Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pet Sematary (1989)

Director: Mary Lambert

Writer: Stephen King

Composer: Elliot Goldenthal

Starring: Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne, Denise Crosby, Brad Greenquist, Michael Lombard, Miko Hughes, Blaze Berdahl, Susan Blommaert, Mara Clark, Kavi Raz, Mary Louise Wilson, Andrew Hubatsek, Liz Davies

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Sometimes dead is better.

Plot: Behind a young family's home in Maine is a terrible secret that holds the power of life after death. When tragedy strikes, the threat of that power soon becomes undeniable.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.


I remember digging this film way back when in my college years but I don't know what happened.  I guess I liked the idea of it but the picture has too much going on with the added dead guy who guides the living.  Did I miss something here?  This picture left me with a bunch of questions like why the hell would Louis (Midkiff) bury the cat knowing how badly it turned out for Jud (Gwynne)?  Why would Jud even mention it if it was such a horrible experience for him as a child?  Why would Luis bury Gage (Hughes) after his horrible experience with the cat?  I get that he was upset and all but what was he thinking that the kid would turn out better and after hearing the terrible tale from Jud about the time that guy was buried there and came back?  And further more, why do some of the animals and humans come back in the same condition as they died and others look just fine considering they'd otherwise be missing limbs and shit?  And why did their babysitter, Missy (Blommaert), kill herself and what was the point of having that character in the first place? I couldn't help but think this was a half-assed story that could use some serious revision.  Does the book explain any or all of this?  Did I fall asleep and not realize it thereby missing some key moment that ties this crap together?  I feel stupid now.  The Paramount Special Collector's Edition DVD (which will be up for grabs for a buck at my next yard sale) has a commentary by director Lambert, 3 featurettes (one each on King, the characters and filming the picture - totaling about 36 minutes) and less than two minutes of previews for the DVDs of the various STAR TREK TV series and THE 4400. 

Fear No More (1961)

Director: Bernard Wiesen

Writers: Robert Bloomfield, Leslie Edgley

Composer: Paul Glass

Starring: Mala Powers, Jacques Bergerac, John Harding, Helena Nash, John Baer, Anna Lee Carroll, Robert Karnes, Peter Brocco, Peter Virgo Jr., Gregory Irvin, Emile Hamaty

More info: IMDb

Plot: Traveling by train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, a woman--recently released from psychiatric care--is accused of the murder of a woman found dead in her compartment. Arrested and taken off the train, she escapes custody and flees to her apartment, where she finds another murder victim. She realizes she is being set up, and sets out to find out who and why.

My rating:5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

This is a whodonit that will keep you guessing until the last twenty minutes if she's the murderer or not.  Buuuuuuuut it's during that hour that takes so long to get through that makes you almost wish they'd started with it to save you the time.  There's a lot of drag and poor Mala Powers (as Sharon) for having to act like she's losing her mind for soooooo long.  I started to feel bad for her (the actress not the character).  Jacques Bergerac (as Paul, the guy she befriends who wants desperately to help her) is trying but it's not enough.  He's not so charismatic or engaging that it helps the problems of the pacing.  This could be a pretty good 45 minute episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE or even ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS as it kind of feels like Hitch would've touched it and made it better.  Say, there's an idea.  So far it's the worst of the four (of six) films in the 'Weird-Noir' DVD set from Something Weird Video.  The length and pacing kills it but it's not all that bad.  It's about like the movie poster...uninspiring.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sssssss (1973)

Director: Bernard L. Kowalski

Writers: Hal Dresner, Daniel C. Striepeke

Composer: Patrick Williams

Starring: Strother Martin, Dirk Benedict, Heather Menzies-Urich, Richard B. Shull, Tim O'Connor, Jack Ging, Kathleen King, Reb Brown, Ted Grossman, Charles Seel, Ray Ballard

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Terror is ready to strike!

