Thursday, September 13, 2018

Down Among the Z Men (1952)

aka Down Among the "Z" Men
Peter Sellers made some great comedies and he made some terrible ones. The worst is undoubtedly "Ghost in the Noonday Sun," which isn't so much a film as a series of filmed improvisations loosely tied together. This was his first film and it stars the Goons, who were a radio comedy team. Unfortunately, they didn't write the movie, so it just isn't funny. There's dance numbers and other things tossed in and the whole plot is an army "let's put on a show" chestnut. The main character is a messy absent-minded professor played by Michael Bentine, who was barely part of the Goons... and he's dreadful. Sellers has minor duties and doesn't interact much with most of the cast. But now you know where I got the blog title and now the Americans reading it should know they've been pronouncing it wrong: it's "Zed Movies" and not "Zee Movies!"

Thanks for playing along for 1700+ reviews. I may come back.

Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (2009)

Co-directed by the guy who directed Tokyo Gore Police, this is another wild ride and this one will probably offend people in the US unexpectedly, as it shows girls following a fashion fad in Tokyo that's extremely racist to some. So you were warned. A high school girl gives a boy a box of chocolates. These chocolates contain drops of her blood she put there intentionally because she's a vampire and she wants him to be one and live with her forever. ["Twilight" has so damned much to apologize for.] She, however, has a rival, who she pushes off a roof, killing her. But wait! The girl's father turns her into a Frankenstein-like monster. It's very very gory and played for laughs, which mostly don't work (it might be a cultural thing, but I think they just aren't funny). It's yet another attempt to make a sure-fire cult movie.

Santa Jaws (2018)

This is the 6th film directed by Misty Talley I've seen (fourth with sharks) and I may have managed to review them all without noting they're by the same director. [See Arachnoquake Ghost Shark Ozark Sharks and Mississippi River Sharks.] She hasn't improved on her use of CGI, but for once she's made a pretty entertaining film. Santa falls in the water, gets attacked and magically becomes the title creature, complete with cap on a fin. A young boy gets a present of a magic pen. He draws cartoons, where he wishes he could be alone for the holidays. This brings about the magic of his family being hunted by Santa Jaws. There's good use of Christmas-related weapons, from candy cane harpoons to wrapping it in strings of lights. The characters are better than usual and even the music is better than usual, being mostly holiday-related. It's cheesy and silly and stupid and the kills are not bloody, so kids could conceivably watch it, if that's the kind of family you have.

Roboshark (2015)

This is at least the 15th horror film directed by Jeffrey Lando, but I think it's the first I've reviewed. It's a very cheap Sharknado wannabe, but it has its moments. A space probe lands in the ocean, where a shark devours it and becomes Roboshark. It then decides to attack Seattle, specifically a Starbucks and a high school swimming pool. There's a lot of local humor that will be lost on those not from the area. A girl finds out Roboshark is following her on Twitter. The sharks messages are mostly emojis, that when deciphered mean "Roboshark Phone Home." They dispatch it by toppling the Space Needle on it. It's a minor shark film, but better than most.

Prey of the Jaguar (1996)

I'm hoping this is the last David DeCoteau - directed film I cover (there have been two dozen). It has Stacy Keach, Linda Blair and Paul Bartel in it, though none of them star. Keach's look makes me laugh every time he's on screen. The star, Max Caulfield sports a pornstache. His wife and son have been murdered, so he does what anyone would do: learn martial arts and don a superhero costume drawn in crayon by his son, then go after the bad guys non-lethally... he uses a dart gun and tranquilizes them. Alas, as loopy as this sounds, it's not very entertaining.

Ozark Sharks (2016)

aka Summer Shark Attack
Directed by the same guy who did "Zombie Shark" (2015) which I really thought I'd covered, but apparently haven't, this is much better, though a very by-the-numbers shark attack film. A small town in the ozarks is having a fireworks festival that gets interrupted by bull sharks (I think I'm starting to recognize species of sharks). It's up to a family and the arsenal in the back of a bait shop to stop the sharks. One goes through a woodchipper. It's surprisingly watchable, though it makes no real impression; the acting is better than expected, characters are fleshed out, the CGI is - of course - execrable and it has few slow spots.

Night Ripper! (1986)

Wow, that knife just stops at the teeth, doesn't it?

Directed by the same guy who did "Fertilize the Blaspheming Bombshell," "Streets of Death"and a few other turkeys, this has Larry Thomas in it and you will never not think "that's the Seinfeld Soup Nazi" when you see him; at least he's not going to be remembered for this. There's a guy killing and disemboweling (off-camera) models, a photographer becomes a suspect and the photog tries to keep his girlfriend safe. There's a twist ending, but I knew who the killer was the second he appeared on screen. The non-acting is tedious, the endless shots of people driving is tedious, the poor SOV photography and sound are irksome, there's nothing original and nothing interesting. Some have hailed this as a slasher so bad it's funny, but it's not worth seeking out (and it's VHS only as far as I know).

