Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: ONE MAN ARMY

ONE MAN ARMY
New Concorde Entertainment
1994
Cheap as fuck on Amazon.com


ONE MAN ARMY is the Story of Jerry (played by. . . Jerry "Tony Danza syndrome" Trimble) Jerry, a kickboxing champion (again, Jerry Trimble was actually a kickboxing champion), returns home to his small country hometown to put his Grandfather to rest. He senses foul play was a factor in the old man's death. Jerry feels the need to investigate.

The film starts with Jerry's car breaking down in the small hick town. He finds some thugs messing with a gas station attendant. . . so of course, as any self-respecting kickboxing champion beats the living piss out of them.

DETOUR

I have to take a second to point something out that bothers me to no end about movies like this. Small town street thugs should not throw spin kicks. I realize this is fiction. I realize it's a low budget straight to video flick. But really, when was the last time you saw a couple of sloped forehead fuckweeds throw kicks in a bar fight? Never is the correct answer.

BACK ON TRACK

Jerry meets up with his old friend / flame Natalie. She's a reporter . . . or a lawyer or something. . . seriously, she doesn't matter.

Jerry then reconnects with his buddy Eddie. Eddie is a total cokehead bastard. Their first friendly meeting was supposed to play out as a friendly exchange. It feels very confrontational. Eddie isn't a kickboxing champion. He's the champion of earth. He loves beer, cocaine, shotguns, and babes.

Eddie and Jerry go to an amazing bar. It isn't a strip club but there are topless women sitting on the laps of every man in the entire joint. In addtion to this fantastic business model, there is an area when a bunch of shirtless Hispanic and Asian men fight. Jerry is a low key guy, but everyone knows he was a champion fighter. Two jealous gentlemen (both credited as "Mexican Thug") challenge him. . . . so Jerry dominates them. After the fight, one stands up and chucks a cocktail table at Jerry. It's cool.

Enter Sheriff Boze. Jerry's peer with a chip on his shoulder. Apparently Jerry showed Boze up at every turn during when they grew up together. Naturally Boze hates Jerry and he's a dirty bastard in cahoots with Sidney Sharperson (nice name). Sidney has a diverse business plan. He deals in slavery, prostitution, and mining (what a dick).

Well crap. This all sounds quite convoluted. It's a trend that continues.

Natalie tries to convince Jerry to run for Sheriff against Boze. Makes sense. In case you weren't aware, a kickboxing trophy actually qualifies you to be sworn Law Enforcement official. Jerry and Natalie decide to go skinny dipping. Natalie gets shot. Naked.

Jerry wins the election. Eddie becomes his deputy. Boze gives Eddie tons of cocaine. In his realistic coke rage, he shoots his wife in the belly with a shotgun. Jerry finds that Boze and Sharperson are responsible for his grandfather's death. There are some fights. The movie ends.

HANK

The best part of the movie is Hank, Jerry's German Shepard. This dog is smarter than anyone in the entire movie. He tricks the police, Tackles about 4 thugs that are ready to shoot people, Drags Jerry out of a blazing inferno, has his CPA license, discovers the cure for cancer, teaches Astro Physics at Stanford and barks when bad guys come around.

After all hell breaks loose, the final shot of the film is Jerry and Hank embracing. He's the best.

THE DVD

Full Frame. Looks like poop. Has trailers for another Jerry Trimble film and some piece of crap starring Don "The Dragon" Wilson.

You know how you can tell a movie is totally fantastic? When you can buy it brand new on DVD on Amazon for under $3 shipped.

IN CONCLUSION

This is a great movie to have around when you wake up at 3 a.m. for no good reason. It's so messed up. Jerry essentially goes from being a kickboxing drifter to the Sheriff of his hometown and solving the crime of the century in three days. Legendary.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Box Art: LIFEPOD

This Monday I submit for your approval the box art for LIFEPOD. I picked this up at my favorite little video store on Chicago and 46th in Minneapolis. The art itself is a little dull, but the description sucked me in.



"An ominous adaptation of Hitchcock's thriller LIFEBOAT."

"This futuristic adaptation Alfred Hitchcock's classic Lifeboat packs intense action and thrilling suspense into a human drama of courage and heroism.  Lifepod features a top-notch cast including Academy Award-nominee Robert Loggia (Jagged Edge, Big) and Emmy-nominee Ron Silver (Blue Steel, Enemies: A Love Story) in the dual role of star and director.
A lone Lifepod drifts helplessly through space light years from the nearest support station.  With scarce food, water, oxygen and communications, nine survivors on this ill-equipped spacecraft fight for their lives.  Deadly meteors and asteroids threaten from the outside, but the real enemy will come from within.
In the dangerously damaged confines of the Lifepod, it's come down to survival of the fittest.  Supplies are dwindling, tensions are mounting, and people are dying.  Suspicions grow that one of them is responsible for their disastrous predicament.  Trapped with a killer, a new battle for survival begins."

