30 May 2009

Friday Midnight Movie

The Deadly Mantis (1957)
Lesser known when compared to some of its highly regarded 50s creature feature compatriots, The Deadly Mantis is an often maligned but certainly effective entry into the genre. Sit back and relax as way too much poor quality library footage is played as a backdrop to that 50s narrator voice giving you exposition after exposition about the US military’s northern and arctic defence systems. I hope you like library footage as The Deadly Mantis has its lions share. Take comfort in the knowledge that your in the safe monster movie hands of director Nathan Juran who would follow this with genre pieces20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), The Brain From Planet Arous (1957), Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958), The 7thVoyage of Sinbad (1958), and First Men in The Moon (1964). The very basic plot is a staple diet of the genre, monster melted from ice, makes a few remote attacks on military outposts, military hires a couple of (good looking) scientists, creature heads towards a major US city and landmark for showdown. However what makes this film hold its head just above the waterline of good company is the Mantis himself. Forget about the humans and the story.

It’s just a great choice of creature, one that comes pre packaged with a great name (the praying mantis) and physical attributes that lend itself well to gigantism and threat. So plaudits here go to Fred Knoth for his special effects sequences. Knoth, who also worked on the fantastic effects in The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) gives us some effective shots of the mantis passing along shorelines and buzzing eerily through the sea fog, the mantis vs. flame throwers, and even a very modern-day disaster movie shot of the mantis buzzing around the Manhattan skyline; a device so overused these days that its gone beyond a cliché and become a parody of the genre. The film borrows considerably from established genre heavyweights, there’s some monster peeping in through the window circa King Kong (1933), there’s the use of Washington DC iconography circa The Day the World Ended (1951), and the tunnel ending circa Them (1953). But if you like your creature features in eerie Black and White, if you like your monsters gigantic and on the prowl, and if you’ve made your way through the 50s must-haves then look no further than The Deadly Mantis for your Friday Midnight Movie.

Like Giant Bug Movies? Try these: Them (1953), Beginning of the End (1957), Mothra (1961), Mimic (1997)

29 May 2009

The Champ is Here

King of monsters? Can it be disputed? No not really. Godzilla has a massive 28 movies under his belt (29 if you count the 1997 American one, some do some don’t) and this is part 16 and in a way part 2. The Return of Godzilla invites you to forget all preceding Godzilla films, except for the 1954 original. So it’s a sequel, he hasn’t been seen for 30 years, horror fans get into Halloween H20 mode. The Return of Godzilla feels like one of those back to basics films. When a franchise gets out of control, goes too far from the source material, gets too silly, you strip it all back and start again. So there is no Godzilla versus, no other monsters, no hero Godzilla coming to the rescue, and best of all no Minilla (the annoying son of Godzilla).

So what we have here is good old bad ass Godzilla coming to shore and smashing things up; skyscrapers, power stations, bullet trains, power lines, you name it he smashes it. Yes! That’s what we want, none of this mamsy-pamsy friendly Godzilla. The film starts strongly with a cool initial encounter where Godzilla is kept in the shadows, we see glimpses of him, a scale here, and radar blip there. When he does get revealed we first see the world from his point of view has plods ominously through the mist and tackles a nuclear power plant for brunch. Then in a technique usually reserved for sexy blonde eye candy, the camera pans up from his feet (no stilettos) all the way up past his chunky frumpy thighs, to reveal that famous pug-like boxer snout of the great beast himself. Now keeping in mind the world hasn’t seen him for 30 years, this is pretty cool stuff.

Then comes the low point. Humans. The human cast and characters are almost exclusively the boring ingredient to any Godzilla film. They usually seem to be taking part in another movie altogether. In this one it’s something to do with a fisherman, a professor, the fisherman’s sister (who is coincidentally the professors assistant), a journalist, the Japanese Primemister and the US and Soviet navies. But seriously who cares. The film lights up at the beginning of the third act when the human foreplay is over and big boy makes his way to Tokyo and oh yes; it’s clobberin’ time. The attack on Tokyo harbor is fantastic as the military try in vain to keep Godzilla out at sea, that plan is a fairly epic failure. But this scene is pulled off to a plumb, showcasing all that is great about the Toho style of monster movie filmmaking. The only thing that can stop Godzilla’s rearranging of Tokyo’s architecture is a strange flying submarine known as Weapon X, and to be fair to it, it almost lands the knockout blow. But then the bizarre US Soviet subplot comes to fruition when their respective nuclear bombs detonate in the atmosphere above Tokyo causing a radioactive lightening storm that strikes Godzilla waking him for one last Balboa style round. Only in Japan. Now if that’s not an odd enough plot point things get more surreal. For no reason what so ever Godzilla is respondent to the high pitched frequency given off by migrant birds! Making winter attacks a real shitter for him. So the professor and his human chums lure Godzilla to his ultimate demise inside a volcano by mimicking the pitch of said birds. Utterly bonkers Japanese rational but fantastically entertaining and importantly they succeed at times in making the king of monsters scary again.

17 May 2009

Letdown of the Week

Day The World Ended (1955)

What it has going for it: Trying to pull positives out of Day The World Ended is like having poisonous snakes in your pants and trying to work out which one you like best. But if day The World Ended was a nest of vipers feeding upon my downstairs area then my favourite one would be Richard Denning. Denning is a Deadly Movies favourite, featuring in a massive five creature features in the 1950s, including the awesome Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954). It’s also worth noting that Lori Nelso of Revenge of The Creature (1955) appears as the eye candy for Denning (good Black Lagoon link up). There’s a half decent monster design but it’s delivered in such a way that there’s little to no threat, instead it just ambles around the forest with little more menace than a disorientated rabbit with myxomatosis.

