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Raw Force #556

Posted: July 24th, 2008, 1:40 pm
by cinemalover
Having finished off all the films in the Grindhouse Collection Volume 2, I've gone back to Volume 1 to pick off a few of the titles that I never visited. This one sounded too strange to pass by...

Date watched: 7/22/2008
Title: Raw Force (Fung Fu Cannibals) Made: 1982
Genre: Horror/Martial Arts/Weird Studio: Ansor International Pictures
Format: DVD Extras—Fullscreen.
Number of times viewed: First

Directed by Edward D. Murphy

Cameron Mitchell—Captain Henry Dodds
Geoff Binney—Mike O’Malley
Jullian Kesner—Cookie Winchell
Hope Holiday—Hazel Buck
Jennifer Holmes—Ann Davis
John Dresden—John Taylor
Rey King—Go Chin
Carla Reynolds—Eilleen Fox
Carl Anthony—Lloyd Davis
John Locke—Gary Schwartz
Mark Tanous—Cooper
Ralph Lombardi—Thomas Speer

One blow! The death blow!

Its nourishment—human flesh. Its guardian—the undead. Its sanctuary—the island.

Plot: This is about the most bizarre film I have ever seen, and that’s coming form a guy who has taken in a lot of wild and wooly films over the years from all corners of the globe. This was produced on the cheap in the Philippines and Cameron Mitchell as cruise ship Captain Henry Dodds is the only recognizable face. If I were him, I wouldn’t want to be recognized.

This is the true definition of exploitation film as it tosses just about everything into a blender and hits the juice button. We have zombies, killer monks, cruise ship T&A action, martial arts, hungry piranhas, a jade mine to exploit, and super cheesy acting. Hurrah!

The centers around the activities on the mysterious Warriors Island which is run by a group of brown-robed monks with more than a glint of lust and depravity in their eyes. Instead of taking vows of silence these guys took vows of perversion, and are very faithful to them. These monks have the power to bring back the dead to life, at least in a zombie state. They acquire these powers by eating the flesh of beautiful young women, I guess the ugly ones just don’t do it for them. The island also hosts no-holds barred martial arts competitions, where the reward for the losers is death. The combatants don’t mind so much because they know that the monks can revive them. I guess they don’t mind that they come back as mindless zombies set to do the bidding of these robed pervs.

The island also has a fabulously rich jade mine on it. The monks use the jade to buy the girls that are the main course in their cannibalistic diet. Thomas Speer, (Ralph Lombardi), who looks like Hitler in a white leisure suit, is the jade-junkie who procures the young ladies to trade with the monks for large amounts of the green stone. Speer has a small army of thugs that work for him is kidnapping girls from the mainland and then flying them to Warrior Island to exchange them into jade. This cozy little relationship has been going on profitably for years when the introduction of a cruise ship in the area threatens to disrupt the process.

The cruise ship, which seems to cater to a clientele that wants to run around the ship half naked, get exceedingly drunk, and pleasure themselves with as many passing strangers as possible. I never saw the name of the ship but if truth in advertising would apply to the cruise service it should have been the S.S. Orgy. They are docked on the mainland where Mr. Speer and his goons operate from and while visiting strip bars some of the passengers reveal that the ship is headed to Warrior Island the next day (now why on earth that would be a destination for a cruise ship is completely inexplicable, but very convenient to advance what passes fro a plot). Speer’s doesn’t want the ship going anywhere near the island for fear that they may interfere with his jade trade. He tells his goons to stop them at all costs. The next day when they set out they are attacked by the goons in masks and makeup at sea. The resulting chaos ends up with the ship on fire and the surviving passengers set to sea on a big inflatable raft. The bad boys took one of the girls to add to their slave lot that they’ll be trading with the monks. Fate, and a plot contrivance, lead the raft to beaching on Warrior Island so that these passengers can be chased around the island by kung fu zombies while trying to rescue the kidnap victim. The action is constant and incredibly poorly choreographed so that you’re guaranteed to get an unintentional hoot out of the proceedings.

Madness ensues as the zombies try to kill off the intruders while the monks look on with sinisterly gleeful gazes. They also cackle like hyenas and rub their hands together a lot, as though waiting to sit down to a tasty feast. In one scene one of the passengers tries to stop one of the zombie attackers by decapitating him. The zombie’s neck flows blood like a fountain, spraying red everywhere. Who knew that the undead’s hearts continued to pump?

Silly beyond description, I actually found myself enjoying this on a perverse level. It’s one of those films where you walk away thinking, “Did I really just see that?” It is so bad that you have to appreciate the nerve of the producers to complete it. How Cameron Mitchell got conned into appearing in this dreck is one of life’s little mysteries.

Raw Force is such a generic, boring title, I much prefer the alternate title of Kung Fu Cannibals...who could resist that moniker?