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus (2009)

I am SO tired of shark movies (and they're half of what's left to cover). This stars Lorenzo Lamas and Debbie Gibson. The title monsters were in a glacier, but it gets melted and they're released. After some bad ideas for killing them, from atomic bombs to pheromones, they decide the best thing to do is make them fight each other... in other words, the plot of every Kaiju film. The monsters don't even show up until the end. This somehow has spawned three sequels so far: Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus (2010), Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark (2014) and Mega Shark vs. Kolossus (2015).

Mari-Cookie and the Killer Tarantula (1998)

aka Mar-Cookie, aka Eight Legs to Love You, aka Mari-Cookie and the Killer Tarantula in 8 Legs to Love You

This was mentioned by Sean Frost as the Jess Franco film that broke him and he's seen a big spider movie or 200. I hate Jess Franco films, including the ones most people like, but this one not only has Lina Romay, but Michelle Bauer and Linnea Quigley (the latter only briefly), so I gave it a shot. I did not expect the papier-mache spider with the xeroxed face that graces the cover to actually be in the film, but there it is. The plot involves people going missing, so they investigate a strip club, because it's a Franco film. In one of the odder moments, a flashback reveals that after Romay was being raped by a soldier, a tarantula crawled into her vagina and laid eggs. Why that makes her a part-time giant killer spider is not really explained. There's a lot of nudity, none of it appealing (Quigley is naked only in the commentary!) and there's not much else to recommend it, including a throwaway joke about Franco (who died 23 years earlier).

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (2018)

This is an "A" film, not even a "B" film, much less a "Z" film - it stars Sam Elliott - and it's quite good, but it's going to get mixed reviews because it is in no way the film you expect from the title. Elliott spends the film in a schmaltzy love-and-loss reverie, full of string symphony music and lush visuals. He did kill Hitler, didn't get credit for it and is okay with that; he's not sure all the repercussions of his act made it personally worthwhile (though it's assumed it was worthwhile to the world as a whole). Now they want him to kill the Bigfoot [that damned 'the' article keeps catching me] because it might be carrying a disease that could wipe out mankind and he's not sure where he stands in all of this. As the title says, he does it. It's an odd film and well-made, but it's going to irritate fans of cheap silly action films.

Howling: New Moon Rising (1995)

aka Howling VII, aka Howling 7: New Moon Rising

The Howling series of films are, excepting the first and maybe the marsupial one, pretty lame. I've covered the Sybil Danning one and this one is undoubtedly the worst. The director of at least parts of #4,5 and 6 directed this and wrote it, produced it, edited it and starred in it as well, incorporating as much footage from the earlier films as possible to pad out the run time and make things confusing; sometimes the new footage seems to be people saying "and then this happened" with a cut to another film. A western town has a bunch of murders; there's a new guy in town and he rides a motorcycle and has long hair, so he's a suspect, but there's rumors of a werewolf. The transformations and makeup are exceptionally bad for the budget and only happen in the last minute of the film! There's a ton of very bad jokes and a lot of musical interludes.

Hardcase and Fist (1984)

I, for one, cannot pass up an action film with a title that sounds like it was made up by the writers of "Family Guy." Ted Prior stars and shows that his acting talents include growing a beard to go with his mullet. This was directed by Tony Zarindast and I've considered a few of his films for inclusion, but this one is the pick... it even has billboard starlet Angelyne in the cast (whose look has changed so dramatically that I had to re-watch the stripper dance scenes to spot her). A cop is framed and sent to jail, but gets out with his martial arts-expert cellmate to get revenge on the mafia types that put him there. The film is hopelessly padded. Many of the stunts look like they didn't work; one car jumps too far and barely manages to move afterward, a guy on fire walks far too long, and - watch for this - the drivers of the cars in a chase scene actually switch vehicles between shots! There's a fire-eating stripper and an aerobics scene and one long topless scene of a woman getting out of a pool.