Why It’s a letdown: Because its so utterly utterly boring. The film has delusions of grandeur on a massive scale. The poster for Day The World Ended features a very cool looking post-apocalyptic monster dragging a helpless blonde away while civilisation burns to the ground in its wake. Wrong! To say the poster is an embellishment of the film’s content is an understatement. There’s no city levelling explosions or ruins, no great fireballs, just a mountain hut where the world’s only survivors meet to annoy each other and the audience. Then a wobbly foam creature turns up and kidnaps poor old Lori Nelson who by this point is probably game for anything that gets her away from the daytime TV actors who continue to do as little as possible back at the hut. The post apocalypse world has never been so dull or underplayed.

14 May 2009

Monster From The Ocean Floor (1954)

Tedious Tentacles?

Here’s a B-movie effort from legendary low budget producer Roger Corman (producer of some 385 films, this being number 2) and in true Corman style it’s a slow burner. When you're making a 50s B-movie creature feature on the cheap there’s a tried and tested formula; keep locations close to home in California, leave the monster revelation (if any) until the very end, fill the surrounding cast with cheap Mexican actors, and sell it with a great poster design. Tick, tick, tick, and tick, Monster From The Ocean Floor has them all.

Busy body vacationer Julie meets marine science boffin (and hunk?) Steve on the Mexican (Californian) beach. One thing leads to another and before you know it Steve’s whipped out his mini submarine. Julie becomes convinced by the locals that there is a sea creature in the cove, Steve being a man of science, and guitar playing superstar, dismisses this as the whimsical thinking of the infantile female brain. Cue Julie confusing everything from an octopus to a cow as being the mystical sea monster. Now its silly sub-plot time. Local stereotype Pablo, who believes there is a sea monster, encourages Julie’s quest in a bizarre plan to use her as a sacrificial offering to appease the beast and save the seaside village from the boring threat. Hurrah! Julie was right all along. Shame on you Steve, Julie is not just a hot piece of ass after all. Steve swings into action in his hysterical underwater moped to save Julie from the tedious tentacles of the monster.

Unlike other no-budget creature features of the decade this does at least try to give us a monster in the final five minutes. Which turns out to be a type of octopus after all, making the earlier octopus red herring rather pointless. The monster is a rather sad pathetic offering and comes in blurry puppet form. Saying all that, I kind of enjoyed this for what its worth, it's cheap yes, but its also rather innocent. The beach setting makes for a relaxing late night watch, and at 64 minutes running time its hard to get too bored.

Like Mexican based monster movies that never set foot in Mexico? Try War of The Colossal Beast (1954)

Want more 50s Corman creature features? Try It Conqured The World (1957), Not of This Earth (1957), Attack of The Crab Monsters (1957), The Undead (1957), Night of The Blood Beast (1958), Beast From Haunted Cave (1959), The Wasp Woman (1959), Attack of The giant Leeches (1959). Avoid like a flesh eating virus these 50s Corman offerings The Beast With a Million Eyes (1955) and The Brain Eaters (1958)

12 May 2009

The Rat Snuff

Food of The Gods (1976)

It’s easy to get very excited about Food of The Gods; an island bathed in mist is inhabited by giant chickens, wasps, rats, and well.., lots more rats. This was certainly enough to sell it to me, that and the awesome cover artwork. It all starts fine and dandy, some neat opening titles where we meet our leading men (pro American Footballers), great use of the mist shrouded lakes and islands of British Columbia Canada, and some very entertaining first encounters with the giant animals. Lets get a little plot out of the way. Three (quite mature) footballer jocks head to a secluded island for a little R&R horse riding-style, whereupon one jock falls victim to giant (super imposed see-through) wasps. Lead jock, played with real gusto and effort by Marjoe Gotner, decides to return to the island to investigate the badly imposed super wasps, only to encounter giant chickens, giant rats, and the cause of the local wildlife’s gigantism, a strange porridge that is bubbling up through the ground. The giant chickens and rats are realised via some great practical effects mixing puppetry and real animals placed against miniature sets and backgrounds. All of this is kitsch, but strangely effective.

The humans are on the whole pointless and annoying, but you’ve got to love Gotner’s nonsensical plans, which he carries out with the dedication and determination of a first class B-movie loon. Sadly director Bert Gordon see’s fit to fill much of the film’s second half with the actual shooting and killing of the poor bastard rats that happened to find themselves unwittingly stars of a history’s biggest rat snuff movie. That’s right, when the actors shoot their guns at the fictional giant rats we are shown actual rats being shot by what must have been small air guns. You really get to see rats all but exploding at times, including one rat’s head coming clean off. It really is a vile viewing experience and one that just can't be understood as a viable filming method. If rats getting shot isn’t enough for you, that’s fine, you get to see them drowned too. What turns out to be a promising bit of 70s late night monster trash turns into a detestable act of cruelty. How this ever got past any censorship board I’ll never know. One of the worst H G Wells adaptations it has to be said.