2* (out of 10) The film avoids closing with the traditional The End, and instead closes with a hopeful “To be continued…” As if!

The Sea Chase #557

Posted: July 25th, 2008, 10:29 am
by cinemalover
Here is a rarity for me, a John Wayne film that I had never seen. Problem remedied….

Date watched: 7/23/2008
Title: The Sea Chase Made: 1955
Genre: Adventure Studio: WB
Format: DVD Extras—Trailer, Anamorphic WS.
Number of times viewed: First

Director: John Farrow

John Wayne—Captain Karl Ehrlich
Lana Turner—Elsa Keller
James Arness—Schlieter
Tab Hunter—Cadet Wessor
Lyle Bettger—Chief Officer Kirchner
Paul Fix—Max Heinz
Alan Hale Jr.—Wentz
David Farrar—Cmd. Jeff Napier
Dick Davalos—Cadet Walter Stemme
John Qualen—Chief Engineer Schmitt
Lowell Gilmore—Captain Evans
Claude Akin—Winkler (oddly he was listed in the credits as AKIN not AKINS as most of us know him today)

He was a skipper sworn never to be taken! She was the fuse of his floating time-bomb!

The elusive sea captain and his blonde woman in an explosive, suspense-packed story of high daring on the high seas!

Story: John Wayne as a Nazi, what the hell? Okay, so that's not exactly the case, but this movie must have been a tough sell at the box office! John plays Captain Karl Ehrlich who has been assigned to skipper the steamer the Ergenstrasse.

The opening narration takes us into the situation, “So this is the story of a German tramp steamer and a salute to a man for whom the sea was a changeless way of life, the story of a ship and a man who became so much a part of one another that his heart was her power, his breath her life, his stubbornness the steel of her sides…”

Captain Karl is a German naval officer and is faithful to his beloved homeland, Germany, but he can’t stand what Hitler is doing to his country. His feelings, which he doesn’t make much of an effort to hide, have got him busted down to running this old freighter, which is currently docked in Australia. WW II is on the verge of breaking out and he is in an English controlled port. He is friends with English Commander Jeff Napier (Farrar), who runs the Royal Navy’s battle cruiser, the Rockhampton. Jeff will be the one to deliver the bad news to Karl, due to the impending war Karl and his crew will be placed in determent for the duration.

Karl is a proud man, and he isn’t going to submit to containment, not for himself nor his crew. His only other option is to make a run for it with his ship, which is not exactly world-class. He will have to slip out of port late at night and then elude the Royal Navy which will send ships out to stop him. His goal is to reach Germany and allow his men to choose for themselves whether they want to follow the current direction of their country. Before they leave, a local German official smuggles a passenger on board for them to transport home. This is no ordinary passenger, it is Elsa Keller (Turner) who is an undercover spy for Germany who uses Mata Hari tactics. She sleeps with English officers while trying to pry intelligence information from them to report to her German leaders. Her latest target has been Karl’s friend, Commander Napier. She has even gotten engaged to him but will now be fleeing because her handler thinks her cover is about to be blown. The Ergenstrasse quietly slips its ropes and sets out in the middle of the night under the cover of fog.

Both due to the nature of her work and because her actions will hurt a good man in Napier Karl is filled with contempt for his new passenger. But his feelings slowly change as the two feel a tinge of magnetism.

Karl, “Did anyone ever tell you that you’re beautiful when you’re angry?”
Elsa (playing off the compliment by referring to their earlier conversation about how long it’s been since the men have been around a woman), “The Captain hasn’t had shore leave since Singapore!”
Karl, “You’re quite a woman, Elsa!”

The stealth of secrecy allowed the Ergenstrasse to safely get out of port and underway, but his presence was easily noted the next morning. Commander Napier’s Rockhampton will take the lead in tracking and recovering the little steamer that could. The recovery process is proving more difficult than anticipated as Karl is a wily old captain who knows how to stay out of sight. The chase continues for quite some time as the Ergenstrasse begins to run out of supplies. They send a boat of men to the small Auckland Island led by Chief Officer Kirchner (Bettger) to round up some needed supplies. They fins a cabin filled with fishermen and appropriate what they need. When they are preparing to depart for the ship Kirchner takes it upon himself to eliminate any witnesses to their presence. He cold-bloodedly kills the fishermen. He’ll keep this little heinous act to himself and Karl will remain in the dark about the murders.

When the trailing Rockhampton discovers the bodies Commander Napier assumes that Karl is aware of the murders and friend or not the gloves are off. He will do everything in his power to apprehend the occupants of the Ergenstrasse.

Back on the steamer they find themselves running out of coal to feed the engine, Karl orders that all wood on board be shattered and used for fuel, when this project extends to include the lifeboats the men start to complain. Karl is forced to drive his men very hard, to the point of exhaustion, but it is his only option if his ship is to elude capture. There are murmurs of mutiny but the strong handed captain manages to keep the men in check.

