werewolves.

Joe Dante directs with his usual skill and flair for offbeat dark comedy and references to classic monster movies (most of the characters are named after horror/sci-fi directors) and the screenplay by John Sayles is quite clever and witty.  Dee Wallace is good as usual and the usual Dante regulars are on hand as well to bring the goods.  Kevin McCarthy is fun as Karen's jerk of a boss; Dick Miller is funny as always in a cameo and Robert Picardo is just creepy as hell as the deranged Eddie.

Dennis Dugan and Belinda Balaski also provide strong support as co-worker friends of Karen's who are investigating the killer and there are also nice turns from John Carradine and Elisabeth Brooks as werewolves.

The acting isn't the real reason to watch this film however, as Rob Bottin turns in an amazing job with the werewolf effects.  Whereas most werewolves up till that point had been just actors with claws and half a yak glued to their face, these things are seven feet tell, scary as hell monsters that will rip your throat out and enjoy every damn minute of it!

The most impressive bit of work on display is when Eddie transforms on screen in front of Karen towards the end.  He has already killed Karen's friend (Balaski) and he takes his sweet time in a painful (the fact that he enjoys it makes it even more creepy) transformation that, along with An American Werewolf in London, set a new standard for monster f/x sequences. I think every single bit of usable footage and even a little discarded stuff was used for this sequence.

The Howling is marred only by some rather slack pacing as we get nearly a third of the way in before getting to the werewolf colony and as great as that transformation scene is, it goes on probably a little longer than it needs to.  This is made up for by a nicely dark ending as Karen, bitten in her escape from the colony, turns into a rather cute werewolf and is shot dead by a co-worker who helped her get out (Dugan).

The Howling is a very good horror movie that is topped by a later werewolf movie we'll get to further along the line.  It's well worth checking out.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fangoria Flashbacks: 1988 Part 2

And now the conclusion...

We continue with issue 76 and the glut of horror films released in the summer continues to dominate the pages of the magazine.  Apart from an interview with Roger Corman regular Richard Devon, the bulk of the articles are devoted to new releases such as Hellraiser II, Fright Night Part 2 (which ended up being pushed back to 1989 along with 976-Evil from a few months previous), early stuff on Phantasm II and the remake of The Blob plus an interview with George Romero.  Best of all is an interview with f/x artist Steve Johnson, one of my favorites.

It makes for a really good issue but the glut of new stuff does sort of get exhausting and repetitious.

This will continue for the next year or two.
Issue 77 is wall to wall new stuff (though still very good) with more on Fright Night 2, Phantasm II, The Blob and Hellraiser II with a nice  big look at the fourth Nightmare on Elm Street film.

Other articles cover b-movie maven Donald Jackson of Hell Comes to Frogtown fame; a look at the crappy flick The Kiss, Elvira's movie which I feel is cheesy fun and a nice interview with Tom Savini.

It's a fantastic, if somewhat plain issue.

Issue 78 is more of the same with stuff on Hellraiser II, Nightmare 4 and some new upcoming films including John Carpenter's They Live and Dead Ringers from David Cronenberg.  Waxwork is also previewed.

We do get a little retro stuff as we get part one of a video guide to the films of Jess Franco.  I always dug this sort of thing as it's a nice way to introduce people to a director's body of work.  The Nightmare 4 stuff also gets a little overdone as we get the first part of an f/x article.  Part 2 is in the next issue and while they're interesting, by this point, Freddy was getting a little old.  I like the films and the fourth one is one I do enjoy but it was getting to be a bit much by this point.

Issue 79 brings us to Halloween, 1988 and what better cover to have than one highlighting the new Halloween film.  The fourth installment brought Michael Myers back into the fold (amazingly enough he survived being blown up in the second one, as did Donald Pleasence) and was...Well, it was sort of crappy but never mind that for now.

The rest of the issue highlights are essentially wrap-ups of the summer films.  You also get the conclusion of the Jess Franco guide, looks at The Lair of the White Worm, more on Dead Ringers (Cronenberg has a two part interview over two issues and is great as usual), a chat with Anthony Perkins about his latest movie, one with Chris Sarandon and a look at the crappy Dean Koontz adaptation Watchers.

