Showing posts with label 1970's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1970's. Show all posts

Monday, February 19, 2024

Sports Watch: Slap Shot (1977)

Watched:  02/18/2024
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Director:  George Roy Hill

Slap Shot (1977) is one of those movies that just gets repeatedly referenced and is a sort of rite-of-passage film for a lot of folks, especially big sports fans.  I've been mildly curious about the movie for a long time, but as someone who grew up in Texas, which means know exactly nothing about hockey, it just didn't connect for me before to watch the thing.  

But, the movie came up as I was sorting through back-issue bins at my local comic shop, Austin Books, as the manager is a huge film nerd and the owner is a sports buff (and I think enjoys that I am not a person who says "sportsball" who shops there).*

What I knew was the movie starred Paul Newman, Michael Ontkean and three guys who weren't pro actors who everyone talked about playing three weirdo brothers, the Hansons.  And that was about it.  Some things I could infer were that it was from that mid-70's period where it became a bit trendy in movies to make it feel like it was shot on-location and live in a bar with everyone talking.  And, to be honest, it is not to my taste, Robert Altman.  

Sunday, February 4, 2024

G Watch: Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)

Watched:  02/02/2024
Format:  Max
Viewing:  Second*
Selection:  joint - me and Jamie

I don't have much new to really add to what I said back in 2020 about this movie.  But I do suspect that this is the Godzilla movie I have a firm memory of watching on TV as a kid, mostly because of the multiple kaiju and that the fight happens in an open field.  

I didn't say much about the human story in my prior write up - but it does feel like it's trying to set up a TV show or series of movies about two dudes and a child of vague relation, and their robot.  Read onto these people whatever you want - are they pals, brothers, a couple and their adopted child?  They do not say.  Nor do they do much to infuse anyone with a personality, story or anything to make them characters, but they do spend a lot of time showing them doing things.

Btw - the reason Megalon is attacking is that the surface humans set off an underground nuclear test killing - according to the dialog - a full third of the population of Seatopia, the nation of people living under the ground.  Y'all, the Seatopians are right to try to kill all of us.  But so wrong about trusting that guy and his bad mustache to run Seatopia.

But this is a kids movie, and I'm not going to complain too much.  The kaiju battling, robot stuff and bases for the movie is (chef's kiss).

Monday, January 29, 2024

G-Watch: Godzilla versus Mechagodzilla (1974)

Watched:  01/26/2024
Format:  Max
Viewing:  Second-ish
Director:  Jun Fukuda
Selection:  moi

Look, this week at work was a rough one, and next week is looking to be more of same.  I am tired.  And so, after watching another episode of the phenomenal fifth season of Fargo,* I put on Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974).  

This movie is remarkably silly, makes no sense in parts, forgets its a monster movie for long stretches, and does nothing to develop or differentiate any of the characters, seemingly adding them as the movie goes along to help fill plot holes.

The real showcase is, of course, Godzilla versus a giant robot version of himself that space aliens for a black hole(?) have built in order to take over the Earth.  Or, at least, whatever part of Earth is near the robot.  Initially, it's disguised as Godzilla, but to what end?  I cannot say.  Because they almost immediately remove the facade, and it seems like a robot is just as much a problem as the real Godzilla in how it's being deployed - by rampaging.  

However, we're also dealing with a prophetic vision seen by a young woman priestess/ heir to a once great dynasty on Okinawa.  There's a prophesy to go along with it regarding two monsters joining forces to fight a great threat, but it seems odd the ancients knew Mechagodzilla was coming?  There's nothing magic about a giant robot, except the love we should all feel for Mechagodzilla.

Anyway, this movie's main, non giant kaiju feature is a villain in a shiny jumpsuit who keeps smoking cigars.  I love this guy.  He really enjoys his work.

The one caveat is that this is around when Toho thought they needed to add blood.  So things get weird when MechaG really messed up Anguirus (he's fiiiiine) and then G himself (also: fine).  Also:  melting alien faces.

It's a fun pic, and while I don't think there's big life lessons to be learned, and it's confusing sorting out who all of these people are from time to time, this first appearance by MechaG is pretty stellar.  Where else will you find a 20-story robot that shoots rainbows out of its eyes?