Halloween Pussy Trap Kill! Kill! (2017)

With the title, you expect some connection to Russ Meyer's "Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!" but this is merely a retread of "Saw" with Dave Mustaine doing the creepy voice. Unappealing people find themselves trapped in a series of rooms from which they must escape; the rooms are filled with tools and weapons. Someone must die before they can get to each new room. I hoped it would be me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Geek (1971)

After my review of Sweet Prudence and the Erotic Adventures of Bigfoot, there was a comment by Ira Brooker asking what I thought of this film. Most who have seen it have only seen the few minutes tacked onto the DVD of Godmonster of Indian Flats, but there's a 50 minute version available that's missing only a few minutes of hardcore sex or maybe one scene. The film starts out as a 16mm documentary following three couples who go in search of Bigfoot, also known as The Geek (though, only in this film, I think). It's endless footage of people walking for 10 minutes. Then the couples split apart and start doing couple stuff, like admitting to almost having sex with one's sister and then having poorly filmed uninteresting hardcore sex. Then, all of a sudden, Bigfoot shows up and he's wearing a terrible outfit that makes one long for the gorilla suit in the softcore The Beast that Killed Women.

Wow, that's a lot of links for one of my posts.

Bigfoot rapes the women. Graphically. The guys go from being ineffectual in stopping him to being kind of voyeuristic. Then it ends.

Do I have to cover "Monster of Camp Sunshine" now? Is this becoming a Bigfoot porn review site?

Final Score (1986)

aka Strike Commando

Finding this is tough; there are some VHS copies floating around and a DVD that's never been released in the US... and that's a shame, because this is worth seeing. [As I type this, I just know someone will tell me it's now readily available] Christopher Mitchum stars in this ultimate 1980's action film. There's a long 10 minute intro, where Mitchum's son is killed and his wife gang-raped and then killed. Once you get past that, it's 70 minutes of explosions, car crashes and gunfire. Every cliché gets hit: there's a flashback to Vietnam, complete with exploding huts and guard towers; the hero gets tortured; there's a car chase that ends with a vehicle flipping after a truck full of tomatoes gets spilled, there's a MacGuffin of a disc with evidence, there's a helicopter explosion. Three days after his wife's murder, Mitchum teams up with a woman who wants revenge for her sister's death and they fall in love, which makes this revenge for the loss of the love of his life questionable.  Mitchum rides a motorcycle with both a machine gun and a rocket launcher, uses the latter to blow up a car, and then jumps over the flaming wreckage! One stunt gets repeated, using shots from a different angle and they pretend it's a separate incident. There's an impaling on a tree branch, a hot poker shoved up an ass, a bomb set off in a guy's crotch. There's stunts where the stuntmen did not walk away. This deserves to be better known.

Codename: Diablo (2017)

This 30 minute film was advertised as being in the line of Russ Meyer or Andy Sidaris films, but it owes more to fetish comics. Three agents with enormous breast implants (we're talking gallons here) battle a bunch of latex-sporting SCUBA men for a death ray. The female stars can't act, and one has an accent that's distracting. I really wanted to like this, but was disappointed. Amazingly, there's no nudity.

Unasked-for commentary on enormous breast implants:

The largest commercially available breast implants are 3000 cc, which when overfilled to a sphere can be pushed to 4000 cc [I know of two cases that are larger, using discontinued products]. If they were silicone, at 4 liters, they'd weigh 6.5 pounds each, but as saline are slightly over 8 lbs. This weight often causes the surgical scars to open, making removal necessary. Implants last 5-10 years before leaking, requiring replacement or removal and reconstructive surgery. Anyone who does this to themselves has some form of body dysmorphia and should spend their money on therapy instead of surgery.

Bruce Li in New Guinea (1979)

aka Bruce Lee in New Guinea, aka Bruce Li in Snake Island, aka Bruce in New Guinea, aka Last Fist of Fury
I'd skipped over this when covering Bruceploitation, I think because the copy I had didn't seem to be pretending it was Bruce Lee (despite Bruce Li wearing a tracksuit) and then Stately Wayne Manor reminded me of it. Two guys visit an island - definitely not New Guinea - one to learn the local fighting techniques, the other to learn the culture. They hire comic relief cross-eyed guides. There's a devil cult with an evil serpent wizard, a romantic subplot, cannibals, a magic "snake" pearl and rings, a kung fu gorilla protector of the leader's daughter, a snake pit, a guy who fights with an iron hand on a stick... you know, the usual. The fight scenes aren't great, though Bolo Yeung shows up, yet the action and the weirdness keep coming, so it's worth a watch. The guy in the gorilla suit's pretty funny.

Bikini Girls on Dinosaur Planet (2005)

Two (female) scientists travel through a bad CGI wormhole to a planet with really really bad CGI dinosaurs that disappear after a minute because they were expensive to film. Then cave girls with dyed hair and makeup (and very 2000-ish shaving) discover lesbian sex. One of the cave girls is played by the same actress that plays one of the scientists - it's just that cheap. Misty Mundae is the star, but her scenes appear to have been filmed years earlier and spliced in.