6 May 2009

Friday Midnight Movie

Silent Running (1972)

Don’t you just hate those reviews that compare other films to describe the film in question; you know the ones.., ‘its like this meets that’. In this case however I feel that a film-to-film comparison is the best way to kick start a look at Silent Running (1972). It’s like Star Wars (1977) meets The Shinning (1980). There I said it. But it’s true. Take the high concept elements of family friendly sci-fi’s such as Star Wars and mix that in with the 70s art-house and isolation of The Shinning and you can start to understand the type of movie Silent Running is. It feels like a film made by indie moviemakers who wanted to make a mainstream film. Like an indie movie doing an impression of a mainstream film if you will. The soundtrack (reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel’s 1967 The Graduate soundtrack), the tone, the editing, and the echo subtext are all reminiscent of 70s New Hollywood art-house. The design of the film in the form of the sets, the costumes, the robots, the gadgets, the spaceships, and space itself are right out of the mainstream sci-fi family-film handbook. It’s an intriguing, absorbing, and at times uncomfortable mix.

Silent Running is the story of one astronaut botanist (Bruce Dern) who tends the last remnants of earth’s vegetation, located in huge greenhouses in space, waiting for a time when they can return to earth to start the process of re-greening. When instructed to destroy the nature reserves and return to earth, Lovell (Dern), jettisons himself and the last remaining greenhouse into the depths of space, all alone except for a couple of helpful robot drones. 

This is a film about isolation. One man’s passion leading him to a sacrifice of extreme loneliness and therein his regrets and his search for comforting companionship amongst his robotic helpers. You really can relate to his drive to find means to create artificial friendships to stay off the madness; the type of madness that broke Jack in The Shinning. This is a great late night watch, and like many films of the period Silent Running doesn’t provide us with a comfortable ending. 

Letdown of the Week

What It has Going For It: The selling point of this film is not lost on the filmmakers. It has two massive names in the world of fiction and special effects plastered all over the original marketing. The author H G Wells supplies the source material and stop-motion legend Ray Harryhausen provides his unique brand of special effects during the film’s final third. That’s some good pedigree right there. Concept wise its not to shabby either. Made In 1964 the film arrives slap bang in the middle of the space race and moon hysteria. JFK had famously marked his intentions to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade. In this film it’s a UN rather than US space craft that lands man on the moon for the first time (five years before the US would do so for real), or so they think. It transpires that the jolly British had bizarrely landed on the moon some 65 years earlier in 1899. The rest of the film is a flashback of how this feat was achieved. Awesomely eccentric concept.

Why it’s a Letdown: Sadly the tone of the film is horribly misjudged. The first two thirds of this film are more like Mary Poppins than they are sci-fi creature space adventure. Much of the film is set on earth not on the moon at all. The acting is incredibly over the top; Lionel Jefferies leads the scenery chewing in a fantastically geriatric performance, but like the tone of the film as a whole, it just doesn’t fit when it comes down to the serious nature of the film’s final third.., which really feels like a separate film. Once we arrive on the moon the feel good Disney approach goes out the window in favour of a darker tone, but by this point its too late and your already treating it as slapstick clichéd comedy. For some reason Harryhausen’s excellent effects of the moon people (The Lunars) are mixed in with children in absurdly bad moon people costumes. It’s as if they could only afford so much of the effects budget. What effects there are, both visual and practical, are fantastic.., but the film itself is a messy patchwork quilt of styles and tones that just refuse to be sewn together in any coherent manner.

Like Moon Films? Try these: Applo 13 (1995 – I know they don’t get to the moon), From Earth to the Moon (1958), Stowaway to the Moon (TVM 1975), and if your really really desperate; Cat Women of the Moon (1953), Missile to the Moon (1958).

4 May 2009

Keeping Up With The Loomis'

Deadly Movie Connections

Loomis has unwittingly become the surname of choice for slasher films and can, like so many Deadly Movies connections, be traced back to the master’s Psycho (1960). Sam Loomis, played by John Gavin, was Marian Crane’s boyfriend, hopelessly searching Bates Motel for clues to the whereabouts of his awol girlfriend. The Loomis family would again pop up in the Psycho universe in Psycho 2 (1983) where Sam’s widow and Lila and daughter Mary turn up to exact some revenge on Norman.
John Carpenter’s 1979 Halloween utilised elements of Psycho to create the template that would become the modern slasher film, but this wasn’t all he borrowed. He also grabbed his leading lady from Psycho stock, Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Janet Leigh (Marian Crane) and he directly borrowed a character name, Sam Loomis. Although rather than the grieving boyfriend, his Loomis was Dr Sam Loomis, child psychologist and nemesis to serial killer Michael Myers. Like Psycho before it, one film in franchise is never enough for a Loomis, Dr Sam Loomis would return to Halloween four more films as well as two remakes (including 2009s H2).
Then it would be the turn of another horror legend, Wes Craven creator of horror cornerstones The Last House on The Left (1972), The Hills Have Eyes (1977),and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). In 1996 Craven’s Scream would reference and parody the forefathers horror, especially Halloween which both score and movie feature directly in the film, as does the name Loomis. Here however Loomis is on the wrong side of the knife handle. Billy Loomis is the mastermind behind the ‘Ghost Face’ killings, while his mother Mrs Loomis (going all Mrs Voorhees) would take up the knife and mask in Scream 2 (1997).

50 years, 12 films, 8 actors, 6 characters, 1 surname
Sam Loomis (John Gavin, Psycho 1960)
Lila Loomis (Vira Miles, Psycho 2 1983)
Mary Loomis (Meg Tilly, Psycho 2 1983)
Sam Loomis (Viggo Mortensen, Psycho 1998)

Dr Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence, Halloween 1978Halloween 2 1981, Halloween 4
1988, Halloween 5 1989, Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers 1995)
Dr Sam Loomis (Malcome McDowell, Halloween 2007, H2 2009)

Billy Loomis (Skreet Ulrich, Scream 1996)
Mrs Loomis (Laurie Metcalf, Scream 2 1997)

2 May 2009

Bank Holiday Midday Movies

Three slices of Doug McClure pie; mmm that’s some good pie.