Sounds good, right?  I like Lifeboat and I like movies in space.  Ron Silver is kind of creepy.  Robert Loggia is pretty old and I think was in Rookie of the Year?  That movie is sweet.

Yes, the art is pretty boring.  That being said, I never would've bought this tape if it had this art: 



The movie itself is a little slow and the characters really aren't that engaging.  It's enjoyable enough as an exercise in remaking films in a more interesting way, but in the long run, you're better off watching Event Horizon (horror remake of Solaris).  Or, better yet, just watch Solaris.  

-J. Moret

Friday, March 22, 2013

Review: DOGORA,THE SPACE MONSTER

Directed by Ishiro Honda
1964
83 minutes.  Color.
DVD, Toho collection from Tokyo Shock, 2005


"S.O.S. From Space!  It Devours Buildings and People!"

In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, Toho put out dozens of giant monster films.  However, this isn't your typical Kaiju film.  It has all the trappings of a great monster film, but no dude in a big rubber suit destroying cities.  Fear not, it still has it's defining moments based on great special effects and miniatures.  

As I sat down to watch this again, I asked myself why do I love this movie (and others like it) so much?  And, then, in the first five minutes my answer:  Extremely strange and creative effects, transparent political backdrops, outstanding music, and monsters.  I love monster movies.  When done well they make for tragic commentaries on everything from war to poverty to family dysfunction.  When done poorly, they still have cool looking creatures, destruction, fire, and explosions.  You pretty much can't go wrong.  Unless the Syfy Channel does it.  Then, it's most definitely shite.

Anyway.

THE MONSTER:
Dogora is a mysterious H.P. Lovecraft-esque electric jellyfish from space.

THE PLOT:
Maki the Safecracker is busy cracking a safe to steal some sweet diamonds when he and the others around him start floating.  A glowing, crazy amoeba monster comes in and attaches itself to the door of the safe.  The thieves run away and the monster proceeds to melt the door and steal the diamonds inside.

Scientist Dr. Munakata (Nobuo Nakamura, known from Ikiru, Tokyo Story and tons of other amazing Japanese films) is busy creating fake diamonds when Mark Jackson (Robert Dunham - aka American stand-in for tons of Toho films) sneaks into his house.  Inspector Kommai is there to stop him and Jackson socks him a good one to the stomach.  Kommai gets laid out and then wakes up to Masayo's (Yoko Fujiyama) face.  They obviously fall immediately in love.

In the meantime we discover that Gangster Boss (the actual character name) has a sweet desk radio.  Mark Jackson karate chops some of his henchmen.  Apparently, Mark Jackson is a rival diamond thief.

The mobsters are out to hold up a truck carrying diamonds.  Mark Jackson is on the hunt in an awkward little yellow volkswagon beetle.  They have a pretty sweet shootout, and then a truck carrying coal somehow gets picked up and carried away? We then find out Mark Jackson (I'm just going to keep saying his full name, because it's amazing) is part of a UN delegation to protect diamonds or something.  (?)

The criminals find out the diamonds they got away with from that truck are actually fakes!


video

At the same time all this is happening, we discover that the mysterious floating people, etc, is caused by a crazy space cell, which they name Dogora.  Dr. Munakata believes that Dogora is after coal and diamonds because they contain especially high levels of carbon.  Coal fields all over the world are getting sucked up by the sweet monster in amazing sequences of color.  Munakata is trying to find a solution and the army is just shooting missiles at Dogora.

Along the way Mark Jackson and Kommai become buddies, have dynamite put in their collared shirts, have a gun / dynamite fight with the mob and eventually become the best of friends.  Dr. Munakata realizes that Dogora fears wasps (yep) and the military begins to create weaponized wasp toxin to fight the space monster.

THE EVALUATION
I love the craziness of Honda's imagination.  It seems to have no bounds.  Here, he combines elements of American Film Noir with his love of monsters.  He never shows Dogora in it's entirety.  Large, menacing tentacles dangerously swing for planes and dislodge bridges, but their master is never seen.

dogora.jpg (1175×500)
Cthulu?

IThe monster's motives are very suspect.  Most of the monsters in the Kaiju pantheon are pretty straightforward.  Godzilla was created by atomic energy and is tragically drawn toward cities.  Biollante was created from cells from Godzilla, and is seeking to be the only giant creature on the planet, etc...  But, so little is known about Dogora, I can't help but feel especially curious.  Is it a lost creature, simply trying to get what it needs to survive?  Is it one of millions that will one day overrun the planet?  Is it the last of a dying race?