Bigfoot vs. D.B. Cooper (2014)

Interesting title, but terrible film. David DeCoteau shows shirtless guys in their underwear for 95% of the movie, doing nothing but flexing in front of mirrors. Bigfoot (a poor orange gorilla suit) occasionally watches them and there is a slight encounter. D.B. Cooper's character arc is almost non-existent and the title confrontation takes less than a minute and is poorly done. Eric Roberts narrates and Linnea Quigley's voice shows up for one line or two, but neither are actually filmed, though the only billed actors. This is unmitigated crap.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Big Tits Zombie (2010)

aka The Big Tits Dragon, aka The Big Tits Dragon: Hot Spring Zombies vs. Strippers 5, aka Zombie Stripper Apocalypse, aka The Big Tits Dragon 3-D, aka Big Tits Zombie - Boobs to Die For, aka Nippon Splatterotics 1

This was based on the Manga "Big Tits Dragon" and directed by the same guy who did "Sexual Parasite: Killer Pussy" (2004). Bored strippers find a book of the dead and one accidentally uses it to raise the dead. She gets power mad and then two other strippers (of the 5 that seem to be working there) fight back with a katana and a chainsaw. None of the zombies have big tits, but one does shoot fire out of her vagina, which might have something to do with the "dragon" of the title. There's an Alice in Wonderland zombie for no explained reason. One woman's stunt double is clearly a man and the gore is obviously sausage links and jam. Some sets are covered in plastic to protect them from splatter. The acting is slightly better than porn-level (I think the star of this did porn, but I'm not going to look it up) and the zombies look like they're wearing Halloween masks. It's certainly entertaining enough for a viewing.

Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies (2016)

A zom com, like "Shaun of the Dead," this has a chemical meant to make snow instead turning people (and a deer) into zombies, though no one notices the difference for a while. Then snowboarders fight off the zombies; there's a snowboard kill, a double ski pole to the face kill, a wooden bench head split and a few other things you haven't seen before. It looks like the people involved have shot snowboarding footage before and decided to make a film; the snowboarding action looks great, the rest is variable. Not all the jokes work - since it was shot in Austria, it's possible many don't translate - but there are some laughs. The acting is okay, the characters actually involving and the thin plot doesn't bog down in the 78 minute run time. There's an inexplicable dance scene. This qualifies as a "B" film, rather than a "Z" film, with a budget of $3 million and is better than what I should post here. It's hard to not watch a film with that title, though.

Android Cop (2016)

aka Hammond, Robotic Cop
Having covered "Wolf Cop," "Zombie Cop," "Psycho Cop," "Hollywood Cop," Samurai Cop," "Space Cop," "Demon Cop" and "Karate Cop," how could I not do this one? It's still another Asylum film, meant to be a remake of "RoboCop," but also taking elements from "Blade Runner," "Almost Human," "Alien Nation," some Blaxploitation classics and a thousand buddy cop films. A detective gets partnered with an android cop and they go into the forbidden section of LA where there's a plague, to get the daughter of the mayor, whose consciousness is stored in a runaway android. This leads to a Mad max type car chase and a helicopter chase, some shootouts and some fights. There's a few good lines, like "If I shot everyone who attacked me with an axe, I would never have the time to get all the paperwork done." Michael Jai White stars and Charles S. Dutton has a role. It's a very passable time-waster.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Zoombies (2016)

Skipping past "Zomboobies!" (2014), which is still basically a collection of trailers waiting to be made a film and "Zompyres:Texas" (2010) which is simply unlikeable, we end this alphabetical run here. This was made by The Asylum and is their version of "Jurassic Park;" a virus at a zoo has turned the animals into zombies, which then go on the attack and, of course, it spreads outside the walls of the zoo. The CGI effects start well for the budget, but get worse, as the budget runs out of steam just as the plot does. Someone gets savaged by a giraffe, which seems unlikely. Someone gets stomped by an elephant and walks it off. Someone gets attacked by a koala. [Why has no one ever done a film about "Drop Bears," the Australian legend of koalas that drop out of trees and attack?] It's slow and unoriginal - two deadly faults in the genre.
Next up: maybe 20 films suggested by others.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Zombie '90: Extreme Pestilence (1991)

aka Zombie 90: Extreme Pestilence
Well, now I've seen an Andreas Schnaas film, so that's one fewer gaps in the crap I've watched. This is an extreme gore film, like H. G. Lewis cranked up to 11, and it's ineptitude also rivals Lewis. A breast is cut off, revealing intestines underneath! A baby is ripped from a womb and it's obviously a doll. Chainsaws rip off limbs. On top of this is what appears to be an improvised dubbed voice track with one or maybe two guys doing all the voices (including women), often with ludicrous accents - a German doctor sounds like a Blaxploitation pimp, for example. If you have the stomach for gore and you think people doing funny voices is hysterical, you could enjoy this, but it got tiresome quickly for me. There's very little plot or characterization, but that seems beside the point.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Zombie Diaries 2 (2011)