*Juno Temple and Jennifer Jason Leigh busily confirming they're somheow even better than you thought, and Richa Moorjani putting in a bid for "damn, put her in more stuff" in a fine breakdown of myth and Fargo's patented exploration of good and evil 

Monday, October 30, 2023

HalloWatch: Young Frankenstein (1974)

Watched:  10/30/2023
Format:  Max
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Mel Brooks

I don't watch this every year, but I sure like it!  

Anyway, one of my personal favorite comedies.  

Monday, October 23, 2023

HalloWatch: The Vampire Lovers (1970)

quite the photoshop collage here

Watched:  10/23/2023
Format:  FreeVee on Amazon
Viewing:  3rd or 4th
Director:  Roy Ward Baker

In the wake of the opulence and spectacle of watching the 1992 Dracula adaptation, I threw on the 1970 Hammer horror film, The Vampire Lovers, a movie I'm pretty sure I'm on the record as a fanThat impression held up on a re-viewing of the movie.  

During this period, Hammer was sorting out what to do as Lee was increasingly (and famously) less interested in playing Dracula, and so they sought to expand their vampire offerings beyond the Count and his shenanigans.  Thus, they went to the novel that preceded Dracula, and from which Stoker (ahem) borrowed from.  

If you're looking for the book that mixes up vampirism, sex and romance, this is the one, and it often feels like the romantic angles ascribed to Dracula was an interpretation of how this book, and therefore movie, take on a vampire's relationship with their prey.  In this case, rather than an exotic Count from a mysterious kingdom, it's a fellow young woman who is deposited at the doorstep of a family with a young woman of similar age.  Who precedes to die.

Shortly after, the same young woman, calling herself Carmilla, appears at another house (left by a woman of breeding and elegance) with a similarly aged young woman, and we see how the relationship between the two blossom, even as villagers start getting picked off.

If Brides of Dracula is any indication, Hammer had long ago figured out the formula for inserting a clutch of attractive women in their films and teaming them with baffled middle-aged men and Peter Cushing.  

This was one of a handful of starring movie roles for Ingrid Pitt, who is 30+ here if she's a day, playing 19.  Full disclosure, we're Ingrid Pitt stans here at The Signal Watch, and we think she's just super.  Madeline Smith, just at the start of her career, is terrific, and we'd be happy to see more films with Kate O'Mara.  As always, Cushing is a force of nature in the film.

Anyway, with all the "romance" of vampires stuff, Vampire Lovers manages to find the balance between eroticism and the actual devilish nature of the characters.  Part of Carmilla's curse is that she does seem to form a bond with her victims - if not love, then dependence, and she's damned to take their lives, one after another.  

The only other film I can think of that seems to touch on this concept in its way is The Hunger, which blows that concept out, making it a genuine romance.  Until it isn't.  And walks through what the relationship actually is via Sarandon and Deneuve.  

There's still straight up vampire stuff in this film, from Carmilla wandering the woods like an apparition, to garlic being generally unwelcome, to beheadings.  All solid stuff.  

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

PodCast 255: "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974) - Halloween 2023 w/ JAL and Ryan

Watched:  09/30/2023
Format:  Peacock
Viewing: First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Tobe Hooper

JAL and Ryan get a little off the beaten path in their homestate of Texas, The Friendship State. It's rural roads, roadtrips and tasty BarBQ all the way down as they make new pals and learn the importance of family.



Halloween and Horror - all films playlist

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Hallo-Watch: Twins of Evil (1971)

Watched:  10/07/2023
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Second
Director:  John Hough

I had watched and even blogged Twins of Evil (1971) previously, but I really didn't remember it  It happens (I sometimes have a cocktail when watching a film).  I didn't even recall it starred Peter Cushing.

But star Peter Cushing it does!  He plays a religious zealot who has formed a posse of like-minded puritans who are taking the fact that there seems to be a vampire on the loose to ride around, finding attractive young Hammer ladies, and then burn them at the stake, suspecting them of being a witch or vampire without ever actually checking.  You know, they just feel it in their gut that this girl who is doing something as shady as walking home is clearly in league with Satan (we get Judy Matheson in a pivotal role here illustrating the problem).  