There is a lighter side to their activities as Karl is forced to order his men not to skinny dip during designated times when their feminine guest is allowed to roam the decks. If this isn’t indignant enough for these manly sailors, then they have to become lumberjacks at the next island that they visit. They are assigned to chop down hundreds of trees to provide enough fuel for the next leg of their journey. While they are anchored off shore one of the men is attacked by a shark while swimming/bathing. He is rescued but finds himself in critical condition. The ship doesn’t have the proper supplies or personnel to care for the man, which ensures that he won’t live long. Elsa begs Karl to signal the Rockhampton and allow them to save the wounded man’s life, unfortunately this would also mean giving up all of their freedom, which Karl is not willing to do.

The story of the Ergenstrasse’s run for freedom is picked up by the press and Captain Karl is becoming something of a folk hero in his homeland. Karl makes it to his first destination goal, Valparaiso, South America. They enter the neutral port safe from the ships of the Royal Navy, at least until they leave. While there Karl meets Napier under a diplomatic flag. Napier insists that Karl come clean and admit to the murders committed on Auckland Island, an event that Karl did learn of, after the fact. At the same time the German spin-doctors want to publicly proclaim that there were armed soldiers on the island and that this was the first military engagement with England. And by the way, Germany won the first skirmish. This would be a nice piece of propaganda to hang their hats on. Karl has no interest in being anybody’s pawn is this war that he doesn’t support. He and Elsa will have to decide if they should stay where they are, and go down in history as legends for escaping the Royal Navy in a steamer, or do they risk everything and set sail for Germany, putting the ship, and all on board, at risk to get home.

This is a unique Duke entry where he plays a sympathetic German at the outset of WWII. Thank goodness they were smart enough not to ask him to use a fake German accent when speaking, that would have been just too much to stomach. Wayne uses the exact same dialect that he always does, whether he’s playing a cowboy or a cop. This is a heroic tale but it is hard to warm up to Wayne, the All-American man, as a German naval officer. This film was made a mere ten years after the conclusion of the war and I have no idea what public sentiment of the time was, but this just seems like a bad casting choice. Lana Turner is beautiful, but her platinum blonde hair and perfect makeup, even as the men on the ship are starting to look like the homeless with rags for clothes and blisters and sores, suspends the mood that the film is striving to create every time she’s on screen.

Ultimately the movie is a testament to the power of a superstar more than anything else as Wayne’s charms wear the audience down and at least partially win them over. It is certainly a different take on WWII than American audiences were used to watching.

4* (out of 10) I never realized how many Wayne films that Paul Fix was lurking around the perimeter in until my recent re-visitation process with many of the titles in the Duke’s library of films. Mr. Fix seems to turn up in almost all of them.

The Fearless Vampire Killers #558

Posted: July 25th, 2008, 4:12 pm
by cinemalover
Date watched: 7/24/2008
Title: The Fearless Vampire Killers or: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck Made: 1966
Genre: Horror/Comedy Studio: MGM
Format: DVD Extras—Featurette, Anamorphic WS, Trailer.
Number of times viewed: 3

Directed by Roman Polanski

Jack MacGowran—Professor Abronsius
Sharon Tate—Sarah Shagal
Alfie Bass—Shagal
Roman Polanski—Alfred
Terry Downes—Koukel
Ferdy Mane—Count von Krolock
Fiona Lewis—Magda, the maid
Iain Quarrier—Herbert von Krolock
Ronald Lacey—Village Idiot

Taglines: Who says vampires are no laughing mater?

Story: Transylvania, source of so many vampire legends, finds itself showcase once again in a tale of the fanged undead, only this one is played mostly for laughs. Professor Abronsius (MacGowran) is a fumbling, bumbling version of Dracula’s nemesis, Van Helsing. He wanders the countryside studying bats and looking to eliminate vampire infestations wherever he may encounter them. He is assisted by the shy and withdrawn Alfred (played by Polanski, who also directs).

The Professor has heard rumors of vampire activity around Count von Krolock’s (Ferdy Mane as a suave, silver-haired vampire) castle and has arrived in a snow-gliding sleigh in the local village with Alfred to investigate. They take up residence in the Inn run by Shagal (Bass) who runs it with his wife and beautiful daughter, Sarah (the appetizing Sharon Tate). They also have a maid/tavern worker Madsa (Lewis), whose upper figure threatens to bust loose from its tight constraints at every opportunity. Shagal is constantly trying to cop a feel off of his luscious employee, but only when he thinks his wife is otherwise occupied.