aka World of the Dead - Zombie Diaries, aka Zombie Diaries 2: World of the Dead
I'm not sure I should include this because, frankly, no one likes it. The original film had several groups that were tied together at the end; this one follows a very linear plot: the last survivors of the zombie plague in England try to make it to the coast in an effort to meet up with others they've heard about. It's done in found footage style, which I never like and one wonders why the guy with the camera never puts it down to help anyone. To say it's deliberately paced would be an understatement, as it's a slow zombie shamble until the end, where there's an ironic twist that doesn't save it. The film is mostly army types versus bandit types (and here they could've had a story about just how much control a society needs, but they don't go there) and there are three gratuitous rape scenes.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Zombie Cop (1991)

I reviewed J.R. Bookwalter's film "Robot Ninja" long ago and this is his other early no-budget film; it's far, far worse. In fact, Bookwalter has disowned it, making copies of it scarce. It's terribly padded, including repeating an entire scene. The acting, music, cinematography and editing are all quite bad. Bookwalter's films have their fans because his films have action - this is static. The plot: a voodoo villain kills a cop, who comes back from the dead as a voodoo zombie and said zombie rejoins his police force to stop the bad guy.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Zombie Bloodbath (1993) and Zombie Rampage (1989)

These are both Todd Sheets zombie films, so I lumped them together

Zombie Bloodbath
Slightly higher budgeted and more ambitious than his previous efforts, this has more than 700 extras in zombie gear. Nuclear power plant on Indian burial ground, then 30 minutes of gut munching in 70 minutes. It's still very amateurish, but gorehounds will recognize all the influences of Italian gore directors, including the music. There's at least three separate groups that have no connection to each other, except that they get attacked by zombies, making the film a mess to follow.

Zombie Rampage

This makes Zombie Bloodbath look like a Powell-Pressburger film. Zombies attack; there's really nothing else to say. I'd reviewed two Sheets films earlier and this is exactly like those - amateurish and sloppy, with gleefully over-the-top gore.


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Zeppo: Sinners from Beyond the Moon! (2007)

This film must have taken about as long to make as it took for me to download and probably cost as much as a dozen views (one is enough). Lloyd Kaufman of Troma plays the President, Debbie Rochon plays the queen of a planet that decides to invade Earth for fun and Conrad Brooks narrates... sort of. There's a lot of references to Plan 9 From Outer Space (including the presence of Brooks) and it looks like it was more fun to make than it was to watch.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Yeti: The Giant of the 20th Century (1977)

aka Giant of the 20th Century
Despite being overlong, this is a pretty solid and entertaining B-movie, rather than the crap I usually watch. Made in Canada with an all-Italian crew, the abominable snowman called "Yay-Tee" is 80 feet tall - though sometimes much smaller; he varies - and makes laughably overwrought faces as he stomps Toronto. After getting thawed (which takes forever), he falls in love with a girl and manages to get a nipple-tweak(!) before his King Kong-inspired rampage that's badly enough done that he's transparent through parts of it. Oh, and he breaks a man's neck with his toes. All in all, a pretty good time.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Yarasa Adam - Betmen (1973)

aka Turkish Batman, aka Betmen Yarasa Adam

The Turkish Wizard of Oz is probably the best and most famous of the Turkish remakes, but this might be my favorite. Batman's a bushy-haired mercenary who takes his ward Robin to strip clubs (which seem to have full jazz bands) between fistfights. A lot of the plot is stolen from James Bond/ Derek Flint films and there's even a Blofeld-like villain stroking a cat. The music, too, is stolen and is of several types, all of which is a blast to hear; it's like the soundtrack to the porn film I'd make if I did that sort of thing. There's a lot of nudity and little sensible plot, but Batman takes off his cape before fights and takes off his mask every time he makes out with a woman - which is a lot - and the villain, whose plan involves insurance fraud of fashionistas, gets foiled. Despite its cheapness and crudeness, it's pretty entertaining.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Worst Movie EVER! (2011)

It's not the worst movie ever, but it was a clever idea: book a movie theater for two days, don't advertise and intentionally sell only one ticket, so the box office receipt total is $11. Then, recoup the loss by advertising what a flop it is and getting people to watch the trailer on YouTube. I haven't seen the film - no one has - but the trailer's what you expect, from bad acting to bad effects. I haven't seen proof that there is an actual movie yet, so be wary of any reviews.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