Set Yourself Up:

  • If you have a pet, keep it near.  My cat, Mingus, watches pretty much every movie with me.  He is also a bastard.  However, the crazy heart-beat sounds Dogora makes had Mingus going crazy.  It was pretty entertaining.  
bastard

  • The Chinese eat plenty of Jellyfish, but I find that unsettling, so I recommend a stir-fry with tofu.  They say that Jellyfish take on whatever flavor you cook them in and tofu does the same.  
The Disc:
The Tokyo Shock DVD is attractive enough, has two English subtitles and both the Japanese and English soundtracks.  Not much for special features, just the trailer, plus previews for Gappa (best trailer ever), Matango, The Mysterians, and Varan the Unbelievable.

-J. Moret


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Review: RAGE

Directed by Joseph Merhi
1995
94 mins.  Color.
VHS, from our friends at PM Entertainment Group, incorporated



The mid 1990s were a glorious time for action films.  You could make a straight to video feature with a decent-sized budget and most likely make your money back.  Video Rental stores were in their heyday and we were able to have companies like PM Entertainment pump out countless films like this one.

At the same time, there was a general understanding between filmmakers and audiences that action and violence should be taken lightly.  Jackie Chan played up physical comedy in the style of Buster Keaton and Arnold Schwarzenegger said one-liners in the midst of brutal violence.  It was played over-the-top or tongue-in-cheek.

Many action films made now are almost completely joyless.  Films like Drive Angry and The Expendables 2 do a nice job of harking back to that time, while films like Raid: Redemption are decidedly darker and more serious.  That is not to dismiss Raid, as it was one of the more visceral and uncomfortably violent movies I've ever seen in a theater.  It just wasn't "fun."

Rage, on the other hand, is only fun.  I can't imagine taking even a single moment seriously.

The Plot:
Gary Daniels (straight-to-video action missionary) is Alex Gainer, 2nd grade teacher.  He loves his wife and his daughter.  He drives a sedan.  He gives a lecture to the students about carnivores that is about five minutes too long.  He somehow gets onto Jeffrey Dahmer.  Um?  Then, he has this exchange with a student named Roger:
Roger:  "I don't like people.  I think they're evil."
Gainer: "Sounds like Roger has lost his faith in humanity.  Why don't we all stand up and tell Roger we love him."

This is the type of quality character development and dialogue I was hoping for.    First of all, why is Gainer talking to his 2nd graders about Jeffrey Dahmer?  It just gets better.

He drops his daughter off at soccer practice or school or something... and then Emilio Rivera gets in his car and puts a gun to his head.  He tells him to drive.  Police begin to chase his car.  They run him down, pull Rivera out of the car and then knock them both unconscious.  The unsuspecting Gainer is then taken to a secret lab where mad scientists have been doing experiments on people to create the perfect soldier.  (a brand new concept never before seen in anything)  However, the scientists seem hesitant to experiment on Gainer as they "only use illegals and criminals."  The policeman explains that Gainer has an accent and is a foreigner, so it's okay.  The scientists are pumped because this specimen isn't "malnourished" and in "perfect health."

Alright, stop.  So, I'm pretty sure the writers or directors or someone thought this was a pretty good idea.  Maybe they were trying bring a little politics into it?  Maybe they were trying make a statement about how we view Latinos and immigrants as disposable.  Maybe.  But, probably not.  It's probably a plot device to explain away why an English guy makes sense as an American action hero.  And, even if they were trying, they failed miserably.  If you're trying to bring light to racism, why is it a white guy that finally breaks the system?  Why are all of the Latinos "malnourished?"  Either way, here we are.  Gainer needs to escape.

The sign of quality.
And, escape he does.  With great flair.  He kills about 45 people in the span of seven minutes.  He beats dudes up while he is in a straight jacket, he uses a tazer, kicks a douche in the crotch, shoots a bunch of people with an uzi...  Then he gets tazed and put into the boot (like how I used the English term for trunk?  Eh?) of his car and driven out to the middle of nowhere.  They plan to drive the car off a cliff with poor Gainer inside.  However, first they remove him from the boot.  What?!  Oh, no.  He's awake again.  He proceeds to dominate everyone, including shoving a dude in his car and then pushing it over the edge.

He gets picked up by a truck driver, proceeds to have a ten minute chase scene, in which he says, "I've got nothing to lose!"  What?  Already?  What have you lost?  You still have a wife and daughter, house, car, job, citizenship, freedom.  Well, apparently none of that counts anymore.

Then, the most incredible sequence in film history.  Gainer gets on top of his truck and plays chicken with a loose cannon police officer who has commandeered a school bus.  Gainer jumps just as the two giant vehicles hit and he flies over the bus, to roll to a safe stop.  He has a bit of a limp for awhile, but don't worry, he drinks half a gallon of milk at some weird S&M farm and is fine.