Plot: Dr. Carl Stoner is a respected snake expert who masks a frightening desire to transmute a man into a king cobra. Realizing that his new lab assistant, David (Benedict), is the perfect specimen, the demented doctor begins administering to him injections of "immunization serum." Soon, David begins experiencing strange and disturbing side effects: his skin is shedding while his body shape is changing. But before he realizes the horrible truth, the metamorphosis from human to serpent has begun.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

Well here's a nice surprise. This is a fun picture and part of it's due to a great subtle performance by Strother Martin as Dr. Carl Stoner.  He's terrific. Really.  He plays it cool and subdued which makes it really easy for him to get away with a bunch of shit because no one would suspect such a nice, intelligent man like him.  The supporting cast is great, too, and it's neat seeing a pre-BATTLESTAR GALACTICA Dirk Benedict.  It's a horror flick so there are a few kills...

That's Reb Brown's foot in its movie debut, by the way.  There's an extraordinary amount of information about snakes in the first half hour, most of it coming from Dr. Stoner.  Martin does a fine job of delivering it making it sound interesting and kind of fun.  I don't like snakes but I was fascinated by how well they broke down the myths about fearing them.  The picture moves along at a pretty good clip.  I wasn't bored for a moment.  While the ending isn't as satisfying as I would have liked, it doesn't take away too much from the rest of the picture.  I'll definitely watch it again someday.  It's too bad the Universal DVD only has the trailer as the only extra. The widescreen print looks great, though.  A commentary would have been great.  There must've been some great stories about this production.  The director died in 2007 but the DVD came out in 2004.  Hell, the cast is still around.  Anyway, it's a fun flick that's not nearly as bad as the internet says.

Dust (2001)

Director: Milcho Manchevski

Writer: Milcho Manchevski

Composer: Kiril Dzajkovski

Starring: Joseph Fiennes, David Wenham, Adrian Lester, Anne Brochet, Nikolina Kujaca, Rosemary Murphy, Vlado Jovanovski, Salaetin Bilal, Vera Farmiga, Matt Ross, Meg Gibson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Live by the gun, die by the gun.

Plot: Two parallel tales of redemption, a century apart. A burglar is held at gunpoint and forced to listen to a story. At the turn of the 20th Century, two brothers feud over a woman. She marries one; the other, Luke, a deadly gunslinger, becomes a soldier of fortune in Macedonia, and gets embroiled in a local revolution. He's after money. Wounded by his brother, he's nursed by a pregnant villager who urges him to "kill for good, not for gold." A dying old woman in modern Manhattan tells Luke's story; her listener is Edge, a young thief who's burgled her flat to pay off crooked cops who can send him to jail. He listens with the desperate hope that he'll find gold that he thinks she has. The stories intersect when Edge sorts out the old woman's surprising connection to Luke.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I was up for a Western so, based on the cover, I slapped this in.  It's a partial Western and not in the traditional sense.  It begins with a petty thief breaking into an old woman's place.  She holds him at gunpoint and starts to tell him a story about a couple of cowboy brothers from long ago.  It doesn't take long before the brothers find themselves in Macedonia.  Their story feels like a Western despite the locale so it's not all disappointing.  The picture goes back and forth with the old woman's situation that takes her to the hospital and the thief's desperation to find the hidden gold he thinks she's got to the tale of the brothers and their constant fucking up the other's shit.  It's more drama than anything else but not without some bloodshed along the way. The thief, Edge (Lester), seemed inconsistent when it came to his learning the whole story and the end of his little journey.  He came across as two different characters even though he went through quite an ordeal.  Fiennes really underplayed his role in a very quiet and brooding performance.  The ending was overly melodramatic.  Parts of it played out like a violent Western tale and other like fairytale perhaps not knowing exactly what it wanted to be but it was probably a bit of both.  It's OK.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997)

Director: Michael Cohn

Writers: Thomas E. Szollosi, Deboragh Serra, Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm

Composer: John Ottman

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Sam Neill, Gil Bellows, Taryn Davis, Brian Glover, david Conrad, Monica Keena, Anthony Brophy, Frances Cuka, Chris Bauer, John Edward Allen, Miroslav Taborsky, Andrew Tiernan, Bryan Pringle, Dale Wyatt, Joanna Roth, Karen Hart, Rozmberska Kapela

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The fairytale is over.