This movie is part of Hammer's parallel-to-Dracula vampire series, the Karnstein Trilogy.  The series starts with The Vampire Lovers (one of my personal favorite horror films), is followed by Lust for a Vampire (which I recently rewatched and found I loved it on a second viewing), and now we land here, with Twins of Evil.   

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Vamp Watch: Daughter of Dracula (1972)

Watched:  09/04/2023
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jess Franco

If the 1970's brought us anything in cinema, it was sexy vampires.  I mean, there's no shortage before.  Ask me about Brides of Dracula.  But by the time we got to the 1970's, we had moved into a weird twilight zone of art film/ exploitation film/ horror film where nudity was rampant and sex was not just implied in knowing cut-aways.

As far as I know, of the Jess Franco movies, I'd only ever seen Vampyros Lesbos.  And, somewhat (in)famously, Franco was one of the foremost purveyors of cheap, wandering "horror" films that bordered on a Cinemax late-night entry and what cable would play on weekends in the 1980's while also absolutely existing as in-no-way-scary horror films.

The movie is one of five directed by Franco in 1972 alone.  Whatever the market was, it was quantity over quality, and I suspect few scenes were actually scripted or anyone really did much to prep for the movies after getting a set of fangs, a Dracula cape and a location.  The movie uses a lot of 1970's film language, from racking focus into a scene (usually onto some natural object) and lots of lingering shots of people walking and not saying much.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

PodCast 248: "Orca: The Killer Whale" (1977) - an Angry Animals Podcast w/ SimonUK and Ryan

Watched:  June 23, 2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Michael Anderson

Simon and Ryan join up for a whale of a movie! We set sail for a curiously novelistic take on man vs beast and man vs himself and man vs ice berg as Richard Harris spears the wrong sea-mammal and has to deal with a whale with a death wish! We're talking post-Jaws sea-ploitation!



We Are One (Orca) - Carol Conners and Ennio Morricone, Orca OST 

Angry Animals PodCast

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Raquel Watch Party Watch: Kansas City Bomber (1972)

Watched:  02/17/2023
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Jerrold Freedman

So...  Picking movies for Friday watch parties is always a challenge.  We talk over the movies, so it can't be anything too complicated.  It has to be fun because we're not watching a movie on a Friday to be miserable - and that's not the vibe for riffing, anyway.  

While Raquel Welch is an international icon, and I wanted to use the Watch Party to celebrate her the week of her passing, she is just as likely to play a supporting part as a lead.  But this was all about Ms. Welch, and thus I was also looking to find a movie in which she played the lead.  Plus, I like Roller Derby.  So, I picked Kansas City Bomber (1972), not really knowing much about it.  But that is not to say that I saw the trailers and was not dazzled that the romantic co-star was Kevin McCarthy.  I mean... 

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Watch Party Watch: Zardoz (1974)

Watched:  01/20/2023
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Director:  John Boorman

So, my college pal, Robb, was a big fan of this movie, which really set the bar for me.  He's the same guy who would pitch a Saturday as "let's watch Stalker and then Bullit".   Circa 1999 or so, my brother, Steanso, and myself decided to give Zardoz (1974) a whirl, and I think we made it twenty minutes in before giving up and watching Xena or Cleopatra 2525.  

I will not say I hated or even disliked Zardoz, while acknowledging - this is not a movie for everyone.  The film contains a million concepts and ideas all crammed into one movie.  I don't think it really succeeds (for me) as story, commentary or entertainment, but it is absolutely a thing to watch for its tremendous ambition, low-budget-swing-for-the-fences approach, and unique visuals.  It's trying to do some Very Important Stuff via sci-fi, and I can't say it fails, exactly.  The ideas are interesting enough.  It's just not a movie that is amazingly fun to watch (sober).