White Fire (1985)

Robert Ginty, looking like a cross between Larry Bird and William H. Macy, makes for an unlikely action hero, but he's probably the best one could get when you consider the plot. The introductory scene kills the parents of Ginty and his sister, who then goes on to a diamond mine in Turkey, where there's a radioactive diamond called White Fire. Everybody wants it and that's the crux of the plot, except for Fred Williamson as a pimp and his subplot and a subplot that is so creepy it makes the film: Ginty wants to have sex with his sister. He watches her skinny dip and take showers, then finds a woman who looks a lot like her, then that woman has plastic surgery (by an all-female and possibly all-lesbian team) to look exactly like her. There's some very bad gore and some flimsy fight scenes, one involving a band saw to the crotch and one where out hero brandishes a chainsaw. But it's the creepy incest angle that sticks with you - that and the title of the film, which gets repeated hundreds of times, including dozens of times in the title song which gets played repeatedly no matter how inappropriate to the action. There still manages to be long dull sequences for only 84 minutes. Oddly, the VHS print of this is better quality than the DVD.

Monday, August 27, 2018

What the [Bleep] Do We Know? (2004)

aka What the #$*! Do We K(now)?!, aka What the Fuck Do We Know?
1500 titles and we've finally hit something I can't review objectively. Marlee Matlin plays a woman with a phobia about being touched whose story gets layered with scientists explaining bits of quantum theory and then it gets all mystical... and fucking wrong, banal and irritating. I studied quantum chemistry for three years and several mystical religious systems for more than a decade; there's a temptation to meld these that's been seen since Niehls Bohr had a family crest made with a yin/yang symbol on it. Some could enjoy this film, I suppose, but I actually yelled at the screen more than once.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Wendigo: Bound by Blood (2010)

I feel the need to include a film by Len Kabasinski, who has a following, yet seems to keep finding new ways to fail. This has three story arcs that don't mesh until the climax, but none of them are compelling in themselves: there's someone who eats human flesh, releasing the Wendigo, a spirit that causes an insatiable hunger for more cannibalism and which seems able to jump from body to body; there's some assassins; there's a cop having a bad day. The director specializes in martial arts films, so there's a melee at the end that's mediocre at best, with one bad gore CGI shot. With all the characters and all the plot, there doesn't seem much happening.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Weasels Rip My Flesh (1979)

The first film by Nathan Schiff, whose "They Don't Cut the Grass Any More" I covered long ago, this was shot when he was 16 on Super-8 on a budget of $400. It's his best film, I think, though that's not saying much. As far as I can tell, the plot has a spaceship from Venus losing some ooze, which kids pour on a weasel, turning it into a giant monster; later, I think there's bad guys who want to take over the world with an army of giant weasel monsters. The effects are astonishingly cheap: in one shot, intestines are portrayed by Spaghettios, the papier-mache monster is just a puppet head operated by hands you often see and a toy rocketship moves by moving the camera. It's just over an hour long, and though confusing (you can't see some things, there's continuity errors and logic gaps), it's more watchable than a lot of these cheapo flicks. I can actually recommend it. The title came from the title of a Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention album, which in turn came from a pulp magazine story in "Man's Life."

Friday, August 24, 2018

War Without End (1986)

aka Commando 3
I couldn't say this blog was complete without a film directed by Teddy Page (aka Teddy Chiu) and this is the only one I could find. I hear they're all interchangeable. It's a Rambo-style action film with people firing seemingly endless rounds of ammunition. The dubbing of voices is amusing. There's little plot or characterization, but stuff blows up real good and you get exactly what you expect.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Vikingdom (2013)

If you're going to try to emulate the film "300," you should have a decent-sized budget, or else you get something like this film about forgotten King Eirik and his battle to stop the Norse god Thor. First of all, it was filmed in Malaysia and looks it, though most of the cast is at least European (there is an Asian martial artist in the cast). There's some bad wigs as well as bad CGI, some poor line deliveries - though they seem to be having fun - and lines that themselves are unintentionally funny. It's kind of fun as dopey nonsense action. Don't go out of your way to see it, but if it lands on your screen, you can have fun with it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Vanguard (2008)

aka Vanguard
In the future of 2015, a corporation decides there are too many people, comes up with a depopulation plan and it of course goes wrong, creating zombies. This leaves one man with two axes to save the world. Unfortunately, he spends most of the film walking through the woods. The effects are shoddy (did they use a toy helicopter?) and the film goes nowhere; there are some ideas here, but it's wasted potential.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Vampirella (1996)

