Archive for December, 2011

And not a moment too soon…

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Well…I can honestly say there have been few years I’ve been as glad to see the back of as 2011…and I suspect I’m not the only one here to feel that way.

Thank you to all those who stuck by us in what has been a pretty lean stretch. The visits and the comments help more than you can know.

But no more of that! Here we are in those wonderful few days when we can kid ourselves that everything’s going to be different from now on – so let’s enjoy it!

Here’s hoping for a much better 2012; a year filled to the brim with – as opposed to occasionally interrupted by – monsters, maniacs, and mad science, nunchucks and ninjas, killer animals and amateur pilots, and dreadful, dreadful DVD covers…

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Out of whack

The Wackiest Wagon Train In The WestJust sit right back and you’ll hear a tale / A tale of a cinematic slip…

The movie The Wackiest Wagon Train In The West is about a wagon train headed by a seasoned older gentleman who has a bumbling and dim-witted sidekick played by Bob Denver. The other people in the wagon train consist of a rich couple of good breeding, two sexy young women, and a young man who knows the latest in the field of science. Sounds familiar?

Teleport City’s Early Christmas Gift to You

Naked, naked Mathilda May

LIFEFORCE

Lifeforce is another one of those horror movies that wrapped itself in science fiction marketing. It’s also another one of those movies that lots of people seem to loathe but I predictably love — and not just because of Mathilda May, though there’s no arguing that she doesn’t hurt. It’s referred to by some as a rip-off of Hammer’s Five Million Years to Earth, akaQuatermass and the Pit (one of my all-time favorites, by the way), with a little bit of Night of the Living Dead thrown in, plus probably some Planet of the Vampires. And pretty much every movie that could was ripping off Alien at that point as well, so we might as well through that one onto the pile too. It mixes everything up into a completely loopy sci-fi horror tale featuring a perpetually nude female lead and an exploding Patrick Stewart.

Around the World with Teleport City

Catching up on posting updates…

Legend of the Tsunami Warrior

I don’t think looking for any historical background to the movie is necessary, because it’s quickly obvious that this movie has less to do with Thai history and folklore and a lot more to do with the fact that someone wanted to make a Thai version of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. In look, scope, and setting it is very similar to the Pirates franchise — lead actor Ananva Everingham even gives off a sort of Orlando Bloom vibe, with all the good and bad that entails.

Rambu: The Intruder

Rambu is a gold mine of low budget action entertainment, and what it lacks in polish it certainly makes up for with enthusiasm. Indonesian trash cinema seems occupied first and foremost with giving audiences their money’s worth, and Rambu never once lets you down. From the opening showdown to the frequent fights, then on to the scene where Rambu faces down a gang of thugs by whistling to summon an army of tuk-tuk driving bad-asses who we had no idea existed at his disposal until that very minute (and who never appear again), Rambu‘s only concern is making sure there’s something entertaining on screen.

The Stabilizer

Compared to the appellations given to the protagonists of other 1980s action films — the Exterminator, the Punisher, the Executioner — the Stabilizer sounds pretty benign. You’d almost think that he was given that name only because all of those others had already been taken. But then you learn that what the Stabilizer is in charge of stabilizing is the very balance between good and evil itself. And that, it turns out, is a job that involves an awful lot of exterminating, punishing, and executing.

The Vampire Lovers

As latter-day Hammer films go, The Vampire Lovers is an entertaining, sexy romp. It relies less on the hammy scare tactics of the later Dracula series and more on the audience’s assumptions. To us it’s obvious that Carmilla is a vampire, but it isn’t explicitly stated with shots of Pitt in fangs until late on in the film. Instead the movie shows the good guys trying to figure things out while Carmilla manages to keep one step ahead each time. The movie’s biggest asset is Pitt, who looks an absolute knockout, her husky Polish accent adding a welcome dash of the exotic. There are a few amusing nods to her vampiric nature, such as a preference for red wine, and refusing breakfast because she isn’t hungry having spent the night feasting on Emma’s blood.

Wolfhound

Anyone who knows the tropes of the sword and sorcery genre will be on familiar ground with this movie, but the fact that Wolfhound lacks originality doesn’t mean it lacks for entertainment value. It’s fantasy formula well done, with some decent performances, gorgeous location work, and a lack of the smirking irony that befouls most of the fantasy fare on SyFy. The official story is that it’s based on a novel from 1995 by Mariya Semyonova, but I think it’s pretty obvious where the true influences lie. While this film obviously got made as a Russian answer to Lord of the Rings, it has a lot more in common with Conan the Barbarian, including an opening scene and motivation for the main character that is basically plucked wholesale from the John Milius barbarian classic.

