Tuesday, November 25, 2014

From Beyond the Grave (1974)

Director: Kevin Connor

Writers: R. Chetwynd-Hayes, Raymond Christodoulou, Robin Clarke

Composer: Dougals Gamley

Starring: Ian Bannen, Ian Carmichael, Peter Cushing, Diana Dors, Margaret Leighton, Donald Pleasence, Nyree Dawn Porter, David Warner, Angela Pleasence, Ian Ogilvy, Lesley-Anne Down, Jack Watson, Wendy Allnutt, Rosalind Ayres, Tommy Godfrey, Ben Howard, John O'Farrell, Marcel Steiner

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Terror to delight worshippers of the Macabre.

Plot: Anthology film from Amicus adapted from four short stories by R. Chetwynd-Hayes strung together about an antique dealer who owns a shop called Temptations Ltd. and the fate that befalls his customers who try to cheat him. Stories include "The Gate Crasher" with David Warner who frees an evil entity from an antique mirror, "An Act of Kindness" featuring Donald Pleasence, "The Elemental", and "The Door".



My rating:  7/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

This is somewhat different than a lot of the other horror anthologies of the 60s and 70s in that it feels more mature and without much gore.  Peter Cushing is a welcome sight as The Proprietor, the man who links the stories together via his antique shop.  It's a well-shot film with some really good performances and a few familiar faces.  It just didn't strike me as solid as it tried to be but I think I just need to watch it again some dark night.

THE GATE CRASHER

This story takes its dear sweet time but it's got a great payoff.  I loves me some David Warner and he's great.  Equally great is the gruesome makeup on the man in the mirror.  This segment feels long at around 23 minutes and that's the only thing that hurts it.

AN ACT OF KINDNESS

This one's got Ian Bannen, Donald Pleasence and Angela Pleasence (his daughter).  I dig the London (?) street shooting.  Like the first segment, this one seems to go on too long but it is enjoyable with some very good performances and the ending is fun.

THE ELEMENTAL

This one was odd but with a couple of laugh out loud moments (like when Madame Orloff (Leighton) is contorting Reginald's (Carmichael) face) and a grisly end for someone.

THE DOOR

I dug this one and I just have to have that door.  How badass is that thing?  Awesome!  This segment has more of your traditional Gothic-type of British horror you'd expect.

I can't say enough about Peter Cushing.  This guy was a master actor.  Just watch how he handles that last few minutes with the burglar and especially when he address us, the viewer.  Wow.  It's the pacing that might keep you from really liking this but each story has its own rewards. 

Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976)

Director: Peter Yates

Writers: Stephen Manes, Tom Makiewicz

Composer: No score

Starring: Bill Cosby, Raquel Welch, Harvey Keitel, Allen Garfield, Larry Hagman, L.Q. Jones, Bruce Davison, Dick Butkus, Milt Kamen, Barra Grant, Valerie Curtin, Severn Darden, Toni Basil, Arnold Williams

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They don't call them that for nothing!

Plot: Two privately owned ambulance companies compete for the city contract in LA. The focus, F+B Ambulance Service, has the wildest crew on the block. Cosby (Mother) plays the veteran driver to whom rules are meant to be bent. Keitel (Speed) is a cop on suspension for suspicion of drug peddling to minors who needs to pay the rent. Welch (Jugs) is the dispatch secretary with secret ambitions who won't give the boys in the bunkhouse the time of day. Drama and comedy bleed together over who makes the right decisions to land them in the money and keep them out of the hospital.