A lot more action happens.  There is a boring journalist that provides more needed political insight and room for debate on the media.

The Evaluation:
I obviously think this movie is amazing.  I love lazy and poorly manufactured plots and characters in movies like this, because we don't care.  You aren't actually invested in the hero at all.  You want to see him do sweet stuff.  And, that he does.  Which leads me to my favorite part of this movie.  There is no discernable reason why Alex can do all these amazing things.  I kept thinking they were going to annoyingly reveal that in a past life he had been a spy or a Navy Seal or something.  Nope.  Just a dude who knows how to drive an eighteen wheeler, shoot uzis, pistols and shotguns.  He somehow is an incredible fighter that can never be stopped.  At one point they allude to him doing Karate and his Sensei helps hide his family (which leads to the most awkward exchange ever.  Gainer and Sensei speak in Japanese for two minutes without subtitles.  Incredible.)  But, none of that explains how he can fall from a helicopter through a giant pane of glass and have no injuries.  Perhaps we're meant to believe that the injection he gets from the mad scientists has made him a super soldier?

If you truly want to have a great night, you could do a whole lot worse than Rage.


In case you needed convincing
The Hype:
I think if you explain to your friends that Gary Daniels puts a man into the Torture Rack of Doom and then tosses him over the railing at a mall, they will watch this with you.

Set Yourself Up:
If you're going to do it right, you need to plan ahead.  If you're like Alex (he's the everyman, so you are), you need leftovers and milk on the ground to regain your strength.  Go get some Kentucky Fried Chicken and leave it in the fridge overnight.  Bring out the leftover KFC and a half-gallon of milk.

The Goods:
The PM Entertainment VHS is quality.  You get two trailers for other Joseph Merhi films: Skyscraper starring Anna Nicole Smith and The Sweeper.  Both trailers are about five minutes long and you get to see about the whole film, which is sweet, because you will probably never watch more than that.

Needless Trivia:
Alex Gaynor is also the name of the First Assistant Director.  Lucky guy.

-J. Moret



Monday, March 18, 2013

Box Art: CORRUPT

Sometimes movies aren’t as awesome as the box art and description they present.  Today, I offer Roberto Faenza's Corrupt. "A highly original psychological whodunit."


"No one is safe in the world of police corruption.  A vicious cop-killer who slits throats runs rampant.  The police are involved in illegal activities that result in conspiracies and more murder.

Soon the policeman's world of luxury turns into a nightmare as a witness to his illegal activities tries to force him into committing yet another murder.

As the venal policeman begins to lose control of the situation, the story takes suspenseful twists and turns, and in the end corruption becomes the master of fate."

The description isn't great, and that should've tipped me off to this being kind of dull.  But, Harvey Keitel is in it, which comes shortly after his turn in Bad Lieutenant.  What really sold me on this was the cover.  Dude looks freaked out.  There are Italian names like Roberto and Giuseppe.  And, music by Ennio Morricone.  I typically take things like that to mean either super crazy or super quality.  Either way, I'm into it.

Unfortunately, this moves very slow and I lost interest pretty quickly.  But, I'm still a fan of that art.

- J. Moret

Friday, March 15, 2013

Guest Review: TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA


Directed by Ishiro Honda
1975
79 mins.   Color
DVD, released by Sony Wonder



The 1970s were a strange time for Godzilla.  After the experimental wonder that is Godzilla vs. Hedorah and the appearance of a Godzilla-based theme park in Godzilla vs. Gigan, the kaiju franchise stumbled into the metaphorical ocean with 1973’s Godzilla vs. Megalon.  Declining budgets and randomly goofy storylines had taken their toll, resulting in an entry that is practically unbearable without the help of the classic Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode.

Desperate to reinvigorate the series, Toho introduced Mechagodzilla in 1974.  It was a nice idea, but the resulting Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla did not exactly live up to the concept of this iconic villain.  Possibly to blame was the Planet of the Apes series which inspired the evil, not-exactly-threatening space apes of this story, but I would instead point the finger at King Seesar.  Godzilla was clearly not having much luck with sidekicks by this time, with this kaiju dog and Megalon’s Jet Jaguar being a far cry from Anguirus or Mothra.

Adding to this problem was the fact that rival studio Toei was dominating the kaiju marketplace on television while Hollywood imports were defeating local movies at the box office.  Perhaps there was no longer any room for Godzilla in the marketplace.  Toho had one final ace up their sleeve, however, and his name was Ishiro Honda.