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Doc Watch: Harlan County, USA (1976)

Watched:  01/14/2023
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Director:  Barbara Kopple

One of the things I wonder about as The Kids have decided that labor movements are a fine idea and that they should unionize is if they're well educated on the incredibly bloody history of labor movements in the US.  I'm not recommending one path or the other (I am, but this isn't that blog) but things tend to get really dark when the operators see the minions getting organized.  

To a 20-something working at Starbucks in 2022 or 2023, it may seem like the good fight, but in the places Starbucks tends to exist, you can usually just pick up and go work somewhere else if the deal isn't what you want.  And, of course, 1972 is ancient history when old-timey things happened.  Like the events of the documentary, Harlan County, USA (1976) a film about striking coal minors in Kentucky and the various factors at play and persons involved. And it's as far removed from today's labor conversations and the way work once worked in the US as the Pullman Strike is to organizing baristas.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Super Watch: Superman - The Movie (1978 - theatrical cut)

Watched:  01/06/2023
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  1,000,000th
Director:  Richard Donner

Superman: The Movie (1978) is the movie I've seen most of any film, enough so that I have it pretty well memorized.  At this point, I'd hesitate to say how many times I've seen the movie, but it's dozens and dozens of times.  At least 7 in the theater.  Intentionally, I haven't watched it much the past few years.  I mean, I'm trying to watch new-to-me movies, I can replay any scene in my head any time, I know the beats and jokes, and cool elements and emotions in every scene.  But I also know the plot holes, the mistakes, the dated issues with the film, where that's-a-doll, that's-how-that-shot-was-done, etc...  I even look for where extras were at a difference walking pace in various shots.  

What's probably most notable to modern film audiences is that a movie that plays it mostly straight for an hour has a hard jump in the second half to a far wackier vision of the world it establishes, moving from sci-fi epic to American Rockwell-esque pastoral to a cosmic sci-fi fantasy.  And then...  Metropolis, with hustling big-city folk, fast talking journalists, and Otis bumbling along.  And for the next 90 minutes, the movie is a mix of romance, screwball, camp and heroism.  There's something oddly Broadway-ish about that back 90 minutes - I mean, doesn't Miss Tessmacher seem like she needs an "I Want" song?  Because Lois gets one in spoken-word.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Doc/ Review Watch: That's Entertainment (1974)

Watched:  12/31/2022
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jack Haley Jr.

I'm not clear on where this first showed - I guess wide release?  It has a box office take listed, so I guess it was put out in theaters.  Which is pretty wild.  The movie is essentially a review/ clip show of MGM musicals and the greatest generator of a punchlist for movie nerds I can think of.  

What's even wilder is that the movie was released as a 50th Anniversary celebration of MGM - and we're about 50 years from the release of this film.  Time.  It does roll on.  

The film is hosted by an array of folks who were still living and vibrant, from Frank Sinatra to Bing Crosby to Elizabeth Taylor to a Mickey Rooney (who'll de damned if he's gonna shoot in the sun and manages the worst lighting you'll see in a major release as he wanders down a tree-lined sidewalk).  But it's all a celebration of what made the movie musical great - and it makes a stunning case for the idea.  Spectacle, talent, artistry and a bit of hokum all combine in an electric mix across about 100 clips supporting the thesis and the arguments presented for the musical. 

Clips cover everything from the Depression-era Busby Berkley opuses to Andy Hardy films to Eleanor Powell, Ann Miller and of course Fred and Ginger (and Fred and Cyd).  And a reminder that the most insane Hollywood may have ever gone was staging Esther Williams movies.  It's impossible to imagine happening in the past 40 years.  

1974 - the year of release - is an interesting inflection point.  Liza Minnelli appears to remind you she's the daughter of Judy Garland and Vincent Minnelli and that she just won an Oscar for a musical.  It's the promise of a new generation taking on musicals, which may have seemed possible in '74.  But, clearly, that's not what happened.  Sure, these days we get one or two a year, and most Disney cartoons are musicals for all intents and purposes, but as much as westerns would fade, musicals became a novelty.  And, frankly, it seems like people my age feel weirdly threatened by musicals that don't start as Broadway shows.*

Trotting out the old guard is a fine idea for a retrospective, but in 1974, there's no home video.  They weren't going to re-release 45 years of musicals, I don't think.  So what was this for?  One last hurrah and a trip down memory lane?  The stars walk the now clearly dilapidated sets, around a decaying MGM lot, and I have to ask "why?"  Why would MGM show their own sets in such a state of disrepair?  I don't know what happened to MGM in the 1960's, but the story of MGM by the 1980's was about purchases, mergers, real estate sales...  the company had gone from being a force of nature to a has-been.  Even today, MGM seems to exist to put out Bond movies and not a whole lot else.  If this film hoped to push people to clamor for musicals, I guess - not so much.