This week, for one week only, DeadlyMovies.com is replacing the Friday Midnight Movie with Bank Holiday Midday Movies to celebrate three days of no work or school. There’s something about a three-day weekend that makes you want to sit about in your pants, cook up some popcorn, and hit the DVD collection. Bank Holidays, Easter, and Christmas are perfect excuses to regress into your inner child and explore those films for your childhood movie memories. Films like Ghostbusters, The Goonies, and Back to the Future are perfect examples, but here at Deadly Movies we prefer to dig a little deeper into the memory vaults of movies past. So without further ado this Bank Holiday DeadlyMovies.com recommends a treble helping of adventure with the 1970s answer to Harrison Ford; Doug McClure! Between 1975 and 1977 McClure starred in three B-movie adventure films based on Edgar Rice Burroughs books, The Land That Time Forgot (1975), At The Earth’s Core (1976), and The People That Time Forgot (1977). These films really mark a period where low budget sci-fi adventure films were coming to an end to be replaced by the high budget, high concept adventure blockbusters of the late 70s and 1980s, namely the post Star Wars era. So get on the couch and enjoy the ludicrousness that is these three helpings of McClure adventure:

The Land That time Forgot (1975): Set in World War I, McClure and a bunch of British military types overrun a German U-boat and abscond towards the Antarctic where they find themselves emerging from the icy seas into a lost tropical land known as Caprona. Here Brits, Germans, and McClure must work together to fight off cavemen, volcanoes, and best of all dinosaurs. Yes you heard it right; Germans, dinosaurs, cavemen, and Doug McClure. There’s some bad dinosaur puppet effects and some hilariously rubbish dinosaur effects, including the glider Terradactyl who’s wings don’t move. Muppets with sharp teeth aside, there are some great sets and matt paintings that add a real mystical quality to the proceedings. The film is bookended by a surprisingly brave downbeat somber ending that’s set up in the opening scenes.

At The Earth’s Core (1976): Firstly its worth pointing out here that this is a stand alone film that doesn’t run in any sequence with The Land That Time Forgot, but does share a similar tone and sense of adventure as well as again featuring angry cavemen types, more creatures, and of course Doug McClure. This time McClure travels with hammer veteran Peter Cushing, here playing against type as bumbling professor. Cushing and McClure journey to the centre of the earth via a Thunderbirds style drilling machine only to find that on arrival they are greeted by less than friendly earth core holiday reps. From here on I you get the usual capture and escape routine with a giant laughable dinosaur parrot and some heaving breasts thrown in for good measure.

The People That Time Forgot (1977): This is a direct sequel to The Land That Time Forgot whereby a search and rescue party heads out to Caprona to bring home the stranded Doug McClure. This time McClure is sporting a very rugged hobo beard. This is basically a reworking of The Land That Time Forgot, minus the Nazis, and with far more tribal wars between the islands inhabitants. You get more crappy dinosaurs (which by this stage aren’t resembling any recognizable animals but rather starting to look more like finger puppets), more heaving breasts, and the return of the rubbish gliding Terradactyl…, Yay.

There is something wonderfully old fashioned and naive about these films, they have a whimsical charm about them that doesn’t involve fast food tie-in’s. The effects may be rubbish, but over a Bank Holiday beer they are great to laugh at and laugh along with. That and you get three helpings of action man extraordinaire Doug McClure.

30 Apr 2009

Presenting John Agar

DeadlyMovies.com salutes another icon of 50s monster movies. This man has battled the Gill Man, the Mole People, the Pupet People, a giant brain, and a giant spider. This is a man for whom no horror was too great, presenting John Agar:

Revenge of The Creature (1955)
Tarantula (1955)
The Mole People (1956)
The Brain From Planet Arous (1957)
Attack of The Pupet People (1958)

29 Apr 2009

Letdown Of The Week

Orca (1977)

What it has going for it: A good cast in Richard Harris, Charlotte Rampling, and Bo Derek. Hot on the back of 1975s Jaws this is a cash in yes, replace shark with killer whale and Robert Shaw with Richard Harris, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Jaws was fantastic, with this cast, Orca could be too. There are plenty of good 'masked killer stalks teen' films or 'monster trashes city' films. So why not another good 70s 'big fish chases boat' film?

Why it’s a letdown: The worst thing about this film is just how mean spirited it is. Including an abject scene of a whale miscarriage which rather than acting as a narrative device just makes you hate the humans, the filmmakers, and the film. We didn’t need to see the shark in Jaws undergoing emotional drama to accept that it was just a mean-bad-ass and we certainly don’t need to see this. Then there’s the very silly nonsense like the whale causing explosions and houses to collapse (all on land!). I like to think that the dead killer whale on the beach in Jaws 2 (1978 – one year later), lying there with a big shark bite taken out of it, was a symbolic gesture from team Jaws of just how poor this film is.

Trivia: Italian producer Dini Di Laurentiis, the 'brains' behind the 1976 King Kong, was at one point considering a kong sequel that would pitch King Kong vs Orca.

28 Apr 2009

Deadly Movie Connections

Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis. 