The Professor and Alfred try to get information from the locals about possible vampire activity but get completely stone-walled. The first sign of any abnormality is when the Count’s servant, Koukel (Downes), a traditional castle hunchback, shows up at the Inn to get supplies for his master. The patrons obviously shun him and just want him to finish his business and move on. Alfred tries to be helpful by grabbing the back of the hunchback’s sleigh when he departs to follow him, but in his clumsy manner Alfred falls off along the trail and finds himself stranded in a snow bank.

Once back at the Inn Alfred finds himself attracted to the bodacious red-headed Sarah, who flirts with him. When she shows up in his room unannounced in her nightgown for a “quick one” he thinks she’s referring to something other than borrowing his bathtub. Sarah is bored with being constantly cooped up inside the Inn in this coldest of winters. While she’s in the bath the snow is scraped off the skylight above her to reveal our first glance of the Count leering down at her. He is scouting new necks to mine and Sarah looks like the perfect choice. When Shagal comes looking for her moments later he finds the bathtub empty and the skylight ripped out. He knows that she’s been “invited” to become the Count’s latest guest. Shagal bundles up, his fury warming his veins, as he storms out into the night to retrieve his daughter. The next morning the locals bring his popsicled body back to the Inn. His body has been drained of blood as confirmed by the multiple bite wounds that cover his body. The Professor comes to examine the body but the locals still try to convince him that Shagal was attacked by wolves, or something, anything to deny the existence of a vampire in the castle. He obviously holds the entire area under his thumb of fear.

The Professor decides it’s time to pull out the big guns since there is no longer any doubt about the existence of the undead. He starts to train Alfred on how to stake a vampire’s heart. They practice by staking a pillow in their room. Alfred misses the stake and nails the Professor’s thumb. The Professor is somewhat of a doddering old fool, whose once brilliant mind tends to fade in and out of usefulness.

Days later Shagal returns to the Inn on the sly. This time he comes n the form of a vampire, having crossed over after receiving the Count’s biting blessing. Shagal is looking to snack upon the charms of Magda. The Professor and Alfred are able to chase him off before he can sink his teeth into his work. Shagal escapes on skis, a mode of travel that the two heroes emulate to follow him. The ski trail leads to Count von Krolock’s domain. The Professor and Alfred attempt to make an unnoticed entrance into the castle but are surprised when the hunchback greets them and offers to bring them to the Count. On their stroll towards the gargantuan drawing room they pass through a long hall decorated with portraits. One assumes that these are the Count’s ancestors and you are left to wonder where the Count inherited his good looks because these paintings are of the ugliest group of individuals this side of an undernourished freak show.

The Count is a gracious host and the Professor puts on the façade of just visiting to continue his study of bats in the region. Due to the lateness of the hour and the stormy conditions the Count insists that his two guests spend the night as they appear tired.

Count, “I’m a nightbird. I’m not much good in the daytime.”

The Count sees them to their rooms as a rooster can be heard crowing in the background, signaling the approaching of dawn. The mousy Alfred asks the Professor if they should barricade the doors for their safety but the Professor assures him that the best thing for them to do is to “sleep with one eye open!”

Once the sun has risen and they are in no danger from the sleeping vampire our heroes skulk around the snow covered ledges and battlements trying to find and rescue Sarah and trying to locate the vampire’s resting place to force feed him a stake breakfast. They do find Sarah, who has not yet been transformed into a vampire, but who is still under the mental influence of the Count as her mind seems fogged. They encourage her to flee with them but she tells them she must stay to attend the Midnight Ball that the Count is throwing that night. The Professor and Alfred fail to find the Count’s coffin and are forced to stick around another night in hopes of completing their task.

That evening Alfred meets the Count’s son, Herbert (Quarrier), a very effeminate vampire who would prefer to put the bite on Alfred than Sarah. When Herbert tries to guess Alfred’s blood type Alfred bites his ear, giving him a chance to flee.

Leading up to the Midnight Ball the Count locks his two guests atop an open tower so they can’t interfere with the proceedings. The Count tells them that they will be unable to escape this perch, “Unless you have wings…like a bat!” The Ball is merely an excuse for the Count to gather his “flock” of the undead together and brag about his plans for world dominance. He unveils a “wonderful surprise” for his guests when Sarah appears in a lovely blood red gown. She shall be his queen in his new regime as his legions of undead continue to grow and rule the world.

The Professor and Alfred manage to escape and infiltrate the Ball in the guise of fellow undead. As the dance with the group their identity is betrayed by a full-length mirror at the end of the hall. None of the other guests cast reflections. The chase is on as dozens of fanged fiends try to capture the two intruders. They must find a way to save themselves and Sarah while avoiding joining the ranks of the undead.

The hunchback snowboards in a coffin in pursuit of the Professor as the final reel is the best in the film. Just when you think it’s over make sure to stick around for the “biting” finale.