That said, it's a stunning reminder of what Hollywood - at least MGM - did on the regular to deliver wildly imaginative productions, the kind of talent they had on staff, and what movies can do.  And maybe what we lost when the 1970's taught us to rely on "realism" in film, or at least pivoted us to space epics for our visions of flights of fancy.  

Clearly Broadway tells us there's still an audience for musicals, and you do wonder - with today's techniques - what would an Esther Williams film look like?  Who could star in it?  Can an audience sit for a tap number?  Do people still get swept up in ballroom dancing by the best, or just when it's a reality show with D-level stars trotted out for two minute numbers and people pretending to be judges?

And, honestly, even TCM doesn't play musicals like it used to.  I'm sure the numbers track better to other kinds of films for whatever reason, but it would be nice to have some play of those big spectacle flicks.

MGM produced enough of these musicals that it spawned several sequels - That's Entertainment 2 and 3, as well as That's Dancing.  So clearly they were making some money off of these things.  

*I will never get the hostility to La-La Land

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Hammer Horror Halloween Watch: Lust for a Vampire (1971)

Watched:  10/30/2022
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Jimmy Sangster

So, way back when I was first getting familiar with Hammer, I watched Lust For a Vampire (1971), and wound up with one of those absolutely wild experiences you get once in a while on the internet.  Admittedly, I'd not *really* been watching the movie - I was online and just watching the movie with one eye and I dashed off a jokey, jerky write-up.  But I was so much not paying attention that I mistook a completely different actor for Christopher Lee, which should tell you how much I was *not* watching.  

Within 24 hours, actor Judy Jarvis (nee Matheson) - who plays Amanda McBride in the film - spotted the review and *rightfully* called me out.  My review was stupid.  I'm lazy.  It happens.  But it was also a reminder that I should actually pay attention to a movie and give it a fair shake if I'm going to criticize the film as a viewer.  And real people do work on these films.

I promised Judy Jarvis I would rewatch the film, but, honestly, that's a *lot* of pressure.  Now I didn't want to embarrass myself if Judy Jarvis was still patrolling the internet, and I absolutely wanted to give the movie a fair shake this time.

Suffice to say, I am now more familiar with Hammer, what was going on in 1970's British film, and know how to watch these movies from a better perspective.  I've read Carmilla and become more aware of what Hammer was doing with the Karnsteins (a family of vampires they employed as Dracula wound down and based on the novel Carmilla).

I am not just saying this:  I loved the movie this time.  

Friday, October 28, 2022

Hammer Watch: Blood From the Mummy's Tomb (1971)

Watched:  10/26/2022
Format:  AFS Cinema
Viewing: First
Director:  Seth Holt/ Michael Carreras

Well.  This was 40 minutes of movie stretched out over 96 minutes.  

I'll defend the last 30 or so minutes of Blood From the Mummy's Tomb (1971), but the first hour of the film is weirdly plodding for a Hammer, with long stretches of the movie that feel like filler to hit an unnecessarily long run time.  This whole thing could have been 70 minutes and lost nothing.  

Example:  We see 85% of the moments leading up to an Egyptologist's demise and can infer he dies off-frame.  It's not great, but a workman-like scene.  We then then watch Our Hero look for the guy for what has to be a full 2 minutes of screen time, retracing the path we just saw just seconds before.  Look -  all we needed was Our Hero walking up on the dead body and showing his horror and revulsion.  That's like 10-15 seconds, easy-peasy.  