The ultimate mother and daughter act. Both Janet and Jamie have been leading women in seminal horror classics. Janet played Marian in Hitchcock’s 1960 classic Psycho, while Jamie was cast as a second generation slasher leading lady in 1978s Halloween. Jamie would go on to complete further 80s horror filmsThe Fog (1980), Prom Night (1980), Terror Train (1980), and Halloween 2 (1981), before returning to the genre and to the Halloween franchise in Halloween H20 (1998) followed by Virus (1999) and Halloween Resurrection (2002). Jamie and Janet can be found starring together in The Fog and Halloween H20. H20 lovingly refers to Janet’s role in Psycho in the subtle use of the Psycho score and the use of the car driven by Marian on her fateful journey to Bates Motel.

Its as if these two women are destined to dance with the bogeyman forever. And indeed they both too met their fate at the hands of iconic bogeymen, Janet as Marian in the forever famous shower scene in Psycho, brutally stabbed by Norman Bates, and Jamie’s long suffering Laurie Strode finally meets her doom at the hands of Michael Myers (at the fourth time of asking) in Halloween Resurrection.

Jamie Lee can proudly sit upon here thrown as ‘Scream Queen’ with eight horror films under her belt, four of which Halloween films, not to mention the almost unknown and uncredited voice over (as curfew announcer and telephone operator) in Halloween 3: Season of the Witch 1982). Jamie’s role in Halloween cemented the legacy of the ‘final girl’ for decades of movies to come. That, and of course, she happens to be the daughter of Slasher’s ‘First Lady’.

A Horrible Way to Start?

I bet you didn’t realise just how many acting careers were launched by the types of films loved by Deadly Movies. Although these are films often frowned upon you’d be amazed just who started off as a bludgeoned victim, an alien meal, or on the wrong end of a giant tentacle.
Who: Clint Eastwood
Played: Lab Technician
Film: Revenge of the Creature (1955)
Fate: Survived

Who: Steve McQueen
Played: Steve Andrews
Film: The Blob (1958)
Fate: Survived
Who: Jamie Lee Curtis
Played: Final Girl Laurie Strode
Film: Halloween (1978)
Fate: Survived. Even came back for Halloween 2 (1981), Halloween H20 (1998), and Halloween Resurrection (2002) where Laurie finally kicks the bucket.
Who: Kevin Bacon
Played: Jack
Film: Friday The 13th (1980)
Fate: Dies. Arrow through the neck from under the bed.

Who: Tom Hanks
Played: Elliot
Film: He Knows You're Alone (1980)
Fate: Survived. Rumour has it that Hanks’ character was scripted to die, and they even shot the death scene, only to remove it from the final cut due to his cuddliness. 
Who: Holly Hunter and Jason Alexander
Played: Dave and Sophie
Film: The Burning (1981)
Fate: Both survivors

Who: Johnny Depp
Played: Glen Lantz
Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Fate: Dies. Dragged through bed in one of film’s greatest ever blood baths. Did make a (dream?) cameo appearance in Freddy’s Dead, The Final Nightmare (1991)
Who: Jennifer Anniston
Played: Tory Reading
Film: Leprechaun (1993)
Fate: Survived.

Who: Renee Zellwegger andMatthew McConaughey
Played: Jenny and Vilmar
Film: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre The Next Generation (aka The Return of The TCM - 1994)
Fate: Zellwegger survives, McConaughey (it implies) dies by aeroplane propeller.
Who: Paul Rudd
Played: Tommy Doyle
Film: Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1996)
Fate: Survived.

25 Apr 2009

Hate Spiders, Love Spider Films

They may be fairly small, even the biggest ones ever recorded may only reach the size of a dinner plate, but spiders make for great creature feature bad guys. Not only are spiders an innate fear for many of us, they are physically perfect for movie monsters. Compared to any other insects, mollusks, crustaceans, or amphibians of a similar size, spiders are fast, clever, carnivorous,and most importantly scary-looking. Therein they also successfully lend themselves very well to mutation and giantism,where others look slightly more ridiculous (check out the giant chicken in Food of The Gods 1976) So whether they be standard house spiders, tarantulas, or genetically mutated; spiders are a formidable filmic foe.  

Hate Spiders, love spider films? Try Tarantula (1955), Spider aka Earth vs The Spider (1958), Kingdom of The Spiders (1977), Arachnophobia (1990)

Friday Midnight Movie

Slugs (1987)
This is perfect midnight viewing on every level; cheesy, gory, unbelievably 80s, and acting so mediocre it can only be described as adequate soft-core porn. Slugs is a film that comes way way way down the line in theJaws inspired nature revenge films of the 70s and 80s. Not that there has ever been a lack of killer animals in Hollywood, but 1975s Jaws really whipped producers everywhere into a quick-buck frenzy. By this point, some eleven years after Jaws, we’ve had killer sharks, worms (Squirm 1976), ants (Ants 1977), spiders (Kingdom of the Spiders 1977), whales (Orca 1977), piranhas (Piranha 1978), bees (Swarm 1978), alligators (Alligator 1980), dogs (Cujo 1983), and rats (Rats – Night of Terror 1983). You get the idea.

Let's get onto the slippery suckers in question. For some reason these slower than slow ‘mutant slugs that like meat’ (that’s about as much science as you’ll get in this one) start attacking small town folk. You get loads of real slugs, rubber slugs, and one money shot that features a little animatronic slug that bites someone’s finger, that’s right a finger, a finger bitten. Ouch that’s sore.