We close things out with a look at independent New York distributor Aquarius Films and a very good issue comes to an end.

1988 closes out with issue 80 and it serves a final wrap on the year as well as a preview for the slightly less jam-packed but still quite full 1989.

We get a nice tribute to the departed Duane Jones from Night of the Living Dead;  an interview with Donald Pleasence, looks at Friday the !3th: The Series, I, Madman, Warlock, The Fly II, a last look at Pumpkinhead, plus a few other tidbits.

1988 was a solid year for horror with a ton of sequels and while it wasn't quite as good as 1987, it's still a very good batch of movies and a decent one for Fangoria.

Coming Soon: 1989

Sunday, September 16, 2012

My Favorite Era: Predator (1987)

Predator is one of the great action films of the 80's.  A hybrid of Aliens and Rambo, it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dutch, the leader of an elite military unit assigned to locate some hostages in the South American jungle.  Things get interesting when after finding the hostages have been killed they are stalked on the way to a pickup location by a mysterious hunter who begins to kill them one at a time until Arnold is the only one left who can stop it.  Tons of action, a great monster, some killer quips from Arnold, let's get into a few reasons why this film is so damn awesome.
  • I think the first thing that needs to be mentioned is just how awesome the cast is.  Besides Arnold, you get great badasses like Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, Bill Duke and another favorite of mine, Sonny Landham.  Landham is an interesting guy who has been in quite a few movies, usually as a villain and apparently there was a bodyguard on set for him.  Not to protect him, mind you...For everyone else.  Like I said, an interesting guy.
  • The script by Jim and John Thomas is a nicely sparse bit of screenwriting that sets up the characters nicely in the first few minutes and then just lets you immerse yourself in the world they create.  One generally doesn't think much talent goes into writing a movie like this but writing a good action script is a surprisingly challenging task.  I've always been in favor of lean, efficient storytelling and this film is one of the best examples of it.
  • "Long Tall Sally" is a great way to transition to the team entering the jungle and the scene itself is a wonderfully slick bit of efficient character building.  I also love how hilariously badass the team is.  Even the comic book fan with glasses (screenwriter Shane Black) is cool!
  • Love the tension between Dillon (Weathers) and the rest of the team.
  • The way John McTiernan directs the movie gives the film a great overall sense of claustrophobia.  You can almost feel how ungodly nasty it must be to be in the jungle lugging around military gear.
  • In general, McTiernan was a very solid director for the most part with this film, Die Hard and Hunt for Red October being his best.
  • The reveal of the skinned bodies is one of the best shocks in the film.  It really grabs you by the throat when you first see it and when you know it's coming, it's almost worse in a way.
  • The long assault on the guerrilla base camp works on a few levels.  First off, it's a fantastic action scene and second, it serves as a nice bit of misdirection.  Up to that point, aside from the opening shot in space and a POV shot from the Predator, there is no indication that this will turn into a horror film with an alien.  By giving the audience an extended bit of Arnold doing what he does best, it helps to make the alien angle even more effective.
 Really, the entire action scene is great but here are a few of my favorite bits:
  • Arnold kicking things off by lifting a truck up and pushing it down a hill.  After that, you just have to laugh and say "Okay, go wild, film!  Give it all you can!"
  • Blain (Ventura) and his mini-gun.  God, that thing is still awesome!  His "I ain't got time to bleed!" line is also a classic.
  • Arnold firing a short burst from his rifle and in the next shot, three guys standing next to each other drop dead. 
  • The scene of the still-unseen Predator looking around the site of the battle is wonderfully creepy, though the music sting when we see its hand is maybe a little much.  Still cool though.
  • Once our heroes are in the jungle (now with captive Anna, played by Elpidia Carillo), the story really kicks in nicely as one by one they are hunted and killed.  The kills are quite nasty as well with huge gouts of blood.  Gotta love the 80's.
  • Bill Duke slowly going nuts is great.  His last stand with Dillon against the Predator is also great, though it can be argued Dillon gets the better death scene.  It's not easy to top having a head exploded, but having an arm blown off while firing a gun (that still fires after the severing) manages to do it.
  • Arnold vs. the Predator is one of the best extended climaxes in an action film.  From the setting of the traps to the primal scream to the cat and mouse game the two play to the hand-to-hand and explosive finale, it all works perfectly.  Hell, even the out there notion of being able to outrun a nuclear blast works in the film's favor.
  • Stan Winston really outdid himself with the design of the Predator.  It's impressively ugly and there's a very good reason it became iconic.  Just an awesome bit of work.  Credit also has to go the late Kevin Peter Hall for giving the creature such a great presence.  Truly a prefect blend of acting and special effects.
And that's Predator.  A great movie with a terrific monster makes for one of Arnold's best.  The sequel is worth checking out as well, though it's not nearly as good as this one.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Adventures of Hercules (1985)

