Tuesday, March 14, 2017

From Avco to Dino: Catching up with Dino

Before we get into what happened after Dino DeLaurentiis took over film production for what was left of Embassy, let's do a brief (by my standards) primer on the man. This was initially going to be a series based solely on the man's work but as noted in the first part of the series, Embassy and Dino sort of flow into each other nicely. I also love the irony of writing a lavish (yet cheesy in a way) epic about a producer known for epic, yet cheesy cinematic extravagance.

Dino was, for whatever his faults in the realms of taste were, a man who loved making movies... and money... which he loved to spend on more movies.

Starting off in Italy, he first gained fame by producing several of Federico Fellini's films before moving onto more epic fare. Literally.

After more films in Italy, Dino decided to head stateside to make films in America and after some collaborations with Charles Bronson (including the first Death Wish) among other films, he made his own big splash in 1976...

Note that I said it was a big splash. I didn't say jack about it being any damn good! I've written about this a few times before and it is still one of my favorite bad movies (though Orca is still better). Just as Dino is one of my favorite producers of bad movies. When the man was good, he was good. When he was bad, weirdly enough, in a twisted sort of way, he was even better.

Dino parlayed the success of King Kong '76 (financial, though some critics liked it) into more movies for Paramount which had handled American distribution for a lot of his international output as well as his early American efforts.

Much as I love this one, I'm frigging done with writing about it. I'd rather be eaten by an Orca at this point than write another word about the movie. Besides, I can't top either my review which can be found on the site or the one Liz did over at And You Call Yourself a Scientist?

This was the bomb that broke the camel's back as far as Paramount went and after this, Dino teamed up with Universal for a while, though he also went back to Paramount from time to time (most notably with The Dead Zone). A disaster film in more ways than one, this is an overblown love story mixed with tropical storms, sordid plot twists and bad acting. For all the grisly details, I'll direct you once more to And You Call Yourself a Scientist?.

Dino spent the majority of the first half of the 80's churning out entertaining genre films that sometimes ended up cheesy classics like Flash Gordon...
Stepping stones for guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger...

And sometimes, unbridled WTF cinema.
You know you're in for something special when the acres of exposition needed to make this adaptation of the Frank Herbert novel coherent for general audiences starts off with Virginia Madsen narrating things on screen (at one point she fades out and back in because she 'forgot' to add some details) and then gives us more or less a slideshow presentation of the planets involved in the plot before getting down to business to say nothing of more exposition.

Dune is exactly what most of its detractors call it. Overblown, confusing and repulsive in parts. It is also visually fascinating, wonderfully cast (I even like Sting, bad acting and all) and directed rather nicely by David Lynch who struggled manfully to make something coherent out of the mess that is the script. It's not really a great movie, or even an especially good one but like Zardoz (one of my other favorite wacko sci-fi flicks), I find it a fascinating viewing experience. In fact, I sort of love the damn thing.

Dino's other go-to was Stephen King adaptations. I've already given you a taste of The Dead Zone as well as this adequate anthology but there's so much more to see...

Okay, there's what I'm about to talk about, another film for the next segment and Firestarter which I already covered. But still!

The lone werewolf movie on Stephen King's resume, this sports an interesting cast and some decent gore effects though the werewolf design by Carlo Rambaldi leaves a little to be desired. Still, this is a cheesily enjoyable little horror flick. Not essential viewing, but pleasant enough.

Lastly, we have the third film Arnie did for Dino, another sword and sorcery flick only this time The Austrian Oak plays second fiddle to Brigitte Nielsen (in her acting debut which proves to just horrendously wooden) stars as the title character, a warrior woman looking to avenge the deaths of her family at the hands of an evil sorceress played here by Sandahl Bergman. Arnold is okay as Lord Kalidor (though let's face it, he's supposed to be Conan no matter what the damn film says) and the film would have been an acceptable time waster if it had just been him and Red Sonja hacking their way through bad guys.

Sadly, the film finds it necessary to burden everyone including the viewers with some odious comic relief in the form of a child prince played by Ernie Reyes Jr. and his bodyguard, played by Paul Smith. Smith is fine on his own (the man can do intimidating and comic stuff with equal skill) but the annoying kid sidekick angle just grates on the nerves. There are some cool elements here and there (some nice production design in the form of some cool matte paintings and the action is decent enough) but the acting and story are terrible and the film just flat out doesn't work. It kind of makes one appreciate Conan the Destroyer just a little more.

While all this was going on, Dino was making some deals and acquiring the film production division of Embassy Pictures. The end result would be a short lived but halfway decent (as in two of the four years DEG existed were good) run of films that will end this series. But that is a tale for another day.

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About Me

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