The costumes and sets are all in muted colors, accentuated with dust and cobwebs. Sarah’s auburn locks and rich red gown appear to glow against the background of the pasty faced vampires. The film is quirky and original (at the time). It’s like Hammer studios was invaded by the ghost of Peter Sellers (whom you could easily see in the role of the Professor). The comedy is gentle and understated, letting the improbability of the premise speak for itself. It’s never spooky and it’s not laugh out loud funny, settling somewhere in a never-world of non-commitment. The film would have been better served to more fully commit to one emphasis or the other and not spend so much time straddling the fence.

Roman Polanski, as Alfred, the man of few words, does a credible job that is never a detriment to the film. A more seasoned actor may have been able to milk the laughs more productively.

5* (out of 10) It’s just not quite as funny as I remembered it, though it’s been more than a decade since I last checked in. The production values are outstanding and it is a lovely film to look at.

Posted: July 25th, 2008, 4:25 pm
by cinemalover
I will be signing out for a while here since I'll be on vacation for most of the next two weeks. Much of that time will be spent in the beautiful San Juan Islands without access to any computer or television screens. I have to check in tomorrow to set up the final round of the Silents Competition, but other than that I won't be writing many reviews during the next two weeks.

I'll be having a blast with the family but I'll check back in when we return.

Have a great summer everyone!

Posted: August 11th, 2008, 9:18 am
by cinemalover
Back at last!

It seems likes it's been forever since I visited the site, when in reality it's been just over two weeks. The family had a wonderful first week on vacation and a very hectic second week which included Jeremy at soccer camp all week, Tina's dog having a litter of 7 and me on the roof the entire week puttting a new hat on the house. I'm coming back to work today to get some rest!

There weren't very many movies during the last two weeks, but enough to write a few up sometime today.

From Dusk Till Dawn #559

Posted: August 11th, 2008, 4:50 pm
by cinemalover
Before they worked together to create the “Grindhouse” double feature film Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez had previously teamed to create a true grindhouse feature in 1996….

Date watched: 8/4/2008
Title: From Dusk Till Dawn Made: 1996
Genre: Horror/Crime Drama Studio: Dimension Films
Format: DVD Extras—Loaded.
Number of times viewed: 3

Directed by Robert Rodriguez

George Clooney—Seth Gecko
Quentin Tarantino—Richard Gecko
Harvey Keitel—Jacob Fuller
Juliette Lewis—Kate Fuller
Ernest Liu—Scott Fuller
Cheech Marin—Border Guard/ Barker/ Carlos
Fred Williamson—Frost
Salma Hayek—Santianico Pandemonium
John Saxon—FBI Agent Stanley Chase
Tom Savini—Sex Machine
Danny Trejo—Razor Charlie

A Terrible Evil Has Been Unleashed. And Five Strangers Are Our Only Hope!

One Night is All That Stands Between Them and Freedom. But It’s Going to Be One Hell of a Night!

Story: Seth Gecko (Clooney) is a career hood with a mean streak. He’s been sitting in a Wichita prison since his conviction for a robbery that resulted in the deaths of two police officers. Seth’s brother, Richard (Tarantino), is also a career criminal, only he has lost his moral compass somewhere along the path. Killing and raping are just normal activities in his warped mind. Richard uses a court appearance by Seth as an opportunity to bust his brother out of jail in a shoot ‘em up escapade. The two hot hoods hit the road with Mexico in mind. Seth has a shady friend, Carlos (Marin, in one of his three different roles within the film), whom he arranges to meet there. While aiming for their south of the border destination Richard leaves a bloody trail, much too easy to follow. First he kills a convenience store clerk and police officer when he was just supposed to purchase a map, then he rapes and kills a middle-aged woman they had taken as a hostage.

Seth would like to permanently imbed Richard’s head into a cement wall for all the trouble he causes, but his love for his sibling prevents him. The pursuit shadows them and seems to have all roads blocked off and subject to searches when they force themselves upon a family headed to Mexico in an RV. The driver is Jacob Fuller (a bespectacled Keitel in a very colorful role), a minister who has lost his faith due to the death of his wife, and his two teenage children, Kate (Lewis) and Scott (Liu). Jacob cooperates with the killers because they threaten to kill, or worse, the kids. Richard gives Kate a visual rape whenever he can. Despite Richard’s continued stupidity, Seth manages to manipulate the RV and crew into Mexico.

Next they chart a course for the exclusive trucker and biker bar extraordinaire, The Titty Twister (that is topped off by a rather graphic neon sign), which is the meeting place with Carlos. The bar is a very isolated joint, out in the middle of the desert, a perfect spot for men on the run to meet. They learn that the place is only open From Dusk Till Dawn, which is the source of the film’s title. Seth insists that Jacob and his family keep them company in the bar as their “guests” until they meet Carlos in the morning. The group almost gets themselves kicked out of the bar when the bartender insists that they only serve truckers and bikers. Jacob whips out his class 2 drivers license to save the day. He’ll wish he didn’t have it soon enough.