Every now and then you come to the end of a movie and just have to wonder "What the hell did I just watch?"  The sequel to Hercules is incredible in that as insane and confusing as the first one was, this one comes off like a fever dream some guy had while accidentally mixing cold medications.  I have to be honest and admit this review is a struggle since I have no idea how to write about this thing*.

*In other words, sorry this isn't my best written piece.  This movie breaks my brain.

The plot, and man is it ever a stretch to call it that, involves Hercules having to put down a coup against Zeus by some of the other gods.  His foe from the first movie, King Minos gets resurrected in all of this and that's about as much actual story as we get.

The rest of the film is just complete and total insanity as Hercules fights to stop the renegade gods who have stolen Zeus' seven thunderbolts.  He goes about this in the way you would expect Hercules to do things, by yelling and punching things a lot while throwing boulders every now and then.

There honestly isn't a lot to say about this film as most of it is so out there that it defies comprehension.  Herc fights monsters, confronts Minos and wins and the most logical thing I can say is that it all looks great thanks to the solid direction of Luigi Cozzi.

I would be remiss in mentioning the bizarre finale which sees Minos and Hercules squaring off against one another in space.  At one point, Minos changes himself into a line drawing of a dinosaur and to counter, Herc turns onto a giant gorilla.  Yes, the climax of this movie is a line drawing recreation of the King Kong/T-Rex fight from the 1933 classic.

The second Hercules movie is an entertaining, baffling mess that delivers the action and a heavy dose of insanity.  If you're up for it and have low expectations, give it a shot. Be warned, you have to train to watch something like this.  I recommend popping in a David Lynch film or two first.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fangoria Flashbacks: 1988 Part 1

And now for 1988.  While 1987 was one of the best years for horror, 1988 is maybe my favorite.  A ton of memorable releases the whole year and equally solid issues of Fangoria, let's take a look.  And best news of all?  For the first time, we will be getting a full year's worth of issues this time out.  The trend will continue in 1989 and 1990.

Since covering ten issues in one piece would be, to me at least, slightly over the top, this will be divided into two halves, as will all other instances where I have the full year's worth of issues.

1988 gets off to a good start with the beginning of a Night of the Living Dead retrospective that covers quite a bit of ground.

That's about it in terms of the retrospective stuff as 1988 ended up being one of the most jam-packed years for the genre.  From low budget stuff like Empire Pictures' Cellar Dweller (directed by John Carl Buechler and starring Jeffrey Combs) to more mainstream fare like Poltergeist III and Wes Craven's awesome The Serpent and the Rainbow, this issue really has it all.  There's even a nice interview with low budget auteur Fred Olen Ray.

The highlight though is the return of Bob Martin as he presents the first of a two part interview with Frank Henenlotter.  Frank has a new movie out called Brain Damage (I've seen it and thought it was pretty decent) and Martin wrote the novelization for it.  As tends to be the case with Bob Martin pieces, it's excellent with lots of details and good stories from the interviewee.  Issue #71 really gets the year off to a great start.