Plot: Based somewhat more authentically on the Grimm Brothers' story of a young woman who is disliked by her stepmother, the film includes the talking mirror, a poisoned apple, and some ruffian gold (not diamond) miners (and they aren't dwarfs or cute). It takes place at the time of the Crusades, and depicts the attitudes of the wealthy and the peasant classes toward one another.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I really dig the attempt at turning a dark fairy tale into a darker horror picture.  I say attempt because the first half is great until Lilliana (Snow White as played by Roth) runs away and comes across the miners where it takes a few turns at an action adventure picture.  It's not a deal killer but it's the second half of the picture that feels like the writers were searching for ways to keep the story going until the apple scene, which by the way, Lilliana is only sleeping for eternity for about five minutes of screen time before she's awoken so she can face the evil Claudia (Weaver).  Weaver comes off best in the acting department.  Roth is OK, too, I guess.  But Sam Neill's role is rather thankless.  I don't know who could have done something with the role of Lilliana's father, Frederick. I like the darkness of it all but there's something missing that would elevate this into something special and I'm not sure what it is but I have a feeling it's in that second half.  The Universal DVD's sole extra is the international theatrical trailer.  It's funny but the Universal logo that plays just before the film is formatted to fit a 16:9 screen but the film isn't.  That's just rubbing it in your face that they released a less than desired product.

The 7th Commandment (1961)

Director: Irvin Berwick

Writers: Irvin Berwick, Jack Kevan

Composer: ???

Starring: Jonathan Kidd, Lyn Statten, John Harmon, Frank Arvidson, Wendy Berwick, Wayne Berwick, Johnny Carpenter, Patrick Cranshaw, Jack Herman, Charles Herbert

More info: IMDb

Tagline: You Be The Judge!

Plot: A man and his girlfriend driving in their car have an accident. The man gets amnesia and wanders away from the accident. He is taken in by a traveling preacher, and several years later returns to his hometown as the Rev. Tad Morgan, still unaware of his previous life there. His girlfriend, who was injured in the accident and is now an ex-convict living with her crook boyfriend in a sleazy apartment, decides to take her revenge on the now-respectable preacher.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Probably.

Does this broad look like bad news to you?

Yep, she sure is alright.  But she's also got a damn good reason to want revenge and you can't fault her for that.  Nope.  This is the third film I've seen in the excellent Something Weird Video DVD set called 'Weird-Noir' and I'm loving it.  The performances are good, the dialogue and so on but it's the story that sells it the most.  It's also about an hour and twenty minutes which helps but the situations these people are in get crazy.  Ted/Tad (Kidd) and his ordeal with Terry (Statten) get off the charts with the lengths she goes through to get what she wants.  Then there's her asshole, woman-beatin' man, Pete (ruthlessly played by John Harmon).  The ending is great, too, as each of them...well, you have to see it yourself.  Seriously, if you dig film noir, you should drop the ten bucks or whatever and get this set of six films.  It's totally worth it.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Pottery at Ilza (1951)

Original title: Ceramika Ilzecka

Director: Andrzej Wajda

Writer: Andrzej Wajda

Composer: ???

Starring: Potters!

More info: IMDb

Plot:  In the second of three short films before starting his long and admired career as a feature film director, Wajda turns his camera onto the potters of Ilza, Poland where they've been masters of the craft since the 14th century.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Ultimately this is just a fluff piece, all 10 minutes of it, made by Wajda and cinematographer Jerzy Lipman when they were in film school in Poland.  He and his classmates made short films that would in no way attract attention to anyone who would see anything political in their films so they chose lackluster subjects such as this.  After the war Poland was under the rule of communism so keeping a low profile wasn't a bad thing.  In the film you learn as much as a few minutes will allow about the pottery craftsmen in the idyllic town of Ilza.  It certainly looks like a lovely place to visit.  The people there are dedicated to their craft and we get to see them at work throughout the process of making vases, sculptures and so on.  It's hard to get bored or excited about this but it's worth watching if, for no other reason, that it's an early work by Wajda.  It's on the A GENERATION (1955) DVD, part of Wajda's War Trilogy available from Criterion.