My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Here's an unusual movie that feels like it could only be made in the 70s.  The first hour plays as a comedy and then there's a scene with the drivers dealing with a pregnant movie that instantly shifts it to a drama and social commentary and that's about where it stays until the end of the picture...that is until Mother (Cosby) hits the siren on a running gag with nuns crossing a street (which is super funny).  Cosby is great and he really shows off his acting chops like he did in another serious drama, the 60s show I SPY.  Welch (as Jugs) just beams on the screen.  She's a great presence and she's a good actress.  She's got moxy! Haha.  Keitel underplays it (as he often did), being the silent, cool type.  But then next to Cosby and Welch he's going to seem low key.  It's not a bad film but it does have an unusual tonal shift that almost makes it feel like there was a top level studio power struggle or something.  And I don't mean to suggest that that's a bad thing.  I rather liked it but as a whole it's only moderately enjoyable.  I'd say it's a must see for any fans of the three leads plus you'll probably recognize a few familiar faces including L.Q. Jones and Arnold Williams.  The 20th Century Fox DVD has a great widescreen print and quite a few extras in the way of lots of trailers including this film's teaser, theatrical and Spanish trailers (all anamorphic widescreen), a TV spot (fullscreen of course) and trailers for Raquel Welch films (all anamorphic widescreen except where noted) with BANDOLERO!, FANTASTIC VOYAGE (fullscreen), FATHOM (non-anamorphic widescreen), MYRA BRECKINRIDGE and ONE MILLION YEARS B.C..  Even though I don't need to see the film again, it's almost worth keeping the DVD just for the great widescreen trailers.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dorianna Grey (1976)

Original title: Die Marquise von Sade

Director: Jesus Franco

Writer: Jesus Franco

Composer: Walter Baumgartner

Starring: Lina Romay, Monica Swinn, Raymond Hardy, Peggy Markoff, Martine Stedil, Andrea Rigano

More info: IMDb

Plot: A lonely aristocrat Miss Gray has a twin sister who's in an asylum. They share a strange bond. Miss Gray is rational but frigid while her sister is insane yet feels sexual pleasure for both of them.



My rating:  6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

If you like your porn on the artsy side, then this is for you.  Franco did a lot of this sort of thing and a good deal of what I've seen is rather slow and dull.  But they're also pretty to watch.  The locations are just as beautiful as the many women.  Everybody is having sex with everybody.  This isn't softcore, either.  This is XXX for sure but it's more erotic than just sex for the sake of sex.  The score is nice.  The dubbing is aurally pleasing but it's terrible when you see it with the visuals.  There's not much plot but these sorts of pictures don't rely on that.  Oh, if you watch it, pay attention to the song Dorianna (Romay) sings at the beginning.  It sounds an awful lot like the theme Robert Rodriguez wrote for PLANET TERROR (2007).  You get what you want, beautiful people naked most of the time and gettin' it on...and for that, we thank you, Jesus Franco. 

Earthquake 7.9 (1980)

Original title: Jishin Retto

Director: Kenjiro Ohmori

Writer: Kaneto Shindo

Composer: Toshiaki Tsushima

Starring: Hiroshi Katsuno, Toshiyuki Nagashima, Yumi Takigawa, Kayo Matsuo, Hideji Otaki, Eiji Okada, Shin Saburi, Norihei Miki, Tsutomu Yamazaki

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  This Is the Big One.

Plot: A large earthquake hits Tokyo, which was predicted by a seismologist but was ignored.



My rating:  4/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Here's a by the numbers disaster flick from Japan that plays out exactly as you'd expect. There's lots of drama as the lone scientist preaches impending doom, loses his job, disgraces his family, his wife leaves him, he falls for his beautiful young assistant who has been in love with him all along and then the shit hits the fan when the huge quake shows up not wearing a dinner jacket, destroying everything leaving our two lovebirds alive to tell the survivors "I told you so."  The lousy fullscreen VHS print I saw (from the Fortune 5 DVD set Grindhouse Experience - don't waste your time or money on it) was dark which prevented me from really digging the good, disastery parts.  The first hour is all drama and then when the quake hits it's night time and the final half hour is hard to see from this print.  That adds up to me being bored with it.  Maybe a better print would garner a better score but this is all I have to go on.  I'm not big on disaster films to begin with but I was determined to watch everything on this DVD set so I can get it out of my collection to make room for something good.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Everyman: Profile of a Serial Killer (1994)

Director: Nikki Stockley

Writer: ???