This was directed by Jim Wynorski, whose schlock films usually involve a lot of topless women, but this has nudity; that's a surprise because the title character is all about sexuality. Based on a character by Forrest J. Ackerman, Ackerman also produced and has a cameo, plus there's a character named "Forry Ackerman." Wynorski also gave himself a cameo, plus small roles for Angus Scrimm and John Landis. This stars Talisa Soto as the daughter of victims on a vampire planet, who comes to Earth seeking vengeance on the fugitive killers, led by Roger Daltrey, who is hiding out as a rock star. The film doesn't know what it wants to be; it's schlocky (the acting is often way over-the-top), but sometimes it tries to be a horror film. It's a passable time-waster.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Special Feature: Ransom for a Dead Man ("Columbo" episode)

This post is part of the Lovely Lee Grant Blogathon, hosted by Realweegiemidget Reviews and Angelman's Place. You can find links to more posts there, including two more on this episode of "Columbo" from 1971. Here's one.

I was rather surprised to see that this episode of "Columbo" was the first item to have three people sign on to review for the Lee Grant Blogathon. I saw this when it first aired, back in the first season of the show, before people did impersonations of him with the catchphrase "oh, just one more thing..." and have seen it a dozen times since; it has four of my favorite actors: beside Peter Falk as Lieutenant Columbo and Lee Grant as the villain of the week, it has Harold Gould as the inspector in charge of the kidnapping and Patty Mattick (who I had a serious crush on and who did more than a dozen TV shows before her acting career disappeared) as Grant's step-daughter. There are several small problems with the episode that have always bothered me and, since Columbo says several times - and even in this episode - he's always bothered by small details, I've decided to out-detective the detective. Throughout, I refer to Lee Grant's character Leslie Williams as "Grant" and Patricia Mattick's character Margaret Williams as "Patty," because that's how I think of them.

The title gives away the plot and the very first scene is Lee Grant cutting letters for a note and splicing together part of an audio tape. She then commits the murder, so the whole story is to be how she gets caught, not finding out whodunnit. When she shoots her husband, there are yellow flowers in a vase in the foreground; these flowers do not wilt by the end of the episode, which is at least several days later (in real life, murder investigations rarely take less than a year). She then removes the body - no blood stains, though this gets explained later - putting him in the trunk of a car, driving him to a cliff and throwing him over. As is pointed out later, her husband is a tall man, so this would be an arduous task for her. She does it in heels.

The first time we see Columbo, he's at the door of Grant's mansion, looking for a pen he's dropped in the dark. Grant tries to help, suggests getting a flashlight, etc. and later on Grant states that she believes Columbo fakes his shambling and fumbling to get people to let their guards down. What should be asked: What did you need to get a pen out for in the dark? Where's the paper you would write on? Can't this wait until morning? At the very end of the episode, Grant drives back to the mansion in the dark and you can see that there are lamps on either side of the door and one can easily see everything on the ground. Either that's a continuity error from day-for-night shooting or we've gone from new moon to full moon, suggesting it's been two weeks (and those flowers should be dead).

We now get the scene where the phone rings and it's the supposed ransomers. Columbo immediately finds a problem: Grant doesn't ask her husband if he's okay, as anyone would do (unless, of course, they know the answer). I'd like to point out some other problems. Have you ever been robo-dialed and had a recording greet you? You know immediately, in most cases, even with 2018 technology. How many hours of tape would she have had to record to get the words she needed and where did she get them? This second question may be answered by what looks to be a Dictaphone in her (their?) office, but tapes are rarely interchangeable on devices. Splicing tapes so that you don't hear the edit is very hard to do on reel-to-reels [admittedly, the last time I tried to do that, this show was new and I was in grade school] and, even then, people change the pace, tone and timbre of their voices between recordings. Even weirder, the phone call isn't tracked; it's short, but there's no attempt made.

We now get a scene of Grant in a courtroom, where she shows how capable she is by successfully making an objection to testimony we don't hear because she's having a conversation with someone else. Multi-tasking, thy name is woman. Being a trial lawyer, she's going to know what Columbo needs as evidence.

The ransom note came with an aerial map and instructions, showing that the "kidnappers" were familiar with her ability to fly a plane and with the area and with her husband's schedule. Already this would narrow my focus to his wife. Grant says that there's no one who would want to see her husband dead, eliminating most of the possibilities and the only other person who stands to inherit money is the step-daughter, conveniently away at boarding school in Switzerland. When the body pops up, Grant's the only real candidate.