Unlike many Slasher movies of the same period our victims here are not horny teenagers, but rather insanely horny adults. They’re all at it…., The teacher, the county sanitation supervisor, the local health inspector, and the property developer. That’s right, all the sexiest industries are on show here. Not only that, but they’re at it to sexy music. The captain bizarreo score is a good enough reason alone to watch this. Think Columbo meets Psycho.

Now the best bit of all, the gore. These slugs can eat you, get inside you, and even blow your house up. But what this film really loves is eyeballs. You get dissolved eyeballs, eaten eyeballs, and best of all exploding eyeballs. Mix the gore, sexy times, daytime TV acting, and dialogue so appalling it becomes ludicrously enjoyable, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a Deadly Movies Midnight Movie.

Where? Ashton (the armpit of America)

Why? Soft-core porn actors eyeballs exploding

What? Mutant slugs

23 Apr 2009

Why Didn't They Make That?

Fans of horror, sci-fi, and monster movies know all too well that feeling of ‘why are they making’ or ‘re-making that’? Most of the movies we adore, for better or worse, are sequeled and remade on an endless cycle. But what of those films that slipped through the producers net or have been damned to an eternity in development hell? The films that really deserved, more so than others, a sequel or a long running franchise. Take a look at the following Deadly Movies nearquels:

Gremlins 3: Doesn’t make any sense why this didn’t happen. Great films and great title characters. Yes Gremlins 2 was a send up parody of Gremlins, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have gone in a different direction for a part 3. Plus the great thing is you're not reliant on the humans; so if the original cast wouldn’t or couldn’t return then audiences would still turn out to see Gizmo and his dysfunctional relatives.

The Burning 2: This 1981 slasher gem has everything going for it: Tom Savini special effects, a great killer (Cropsy), awesome kills, and it came out right at the dawn of the slasher explosion, so there was plenty of time and room for sequels. Cropsy could easily have become as synonymous as Jason or Michael; he had a trade mark look (trench coat and hat, throw in the burns of Freddy, who it pre dates by the way) and a signature weapon, hedge shears. Cropsy does meet a rather definitive end during the film’s finale, but when has that ever stopped the rejuvenating world of horror?

My Bloody Valentine 2: As above really. Fantastic looking killer in the shape of the Miner, and the ending is left very open. Considering how films like Sleepaway Camp (1983)Prom Night (1980), and Slumber Party Massacre (1982) managed to generate seven sequels between them, it’s hard to imagine how these two more solid efforts did not.

Predator 3: Why oh why oh why did we never get a P3? Such great sci-fi monster movies are parts 1 and 2 that a part 3 seemed a no brainer. Instead of this, and instead of an Alien 5, we got a very tame AVP (2004) and the extremely poor AVP2 (2007). The Predator is a standout iconic creature (creation of special effects Icon Stan Winston); as it proved with P2, it can survive the loss of star with the magnitude of Arnie. Audiences will go and see the creature no matter which human meals are laid before it.

Want to chew on some more nearquels? Wrap your mouth around these ideasJurassic Park 4 (why not? Part 3 was good), The Thing 2 (it’s a shape shifter so you can go anywhere with it), The Preying Mantis 2 (had to get a 50s one in there), Freddy vs Jason 2 (why not? Admit it, it is fun. This time with Kane Hodder as Jason), Relic 2 (Another explorer mutates and goes loco somewhere), Alien 5 (reasons above). 

22 Apr 2009

Letdown of the Week

The Last Starfighter (1984)

What it has going for it: Undisputable 80s charm, that comforting sense of adventure that only 80s films seemed to have without the need for 90s cynical scientific over explanation. A great lead in Lance Guest who has that Luke Skywalker boy next-door quality. A premise that should work wonders for a family adventure, a teenager chosen to be a starfighter to go on a space mission, all based on the criteria of arcade game skills…, It’s a narrative device that brings together the dreams and aspirations of little boys everywhere, with a hobby they can all relate to, video games. 

Why it’s a letdown: Two major problems with this film. Firstly it opted for CGI just a little too early in the processes development, it really does look awful. Other films of the same time who were using models and stop motion hold up much better today. The model work in other 80s films like The Never Ending Story (also 1984), for example, really add to the sense of fantasy and mystique. This is all the more disappointing given that the practical sets and makeup effects are, in places, fantastic (check out Dan O’Herlihy’s awesome lizard-like makeup). A bigger letdown however is the lack of a real exhilarating finale, a massive epic battle to compete with the likes of Return of the Jedi (1983). Meaning that, in the end, the all-conquering heroism of Luke or Indy is a little lost on Alex. 

18 Apr 2009

Big In Japan?

King Kong vs Godzilla (1962)

Back in the early 1960s producer John Beck sold the rights to make a new King Kong film to Japanese Godzilla outfit Toho. The ‘man in suit’ brigade then set about putting a plot together whereby their new acquisition could face their stable money maker Godzilla. Aside from the film being a total balls up and making Kong look like an ass clown in a rubber suit (rather than stop motion, a feat of stupidity matched again by Dino De Laurentiis in 1975), it also got one massive Kong factor wrong, his height. For a moment here let’s get our geek on. In the 1933 movie Kong was either 18 feet or 24 feet tall, let’s go with 24 to give the big guy a break. In the 1954 original Japanese film the radioactive lizard is 164 feet tall. So at best Kong is lacking some 140 feet. You’d need to drink a lot of Saki to make that error in calculation. Oh yeah -  and he looks like a monkey with severe brain trauma and alopecia who can’t stop smiling the whole time…, that’d be the Saki.

