Saturday, June 1, 2013

Recommendations :: Here's a Baker's Dozen of What I've Been Watching, and So Should You! Or Not.

Shadow of the Cat (1961): Highly entertaining Country Cottage Mystery from Hammer where a resourceful cat manages to bump off the conspirators who murdered her owner, one by one, and foil a dastardly inheritance grab from the rightful heir (Barbara Shelley). The film was enhanced with myself, after each feline induced homicide, looking squarely at my own little monster curled up on the couch right in the eyes and declare, with a wag of a finger, "Don't get any ideas."

And I finally managed to see my first Paul Naschy flick (-- even though he only wrote and starred in) Blue Eyes of a Broken Doll a/k/a House of Psychotic Women. Pretty good and fairly grisly gialli inspired whodunit, though the ending was kind of a five car twist pile-up as the real killer is unmasked and his plan to get away with it all blows up in his face due to several revelations that come right out of ether. Typical for the genre, but may cause some consternation; and I'm still a little iffy on what may or may not have been some actual animal snuff. Viewer be wary.

In The Late Show (1977) Art Carney basically plays a graying Philip Marlowe, who is practically deaf, crippled with a bleeding ulcer, and saddled by a bum leg, who grudgingly gets back into the seedier life when his ex-partner is inexplicably killed looking for a woman's cat, which leads him down a rabbit-hole into a fantastic hard-boiled neo-noir in the grubby streets of LA. I can understand why Lily Tomlin (the client) was a thing and this film reminds me to wonder where she went, exactly, and the May / December romance actually works between the two. Also fantastic turns by Eugene Roche as the bad guy and Bill Macy (Maude's husband) as a greasy informant.

As the legend goes, either John Wayne or Frank Sinatra were Don Siegel's first choice to play 'Dirty' Harry Callahan. Obviously, both turned the role down and McQ (1974) appears to be Wayne's mea maxima culpa for that career choice. Directed by John Sturges, it's a solid, though by the numbers, tale of maverick cop fighting against "the rules" that tie his hands (meaning things like evidence and due process) and the corruption inside the department over some stolen narcotics while he tries to solve the murder of his partner. Okay, now, I liked the movie, a lot, and I like Wayne a lot, too, and always felt he's been kinda under-appreciated as an actor, but, to me, he just doesn't seem to fit in these urban surroundings.

An Olympic themed Slasher movie? Yes, Mary Lou Retton, we can have such things. Kind of a messy mash-up of Gymkata and Graduation Day, Fatal Games (1984) is completely awesome in its mounting stoopidity as a mad javelin thrower starts bumping off athletes at an elite training facility. On the plus side, there is some amazing cinematography to be seen, an amazing amount of equal-opportunity nudity, and they actually do pretty good with the red herrings -- especially with the introduction of a dubious X-Factor in that everyone is basically on steroid therapy (to keep up with the Russians, 'natch) making 'roid-rage a likely contributing factor. A strategically placed hot dog kinda gives the whodunit away in the first five minutes but stick around because the reveal of the killer's true motivation is a hoot and a half.

If you ever find yourself yearning for the halcyon days of VHS tapes and wandering the aisles of your favorite local video store and picking out a rental based solely on the most WTF-box art you can find, do I have a movie for you! Night of Retribution (1987) is a squalid chunk of Canuxploitation about a disgraced cop who must save his estranged family from a pack of deranged escaped convicts who hole up in his secluded fixer-upper. Featuring a bravura performance by Robbie Rox as Skull, the head degenerate mass-murderer, who is also pathologically scared of the dark. And I'll leave it you all to pick which is the hero and which is the villain based on the poster art. Good luck with that.

The Yakuza (1974): Sydney Pollack's film is one part revenge actioneer and one part Japanese cultural study as several parties cash in several personal debts to resolve a seemingly simple kidnap caper by the Japanese mafia. But the deeper our heroes get into it, the thicker the family secrets get as they must stay alive, kill their enemies, AND honor a strict set of engrained codes of etiquette on such things. Fascinating flick, with great turns by Robert Mitchum and Ken Takakara who blast and slice their way through the ensuing mayhem.