A film that starts out as a straight crime drama takes a sharp turn in a new direction as soon as they hit the bar. At first glance the place seems like a good ole’ boys dream come true. It has an ample supply of vivacious and friendly topless dancers, all the booze they can consume and a live band rockin’ out the numbingly loud tunes. Seth and company enjoy their surroundings and Richard gets to drink a beer off of sexy Santanico’s (Hayek) toe as she pours it down her leg for him (a nice scene that Tarantino wrote for himself in which he can celebrate his well-documented foot fetish). But the party soon takes a dark turn once the bar is full of patrons. The exterior doors are bolted shut and the men who are feasting in an orgy of sin find themselves on the menu of their hosts. The beautiful dancers all get facials as their vampiric characteristics replace their façade of beauty. All of the bar employees are vampires who lure the truckers and bikers into their web to provide the blood they need to sustain the life of the undead. The bar explodes into a slaughterhouse as the truckers and bikers must bind together to fight for survival. Most go down quickly to sate the bloodlust of their hosts, but a few have enough smarts and weapons to put up a fight.

As one of the topless dancers deduces, "Dinner is served!”

The fighters include “B” movie stalwart Fred Williamson as one very bad dude named Frost. He takes out more than his share of bloodsuckers as pool cues and chair legs become impromptu stakes (you’d think the vampires would be smart enough to install all aluminum furniture and plastic cues by now, especially since they go through these motions on a nightly basis). Tom Savini (macabre make-up master) plays Sex Machine, a biker who has a pop-up revolver under his cod-piece, surprise! As if the odds weren’t stacked deeply enough against our supposed heroes all the men that go down early rise up again to join the ranks of the vampires.

It becomes a real battle to see who will survive and there are some definite surprises as to which of the “good guys” dies in the process. The action is furious and bloody as no prisoners are taken. Vampires explode, spraying blood and body parts everywhere. In addition to wooden stakes Jacob blesses water which is used in water filled condoms and water guns against the vampires.

When Satanico is about to bite Seth he has other plans.
Santanico, “Welcome to slavery!”
Seth (dodging the teeth), “No thanks. I already had a wife!”

Just when the number of vampires appears to be finally dwindling the bar is surrounded by thousands of bats, each trying to get in and turn into a vampire. The heroes are down to worrying about which of them have been bitten and the outcome is looking grim. Dawn can’t come soon enough.

When Carlos finally shows up the next morning Seth is ready to kill him. He asks if he had ever been inside the Titty Twister and why did he choose it as a meeting place. Carlos is skeptical when Seth tries to explain their trouble with the vampires and insists they must have just been whack jobs.
Seth, “Psychos do not EXPLODE when sunlight hits them! I don’t care how crazy they are!”

Quentin Tarantino as the unstable younger brother struggles in scenes with Clooney and Keitel as he isn’t even in their same zip code when it comes to thespian skills. He does get credit for writing this wild ride but his acting is a liability to the production. The film is highlighted by Tarantino’s skill with unique dialogue rhythm and colorful language (though he again goes overboard with the “F” bomb, tossing it around as frequently as commercials appear on a popular TV show).

Clooney is danger in a wrinkled suit as a simple flick of his wrist or elbow send many writhing in unexpected pain.. He gets to act out all his ruthless fantasies as a man with little to lose. It’s just hard to imagine him with a genetic connection to the unattractive Tarantino.

Keitel is fabulous as the lost soul of a minister. He is the glue that binds the film and allows it to function as more than just a drive-in violence extravaganza. His character is honestly lost and looking for answers as his children look to him for the same. He must find a way to save his children, not just physically but spiritually as well.

The movie is rude, crude and uber-violent, but it is one heck of a fun roller-coaster ride. One warning, the foul language is plentiful and creative, so if that bothers you than avoid this film. The pace starts out quick and never slows to allow the audience to ponder the improbabilities. This is a film that any grindhouse theatre would have been proud to show in their heyday.

7* (out of 10) A tale that will offend many, but if a good horror/action flick is what you’re in the mood for, this may just be the ticket. Overall, a good balance of chuckles and chills.

Posted: August 13th, 2008, 9:28 am
by cinemalover
Thanks Bryce, it's good to be back.

Did you see their Grindhouse film in the theatres? I haven't had the pleasure yet. I see that they were released seperately on DVD in slightly extended cuts. I'm torn between watching those versions or waiting for the inevitable deluxe release that will include the theatrical version as well as the extended cuts. I've heard that the fake trailers that ran between the two films were the highlight of the show.