Intrusion: Cambodia

Here’s how to test whether or not you are a true resident of Teleport City: if I tell you there’s a movie starring Richard Harrison, Anthony Alonzo, and Tetchie Agbayani, do you look at me quizzically and shrug, or do you start to shake with giddy anticipation? If it’s the former, then let us soothe the wound by agreeing that you have much yet to learn, and the path before you is rich with astounding discoveries. If it’s the latter, then we are all together as one, like a rag-tag band of misfits soldiers fighting our way across ‘Nam on some mission whose objective is entirely unclear but never the less must be undertaken.

And if you are interested in asides, feel free to pick through Teleport City’s Eating and Drinking Adventure in San Diego

Edgar Who?

After a steady diet of Edgar Wallace novels (preparing for the recent Roundtable), I found myself feeling unsatisfied. I decided to go back and re-acquaint myself with an author whose mysteries are much more rigorous and disciplined that Wallace’s: namely, John Dickson Carr.

Carr, an American by birth, lived and worked for much of his life in England. He became known as one of the most brilliant authors of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. He was so prolific that his publishers made him use pseudonyms (the most famous being “Carter Dickson”) to keep his name from growing stale.

Yet in spite of his talent and his reputation, as far as I know only three of Carr’s stories have ever been turned into feature films. I never stopped to ask myself why this might be the case… until I noticed the contrast with Edgar Wallace. Why was it that the better writer of the two had been so completely neglected by the movie industry? Here, then, are my thoughts on two of the very few movies adapted from Carr’s work:

Dangerous CrossingDangerous Crossing (1953): Based on Carr’s 1943 radio play “Cabin B-13”. A woman and her husband embark on their honeymoon cruise, but before the ship has even got underway the husband disappears. To make matters worse, the woman finds herself unable to prove that her husband ever even existed. In fact, she’s stumbled into a diabolical plot; but she may not be able to stay sane long enough to find out what really happened to her husband.

That Woman OppositeThat Woman Opposite (1958): Based on the novel “The Emperor’s Snuff-Box”. Eve’s abusive ex-husband shows up just as she’s about to get re-married. The situation is bad enough when he breaks into her bedroom at night… but it soon gets worse. There is a brutal murder, and Eve finds herself the only suspect. And that’s just the beginning of Eve’s troubles…

A movie that shows off its Iron-side

Forced To KillThere have been some great combinations concocted over the years, like when H. B. Reese got the idea to blend peanut butter with chocolate. The movie Forced To Kill boasts its own successful mix, adding actor Michael Ironside to PM Entertainment. Like a peanut butter cup, the results are pretty tasty.

Gives Me Chills, Pt. XX.

It’s fitting that this, the twentieth installment of “Gives Me Chills,” should feature a DVD cover which exemplifies so many design errors all at once.

(You may need to click through to the larger version to fully appreciate it.)

  • Poor photo with on-camera flash? Check.
  • Distorted aspect ratio of said photo? Check.
  • Photo of too small a resolution blown up and used anyway? Check.
  • Clashing background? Check.
  • Sloppy/skill-free PhotoShopping to integrate the main image with the background? Check.
  • Title in all-caps in a font that should never be used all-caps? Check.
  • Almost unreadable text all over the cover? Check.
  • Labeled “Special Edition” even though the only thing “special” about this DVD is that someone finally decided to rescue this movie from VHS obscurity? Check.
  • Lens flare just cuz? Check.

In case you’re wondering if the cover accurate represents the contents, here’s the description from Amazon:

Shawn, a skeleton freak philosopher and his drug induced zombie henchmen rule the bowels of the sphinx guarded “”Unknown Cemetery””. As an outcast cult leader Shawn is always on the lookout for students to educate into the arts of mental expansion. Four naive college kids find their way into the domain of the graveyard weirdos and their playground of occult teaching methods including forced opium smoking, sexual deviancy, hypnotic anti-religious dialog and Tarot. Dark Night of the Soul delivers in originality with heavy occult overtones, eerie atmosphere, drug usage and nudity.

Pretty accurate, I’d say.