Like Kong looking like a stupid moron? Also see: King Kong Strikes Again (1967), King Kong (1976), and King Kong Lives (1986)

Friday Midnight Movie

Every Friday Deadly Movies will post a suggested Midnight Movie to kick off your weeked and say goodbye to that crap week at work or school. This week Deadly Movies has selected this little gem from the vaults for your viewing pleasure: 
Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)

What a film to start your midnight movie watching with, fantastically peculiar on every conceivable level, genuinely funny (intentional? You decide), and a great genre creature. I first watched this with my housemates, crashed out on the couch with some beers, and laughed out loud all the way through. That’s not to say your laughing at it but its genuine eccentricity is a joy to behold.

Plot wise you have a bodged store robbery (a Jewellery store called Neil Diamonds! Yes!) culminating in one of the thieves hiding out in the roof of the Chrysler Building (for no conceivable reason at all) where he bumps into a yellow skinned Aztec giant serpent bird. Meanwhile said resurrected bird (some kind of subplot involving sadistic Aztec New Yorkers or something) fabulously picks off poor old Manhattan roof dwellers. Watch in awe as they think up ways to get people on roofs and the ingenious reasoning for why the monster is never seen even though it only attacks in broad daylight. Brilliant.

But the monstrous featherless cirrhosis suffering bird isn’t the predominant reason for recommending this, it’s the outrageous cast performances that make this film a Deadly Movies hit, lead in spectacular fashion by the absolutely barmyMichael Moriarty who ambles his way through the script and delivers an adlibbed virtuoso performance worthy of Crispin Glover on a crack bender. Moriarty staggers blindly along the narrative like a drunk swinging a bucket of toads.  Surrounded by a supporting cast who are equally clueless, including the spectacularly misplaced casting of Malachy McCourt as the Police Commissioner who’s rough tough lines are delivered with a camp sparkle akin to Kenneth Williams on a banana cruise.

An utterly charming creature feature, made on the fly by Larry Cohen that makes the most of the Chrysler Building, a beautiful piece of architecture often overshadowed in movies by its big brother the Empire State Building . In the words of Michael Moriarty ‘Stick it…, Stick up your brain. Your tiny little brain!’

Where? New York City

Why? Michael Moriarty

What? Giant flying mythical Aztec serpent 

17 Apr 2009

Silver Medals

Deadly Movies loves franchises.  Those of us who love monsters, creatures, and bogey men just cant help it; we’re a hungry bunch for whom lust, greed, and gluttony are not deadly sins but rather unquenchable desires for more. More kills, more ghouls, more masks, more more more. So here’s the Deadly Movies list of great number two’s, and being Deadly Movies don’t expect to see Empire, The Dark Knight, or Spidey 2.

Son of Kong (1933): Made almost before Kong’s body hit the asphalt on 5th Avenue, this was one of the films I wanted to track down more than any other. Its saving grace is the return of the outstanding Robert Armstrong as one of film’s greatest man-explorers Carl Denham. That in itself is a good enough reason to watch this Part 2, and if anyone tells you different they can jog right back to Skull Island. That aside, we get a baby Kong, some more dinosaurs, and another sombre ending.

Jaws 2 (1978): As far as I’m concerned, 1975’s Jaws is the greatest movie ever made. The sequel most certainly isn’t…, but it is solid. French director Jeannot Szwarc brings some good scares and some interesting new approaches to the shark’s POV including riding bare back, camera in hand, behind the famous wake breaking fin. The late great Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss are noticeable by their absence; you really miss the chemistry that sizzled between the three men in the original. But if you can get past that you basically get a teenage slasher film here; replace Jason with shark.

Friday 13th Part 2 (1981): Easy, one word…, Jason. Two words…, Jason Voorhees. Three words…, Jason F**king Voorhees! Regarded by many as the best entry into the series this not only gives us Jason as the killer (not a bad idea by someone) but also provides some great (funny?) kills, including wheelchair guy heading off down the stairs, and maintains a link to the events of Part 1, even if the timeline makes no sense at all.

The Invisible Man Returns (1940): Basically a retread of the first one, but this is no bad thing when your Invisible Man is now Vincent Price whose unique voice is at times extremely chilling. And then there’s the increasingly impressive special effects, especially when objects are being moved, used, rode, and thrown.

Like Silver Medals? Also see: Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Revenge of The Creature (1955), Aliens (1986), Psycho 2 (1983), Predator 2 (1990), Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (2004), The Devils Rejects (2005).

Coming soon: The worst Part 2’s and the Best Part 3’s!

16 Apr 2009

The Look of Future Space

Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson (along with Sylvia Anderson) wrote, produced, and of course created the miniatures for the 1969 Sci-fi film Journey to The Far Side of The Sun. Now for me this film has faults way beyond that of the realisation of the future, but it was this particular movie future that got me thinking; How best to represent the future on film? In Anderson’s film, for example, never has the future looked more like 1969. Complete with knee high boots, bob haircuts, mini skirts, egg chairs, and plenty of psychedelia. Now of course films should be watched in the historic, cultural, and social context of which they were made, and Journey to The Far Side of The Sun certainly isn’t the only culprit when it comes to pimping the present out as the future. Take the greatness of Arnie’s Total Recall; great film but set in a future that’s more Walkman than Ipod. That’s what I’m getting at, you could pull up multiple examples from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Don’t get me wrong outdated technology is often part of the charm, but what can really throw a phaser in the works is if the fashions of the day (or fifteen minute phase) are so sewn into the visual fabric of the film that it acts as a distraction rather than a compliment. And that was indeed the case with Journey to The Far Side of The Moon.