Good luck on getting Dusk shown at your local theatre, it would make a great midnight movie entry.

Posted: August 14th, 2008, 3:53 pm
by Bogie
Hey Chris I hope your vacation was as fun as you say it was though putting a new hat on the house is NEVER fun :)

I'm not a big fan of the grindhouse stuff but it seemed kinda odd not having your thread updated in the last couple weeks. Glad to see you're back!

Posted: August 14th, 2008, 4:40 pm
by MichiganJ

Count me as also having missed your thread, glad that you had a good (and apparently industrious) vacation, and happy that you are back.

I did see Grindhouse in the theater and have both the Tarantino and Rodriguez films on DVD. While the double feature was brilliant in the theater, I wouldn’t hesitate getting the individual DVD’s. First of all, who knows if they ever will release the films together? After all, we’re still waiting for Tarantino’s director’s cut of the combined Kill Bill movies. Having waited long enough, I finally broke down and bought those two about a year ago. Judging by your thread, you will certainly enjoy both Grindhouse films, and the fake trailers, etc. are included as special features (plus, Rodriguez gives another superb commentary).

(For the record, I think I’d give From Dusk ‘til Dawn an 8, simply for the shot looking through Tarantino’s hole in his hand.) :D

Posted: August 18th, 2008, 4:12 pm
by movieman1957
Test to see if this brings this out of hiding.

Posted: August 18th, 2008, 4:27 pm
by cinemalover
Thanks, Chris!

Posted: August 18th, 2008, 5:00 pm
by Bogie that's what happened!

Sneaky arse thread!

The Master Key #560

Posted: August 19th, 2008, 10:27 am
by cinemalover
Back to the serial world of the Master Key….

Date watched: 8/8/2008
Title: The Master Key Made: 1945
Genre: Serial Studio: Commonwealth Pictures/Universal
Format: DVD Extras—Trailers, Bios.
Number of times watched: First

Directors: Ray Taylor/Lewis D. Collins

Milburn Stone—Tom Brant, Federal Investigator
Dennis Moore—Detective Jack Ryan
Jan Wiley—Janet Lowe
Byron Foulger—Professor Elwood Henderson, Mineralogical Scientist
Sarah Padden—Aggie
Addison Richards—Garret Donahue
Maris Wrixon—Dorothy Newton
George Lynn—Herman
Russell Hicks—Police Chief O’Brien
Roland Varno—Arnold Hoff aka Hoffman
Alfred La Rue—Migsy
Jerry Shane—Dan
Neyle Marx—Spike
John Eldridge—Walter Stark

Tagline: 13 chapters of terrific thrills!

Premise: The mysterious Master Key runs a band of Nazi agents working within the U.S. in 1938. Their mission is to take over as much American industry as they can. They will generate enough income to buy it so that it can’t be used against the Motherland when war breaks out, as though know it will. Professor Henderson (Foulger) has invented the Orotron, a machine able to separate gold from sea water. The Master Key has targeted this invention as their primary target, to be stolen and then used to generate the money needed to carry out their plan. It will be up to Federal Investigator Tom Brant (Stone) and Police Detective Jack Ryan (Moore) to foil the master Key’s schemes and keep America string and safe. The serial was released in 1945 as WWII was winding down, but it is set in 1938 prior to our involvement in the war.

This was Universal’s 64th of 69 sound serials that they produced.

Chapter 5: Runaway Car

Walter Stark dies from his wounds but his dying words inform his half-sister, Janet Lowe, that he had only been pretending to ally himself with the Nazis contingency. He also gives her a few incomplete clues about some records that he has hidden that will help expose the Master Key. Brant asks Aggie to have her boys help him search the neighborhood of warehouses where they believe Stark has hidden the records. They are looking for a specific room in one of the buildings on Martin Street.

As always, the Master Key seems to know about everything that Brant and his associates are up to, which means that he also realizes that Janet was Walter’s half-sister and may know too much about his operation. He issues one of his thugs with orders to bring Janet to him. The hood has to knock Janet out when she tries to escape his clutches. He then throws her in his car and speeds off. Brant and Jack are just pulling up and spot Janet being hauled away. They quickly pursue the Nazis’s car. Brant drives parallel to the fleeing car when the driver jumps out, leaving the unconscious Janet whipping down a crowded street with no one at the wheel….

Chapter 6: Shot Down

Brant and Jack apprehend Herman, one of the Master Key’s henchmen. They blindfold him and take him to the theatre behind Aggie’s store so the boys can babysit him. While holding the Nazis they try to pry free any info that might help incriminate and capture the Master Key and his associates.

Meanwhile, the spy-ring is running the Orotron at full tilt, trying to produce as much gold as possible before the tubes burn themselves out. When the tubes finally blow they will have to use more “persuasive” methods of making Professor Henderson produce new tubes for the machine.