The Night of the Living Dead retrospective wraps up here and apart from the conclusion of the Henenlotter interview, that's about it in terms of real highlights.  It's a solid issue but for the most part, it's a placeholder issue.
Another solid issue that's mostly focused on new stuff with previews of...Well, films that for the most part ended up being kind of crappy: Dead Heat (though I feel it's kind of entertaining), 976-Evil (Robert Englund's directorial debut) and the rather dull supernatural thriller The Seventh Sign with Demi Moore.  It's a solid issue but still not a knockout.
Things start to pick up with issue 74 as we get into the summer.  A short preview of Dario Argento's Opera, an interview with Michael Biehn, previews of Critters 2 and Friday the 13th Part VII, we also get another bit on The Unholy that gets into the re-shoots done to amp up the ending...not that it did much good as the film still stinks.

A look at Beetlejuice and the first part of an interview with Hammer producer Anthony Hinds wraps things up and the end result is a very good issue.

#75 continues to bring the quality with more on Friday the 13th 7, looks at the remake of Not of This Earth (one of Jim Wynorski's best); the excellent Phantasm II, the new George Romero movie Monkey Shines, Child's Play, the conclusion of the Anthony Hinds interview and much more.  Issue #75 is a real knockout.

Coming Soon: The stunning conclusion to 1988!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Favorite Era: Airplane! (1980)

It can be said that one of the marks of a great movie is how it inspires future films.  While the other two entries in this series thus far have had their fair share of riffs and rip-offs, our movie for today actually helped create an entire sub-genre.

 The team of Jim Abrahams and the Zucker Brothers (David and Jerry) had previously collaborated with John Landis on The Kentucky Fried Movie which was a madcap rush of jokes at a rapid fire pace.  They refined this technique here and the end result is one of the best and first parodies.  Sure, Mel Brooks had done something similar with his 70's output but Airplane! took it to an entirely different level.

The movie is essentially a comedic remake of an old 50's disaster movie called Zero Hour that also serves as a spot-on spoof of the many disaster movies that were released in the 70's.  The brilliant thing is that the plots are virtually identical with a food poisoning epidemic on a plane leaving only a traumatized former pilot and a pretty stewardess as the only ones who can bring the plane down safely.

The gags come fast and furious which is great for viewer since if you don't like one gag, chances are one that is more to your liking will come up pretty quickly.  Word play, physical comedy, a bar fight between two Girl Scouts turns into a Saturday Night Fever parody, Leave it to Beaver mom Barbara Billingsley turns out to be down with the street, you name it and it's on display.  There are literally too many great moments to list here.

The cast also does their job perfectly, playing things totally straight which adds to the comedy.  Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty are fun in the leads but the real gems are to be found in the supporting cast.  Leslie Nielsen makes a second career in comedy (and given how lame his turn as a leading man was, this is a very good thing); Lloyd Bridges and Robert Stack are hilarious as the guys trying to talk Hays through landing the plane.  Hell, even basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is funny which is a miracle given how aloof he tended to be around the time the film was made.

Airplane! is a fantastic comedy that started a trend that continues today.  Not an especially good trend as of late given how many awful parodies have been made since but still!  The ZAZ team would go on to make several more movies like this, one of which I will be examining in this series at a later date.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

VHS Memories XXXIII: Oddities

Here are a few of the more bizarre things/amusing things that just make me chuckle I have come across in searching for cheesy VHS covers, plus a few regular movie reviews.

 I honestly have nothing new to say about this movie, I just find is amusing that one of the most amazingly macho action movies of all time has a VHS release with a purple cover.  Does that make me immature?  Probably, but it's still damned funny to me.

 Ah, one of Vincent Price's best outings: a gloriously fun, cheesy haunted house story from schlock master William Castle that stars Price  as a millionaire offering a ton of cash to anyone who can stay the whole night at a haunted house.  Of course, there's more to the story and I would never dream of spoiling it for anyone who hasn't seen it.  The remake from 1999 with Geoffrey Rush is worth giving a shot as well, bad ending and all.

 This is an entertainingly tasteless 1972 action flick features such delights as Lee Marvin as a mob collector, Gene Hackman as a slimeball named Mary Ann and Gregory Walcott as his brother Weenie who run a slaughterhouse as well as a white slavery ring, Sissy Spacek in an early role and a decent amount of 70's style action.  This is a real forgotten gem.

