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Gojira no gyakushû (1955)
Not bad as a sequel
Like a lot of early Japanese giant monster films, the Japanese and American versions of Godzilla Raids Again are almost completely different films (though not quite as different as, say, Varan the Unbelievable).
I just had the occasion to watch the subtitled version of this movie on DVD and found it to be a much better film than the US version. I think that as a rushed-out sequel, it is almost comparable to Son of Kong in terms of quality of effects and story. The one point that stands out is that almost all of the effects shots that use city miniatures are shot rather murkily ... there's none of the crisp, black and white documentary feel of the original Gojira. I'm not sure whether this was done intentionally to hide the face that things were rushed and not up to the previous film's par, or simply a bad processing problem, as most of those particular effects scenes were supposed to be at night.
Both versions also suffer from really bad pseudo-scientific explanations for the monsters' existence, but the original is better in that aspect as well, being considerably less childish. I'm still trying to understand how paleontologists could figure out dinosaur motivations.
Either version of Godzilla Raids Again/Gigantis the Fire Monster is worth a watch, especially for the kaiju/50's Sci-Fi completest out there.
Interesting, but can't decide what genre it is
I like Spaceways, but it is a pretty average movie on all fronts (for the fifties). Even though it does have the lovely Eva Bartok in it, and was directed by Hammer Film's legendary Terence Fisher, the film's main problem is that it can't decide what type of genre film it is, with all the various story elements running around. We've got a early British science fiction (hence the title, of course), a murder mystery, and a bit of early Cold War thriller all tumbled together.
The performances by all are solid if stereotypical, but the effects consist primarily of using the same stock footage of V-2 experiments that viewers would come to know and sometimes loathe in many movies later on (Fire Maidens From Outer Space, King Dinosaur, etc., etc.). The movie also seems to end a bit abruptly.
Luckily, the DVD of the movie is available at mall music/video stores for about $6 (I got my in a double pack with Kronos for $10), so it is at least affordable for the 50's Sci-Fi Completest out there.
The Galaxy Invader (1985)
Still not as bad as Highlander 2
That's about all I can say about this movie. But then, nothing is as bad as Highlander 2. The story is definitely better than that horrid film, not that that is saying much.
It is, though, hard to believe that this was filmed in 1985 and not, say 1969 or 1970. Considering I don't think many of the folks in it were professional actors (or directors, writers, et. al.), it could've been worse, I guess.
This movie's greatest claim to fame is with MST3K fans, as portions of it are shown during the credits of the Film Ventures release of Pod People. It's too bad that The Galaxy Invader was never used on the show.
Sexist, racist and extremely non-funny bad film
Invasion of the Star Creatures would definitely be in the "so bad it's good" category if the film wasn't quite so sexist or racist. That it is such just makes it plain bad.
It has the same kind of hardline stereotypical sexism that you saw in Queen of Outer Space, and the kind of racist stereotypes (in this instance, Native Americans) that you would normally find in thirties & forties b-westerns. In terms of being non-funny, the same walking-through-the-cave gag is repeated well over ten times during the course of this fairly short movie. Ray does do one good impression of Jimmy Cagney (but can't make it work for two impressions of Cagney in a row, nor handle a Peter Lorre when he tries it). There really aren't any production values to speak of, as the "Star Creatures" make the Ro-Man from Robot Monster or Tor Johnson in Plan 9 from Outer Space look like creations of Industrial Light and Magic.
This film was definitely one of a vanguard of what you would have to call early independent cinema...not artsy enough for those theaters and not good enough for anything but the last feature of an all-night drive-in.
The UFO Incident (1975)
Excellent film on a controversial subject
The UFO Incident was one of the hardest movies for me to see. I remember when it first aired, I had to be at a Boy Scout meeting, so I missed it (back in those pre-VCR days). The second chance I had to see it had the station broadcasting it go off the air for a half-hour, and then come back on with a completely fuzzed out picture, so again I couldn't watch the film. I procured a copy last month, and then I lost the bloody tape. I managed to finally get another and FINALLY got to watch the damn thing.
Well, it really was worth the wait. James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons give very believeable and very moving performances as a married couple beset by completely strange and frightening circumstances. Even if you don't believe in the alien abduction phenomenon that has become so widespread after the big-budget version of Whitley Streiber's Communion, you've got to admire the acting abilities of both stars in this movie. You can definitely feel the pain and confusion that Barney and Betty Hill went through in their performances (particularly Jones, who I think accurately encapsulates all of the pent-up frustrations that Barney Hill was reputed to have, though he did so in a decidedly non-stereotypical way - Barney wasn't your average "Angry Black Man" of the seventies).