The grandfather of the kaiju ganre, Honda’s work includes the original Gojira along with such classics as Mothra, Matango, Atragon, The Mysterians, Dagora, Frankenstein Conquers the World, War of the Gargantuas, and Yog: Monster From Space.  If the Showa era was going to go out, having Honda return one final time was akin to ABC crawling back to David Lynch for the Twin Peaks finale.  It might have not been able to save the series, but damn if it didn’t go out on top.

1975’s Terror of Mechagodzilla not only brought Honda back into the fold, but also composer Akira Ifukube after a nine-year absence.  The story, a result of a screenwriting contest won by the series’ first female writer Yukiko Takayama, focuses on mad scientist Dr. Mafune.  You see, evil aliens are funding the doctor to reconstruct Mechagodzilla and have also resurrected his dead daughter as a cyborg.  Because of course they have.

Part of what makes the story work is its slow pace and serious tone.  In fact, Terror of Mechagodzilla is perhaps the most adult film in the series since the original two entries.  Along for the ride is actor Akihiko Harata as Dr. Mafune, best known for his turn in the original Gojira as Daisuke Serizawa.  One of cinema’s great tragic figures, Serizawa was the creator of the shockingly lethal Oxygen Destroyer, which he ends up sacrificing his life for just to keep it away from the rest of the world.  Having Harata return to play another scientist is yet another way the series comes full-circle, along with featuring another shocking suicide by the time the film ends.



But enough about the humans.  Don’t be fooled by Terror of Mechagodzilla’s title, because the true star of this film is the awe-inspiring Titanosaurus.

Created by special effects expert Teruyoshi Nakano, this all-new creation is a refreshing step away from the increasingly alien/robotic villains that had become the norm.  Its simple, amphibious design instead harkened back to the old days of Anguirus and Baragon when kaiju resembled evolved dinosaurs.  With the help of Nakano’s low-angle cinematography, Titanosaurus is an immensely menacing creature, one of the very best additions to the Godzilla mythos, though also tragically one of the very few Godzilla villains who never made the title.

Godzilla himself enters the picture in style and comes across more terrifying than he has in years.  That is, until the very last shot of the film, which would be the last time audiences would lay eyes on the beast for nine years.  Featuring a different Godzilla costume previously used only for exhibitions, he flashes a big goofy grin before waddling back into the ocean.  What has previously been a somber Showa finale transforms into “Bye kids!”  It’s weird, but then, I suppose that’s to be expected by this point.

Like many of the Godzilla films, Terror of Mechagodzilla’s U.S. release got pretty complicated.  Originally, there were two separate versions made in 1978, a highly edited one by Bob Conn Enterprises for a theatrical release (known as Terror of Godzilla) and a television version done by Henry Saperstein which was the first to call this Terror of Mechagodzilla (the Japanese title is actually Mechagodzilla’s Counterattack, also woefully neglecting Titanosaurus).  

The version I watched was Bob Conn’s Sony Wonder 2002 edition on DVD, which I do not recommend.  This edited version cuts out a lot of the violence and I believe the only shot of nudity to ever appear in a Godzilla film, and also makes the tragic suicide quite confusing.  I recommend hunting down the Toho Master Collection version released last year that features both the original Japanese and English versions.

When to Watch:
Saturday afternoon at the end of a small marathon of old Showa Godzilla picks.

Alone or with Friends:
With friends, of course.  Have a whole kaiju party, but toss out anyone who complains that this one is ‘too slow.’

Meal or beverage
If you want to go Japanese, save the sake toasts for the far more depressing Godzilla vs. Destroyah.  I recommend Kirin beer.  Also, junk food.  Lots of junk food.



- Joseph Larsen
Larsen is a filmmaker, writer and lover of Godzilla who resides in Minneapolis.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A SHORT RANT ON KAIJU

Kaiju is a term used to describe monsters in Japananese films, it literally translates to Strange Beast.  Kaiju-eiga = Monster Movie.

In Japan, a creature was introduced in 1954 that defined a decade of pop cinema.  Godzilla arose from the sea and took the island by storm.  Director Ishiro Honda brought the giant lizard / dinosaur into the heart of Tokyo and destroyed it like never before in a film.  Politically charged, in many ways this was a protest film.  During World War II, America had fire-bombed the wooden city over and killed up to 100,000 people.  American troops still occupied much of the island, and open criticism was not allowed.  Most Japanese people were still not aware of the full extent of the devastation that took place at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The world was coming to grips with the fact that we now had the physical power to destroy the planet in a matter of minutes.  In Japan, a creature made from the fallout of American atomic bombs put that menace into a physical form.



In 1933, King Kong was a tragic Beauty and the Beast tale that brought the dangers of capitalism directly home during the great depression.  Having recently re-visited it, I am astounded by it's beauty and violence.  I would say it now stands as one of my favorite films of all time.  I am a sucker for practical effects, and I think it would still be hard to beat the look of the stop-motion in that film.