Composer: Glenn Keiles

Starring: Jeffrey Dahmer, Lionel Dahmer, John Kane

More info: IMDb


Plot:  This documentary looks at the crimes of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and how his life was shaped to become one of the most notorious serial killers in history.



My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

What sets this apart from the many documentaries I've seen on Dahmer is how calming and relaxing it is.  Plus it also spends more time than most with learning of his childhood and upbringing.  We get interviews with his father and school mates which gives you an added level of depth that other docs don't.  What's more is there is a good deal of home movie footage of Dahmer that shows you how normal this guy seemed.  That's the real treat here.  What's more is that this focuses less on Dahmer's crimes and the grisly details and more with his family and the survivor's of the victims.  We get their stories which goes much farther than most docs on serial killers.  It's a British TV doc that's a short 39 minutes but you leave it feeling very satisfied.  And on a wild note, this documentary aired on 11/20/94, just 8 days before Dahmer was murdered in prison. 

The Poseidon Explosion (1973)

Original title: Explozia

Director: Mircea Dragan

Writer: Ioan Grigorescu

Composer: Theodor Grigoriu

Starring: Radu Beligan, Gheorghe Dinica, Toma Caragiu, Dem Radulescu, Jean Constantin, George Motoi, Toma Dimitriu, Colea Rautu, Draga Olteanu Matei

More info: IMDb

Plot: When a big ocean liner's cargo of fertilizer catches fire, it causes an explosion and pretty soon, the whole ship is ablaze. A helpful newlywed passing by in a canoe and a stowaway help try to fight the fire.



My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Based on an actual event, this isn't all that bad but the presentation (crappy VHS fullscreen print with a not-so-good English dub) keeps it from being anything too watchable.  I'm not sure if the English dubbers took liberties with the dialogue but there are odd moments of humor thrown in that don't fit with the picture.  On one hand you've got an action thriller that starts immediately and doesn't let up until the film ends and yet there's almost slapstick-y humor every once in a while that completely takes you out of it.  The shitty print never allowed me to care much but considering it's a Romanian disaster film, and my knowledge of the Romanian film industry of the 1970s is limited, I think they did a pretty good job and a major motion picture. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Born to Kill?: Jeffrey Dahmer (1998)

Director: Sue McGregor

Writer: ???

Composer: Illinton

Starring: Steve Furst, John Backderf, Gerald P. Boyle, Nico Claux, Pat Kennedy, E. Michael McCann, Sopakliba Princewill, Robert K. Ressler, Tony Timer

More info: IMDb

Plot:  Jeffrey Dahmer was a homosexual sexual deviant who raped, murdered and ate parts of 17 victims. Like other killers such as John Wayne Gacy, he managed to elude capture while continuing to carry out his crimes. Like every other sociopath serial killer in history he believed himself to be completely justified in his actions. Why does a Jeffrey Dahmer happen? How does a man become a serial killer, necrophiliac, cannibal and psychopath? Many of the theories would have you believe that the answers can always be found in childhood abuse, bad parenting, head trauma, foetal alcoholism and drug addiction. Perhaps in some cases these are contributing factors, but not for Jeffrey Dahmer…



My rating:  8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I've seen this twice now and it's yet another great British TV documentary that wastes no time and presents the facts in a straightforward and fascinating way.  The interviews are interesting and engaging, you get to see some grisly photos including one of Dahmer's victims sliced open, the visual presentation is compelling as is the score and it's just incredible the things this man did and got away with.  Dahmer was one fucked up cat and this short film (about 45 minutes) gives you a comprehensive look into what he was and what contributed to his desire to kill and eat his victims.  Watch the whole thing starting with the video above.