I suppose because of Communion (and the recent Signs) one might chuckle a bit at the alien visitors in this movie, but one has to remember that this was a made-for-TV movie and I think the production values put it on a par with any of the contemporary science fiction or horror films of the time period. One also has to remember this movie was made before that famous cover of Communion was published, so the aliens don't quite look like the willowy Greys that most folks have come to associate with the phenomenon.
This is a film definitely worth searching out. Sci-Fi Channel apparently shows it now and again, so that's your best bet, outside of the internet trading circles (which is where I got my copy).
The Green Slime (1968)
This movie scared the beejeezus out of me as a kid
I will admit it: When I was a child, The Green Slime scared the living beejeezus out of me. Actually, the promotional commercial for it on the CBS Late Night Movie scared me. I can't remember if I ever got to see the Green Slime part of the movie...I did have nightmares about that commercial for weeks afterwards.
Nowadays, I also have to admit that I feel like a complete idiot for being scared of this movie. The only real scary thing about this film is that they let Robert Horton AND Richard Jaeckel star in it. One I could've seen, but add both and you are just asking for trouble. Add to that the attempt to gel the whole thing as an "international" production, with American, English, Italian, and Japanese actors & actress (& production crews), and you've got a definite b-movie on your hands.
On the whole, The Green Slime is your average sci-fi spectacle. Unfortunately, it was released by M-G-M right after it released 2001: A Space Odyssey...and I think you can see the lack of any real comparison between the two. No insight here...just some rubbery monsters and some above-average Toho space effects.
Too much James Bond overpowers the little Mabuse in the film
The final film in the Dr. Mabuse series is also truly the least of the series. It is a fairly good spy thriller for the era if you look at it just from that viewpoint. But it definitely is a fairly poor Mabuse movie.
I really missed Gert Frobe as Inspector Lohmann. Peter Van Eyck is back as his suave espionage agent and the movie really centers on him, not Mabuse, who really is not even mentioned much until about two-thirds into the film. Add to that the completely outlandish concept of the "death ray mirror", and you've got a mediocre James Bond film on your hands...not a good Mabuse movie, which really relies on fairly realistic and reasonable (though often somewhat mystical or arcane) concepts in technology and the like.
The cinematography is fairly good, as is the Italian (Sardinian?) scenery. I would recommend the film only to Mabuse completists, or the most ardent spy film fanatic.
Not the best movie in the series, but still fun
This movie really marked the decline in the fabled Dr. Mabuse series, at least for me. I think it was the inclusion of the invisibility schtick...Dr. Mabuse works much better with realism and realistic devices (his multitude of video and audio pick-ups, his mind control drugs, etc.) than fanciful items out of science fiction.
This film also suffered for not having Gert Frobe in the picture as Commissioner Lohmann to counterpoint Lex Barker's suave FBI agent (who this time does not even attempt to confuse us as to which side of the law he is on).
Still, there is a lot of good action in this film, and the cinematography is excellent as well. Definitely worth a look.
Im Stahlnetz des Dr. Mabuse (1961)
Another good Mabuse entry
This was another good entry in the Dr. Mabuse series, and a good German mystery movie in general.
Gert Frobe is excellent as Lohmann, and Lex Barker is a welcome addition with his character, who keeps us on our toes by never really letting us know his true allegiances until late in the film.
Once again though, a lot of traps and salient plot points are recycled from some of the previous Mabuse movies. The addition of the "Chicago Syndicate" element looks to have been added to make the movie more reachable to US audiences, but the film does manage to keep the unique verve that most German cinema had back in the fifties and sixties.
Jack the Ripper (1976)
One of the few Kinski films that bored me
I'm not exactly sure what I didn't like about this movie, but it remains one of the only movies that Klaus Kinski did that I don't really care for. Perhaps it was the fact that right from the start we know who the Ripper is in this film, which definitely brings down the suspense level to the point of just waiting to see how the victims get massacred. Perhaps it's the somewhat failed attempt to invoke both a "Jekyll & Hyde" and a "Burke & Hare" feeling to the Ripper's legend.
Asides that, the cinematography was excellent on the film. There is a lot of atmosphere to the movie, but again that's where a minor problem lies...it is obviously a European or Continental atmosphere, not a Whitechapel one, which would have better served a movie called "Jack the Ripper".
Profondo rosso (1975)
Excellent Argento Horror!