Herman manages to escape the boys’ grasp, or so he thinks. It’s really a set-up so that Brant can follow him, hopefully to the Master Key’s headquarters. During his pursuit Brant overhears that agents M-9 and M-10 will be flying out on a commercial sea-plane with suitcases full of the newly produced gold. Brant uses his official credentials to force himself onto the plane just before it takes off. The Master Key discovers that Brant is on the plane with his agents and his gold. He decides that it is worth it to sacrifice his two agents and the gold to be rid of the pesty Brant.

On the plane Brant captures M-9 and M-10 but in the air two other Nazis agents are trailing the seaplane in a bi-plane equipped with a machine gun. They riddle the seaplane with bullets, causing one of the engines to burst into flames. The seaplane heads nose first towards its liquid namesake….

Chapter 7: Death on the Dial

Jack and Brant believe that they know the district that the Master Key’s headquarters is in, they just need to narrow down its exact location. They believe that if they can cause a power surge in the area that it may damage the Orotron machine. They contact the Power Company and get them to increase the power to that designated district which cause a surge fluctuation causing all the tubes to burst on the Orotron, rending it unusable for the moment.

The Master Key’s goons torture Professor Henderson to make him produce new tubes.. The Professor valiantly holds up to the pain, but eventually succumbs to their desires. While working to create the new tubes the Professor slyly manages to get off a brief message in Morse Code that is heard by Jack and Brant. The information delivered is enough to narrow down the location that the professor is being held captive in. Aggie’s boys scour the neighborhood, searching for the Professor and his captors. Their observations send Jack and Brant to the correct building where they get into a battle of fisticuffs with the Nazis. Jack and Brant are badly outnumbered and the fight does not go their way. Brant hits the floor when a pipe connects with the back of his head. The Professor is knocked out by falling debris when a bomb explodes, collapsing the entire building down upon our heroes…

(There is a nice use of actual demolition footage that adds to the reality of the cliff-hanger)

Chapter 8: Bullet Serenade

Professor Henderson escapes the Master Key’s clutches in the aftermath of the explosion, but the blows to his head have blanked out portions of his memory. He thinks that he is back to the time when he just invented the Orotron and is not familiar with the Master Key or his intentions. Everyone is combing the city streets trying to find the Professor. The Nazis are looking for him for their own purposes while Migsy leads Aggie’s boys who are trying to locate the professor for Brant.

But it is Janet Lowe who first finds the wandering Professor. But no sooner does she steer the Professor to her apartment in an attempt to contact Brant than some of the Master Key’s punks show up to capture them both. Janet wisely turns on a tape recorder in her apartment which records their conversation. Brant finds the recording when searching for Janet and knows that the MK’s men have once again captured both her and the Professor. Brant shows up at the spot where Janet and the Professor are being held but when one of the Nazis flee in a car Brant follows him. The trail leads Brant to driving his car through the doors of a warehouse filled with Nazis agents. They have been tipped to Brant’s arrival and do a Bonnie and Clyde to his car…..

Chapter 9: On Stage For Murder

The Professor’s memory is still not right and he’s looking for his assistant, Hoff, not realizing that he’s in cahoots with the Master Key. The Professor has made his way back to his lab and has called Hoff, wondering why he’s not working at the lab. Hoff immediately rushes to the lab to capture the memory-challenged Professor while Brant and Jack are arriving moments earlier to assist the Professor. Brant gets into a taxi with the Professor while Jack attempts to decoy the Master Key’s stooges in another direction. In the cab Brant tries to refresh the Professor’s on how he was captured and used by the Master Key, but the Professor refuses to believe him.

Professor, “I hate Nazis! I don’t know any! I don’t want to know any!”

Brant arrives safely with the Professor at the theatre, but the spies are right on their heels. A scuffle ensues and a wild shot severs the rope that is holding the curtain’s sandbags in the air. The heavy bags are falling right towards the unaware Brant’s head….

The print is too dark at times, obscuring some of the details of the picture. The most interesting part of the serial is the emergence of Milburn Stone (Gunsmoke’s “Doc”) as an action hero. He battles villains in hand to hand combat, he leaps from moving cars, and he survives a wide array of deadly cliff-hangers. It’s hard to imagine this guy sitting around Kitty’s bar tossing wise-cracks at the loafing Chester.

Migsy (Alfred La Rue) is the serial’s answer to Leo Gorcy and the Dead-End kids, though he lacks the over-the-top obnoxious charisma that made that Gorcy’s popular with the indiscriminate audiences. Migsy also fails to completely butcher the English language as Leo was wont to do.

6* (out of 10) Entertaining if not spectacular. This Universal serial lacks the energy that most of the Republic serials of the time projected with their superior stunt teams, but it’s still solid entertainment.