Dames (1934): Another gob-smacking Ray Enright and Busby Berkeley musical comedy mash-up where (second verse, same as the first) some desperate musicians once more apply some feminine wiles to gold-dig out the financing for their latest show from another stuffed shirt. Highlights include a Joan Blondell torch song to a load of laundry, a rather creepy number about Dick Powell's fanatical obsession over Ruby Keeler, and the joy of watching Hugh Herbert, Zazu Pitts and Guy Kibbee getting inadvertently snockered in the balcony on some 80-proof quackery cure-all.

As a Made for TV movie, Deadly Lessons (1983) certainly comes up short on the sex, nudity and grue; however, I will contend that this tale of murder and mayhem and revenge at a girls prep school is probably the best example of an American made gialli. Seriously, it's barely a hop, skip and a jump away from being Naked You Die. Also, Donna Reed subbing-in in a role usually reserved for Joan Bennett as the headmistress doesn't hurt. Also lurking in the cast is Bill "I don't get punched in the face in this one" Paxton, Larry "CHiPs" Wilcox and Nancy "Bart Simpson" Cartwright.

Ode to Billy Joe (1976): Well, that was depressing. Good. But depressing. So, fair warning. Yeah, this southern fried Gothic tale spun from the groves of Bobbie Gentry's haunting hit single about the mystery surrounding a suicide has a few twists you'll never see coming across the Tallahatchie Bridge. And if nothing else, between this and Macon County Line is all the evidence we need that Max "Jethro Bodine" Baer should have made more movies.

He Knows You're Alone (1980): Moderately effective slasher hampered by a goofy romantic subplot necessitated by the killer's fixation on killing brides-to-be. And to be fair, this thread is salvaged because stars Scardino and O'Heaney honestly sparked the old chemistry set with ease. Still, I think we should all be thankful that most police investigators in real life don't mimic their brethren in these things. *sheesh* Also of note, even though the movie trumpets itself as being the first onscreen appearance of Tom Hanks, he's in it for like 10 seconds; and honestly, the filmmakers probably would've been better served, notoriety wise, if they had actually been the film where Hanks was hacked to pieces. Overall, I recommend the movie immensely as long as you all promise to stop the film with about 30 seconds to go and dump the stoopid twist for the sake of stoopid twist only ending.

Deadfall (2012): Now, even though the plot and characters of this lean and mean tale of a heist getaway gone horribly wrong may very well be Film Noir 101, the film is executed with razor precision and fueled with an outstanding cast including Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Charlie Hunnam, Kris Kristofferson, Sissy Spacek, Kate Mara and always a Treat Williams. Can't recommend this one enough, folks.

Oh, holy hell on a cracker! To all my B-Movie Brethren out there. Heed my plea. If you gotta watch only one of Embassy Pictures repackaged Sons of Hercules flicks make it Medusa vs. the Son of Hercules. In truth, Perseo L'Invincible (1963) is a retelling of the legend of Perseus. Carlo Rambaldi (Alien, E.T.) provided the go-motion sock-puppet dragon, and his Medusa is a fully articulated, one-eyed mobile tree stump. This thing is fantastic. GO! WATCH THIS! NOW!!!


Stacia said...

Why haven't I seen The Yakuza? I'm an idiot.

I really didn't care for Deadfall. Every single word of dialogue, every action from every character was about the breakdown of the family unit, and it got pretty tiresome after about 40 minutes. Liked the snowmobile chase scene and Eric Bana a lot, though, and Kate Mara was so good she deserved an even bigger role.

(The CAPTCHA is exceptionally difficult tonight, I guess to punish me for my insolence!)

W.B. Kelso said...

The plot was pretty rote, and the director seemed fairly occupied with getting the boxer and the sister in the sack, but, I've read this plot several times in several places but I thought the cast did a good job of making it work. That's me shrugging right now.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...