28 June 2009

OLR: Masters of Horror: "Pick Me Up" (2005)

Pitting a hitchhiking serial killer against a truck driving serial killer is a great idea made better with the addition of a little Michael Moriarty. (8/10)

d. Larry Cohen

OLR: Hell Ride (2008)

Pretty much everything I require out of a biker movie is in here. (7/10)

d. Larry Bishop

OLR: The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

A solid horror flick with some great photography (too bad about the distracting CGI gore). (7/10)

d. Ryûhei Kitamura

27 June 2009

Hitchcock | The Paradine Case (1947)

The Paradine Case (1947)
written by Alam Reville, David O. Selznick and an uncredited Ben Hecht and James Bridie, based on a novel by Robert Hichens

An Italian woman (Alida Valli), married to a blind, rich war hero, is accused of his murder. Keane (Gregory Peck) agrees to be her defense attorney. The film is split neatly into two halves, with the first featuring Keane's investigation into his client's past and the second presenting the trial.

This film felt like a large step backwards for Hitchcock. The story is unremarkable, the characters are pathetic and the hour-long trial is tedious. Keane immediately falls for his dark and mysterious client, despite his impending 11th wedding anniversary. His crush causes him to perceive the facts of the case in a manner not related to reality, which causes him to botch the trial. Maybe To Kill a Mockingbird ruined this movie for the ages. It's hard to buy Gregory Peck playing a lawyer who's acting like a love-sick teenager. The psychological depth of Keane, compared to past Hitchcock efforts, is shockingly shallow.

Hating Peck's character Keane so much makes the trial half of the film even worse. I wanted to see him lose. I wanted to see his crush convicted of murder. I wanted to see his far-too-accepting wife dump him after he lost the trial (the opposite, unfortunately, is what happens in the final scene).

There is some very nice photography in the movie and I think Charles Laughton turns in a surprisingly low-key performance. Still, as a follow-up to Notorious, this can't be considered anything other than a disappointment. (6/10)

Watched the region 1 DVD released by Fox in 2008 as a part of the Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection. The transfer's decent, though there is supposedly a longer cut in the Library of Congress.

26 June 2009

OLR: The Gore Gore Girls (1972)

Lewis' final film falls into inevitable self-parody, yet it's still maniacal fun. (6/10)

d. Herschell Gordon Lewis

24 June 2009

OLR: The Wizard of Gore (2007)

Takes the original and enhances it, except, strangely, for the gore part… I wanted more Crispon Glover-Montag. (7/10)

d. Jeremy Kasten

23 June 2009

OLR: Cinematic Titanic: "Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks" (2009)

The riffing was a bit infrequent and geared towards references I didn't get for my taste (dig the call-back to MST3K 320). (6/10)

d. Dick Randall & Sharp-Ford

OLR: The Wizard of Gore (1970)

Montag has a strange charm that grows on you; maybe having something to do with the obvious joy he takes in his work. (6/10)

d. Herschell Gordon Lewis

22 June 2009

Hitchcock | Notorious (1946)

Notorious (1946)
written by Ben Hecht and an uncredited Alfred Hitchcock and Clifford Odets, based on a story by John Taintor Foote

Taking a step back to consider the plot, this spy film is filled with rather inept secret agents. Hitchcock loves to throw regular people into the shoes of a spy -- which is what he does he with Ingrid Bergman's Alicia -- but the ostensibly professional Devlin (Cary Grant) and Sebastian (Claude Rains) aren't much better than Alicia. Devlin leaves a complete mess in the wine cellar, which Sebastian detects almost immediately and causes him to suspect his wife. Sebastian and his mother's plan to poison Ingrid Bergman's Alicia begins to fall apart when they overreact to a guest accidentally picking up her poisoned coffee. Sebastian's inability to compose himself eventually leads to his (presumed) death at the end of the picture.

I like this. A film portraying spies (and the villains they chase) as real people is a nice change. I'm so used to the near-Superman levels of Connery's James Bond, it's interesting to see this character type with flaws. Grant's Devlin, in particular, is a complex mix of uncertainty, stubbornness and passion. Arguably a secondary character to Alicia, he changes just as much over the course of the film as she.

