Thursday, April 27, 2017

Hitler's Madman (1943)

Director: Douglas Sirk

Writers: Bart Lytton, Albrecht Joseph, Emil Ludwig, Peretz Hirschbein, Melvin Levy, Doris Malloy, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edgar G. Ulmer

Composers: Karl Hajos, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Nathaniel Shilkret

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Sensational!

Plot: Story of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, Nazi SS commander, by Czech partisans and the reprisals inflicted by the Nazis on the Czechs.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

I think this is the third time I've seen this since the '80s and there's one thing that stick out and that I remember most is John Carradine's frighteningly good performance as Heydrich.  He's a beast and really sells this guy as a callous and murderous bastard.  It's worth watching just for Carradine but don't get too invested because he's only got a few, brief scenes.  He's sorely missed when he's not present.  There are some harsh moments of violence (mostly offscreen) which add to the grim nature of the story which is based on true events from the previous year.  The only thing correct about the ambush is that there was one but it didn't happen nearly like this.  There is some levity early on which goes away soon enough.  It's weird seeing very American actors (like the always fun and lovable Edgar Kennedy) with their very American accents pretending to be Czechs but then it's not like we'd get anything much different from wartime Hollywood.  The last half hour is pretty tight and thrilling compared to the rest of the picture which it needed to be.  It's a good film but its not without flaws.  Carradine goes balls to the wall evil Nazi while the other actors as Nazis are either dumb blunt objects that fanatically do as they're told or are playing them as dumb and silly.  I like smart, ruthless villains and they're a rare breed in Hollywood pictures.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wrong Way (1972)

Director: Ray Williams

Writer: ???

Starring: Laurel Canyon, Candy Sweet, Forrest Lorne, Ray Wray, Ron Namkram, Kurt Ames, John Zinger, Joe Habit, Seymore Harris, Bill Fisher, Mercedes Cronkite

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They Did It The...Wrong Way

Plot: Two girls are driving home when their car breaks down in the country. They are kidnapped by a gang of drug-crazed hippies, and repeatedly raped. They escape, but soon run into a death cult who plan to gang-rape the girls, then kill them. Meanwhile, the father of one of the girls gets the police to begin an investigation into their disappearance.

My rating: 3/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Looking for some harsh 70s exploitation with lots of nudity?  Look no further.  6 minutes in the girls' car breaks down and it's so hot outside they need to change.

And a few minutes later...

That's a daydream from one of the bad guys.  A few minutes later the bad guys find the girls and gang rape them.  Meanwhile we cut back and forth to one of the girl's father calling the local sheriff worried about her.  The overweight sheriff grabs his shotty and goes a-huntin', still while the rape is in progress.  This literally goes on for twenty minutes.  They dudes leave the girls to wander off through the woods.  They come upon another group of hippies but these guys are digging a grave (wth the help of their women and toddler).  These bad dudes threaten to kill our two victims and take them hostage to live with them in the wilderness as sexual beasts.   But wait, this tale gets a little more complicated.  Two guys and a girl, whom we're just being introduced to in the last twenty minutes of the picture (and I think it's them that a police helicopter has been searching for), arrive at a little house in the middle of nowhere and get some three-way action going on.

Is this getting too hot for you?  That goes on for a few minutes and after that's done, we hear an officer over the police radio re-capping what they know (which is what we know, but the Cliff Notes version) and we get to see even more nudity from the cop's perspective.  He tells the sheriff to go check out a cabin for the two bad guys.  At this point the woman (who was a willing sex machine a few minutes ago) is now bound and gagged and the two dudes are locking her up while they go outside to talk to the fuzz.  Things got ugly when the sheriff sends his deputy into the cabin to look for the girl.  The two dudes shoot at the two cops and everyone dies but the sheriff, who took one in the gut. The end.  It's only mildly entertaining at times but largely dull.  It's 78 minutes long but it you trimmed it down to 40 it would probably be an alright exploitation picture that would hold your attention.  At least there's some so bad it's good dialogue and acting and lots of nudity.  Without it this would be a total stinker.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Shock Corridor (1963)

Director: Samuel Fuller

Writer: Samuel Fuller

Composer: Paul Dunlap

Starring: Peter Breck, Constance Towers, Gene Evans, James Best, Hari Rhodes, Larry Tucker, Paul Duboy, Chuck Roberson, Neyle Morrow, John Matthews, Bill Zuckert, John Craig, Philip Ahn, Frank Gerstle

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Medical Jungle Doctors Don't Talk About!