I'd have to rate this as one of my favorite Italian Horror movies, simply because it blended in so many different ideas in a fairly seamless whole. You have a British protagonist living in Italy, a drunken piano player, a conference of psychics, a lot of murders, a childhood tale of tragedy, and a lot of red herrings (for the viewer, anyway).
The only things I can really hold against it is that the viewer doesn't understand why a couple of the murders happened until later in the film, and that it is definitely not a movie for the VCR/DVD generation...one of the clues is a fleeting glimpse at the scene of one of the first crimes we see. Do yourself a favor and don't hit rewind to see it more clearly - you'll spoil the film for yourself!
I think this is a good film to start with if you are just getting into Italian horror.
The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
One of the worst movies in the Hammer Archives
This is really not a good movie. It does have its good points...namely the presence of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. But as a Dracula movie, and more importantly as a Hammer Horror movie, it really doesn't make the cut.
Turning Dracula into a devil-like creature to be worshipped by a cult was just not a good idea. Making him a successful business man at the same time made the idea just plain lame. There was also a somewhat obvious "Avengers" element to the film, with the government organization searching for Chris Lee reminding me very much of the early years of that TV series.
If you're a Dracula or Hammer completist, give the movie a look. Otherwise, don't bother...unless you're getting it for free or would like to give it an MST3K-ing with your friends.
2+5: Missione Hydra (1966)
A strange little Italian space opera
This film reminded me a little of Mission Stardust in reverse...the aliens land on our planet instead of what happened in that movie. While fairly coherent, the movie doesn't really know where it's going, as a lot of Italian SF movies didn't in that era.
I'm still trying to figure out what the heck the secret agents were doing in the movie (and please remember, they're "Oriental, not Chinese"). Once the spaceship gets off the ground, we're treated to a lot of stock footage from Toho's Gorath, as a number of space stations and satellites try to pretend they are the starforces of Hydra. Then there's the time travel thing, and the female characters' need to wear fishnet bodystockings with leather or feather bikinis (obviously either an aside to the popularity of the fashions of Barbarella or just standard wear in Italian space operas...lord knows I've seen at least four other movies where leather was the material of choice for spacesuits). And then there's the need for spacehelmets when venturing onto a new planet, but two people can cross the cold void of space between two ships in what amounted to a snorkel and leather.
To me, 2:5: Mission Hydra reminded me a lot of They Came From Beyond Space or the Terrornauts or similar British features made in the mid-sixties...not bad, but not necessarily well thought out.
Der Teppich des Grauens (1962)
Much in the same vein as the Dr. Mabuse series
If you discount the title (and believe me, the "Carpet of Horror" is NOT The Creeping Terror...it simply refers to a stain that is left on the carpets of the various murder victims by the strange murder weapon), this is actually a very engaging little murder mystery/whodunit that keeps you guessing until the very end. It reminds me a lot of the Dr. Mabuse movies, since there are a lot of red herrings pointing toward the true identity of the criminal mastermind.
I was always intrigued by the strange title (how can a carpet be horrorific?) and was pleasantly surprised when I finally found a copy of the film and watched it. I'd definitely reccommend this little gem to any mystery fan.
Tries to be intelligent SF, but...
The one problem with Battle of the Worlds is that it tries to be a lot of things and doesn't quite pull any of them off. It tries to be a regular Italian space opera. It tries to be intelligent science fiction. Claude Rains definitely tries to make it a monodrama.
Unfortunately, the script doesn't let it be any of these things, and Claude's overacting makes you almost want to take a swing at the poor guy...I'm hoping that he had a good time while he did this movie (since it was really his last film), because it really was fun to watch him in this movie. His performance as a cantankerous, pajama-wearing, genius of a hermit who can answer any problem through calculus just didn't help things, and his character's attitude toward everything that wasn't math or himself make me wonder why his co-workers didn't lock him up in a rubber room.
The effects are a little on the loq quality side, even considering the general quality of Italian Sci-Fi movie SFX, but they don't really detract that much from the movie.
Do yourself a favor...don't read the credits.
This is a great little whodunit and an excellent start to the revival of Fritz Lang's great Dr. Mabuse series. It is very reminiscent of the earlier films in the twenties and thirties, particularly Le Testament Du Dr. Mabuse, from which Lang lifts and modernizes many situations.
I said don't read the credits in the title to this review because guessing who is actually the mastermind Mabuse is half of the fun...there are a lot of red herrings that don't play out until the last fifteen minutes of the movie.
This was the first movie in the new Mabuse series and I would recommend anyone delving into the world of Dr. Mabuse use this as a starting point (especially if none of the silents or early talkies are available in your area).