After noting that the seat of the deceased's car was moved up, suggesting the size of the killer, there's talk of the missing keys. There's a nice brief red herring later involving keys and I won't give it away here. The question is: what became of the keys? There's a scene where Columbo refuses a ride home from the airport (he has no way back, but this gets ignored) and he breaks into Grant's padlocked locker, where he finds nothing. This scene is needed by the plot to remove a possibility of where the keys went, but the scene makes sense only in retrospect. Also, Columbo has no problem figuring out the combo, by listening to the tumblers - this would not have worked in real life.

Now let's get to the bag problem. When they have the ransom ready, Grant says she already has a bag ready and she pulls it out of her desk drawer. It's exactly the right size. Who has a new, empty, large handbag in their desk, where there's obviously little else? It's important that her bag is used, because her plan involves switching it for an identical bag which she had hidden in her locker at the airport. When she tosses the empty bag out of the plane, it gets recovered by the police who, of course, find it empty and assume the "kidnappers" have taken the money. Columbo's concern is that they didn't take the bag, but took the time to take the money out of it. This is a kidnapping; the FBI would either have put a tracking device in the bag or exploding dye packs (the technology wasn't as good then, but they had it). My concern is: how did they find the bag and how would the "kidnappers" have found it? Even if they had planned well, a bag tossed from a plane into the wild at night would be a nightmare to find.

Columbo mentions his wife and how he can annoy her. He's not wearing a wedding ring. He mentions his wife a lot later in the series, but I don't think we ever see her or hear her on a phone. She's something of "Rumpole of the Bailey's" she-who-must-be-obeyed. Peculiarly, Peter Falk was married when this was shot, so he had to intentionally remove his ring to play the character; whether he continued to do so in later episodes, I don't recall.

Patty watches "Double Indemnity" on television, the most famous film noir about insurance fraud, which immediately brings comparison of Grant to Barbara Stanwyck (not as hard-boiled, by half) and Falk to Edward G. Robinson (less energetic, but on a par). If there's any doubt about how Patty feels about Grant, there's a slap at a funeral; the fact that Columbo uses this enmity says a lot, none of it good, about his character. It's this daughter who supplies the motive for her stepmother killing her father: boredom. He tests this out when talking to Grant, when she talks about how her husband was so perfect that no one would want to kill him; she inadvertently has eliminated motives for anyone but herself.

Though Grant changes outfits several times during the episode, Columbo wears the same trench coat (which will be a constant throughout the years) and either identical or very similar suits, shirts and ties. If you look, he changes shoes at least once; he has clunky work shoes in one scene and rather nice oxford wingtips in another - I expect the latter were from Falk's own collection.

There's a scene where Grant demonstrates the phone that's part of her "perfect crime." It's interesting to note that in the scenes where she makes a phone call, it's from another phone on her desk a few feet away, though there's no explanation of multiple lines. Columbo later uses the same technology to briefly trick Grant, apparently to see her reaction, as there's no other reason (unnerving her didn't get her to spill the beans). Late in the episode, Patty tricks Grant with a recording device, which is a confusing scene; it drops from the ceiling with strobing lights and you're not sure what it is, plus it casts doubts on the phone recording as an only possibility.

At one point, Columbo states that the weapon used was a .22 caliber, shot upward at 45 degrees, which he says means 1) It wasn't a professional 2) The killer wanted to be sure the bullet wouldn't exit the body 3) The killer was seated 4) The killer was familiar to the deceased. There are several problems with his reasoning; for one, if the man had been lying down, perhaps asleep, the angle is meaningless. There is no mention of there being a gun listed among the items in the house at the time of the investigation, which seems odd. "Do you own a gun? Is it a .22?" seems reasonable questioning. At the very end, Patty shows up with a gun, which looks like a .22 and the viewer gets confused; where did it come from?

Spoiler: Grant gets caught by using the ransom money. Amusingly, they're at the airport restaurant, where Columbo ends up not having the money to pay the bill when he's holding hundreds of thousands of dollars. The waitress seems nonplussed. Because Grant invited Columbo, she should be paying, but of course it's unlikely she'd break a $100 for a small tab, so she wouldn't have dipped into the ransom for that.

There's a scene where Columbo rides in a plane piloted by Grant. The sparse ground they cover is all suburban tract housing now. Columbo agrees to go to another locale with a murder suspect, without calling the office to say what he's doing or calling home to tell his wife he'll be late.

Oh, just one more thing...

The method Columbo uses to catch the killer, if he hadn't had someone else do the dirty work for him voluntarily, would have been close enough to entrapment for a lawyer as good as Grant to avoid conviction. He also bets that the killer, who killed her husband for money, won't kill her step-daughter to keep the money. That's just wrong.
As I got through the review without photos, let's see how many outfit changes Lee Grant has in this episode.