An great script, excellent performances and rock-solid directing make for one of Hitchcock's best. (9/10)

Watched the region 1 DVD released by Fox in 2008 as a part of the Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection. The transfer's fine and it has a set of good documentaries. I don't miss my old Criterion version at all.

21 June 2009

OLR: Trancers II (1991)

Missing some of the magic of the first one, but the plot point of bringing back Jack's dead wife was a great idea. (6/10)

d. Charles Band

OLR: Doomsday (2008)

I'm all for recycling ideas from Escape from New York and Mad Max, though the Gladiator-style photography and Battlefield Earth-style plot idiocy ruined the fun a bit. (6/10)

d. Neil Marshall

18 June 2009

OLR: 2001 Maniacs (2005)

The frequent slow spots should've been filled with more southern-fried fun, but at least the ending improved on the original. (6/10)

d. Tim Sullivan

OLR: Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)

A couple of more crazy deaths would have been nice and the ending was too lame to last as long as it does; I've got that damned song stuck in my head. (6/10)

d. Herschell Gordon Lewis

17 June 2009

OLR: Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat (2002)

I absolutely loved tubby, constantly eating Det. Loomis, but the rest of the movie was not nearly crazy enough to be worth it. (6/10)

d. Herschell Gordon Lewis

15 June 2009

OLR: Blood Feast (1963)

Bad in all aspects, yet the Technicolor wonders of bright red blood, bright blue party dresses and orangey-tan faces are mesmerizing. (5/10)

d. Herschell Gordon Lewis

OLR: Enter the Dragon (1973)

Not the greatest martial arts movie ever, but it's a supremely awesome slice of the '70s. (7/10)

d. Robert Clouse

13 June 2009

OLR: The Dark Knight (2008)

I'd like to be proved wrong, but I don't think we'll ever see a better superhero movie than this. (9/10)

d. Christopher Nolan

12 June 2009

Guest OLR: Pontypool (2008)

Wow, it really has been almost a decade since a horror film scared me this much. (8/10)

d. Bruce McDonald

Guest OLR: Dressed to Kill (1980)

Captures the floating nightmarish quality of Psycho while shamelessly ripping it off; it's the only remake we ever needed. (7/10)

d. Brian de Palma

06 June 2009

OLR: Blood Diner (1987)

A talking brain in a jar, nude aerobics, cannibalism, bad dubbing, and a mysterious dummy makes for some great gonzo horror. (7/10)

d. Jackie Kong

OLR: Trancers (1985)

If I were a trancer hunter, I'd just make burn marks in the shape of bodies a few times a day and take the rest of the time off. (7/10)

d. Charles Band

02 June 2009

Hitchcock | Spellbound (1945)

Spellbound (1945)
written by Ben Hecht, Angus MacPhail and an uncredited May E. Romm, based on a n0vel by Hilary St. George Sanders and John Palmer

Hitchcock describes this film as "just another manhunt wrapped up in pseudo-psychoanalysis." That's pretty much it. It's sort of Young and Innocent, except with a less-chipper protagonist who requires his psychoanalyst girlfriend to prove his innocence.

For a film whose premise revolves around psychoanalysis, features dream interpretation and has a dream created by Salvador Dalí, it's surprisingly straight-forward. I suppose the movie dipped its toe into the pool of surrealism about as much as could be expected considering its studio and star. Although the dream sequence is great -- and I can see its influence all the way into 1990's Twin Peaks -- the interpretation of the dream feels disappointing. The wheel is the revolver, the angel refers to a ski lodge named after Gabriel, the bearded man is Edwardes... it's all rather "peg A into slot B." I guess this is about all you could do with this film in order to have it make sense to the audience.

I'm not sure I'm much of a fan of Gregory Peck's performance in this film. When he goes into his fugue state, he wears this wide-eyed look that screams "I'm trying my best to look disturbed!" It doesn't work for me. I don't know if I bought into his performance at all. His instant transformations into anger while Connies analyzed him came off kind of goofy. Or, maybe I just don't buy into psychoanalysis?

Other than minor complaints, it's solid Hitchcock effort with the psychoanalysis angle giving the old wrong man story a fresh spin. (7/10)

Watched the region 1 DVD released by Fox in 2008 as a part of the Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection. The transfer's great and it has a set of good documentaries.