Plot: Bent on winning a Pulitzer Prize, a journalist commits himself to a mental institution to solve a strange and unclear murder.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I've gotta tell ya, this Sumuel Fuller kid is going to go places.  Having just watched the great THE NAKED KISS (1964) and now this one.  Wow.  I've seen a few of his pictures and liked them but he really knocked these two out of the park.  The performances are outstanding.  Peter Breck as Johnny, the reporter who goes undercover, is acting his ass off.  James Best has a monologue that hit me deep.  Hari Rhodes has some great scenes, too.  And here's something cool, Larry Tucker, who played Pagliacci (the really heavy fella), went on to write I LOVE YOU, ALICE B. TOKLAS! (1968) and BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE (1969).  And this picture has some great moments that aren't acting showcases like that brief scene with the shock treatment.  Yikes!  Fuller wrote and directed one hell of a interesting flick which gets better as it goes along.  Nearly the entire film is shot on the hospital set but the film is so riveting that the staleness doesn't enter into it.  It probably helps it since the audience is stuck in the same environment as Johnny and everyone else.  Don't read any spoilers about this.  Right now the full movie is on YouTube.  Watch it while you can (below).  And one more thing, how the hell did this not get recognized by the awards folks?

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Naked Kiss (1964)

Director: Samuel Fuller

Writer: Samuel Fuller

Composer: Paul Dunlap

Starring: Constance Towers, Anthony Eisley, Michael Dante, Virginia Grey, Patsy Kelly, Marie Devereux, Karen Conrad, Linda Francis, Bill Sampson, Sheila Mintz, Patricia Gayle, Jean-Michel Michenaud, George Spell, Betty Bronson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Candy's Place--where all kinds of men find all kinds of sweets!

Plot:  Kelly, a prostitute, traumatized by an experience, referred to as 'The Naked Kiss,' by psychiatrists, leaves her past, and finds solace in the town of Grantville. She meets Griff, the police captain of the town, with whom she spends a romantic afternoon. Kelly finds a job as a nurse in a hospital for handicapped children. The work helps her find her sensitive side in the caring and helping of her young patients. Kelly's path towards happiness is thrown amiss, when she witnesses a shocking event, which threatens not just her happiness, but her mental health as well.

My rating:8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

You've got to see this.  Get a load of the names in the story: Candy, Mac, Buff, Dusty, Rembrandt, Angel Face, Bunny, Hatrack, Zookie.  The film's got one hell of a pre-credits opening!  This is a wild and interesting ride.  There are moments of old school cheese (like when Kelly (Towers) meets Miss Josephine (Bronson) to rent a room in her house) on the acting front.  I'm sure it was easier to swallow 54 years ago but today it's just plain corny but I love it just the same.  Constance Towers is outstanding and she's given a lot to do.  Then there are a few scenes that are downright mature and amazing for that time.  They still hold up incredibly well.  This picture deals with prostitution, child molestation and murder.  The molestation shocker hit me upside the head, coming almost out from the darkness.  The children Kelly works with are just too adorable for words.  The song she sings with them, Little Child (Mon Enfant), is beautiful and the kids really shine.  The way that sequence is cut is nice, too.  Speaking of which, the story seemed like it was slapped together but it's not.  I realized that once it was over but there's an unusual mix of themes, situations, style and pacing that could feel like it was directed by more than one person or at least sections of the picture were given to different people to play with.  It's odd but damn if I didn't really enjoy it.  The way it all comes together is brilliant.  It's another home run from writer/director Samuel Fuller.  I'm about to start SHOCK CORRIDOR (1962), a film that's been on my radar for decades.  Watch it for yourself.  It's currently on YouTube in beautiful widescreen. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Gunfight (1971)

Director: Lamont Johnson

Writer: Harold Jack Bloom

Composer: Laurence Rosenthal

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Johnny Cash, Jane Alexander, Karen Black, Dana Elcar, Robert J. Wilke, Keith Carradine, Eric Douglas, Paul Lambert, Raf Vallone

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It was the first time they sold tickets to a gunfight. Winner takes all. Widow takes the body.

Plot: Two aging gunfighters in need of money come to an agreement to organize an actual showdown between them and sell tickets for it. The townsfolk is more than interested to see the "show".