While it’s easy to point the finger at previous attempts at (re)creating the future, you have to remember that these films were once cutting edge and that our contemporary takes on what lies ahead may well one day seem laughable. But this doesn’t mean that filmic representations of the future are doomed to ridicule. There are shining beacons of visual hope, path blazers of concept and set design that achieved the almost impossible by creating a future that, to date at least, for the new viewer cant be dated by hair-do’s, fashions, furnishings, slang, or pop references. They are the sci-fi films who’s directors, cinematographers, set designers, costume designers, and conceptual artists have given us timeless settings by which we can bathe in a film that could be a glimpse of tomorrow. Look at Fritz Lang’s timeless Metropolis (1927), or the simple lines and neutral colours used in Alien (1979) likewise the amazing sets seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)  or the mixing of cultures, periods, and ethnic design in Blade Runner (1982). These visual wonders have kept things simple and not of the period. Yes characters may smoke and there may even be the odd perm or flattop, but the effort and understanding was there that to be of the future the film must have a healthy distance from the present. 

10 Apr 2009

Outstanding Contribution to Leading Men in 50s Creature Features

Before Arnie, Chuck, Sly, and Bruce, hell even before Clint, there were the men of the 50s Creature Feature. True men. Real men. Men for whom no octopus had too many tentacles. No alien was in too bad an outfit. And no dinosaur was made of too much play dough. These men said it like it was, kicked ass, destroyed every marvel of science and nature, and always managed to get some tang along the way. I give you the leading bad-asses of 50s Sci-Fi:

Richard Denning:
Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954), 
Target Earth (1954), 
Creature With the Atom Brain (1955), 
The Day the World Ended (1955), 
Black Scorpion (1957). 
Battered 5 different beasties / aliens.
Kenneth Tobey:
The Thing From Another World (1951), 
The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953), 
It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), 
Vampire (1957). 
Kung Foo’d 4 different beasties / aliens.

Richard Carlson:
It came From Outer Space (1953), 
Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954). 
Beat up 2 different beasties / aliens.

If They Only Had A Brain

Scarecrows (1988)
Don’t you just love those movies you just happen across? The ones you had absolutely no idea existed. They weren’t recommended to you, you didn’t read about them in a magazine or online; they just pop up from somewhere. On TV one night when you cant sleep, on the shelf of the video store, or in a clearance basket of a petrol station.  For me it was the latter, I first stumbled across Scarecrows whilst filling up my car at a countryside petrol station in Mid Wales and, whilst I didn’t buy it there-and-then, the cover art stayed with me, and within weeks I had tracked it down online and made a purchase. And what a great little sleeper this is, very creepy, tense, and at times genuinely scary.

A group of high tech robbers have pulled off a big heist and made their getaway in a military plane when one of the gang opts for mutiny and parachutes off with the cash causing the remaining bandits (and two hostages) to make an unscheduled landing amongst the rural pastures below. The adage that crime doesn’t pay is rammed home here as the criminals find themselves on farmland inhabited by possessed scarecrows who practice the Atkins Diet with some vigour. Like the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz these chaps too only want a brain, and some lungs, and some small intestine, and maybe an eyeball or two.

The joy of this film comes in the pitch darkness in which it’s presented. Both characters and audience are plunged into the black of the cornfields where the night vision goggles become a handy ally. Props also go to the design of the scarecrows themselves whose expressionless emotionless faces will fill you with dread when you attempt to go to bed afterwards. A great little find.

Like terror in the fields? Try Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003), Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981), and if your really desperate try Night of the Scarecrow (1995)

9 Apr 2009

Guilty Pleasures

Deep Rising (1997)
This one of my clear favourites when in comes to modern creature features. Now lets be upfront and honest from the get go; The CGI is ropey, the acting in places is awkward, and the characters are for the most part irritating like bum rash.

 However! The set up is great, big monster on a cruise ship. The source material draws on modern genre success stories like Alien, Aliens, and Jaws with a nod to old classics like It Came From Beneath the Sea. And perhaps best of all director Sommers succeeds in the execution of a good solid monster film, keeping the star attraction under wraps until the end, and using the claustrophobic nature of the ship’s mazy layout and general sense of isolation to realise the film's maximum potential.  What’s more there are some good kills, plenty of the red stuff, and proof that modern day monsters don’t need to be destroying New York to be interesting. And while Treat Williams’ catch phrase ‘Now What?’ is more annoying than it is clever and rememberable, he’s a solid lead whose rapport with leading lady Famke Janssen is just feisty enough. Plus there’s a little nod to King Kong at the very end, which has been misread by many as a sequel ending, rather this is a wink to creature feature fans and an in-joke that, in this film, the protagonists will never escape the world of (movie) monsters they have found themselves caught up in.

The Judge of the Court of Deadly Movies presiding, his verdict: Like a third topping on your burger, I find you, Deep Rising, guilty but good.

There's Something In The Mist!

The Mist (2007)

Buy it:The Mist Special Edition DVD or Blu Ray. It’s a great film, but best of all the SE comes with a Black and White version. Now you can be a cheapskate and turn the colour off on your TV, but that’s not Black and White that’s shades of gray. This version of the film is presented in dazzling clear digital Black and White. Not only does this make the sequences of wandering about in the mist exponentially more taught and intense, but it also covers up some of the CGI’s shortcomings in the colour version.