Twenty years later, the world had changed dramatically.  The traumas of a world war changed monsters from tragic, empathetic victims of our greed to slow, lumbering, and powerful other-wordly mutants.  In America, films like The Blob, Them! and Plan 9 From Outer Space were about communism and the fears that come with being a major super power.

Japan was reeling from their entire culture being up-rooted.  They had not, and in many ways still haven't, dealt with their atrocities of being a colonial super-power in Asia.  They were a country that had literally been burnt to the ground and needed to be re-built.  Godzilla was an embodiment of the destruction they were going through.  He was a metaphor for the American military.  The 1954 film is absolutely brilliant.  It's emotional and beautiful and stands up next to King Kong as a major landmark in Monster movies.  It also spawned an entire genre that continues.

Kaiju films are intimidating simply for the sheer number of them.  There are no less than twenty-eight Godzilla films alone.  Tons of other franchises also popped up around them.  Gamera, Mothra, Daimajin, Dogora, Destroyah, Ghidorah, Biollante, Baragon, just to name a few...  Some of which are absolutely brilliant, and almost all of which have a charming nature to their destruction.  As Honda would direct a ton of them, his hope for international solutions to big problems come through in nearly all of them.  The United Nations is called on to come together to provide support and ideas.  Science, the cause of nearly all the problems, is also the solution.  Toxins made from the venom of wasps or an oxygen destroyer developed by scientists make for the solution.

For a comprehensive history, see: http://godzilla.wikia.com/wiki/Godzilla

Over the next few months, as we get excited about Guillermo Del Toro's kaiju homage film, Pacific Rim, we will be introducing you to some of our favorites.


- J. Moret

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Box Art: SPLITZ

Vestron Video
89 Minutes, Rated PG-13




This Monday I submit for your approval the box art for SPLITZ. I picked this up at a thrift store in suburban Philadelphia. I couldn't resist it. This box is quite fetching.

Vestron Video certainly succeeded in creating a visually appealing box. The orientation of the box is obviously It's most unique characteristic. In fact, I'm not aware of any releasing companies that took this approach (though I have a feeling it's been done more than once). I would doubt that many video stores displayed the tape horizontally. That would just take up too much shelf space, but it's very cool regardless.

The colors on the box catch your eye. Electric blue, white, and pink suggest this will be a lighthearted and silly movie. The font SPLITZ is written in suggests that it might get a little sexy. The well endowed blond splitting across the box horizontally makes the tape also supports the sexy theory. It's 80's sexy. The cartoony women on this box most likely got people to rent this video more than the content of the tape itself. That was the key to video store boom of the 1980's: Make the movie look as appealing as possible, even though it may be a turd.

SPLITZ is certainly on the turd end of the spectrum. The synopsis on the back of the box makes the movie sound like it's going to be fun for a night of trashy fun. Sadly, the film itself falls well short of "ANIMAL HOUSE was tame compared to these sorority sisters!" It's more like a broke ass version of REVENGE OF THE NERDS with extremely violent and inaccurate instrument miming during the music scenes. While it's completely watchable, it isn't very exciting and 3/4 of the cast are expendable.

But it is does have something going for it: It's one of those weird PG-13 movies with frontal female nudity. Imagine being 14 in 1984 and going to rent a video. YOU COULD GET A MOVIE WITH NAKED BOOBS IN IT!

- M. McSlam

Friday, March 8, 2013

Review: THE JOSEPH LARSEN COLLECTION



Bizarro Films Releasing has done a wonderful job putting together a trio of films from Minneapolis resident and friend of the site, Joseph Larsen.  Larsen works in low grade digital formats, largely devoid of dialogue. Experimental and beautiful, his style captures loneliness and boredom with grace.  Decidedly unambitious, his budgets are not micro-budgets, but rather budget-less.  Uncompromising and patient, his style is completely his own.  Grossly under-appreciated until now, it is wonderful to see him get the attention he deserves.

COSMIC DISSONANCE
2006
Color, 55 mins.
4:3, digital video

As a first film, this one defined Larsen's style.  He hates working with crews, waiting for lighting, working with actors, etc...  He is a solitary artist, and yet has chosen an art form that demands collaboration.  That combination provides for a jarring simplicity that few young directors seem to have the patience or daring to do.
Cosmic Dissonance is the perfect example.  It is a sparse and simple post-apocalyptic piece.  As Larsen does in the rest of his films, here he captures the ordinary in the extraordinary.  Lonely Woman (Larsen regular, Jennifer Bahe) wanders the wasteland, listening to music, searching for food.  There is not a single line of dialogue.  Bahe is gracefully captured in fields, on railroad tracks and in candle-lit apartments.  Larsen follows closely in hand-held tracking shots.  The sound design is impressive as it seems completely devoid of modern life.