So, yeah, it's a weird movie and falls in a lot of traps I usually associate with indie-schlocky levels of movie-making where there's pressure to reach a minimum runtime and no one working on the movie understands pacing or narrative economy.  This is a movie made by actual professionals from a real studio.  It's weird.  When you see the slow-moving dad, partially paralyzed from mummy-attack, realize his daughter on the 3rd floor is in danger and he rushes to help her from the basement, I let out an audible groan.  We're going to see a lot of awkward stair climbing.  

What the film does have going for it is Valerie Leon, but YMMV here.  She's not an amazing actor, but she ably fills the role of Hammer lead.  

Valerie Leon takes a hard look at herself

Stylistically, the film has one foot in modern 1971 and another in pre-WWII movies of mummies and even archaeology.  But throws in odd bits like Our Hero's car is an MG TA from the 1930's, I believe, while keeping the wardrobe for the young leads hip and modern.  

The plot, based upon a Bram Stoker horror novel with which I am unfamiliar, does inform how we wound up with so much reincarnation jazz in mummy films starting with Karloff.  On the very moment of discovery of a sarcophagus containing a perfectly preserved Egyptian queen/ priestess, an archaeologist's daughter is born and his wife dies in childbirth in London.  As she approaches her birthday (they never say which one...) it seems the daughter, who exactly resembles the "mummy", is becoming possessed by her. 

The movie becomes a plodding "gotta catch 'em all" of the artifacts of the queen, scattered across London in the homes of the archaeologist's team - who don't stay in touch.  Why no one destroyed the artifacts is never stated.  Or why they didn't, like, put the in a vault or mail them to relatives or basically do anything to actually stop this... never comes up.  

There's also a Dr. Pretorious-type imported from Bride of Frankenstein in James Villiers' Corbeck.  It's such an obvious swipe, it's kind of adorable.  And aside from Leon's wardrobe, the best part of the film.

I suspect Hammer probably knew this movie wasn't great, but they had also hired a down-on-his-luck Seth Holt to direct, and the guy died ON SET the last week of filming.  They soldiered on and made a movie, but - man.  This is not good.  It's not even "fine".  It's just mind-numbingly dull for vast stretches and it absolutely didn't have to be.  There's plenty to talk about vis-a-vis how it relates to modern mummy films, old mummy films, the Hammer canon, etc...  but I can't do it.  

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Vampire d'Halloween Watch: Fascination (1979)

Watched:  10/22/2022
Format:  Criterion Channel
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jean Rollin

I don't know the work of Jean Rollin, but I understand more cultured folks will.  Something to look into.  His imdb looks like horror and thrillers, so, sure.

This film is mostly mood in the best way.  I think some of y'all like JAL might dig it if you haven't seen it.  It's essentially a well telegraphed vampire movie with the languid pace of Daughters of Darkness that has some astounding moments that alone are worth checking the movie out for.  

I enjoyed it, but it's mostly paper thin when you want to discuss the plot, which is a young criminal takes the gold he and his compatriots stole and hides out in a mansion which is inhabited by two young, attractive women but no servants or anything.  He tries to sort out what is happening, has sex with one of them and dodges the gang of crooks.  Also, there's a reunion of more attractive young women.

I dunno.  Give it a shot. It has some stunning visuals and never overextends its reach as a lovely, moody bit of horror with a curious spin on the vampire idea.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Halloween Hammer Horror Watch: Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1972) - in a movie theater!

Watched:  10/19/2022
Format:  Austin Film Society 
Viewing:  First
Director:  Roy Ward Baker

The last movie I saw in a theater was March 5th, 2020.  Simon and I went to see Shane, because when they show Shane, you go see it.  But then COVID and the complete re-writing of movie distribution on the fly happened, and my sense of cinema FOMO ceased to exist.

So... what could draw me back to the cinema after 2.5 years away?  Well, the promise of gender-bending adaptation of a classic horror tale, murder, mayhem and some mild nudity, of course.  And- part of Hammer's 1970's output of throwing madness at the wall to see what sticks.

Take a look at the poster above and ponder - the actual actors from this movie are not seen here.  The seeming murder?  Not part of the movie.  At times, Hammer would create a poster first, and then a movie.  This is pure pulpy hucksterism at it's finest, and I think more stuff needs to be made this way.   "I dunno, we pre-sold something called 'Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde' and promised sex changes and blood.  It writes itself!  Go make it!"  AND THEY DID.