 As someone who has seen this movie, I can safely say that tagline is more than a little misleading.  Also, the cover art works better the way Vestron originally did it (all black), the white background does it no favors.  Still, hilariously bad movie worth seeing just so you can say you did.

 I think this remake of the 50's alien invasion classic is okay, really the only reasons to watch it are the great Stan Winston f/x and a nicely hammy Louise Fletcher performance.  Apart from that, it's pretty much the same story as the original...Only louder...and directed by Tobe Hooper.  Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is by far the better of Hooper's two 1986 films.

 I know nothing about this movie.  I have never seen this movie.  Hell, I couldn't even find a single bit of information regarding this movie online,.  I do know, however, that this is one of the worst VHS covers I have ever seen.  It looks homemade but other tapes from this particular company actually look okay.

 I have a grudging affection for this lame horror comedy.  It's a truly dumb, kinda dull tribute to those old Universal monster movies but it just never gels and wastes too much time on Michael Richards doing stupid, unfunny shtick.  Still, any movie that has Geena Davis in an outfit that is mostly cleavage can't be entirely terrible.

And now to wrap things up something truly bizarre.  In the late 80's, the VHS boom was in full swing.  As a result, there were several novelty gifts that came out, generally around the holidays.  For some odd reason, a fellow decided that what the dedicated couch potato really needed was a series of short videos that would simulate real life encounters.  You know, because that's so much more entertaining than interacting with real life.

With that in mind, I present you with...this.

Sorry for the larger than normal image but something this baffling really has to be seen clearly.  This may be the most bizarre thing I've ever seen.  A 10 minute simulation of the parenting experience.  I just don;t get it.  It seems like it was done in a less than serious manner from what I've been able to find (the fact that the other tapes in the series are equally strange bears this out) but this is still the kind of thing that is weird even when you know the context.

 Well, that's all for now.  Good night, and good luck.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Last year I wrote a review for the 1989 version of The Punisher and that same year, I also did a piece on all three movies for The Agony Booth.  I won't be covering the 2004 version here since I really said all I have to say in the Agony Booth piece but I do feel the 2008 film is worth getting into a little deeper.

Ray Stevenson is Frank Castle this time out and at the start of the film, he slaughters an entire house full of gangsters, one of whom happens to be an undercover cop.  Wracked with guilt (as one would expect), he tries to protect the man's widow (Julie Benz) and daughter from Jigsaw (Dominic West), a deformed psycho who Frank mangles in the beginning action sequence and his even more insane brother Looney Bin Jim (Doug Hutchinson).

That's pretty much all the plot you get (and really all you need) as we are pummelled with some of the most hilariously over the top, brutal action sequences ever.  Director Lexi Alexander (I love that one of the most violent action films in recent years is directed by a pretty, demure German woman) keeps the pace nice and tight and really goes for the jugular with the action.

Heads are lopped off, faces are blasted in with shotguns (and in one case, punched in with a simple fist) and best of all, a parkour practicing baddie is taken with a rocket launcher.  It's all so hilariously over the top that it's a little hard to get too offended by it.

That being said, the film is still pretty damned vicious as pretty much no one except for the main three or four good guys are safe as supporting characters are offed with an amazing lack of regard for good taste.  Put it this way, most films tend to avoid having a senile old woman get brutally murdered.  This one?  Not so much.

Performances are pretty good for what they need to be.  Stevenson is solid as Frank, West is hilariously hammy as Jigsaw (with one of the worst New York accents I have ever heard, even funnier is when he's sharing scenes with actual New Yorkers) and Hutchinson is...Well, he's a damned freak.  Apparently in real life too, strangely enough.  One of his best scenes is an oddly touching moment where he breaks a bunch of mirrors so his brother (who has a real hangup about his looks) won't have to see himself.

Punisher: War Zone is one of the most enjoyably bad movies of the last few years.  It's sick, twisted and completely insane in the best possible way.  It's rather amusing that it failed at the theater since it did exactly what die hard fans of the comics wanted the earlier two versions to do.  It brought the Punisher comic books to life...And that is both a good thing and a very bad thing.  If you have a strong stomach and a sense of humor, check it out.

About Me

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