Monster a-Go Go (1965)
Makes you go hmmmm...
I have to say that I don't hate this movie...I don't even dislike it. I usually enjoy the charm of this kind of fifties and sixties cinema, but I have to admit that the ending of this movie even had me shaking my head...and I've seen everything Ed Wood ever did.
Space Men (1960)
A nice little space opera but for one glaring scene
I kinda like Assignment Outer Space. It's a real simple little sci-fi flick with your typically bad Italian effects. One scene made the movie for me though.
There's a scene where an astronaut tries to escape a crash by jumping down to one of Mars' moons (strangely similar to the big budget Mission to Mars). Suddenly, there's an explosion when his ship hits. Unfortunately, the person handling the mattes was apparently sleeping that day, because you see an explosion in front of a bunch of buildings and behind a Chevy. Here we are in deep space near the Red Planet and there's a Chevy on a street in Italy. One of the most jarringly funny scenes I ever saw in a grade z movie.
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
Somehow, Dancer in the Dark evokes memories of the lamentable television series Cop Rock...with folks breaking into song at the drop of a hat. Normally, I don't think musical-drama is something that really works, but somehow this film does manage that feat.
Bjork is excellent in her role as the mother, and the rest of the cast is very adequate. My one problem with the movie is that the hand-held approach to cinematography in the segments that weren't song and dances gave me a big headache...the camera was just moving around way too much. This is not the Blair Witch Project...buy a tripod.
Other than that, this movie was a very interesting and at times surreal look into the mind of a woman who is doing everything she can to make life better for her son...even making the ultimate sacrifice.
Surreal and interesting look at how another country sees us
Don't Touch the White Woman is a very strange and surreal film for the average person...it basically tells the story of General George Custer's defeat at Little Big Horn. It tells it as a semi-costume period piece in the midst of modern Paris, though...centered on a large construction site.
Mastrianni is wonderful as Custer, and Deneuve is great as always, but I think Ugo Tognazzi steals the show as the Indian scout...this is such a shocking role for all those who only know the actor through La Cage Aux Folles.
Fun but way overrated
As a caper movie, Snatch is excellent, but Madonna's hubby Guy Ritchie, at least IMHO, tries to get way to artsy in his cinematography and storytelling, sometimes to the point of confusion. The way he often bleeds timelines of the various characters both together and apart was done much more effectively in The Limey than it was here (though the car accident sequence was handled very well).
Brad Pitt leads the cast as the odd-speaking Piker, and both his and the ensemble's acting is superb. My only complaint in terms of the actors was the relatively small role that Benecio Del Toro had.
This film is definitely worth a watch (see it on DVD so you can turn on the subtitles so you can understand Brad Pitt).
Forever Fever (1998)
A great little film
This movie definitely exceeded my expectations...especially since I knew the main theme of the film was disco. This movie parallels the classic of the disco genre, Saturday Night Fever, in many ways, but also is a delightful look at life in the late seventies in Singapore.
The soundtrack is full of great 70's hits, and the cinematography takes full advantage of the exotic locale. The actors and actresses breathe real life into what normally would have been one-dimensional characters, making this film very enjoyable.
Not too bad...but...
You really have to wonder about a movie that the directors' don't want to take direct credit for.
James Spader and Angela Bassett are both excellent in the film, and the special effects are wonderful. The movie's just another take on the Alien-type storyline, but there are enough new twists and ideas to make it worth a watch or two.
An excellent more-than-just-a-caper-film film
Ronin is an excellent film that starts out very reminiscent of a caper movie (like Rififi or a serious Ocean's Eleven), but then takes a number of turns that keep the audience guessing as to what is really going on. The end of the Cold War is a major theme in this film, in that the former operative on the Cold War battle lines now must sell their services to make a living, much like the masterless samurai that the movie takes it name from.
DeNiro is excellent as the main character Sam, and he plays well off the equally-excellent Jean Reno. This is definitely one of my favorite films of each actor's oeuvre, and is definitely worth a watch by any film fan.
La cage aux folles (1978)
A truly wonderful international comedy
I don't care what country you are from or what your sexuality is, La Cage Aux Folles is an endearing comedy the likes of which comes around perhaps once a decade.
Michael Serrault is the centerpiece of the film, as the star of the La Cage revue and the "mother" of the young man wishing to marry the daughter of an incredibly "moral" politico. The toast scene had me rolling on the floor...Serrault's high-pitched nervous yelps punctuate the film's comedy.
One of the few cult films really deserving of that status, La Cage is not one to be missed.