Y'all, maybe it's the thrill of leaving the house to see a film on the big screen.  Maybe I'm easily swayed by five seconds of boobs, but I found this movie an absolute delight.  

Look, you can apply your film criticism hat and do the thing where you face facts and say "this movie may not have intentionally been saying things, but society...!" and that's legit-ish.  You can also say "look, they very quickly made a movie that was about a kooky concept and the main reason it's not horrendously offensive is that no one read the book it's based on and made Hyde what he was in the book as a woman."  And I think both ways of viewing the movie have value.

We all know the story of Jekyll and Hyde - a scientist looking to quite literally use chemistry to separate the "good" side of one's character from the "evil" side.  Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1972) sees a well-intentioned Jekyll who is, instead, seeking to prolong life and believes that something in the female physiology will assist with this chemical reaction.  After an early success with a @#$%ing housefly, where he believes he mistook a female fly for a male fly, he leaps 1000 steps ahead and experiments on himself, transforming from the passably handsome Ralph Bates into Martine Beswick.  Might as well become a knock-out, I guess.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Jekyll's neighbors, the Spencers, because man is this where the film feels knowingly perverse.  A mother and her son and daughter move in upstairs (and invention of the film) and let us say that their downstairs neighbor is split in his interest between the brother and sister.  It may not be horror, but it is *interesting* and there's a killer scene that really tells us how Jekyll is unravelling, and it very much illustrates the dynamics of what's occurring with Jekyll/ Hyde.

The movie is a bit unusual in appearance for a Hammer Horror.  I assume it was filmed on rented sets to get the right claustrophobic feeling of London of the 1880's. and the seemingly perpetually darkened streets.  And it's packed with extras, bit parts and multi-room, multi-level sets.  

Also - amazing plot twist - the Dr. Jekyll here is also Jack the Ripper.  The famed precision of the murders is now part of Henry Jekyll's need to collect, like, thyroids or something.  It's actually an interesting bit of change - and really, that's what I liked about the movie is that it isn't just a game of telephone or a movie that tries to improve on something that works just fine.  They're just kind of going bananas to do as much as possible (the publication of the novel predates the murders by only 2 years, so it basically kinda works).

Oh, the film school papers that could be written about this film as misogynistic swill.  One can only imagine how the very notion of the film would be enough to pre-write a 1000 opening paragraphs in need of supporting evidence.

Is it "horror" to *become* a woman?  The movie doesn't exactly comment upon that notion or make it seem bad - just different.  Jekyll doesn't seem as upset that he's becoming a woman from time-to-time as he is that someone is taking over his brain and body.  He's a scientist, and the fact that he's a woman is a weird but not infuriating side-effect.  The character of Jekyll could potentially, in today's terms, be considered asexual, and the biggest difference is that Sister Hyde is... not.   

But but but...  I mean, Hyde's "evil" side is (duhn duhn duuuuuhn) a woman!  Curiously, the movie either on purpose or by accident doesn't really make that distinction.  Jekyll already runs around paying off morticians for access to the dead bodies of young women (a common practice til the early 20th Century), and he has no problem looking the other way when he asks some thugs to provide him with dead girls.  Arguably, all "Sister Hyde" does is look great and try to continue existing - before the murder, I guess.  But that's just to cover for the fact that s/he can't go out looking for women anymore as Dr. Jekyll.  The pure evil of Hyde in the novel is not present here despite the promise bestowed by the copy on the posters.  

Even the permission Jekyll seeks from an unknowing young woman regarding his trolley car problem of needing to murder young ladies FOR SCIENCE is phrased in the kindest possible framing.  She doesn't know what she's telling Jekyll to go do.  

The title is probably a fairly good indicator of how seriously the creators seemed to take their own film.  It's fun, bloody, weird and a bit sexy.  I might have put it off had it not been a Halloween showing at Austin Film Society, and I'm glad I did get to see it.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Halloween Watch: The Omen (1976)

Watched:  10/15/2022
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Director:  Richard Donner

Mostly, I watched this at long last because I'm tired of SimonUK assuming I've seen this movie, and then being surprised I haven't seen it.  So here we are.  ARE YOU HAPPY, SIMON?