WHEN THE SIDEWALK ENDS
2008
Color, 70 mins.
4:3, digital video

Rooted in Larsen's love of film noir and samurai films, this is about existential wandering, in the way of Antonioni.  Haskel (Tony Angelino) has a goal in mind, but he seems to forget what it is. Strangely funny and bewildering, there is no shortage of beautiful photography.  This also marks his move towards not moving the camera.


TONIGHT, WE STAY INDOORS
2012
Color, 55 mins.
4:3, digital video

My favorite of the collection.  Davi (the very natural Natalie Sosnay) is the sole survivor of the umbrella killer's horrible night of murders. Playing off of Halloween and taking it to it's natural conclusion: sadness and isolation. All of her friends have been killed. Her life is now punctuated by trips to the laundromat and drinking Pepsi.
Larsen's nostalgia is on full display here.  Pluto has been demoted from being a planet and Crystal Clear Pepsi has disappeared.  Lazily and coldly narrated by Larsen, it is both funny and fascinating.  He follows Davi as she visits the house where the horrors took place.  It is now a tourist site in the vein of Ed Gein or Jeffrey Dahmer's house.
The camerawork is more sparse than ever, including dark shots that last several minutes, only showing the flare of a lamp in a window.
The use of the low grade digital serves Larsen best here, as well.









Set Yourself Up:

  • Before you watch TONIGHT, I recommend watching Halloween or Slumber Party Massacre on VHS.
  • Buy yourself some Pepsi.
The Goods:

This is a great collection, which you can purchase over at www.filmbizarro.com
You get all three films, plus a great little short and an interview.  Not sure if it comes with all of them, but mine also came with a page from the script of TONIGHT, with a note from Larsen, three glossy stills (one for each film) and a Vimeo link to another short.



-J. Moret

Monday, March 4, 2013

Review: DEATH NURSE II

DEATH NURSE II
Slasher//Video (DVD Release)
60 Minutes, Unrated
1988


Yes! Yes! YES! Nick Millard and company made a second DEATH NURSE movie! Let's just dive right in.

THE PLOT:

Remember HALLOWEEN II? Remember how it starts at the end of the original HALLOWEEN? That's how DEATH NURSE II is. It picks up right where the last one left off. The story this time is mostly the same. There is a new social worker, John Sawyer, played by. . . Michael. Seriously, no one knows his name. It's not on IMDB either. You can't even make a determination on what his name may be because like the first movie DEATH NURSE II shares the same credits as CRIMINALLY INSANE.

Sawyer is the new social worker that replaces Faith (The social worker played By Director Nick Millard's elderly mother in the first DEATH NURSE). He notices Faith was placing people at Shady Palms. He starts rounding up homeless drunks and crazy polish street poets for Edith to kill.

In the end, Faith's twin sister Charity (played by Millard's mother) comes looking for her twin sister. There's an awkward exchange between Charity and Nurse Mortley. Charity is suspicious so she contacts  Sgt. Gallagher (Played by a mustached Nick Millard). Charity sneaks into Shady Palms, sees her dead sister in the garage/basement, gets knifed repeatedly.

Gallagher calls Edith and asks to come speak to her. She uses a mop bucket of powder labeled, "Lime" to rid the garage of that pesky rotting flesh smell. . . which apparently drives the rats out into the yard. Gallagher gets a warrant based on the rats bringing human flesh out of the garage. Edith sits on the couch. . . we see her sitting. . . and more. . . The End.

IMPROVEMENT:

Read my review for DEATH NURSE. The movie is horrible. Would I say part II is better? Absolutely. I would say that DEATH NURSE II feels like less of a chore to get through. Although in terms of being a completely bizarre and jarring cinema experience, nothing can top the original.

The main difference between DEATH NURSE II and the previous entry in the series is there seems to be a bigger focus on characterization. Two of the crazy derelicts Sawyer brings to Shady Palms are absolutely hilarious. The first, Brownie (Played by Milliard's wife Irmi) may very well be my favorite dirty alcoholic character in cinema history. We first meet Brownie dumpster diving behind a store. This is padding, but very welcome padding. She finds some grapes. Pokes around a bit. Takes a swig from a massive jug of wine. Then Sawyer pops by and tries to take her to safety. As he approaches  Brownie pulls out a kitchen knife and exclaims, "I'm gonna kill you, KILL YOU, dirty mother fucker!"

"White Wine it is."

The second is Mischa Ridinski (sic). Sawyer picks him up outside of city hall where we briefly see him giving an anti-socialist speech. Mischa is amazing. He has a horseshoe haircut (like Hulk Hogan) and a cool mustache (like Hulk Hogan). The simple fact that he is a polish street preacher makes him awesome. I think the term awkward is overused, but there is no other way to describe the way this man acts. It's brilliant.