My rating:  6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

So I'm watching an episode of THE DICK CAVETT SHOW from '71 on YouTube where Dick spends an hour talking with Kirk Douglas.  This picture came up and it sounded like fun and being how YouTube has this movie in full free for nothing, here we are.  It's the first feature film financed by an American Indian tribe (The Jicarilla Apache Tribe in New Mexico).  The story sounded like it had some neat possibilities plus it's got Kirk Douglas facing off against Johnny Cash.  Karen Black hadn't hit the big time yet but she was certainly on her way having starred in FIVE EASY PIECES the year before.  Here's she plays Jenny, a prostitute who falls for her trick, Abe (Cash).  It's a thankless role but she does bring more to it than the role deserves.  Jane Alexander (as Nora, Will's (Douglas) wife) does a fine job, too.  Kirk Douglas brings it as usual but it's Johnny Cash that doesn't work so well for me.  He's way too dour.  I get that he's a defeated man but he's got no passion or fire in his belly or anything.  He's not all that bad but there's a stoic, wooden quality to his performance that made me long for someone with some acting chops.  It didn't help, either, that Abe and Will  concoct this scheme very early on in the film so you spend an hour after that building up to the duel which feels too long.  But the ending is great.  I can see how some folks would hate it but I thought it was ballsy as hell.  It grounded the picture and gave it some much needed weight.  I wouldn't tell anyone to watch it just for the last few minutes because there's a chance they'd dislike the movie even more but I found it to be a mature finish to a somewhat meandering ending.  The YouTube video above is the only one I could find in widescreen.  It's not available on DVD so this is your best bet even though the picture quality is OK and the audio worse.  But, hey, it's free.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Dad's Army (1971)

Director: Norman Cohen

Writers: Jimmy Perry, David Croft

Composer: Wilfred Burns

Starring: Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier, Clive Dunn, John Laurie, James Beck, Arnold Ridley, Ian Lavender, Liz Fraser, Bernard Archard, Derek Newark, Bill Pertwee, Frank Williams

More info: IMDb

Tagline: At last! Their epic story invades the Big Screen!

Plot: The misadventures of a ragtag group of elderly Home Guard local defense volunteers at the onset of WW2.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

The DAD'S ARMY TV show ran from 1968-1977 and it's hilarious.  I've seen all of the available episodes for at least the first 4 or more seasons and I absolutely love them all.  The characters are fun, funny and lovable.  Even the hard ass Capt. Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe).  It's a solid 9/10 in my book.  I finally got around to seeing the movie the cast made and it's a letdown.  I don't know what it is with these British movies made of their shows but they're almost always lacking what made their shorter counterparts successful, and the Brits made a lot of them in the '70s.  This one just isn't nearly as fun as the show.  Maybe it's that the show's were faster paced.  And maybe, dare I even think it, it's also the absence of a laugh track that becomes familiar episode after episode.  Regardless, this picture should've translated better to the big screen.  The only problem is is that the funny just isn't there in a ratio like you have in the show.  The story is almost immaterial in that just having these characters around doing their thing is enough for a fun ride.  One thing I kind of liked (but seemed completely unnecessary except for people who've never seen the show) is that you see the origin of the group's formation.  If I remember right, the first episode of the TV series begins on the first day of enlistment.  We don't get to see these guys before they came together.  One one hand it was neat seeing them before they donned the uniforms but at the same time it wasn't all that amusing and it took a while before we were caught up to the beginning of the series. I'm glad the print I watched was anamorphic widescreen.  The film looked nice and grainy and it had that late 60s/early 70s WWII movie aesthetic that I like in these types of pictures.  I don't know why I'm still babbling on about this.  It must be because I had higher expectations for something that had no reason I can think of to not be as good or funny as the show they had already established for 2-3 years and had several more great years to go.

Friday, April 21, 2017

National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985)

Director: Amy Heckerling

Writers: John Hughes, Robert Klane

Composer: Charles Fox

Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Dana Hill, Jason Lively, John Astin, Sheila Kennedy, Paul Bartel, Cynthia Szigeti, Robbie Coltrane, Eric Idle, William Zabka

More info: IMDb

Tagline: For over two thousand years, Europe has survived many great disasters. Now for the real test... The Griswold's.

Plot: The Griswolds win a vacation tour across Europe where the usual havoc ensues.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

It's fucked up that I still haven't seen the first Vacation movie except for a few scenes yet I've seen this one and VEGAS VACATION (1997) twice.  There are very few funny moments and most of what's funny is mildly amusing at best.  The hour and a half drags much to often and many scenes overstay their welcome.  The cast gives it their all but the movie just sits there flat.  The best gag in the movie and my biggest laugh is the Frisbee toss off the Eiffel Tower.  OK, I'm starting to not care for Chase in this role.  It's a one dimensional character but he's just not selling it as lively and fun as I'd like.  Sue me.  I miss the charismatic Chevy from FOUL PLAY (1978), SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES (1980) and FLETCH (1985).  Pacing is a serious issue and there aren't enough good gags to sustain the 95 minute run time.  The European location is a big bonus but it's hardly enough to make it worthwhile.  I won't be watching this one again.  It's a damn shame that this franchise isn't better because it's loaded with potential.  The Warner Bros. DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print.  The only extras are a commentary track with Chevy Chase, dry as usual, trying to be funny.  He's at his best when he's serious and talks about the making of the picture.  Other than that you get an anamorphic widescreen trailer.