It's not that I thought the movie would be bad, but once I heard the premise, I basically figured I could guess what the movie would be, and I don't think I was too far off.  Of course I didn't know specifics, but lots of creepy stares from a kid and people dying badly around him as the parents try to figure it out...  check and check.  

But- here's the thing.  It's just really well done.  I mean, say what you will, but kudos to Richard Donner for crafting a movie that has you cheering for a five year old kid to get it.  That's storytelling, kids.

Living at the intersection of two horror genres, (a) the evil child genre and (b) Satanic Panic fodder, The Omen (1976) manages to package the two nicely, pulling in name actors who are past their heyday but can still deliver the goods.  I mean, it's a bit odd to cast a 60 year old Gregory Peck to play the husband to a 40-year-old Lee Remick as the parents of a 5 year old (in 1976.  Now... meh).  Fortunately, both are terrific, unravelling on separate timelines as they deal with the reality of what's happening to them.  And, man, Remick can do more with a look than most actors can with all their tools and tricks.  

The film also stars a young David Warner, and it was great to see him doing his thing in the wake of his passing.

I'm glad I saw it, even if the past 46 years have seen so much in the way of imitation, it may not feel terrifically fresh at this point on a first viewing.  But it also never veers away from the point that there's a 5-year-old bringing about the end of the world, and no magic doo-dad is going to miraculously fix the kid.  And the *scope* of the story was so much bigger and better realized than I was guessing.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Dracula Watch: The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)

Watched:  10/03/2022
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  First 
Director:  Alan Gibson

Well, this is the final Dracula movie starring Christopher Lee as the good count, it's 1973 happening out there, and the soundtrack has a wah peddle.  I won't say I didn't enjoy this movie.  I did!  It's got Cushing still leaning into it, Lee is much more engaged than in Dracula AD 1972, and how can you go wrong when you include Joanna Lumley?  

This movie follows what happens when Dracula gets himself a cult going, and managed to plan ahead.  His plan may make no sense, but it is very, very dramatic.  Some key scenes seem to take place off-camera, and you will not like the guy who they cast as "our hero".  He has a terrible haircut and is rude to Joanna Lumley while also clearly supposed to have a romantic spark with her that no one is buying.  She's clearly way, way out of his league.  

Anyway, a mysterious cult seems to have recruited some deeply important people with the promise of power.  They kill a chicken and everything.  But it's secretly Dracula planning to use a super-bubonic plague that will wipe out humanity.  As the authorities bring in Van Helsing to sort things out, he sorts out that Dracula survived their last encounter and is now working to create a plague so all of humanity will die, and he will then be able to die, himself.  This idea gets no further consideration as some kinda wild stuff.  

There's a basement full 'o brides, a gang wearing matching sweater vests of evil, a woman wildly othered and exoticized for being Asian, snipers, excellent use of a net, and Dracula getting caught in a shrubbery.  

Joanna Lumley plays Jessica Van Helsing, seen in the prior year's Dracula AD 1972 as portrayed by Stephanie Beacham.  And her wardrobe is 70's fabu.  No notes.  She looks terrific.  

The movie plays it pretty straight, and nobody is an idiot just to serve the story.  I'm not sure how unleashing a plague requiring physical contact that becomes obvious one has said plague is particularly frightening when you realize no one would touch those people and just walk away from the threat.  Literally Lee's scheme in Captain America: Death Too Soon is 10000x more effective.   

There's some kinda interesting direction here that shows we've moved well on from the TV-like set-ups on the first Dracula.  Even if the title sequence just yells "make it cheap!".  It's funny what some camera angles and not pumping a studio full of flat lighting can do.  But, man, you can also feel that this is not the world's most expensive movie when Dracula's office looks absolutely borrowed for the day.

Yes, Dracula has an office.

Anyhoo.  Go watch!  It's the last Dracula Lee/ Cushing team up.