"Capitalism is good."

THE BAD:

If you read my review of the first DEATH NURSE, you know that movie contains tons of padding. DEATH NURSE II is no different. While it isn't as bad (or maybe I'm just used to it), we are still treated to more of Edith's dreams/nightmares which are the same scene from CRIMINALLY INSANE. Between the two DEATH NURSE movies, we see the same scene from CRIMINALLY INSANE a total of SIX. TIMES. Granted it is edited slightly different each time, it's still absurd that Millard thought this was a good idea. Even for budgetary reasons it ridiculous. The DEATH NURSE movies were shot on tape. I'd rather have more scenes of ice cream eating and hole digging than see the same god damn stock footage six times. There is roughly ten minutes of stock footage from CRIMINALLY INSANE in this movie. The second dream clocks in at around four and a half minutes. Plenty of time to smoke a cig, get a beer, take a dump, file your taxes etc.

There are other scenes of padding here too. The most notable is Edith honing her cleaver. Oh yeah, she does it incorrectly as well. She's also really slow. I'm guessing purposely. 

Another thing I would consider to be bad are that the events of the first movie lead to the finale of the second. Nothing else has to happen in the plot but the killing of Faith and Sgt. Gallagher coming to check on her to conclude the story. Brownie, Mischa, and all of the other residents of Shady Palms are just fodder. So  if you really sit back and think about these two movies, they're essentially two hours of padding.

The DVD:

This movie was also released by Slasher//Video. Like the first, Death Nurse II is given the royal treatment. 2 Audio commentaries, Interviews and a newly filmed skit featuring Brownie.

For a movie that was nearly completely forgotten in the gutters of cinema history, this DVD is as great as anyone could hope for. I would highly recommend a purchase of both Death Nurse as well as Death Nurse II. It simply does not get as cheap, infuriating, or hilarious as the DEATH NURSE series.





Box Art: TRAUMA

Sometimes movies aren’t as awesome as the box art and description they present.  Today, I offer Dario Argento's TRAUMA.


The Tagline:
SOME NIGHTMARES HAUNT YOU, SOME... CAN KILL YOU.

The Description:
"Christopher Rydell (For the Boys, Mask) stars with Oscar-nominees Brad Dourif (Mississippi Burning, Child's Play) and Piper Laurie (Carrie, Children of a Lesser God, Twin Peaks) in this nail-biting, edge of your seat tale of terror from the acclaimed, brilliantly innovative horror director, Dario Argento (Suspiria, Creepers, Demons I & II).

The instant he meets beautiful, troubled young runaway Aura (Asia Argento), David (Rydell) falls under her strangely seductive spell.  Then he gets the shocking news that Aura's parents have become the latest victims of a blood-thirsty, psychotic killer knows as "The Headhunter."  Following an eerie trail of decapitated victims, David and Aura discover a chilling link between the murders.  But, now, the monstrous, head-collecting psychopath is stalking them - and their only hope for escaping the maniac's razor-edged onslaught is to unearth an unholy secret buried deep within Aura's nightmarish past.  Also featuring Frederic Forrest (Falling Down) and James Russo (Beverly Hills Cop), it's a haunting vision of unrelenting horror that builds to a terrifying climax you'll never forget!"

The Box:
It's alright.  The big green HORROR sticker and the name DARIO ARGENTO will make me purchase just about any box.  There is a goofy circular somewhat unrecognizable Asia Argento face next to a weirdly tall silhouette of a dude holding the decapitated head of another dude.  The back of the box is pretty unremarkable.  There's some rain, a hacked out creep looking confused and, presumably, that same hacked out creep being cradled by Asia Argento.

The Evaluation:
There are a number of things that should've tipped me off to lower my expectations.  The boring art on the back.  The tagline that ends with a period instead of an exclamation point.  (If a nightmare can kill you, you should be excited.  - Also this tagline is very misleading.  This is not Nightmare on Elm Street territory).  Brad Dourif is not the lead.  That's really too bad, because that dude is the sweetest.

About ten minutes into the film I recognized the stone arch bridge, realized it was shot in Minneapolis, and got excited.  But, I was soon bored, as not much happened.  Yes, there are beheadings. That's cool.  But, it's really too bad the giallo maestro couldn't have shot something sweeter here.  Imagine if it was Opera?  (PS - If you haven't seen Opera, watch it ASAP)

In the end, I would say you could skip this one.  Start with Deep Red, then move on to Opera, Suspiria, and Phenomenon.

-J. Moret

PS - Demons & Demons II is misleading.  He only produced those.  They are directed by Lamberto Bava.  But, they are pretty sweet, so...