Sunday, May 20, 2018

Brief Thoughts - PHANTOM FROM SPACE (1953)

Each time I think that I've seen every 1950's science fiction or monster movie one pops up that reminds me that I still have not.

I know I've seen the poster art and the title of PHANTOM FROM SPACE (1953) for years and I think I've gotten it mixed up with the film KILLERS FROM SPACE (1954). That means that for a long time I thought that I knew this film and was avoiding a rewatch. Instead it turns out that I had never seen PHANTOM FROM SPACE until last night. It was a slow night!

After the first few minutes I realized how exciting it was to discover a science fiction / horror movie from 1953 that I haven't seen yet. Twenty minutes later I realized that I really regretted having finally located this film. I'm sure there are fans of this one out there and more power to you if that is the case. But I have to say that this dull 74 minutes was nearly unendurable. If it wasn't for the fact that I was watching with someone else who joined me in poking fun at the oddities that are part of the film I don't know that I would have made it through in one sitting. Sometimes having a movie buddy will get you through something much faster and with much less pain. The film feels painfully drawn out to feature length with several scenes of people standing around and regurgitating information we already know. Then they sit around smoking and discussing the things we already know. Maybe just to make sure the audience knows it? Maybe.

Needless to say PHANTOM FROM SPACE is an interesting curio from the early 50's independently produced science fiction film genre but it's an awfully slow affair. It was fascinating to wallow in the idiosyncratic elements of the film that are attributable to the period when it was made (see all of the smoking, all of the time) but there's just so little here of interest that there's no way I could ever recommend it for anything other than a group of people wanting to get drunk and joke around. If there are fans of this movie out there, please let me know what  I missed. But otherwise I doubt I'll be revisiting this long slog sober again in my lifetime. I usually love 1950's SF but this needed to be about 20 minutes shorter.

I do like the poster art though.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Music Video for THE CREEPING CRUDS - I Eats The Dead

New music from Nashville's own Creeping Cruds! 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

1950's Monster Movie Poster Art

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Trailers From Hell - THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS (1959)

In the Summer I always feel the pull of old monster films! 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

What I Watched in April

Over the past few years it has become typical for a new horror film to be released, get lots of great reviews by non-genre press and make a lot of money while being savaged by 'horror film fans'. The reasons given for rejecting these new horror movies are slightly varied and kind of amusing if you can separate yourself from the emotions being stoked. Recent high profile horror hits have been labeled 'slow, annoying & stupid'  (THE BABDOOK) or 'boring, stupid garbage' (IT FOLLOWS) or 'slow, predictable & lame' (THE WITCH). In most cases these horror nerds seem to have rejected these and other critically well received genre films almost because they were enjoyed by non-horror fans. Or because they were carefully paced or were driven by character instead of action or required that you actually pay attention to the film 100% of the time and not your phone. I see a lot of this type of fan adopting a kind of "If the adults like it, it can't be good!" attitude that comes out if you press them for the details behind their dismissal. Since I liked each of those films you can understand that I've developed a mild disdain for a lot of what passes for horror fans opining on the internet. Here's a hint for future internet film reviewers - If you don't like a film, you should be able to explain clearly why. Calling a film boring without any follow up shows no depth of thought and if you're not going to apply brain power to what you write, please just stop. Also, sometimes the adults have a point you super-smart rebel, you.

I had read just enough about A QUIET PLACE (2018) to know that it was probably good and would inevitably fall into the nerd fan hate trap. I'm sure it has but I stopped paying attention to that crap after the release of MOTHER (2017).

Turns out the this is a very well realized and almost unbearably tense horror tale. The set-up and plotting are played brilliantly to carefully ratchet up a sense of dread while letting us inside the dilemma of the small family we follow. That this is done with a minimal amount of dialog is amazing. It's a testament to the direction by co-writer and star John Krasinski that each character is well defined and sympathetic with mostly just physical acting. I expected this level of skill from the always reliable Emily Blunt but the child actors are very good too. You are never left wondering about the emotional state of the characters and what they are feeling about each other. It's very well done.

While I do have a couple of questions that the film doesn't quite answer the strengths of A QUIET PLACE are impressive and make it a must see for genre fans. Even those looking to complain because critics like it.

I've had problems with Steven Spielberg films for decades. My biggest criticism of his work is that he rarely knows when or how to end his movies. Dating back to E.T. (1982) Spielberg can find ways to drag out the final scenes of almost any film until I'm begging for the credits to roll. How many endings did SHINDLER'S LIST (1993) have? Four? And what was the eventual ending of A.I. (2001)? It stopped and re-started so many times I can't remember. But even when he crafts an actual ending to some films it's so poorly thought out that it destroys the previous two hours. How in the Hell did the son survive to pop up with the grandparents for that saccharine ending to WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005)? And has there ever been a more obvious last minute re-write of an ending than for the otherwise well done MINORITY REPORT (2002)? So, imagine my surprise when his latest film ends well but begins like a disaster area.

I have not read the book on which READY PLAYER ONE (2018) is based but I bet it works a lot better than the film. It would almost have to, in fact. I suspect that what cripples the film in my opinion is a holdover from the book's structure. In a novel you don't have to worry about not spending time with the protagonist and his friends when they are hiding behind CGI avatars. On the page they are always the characters and there is no barrier to getting to know them, identify with their struggles and understanding what drives them as people. But on film this means that we spend the entire first half of the movie trying to give a damn about CGI creatures who are primarily playing a video game that they play every day. Every day. That means that there are no stakes for all this kinetic action onscreen. It's just a bunch of very detailed go-go with no real emotional content.

About halfway through the film we finally get to see the actual actors playing these characters and then it becomes easier to feel for them. But, really, by then it's too late. Because I couldn't give a damn about all the gorgeous eye-candy for the first hour it was impossible for me to get invested in the characters so late in the story. I was only moderately interested in the story's central pop-culture wrapped mystery so I was just waiting for the thing to end so I could go home. The film ends well but the beginning is so weak it didn't matter. The spectacle was worth seeing on the big screen but I can't imagine giving enough of a damn to ever watch this again.

And how likely would it be for a 1980's pop-culture junkie to never reference Star Wars? I know they couldn't get the rights to use SW, Marvel, DC or Disney characters but it kind of stood out. The book has to be the best way to experience this tale.


TERROR FROM BENEATH THE EARTH (2009) - 5 (the fourth Mihm film)
HITLER (1962) - 7 (interesting psychological look at a monster with a great performance from Richard Basehart) 
NOT OF THIS EARTH (1988) - 6 
RUN FOR THE SUN (1956) - 8 
JUSTICE LEAGUE VS TEEN TITANS (2016) - 7(good animated adventure) 
DEVIL'S KISS (1976) - 4 (terrible Spanish chiller) 
MYSTERY IN THE WAX MUSEUM (1933) - 9 (rewatch) 
HUMONGOUS (1982) - 6 (rewatch) 
THE HOUSE OF INSANE WOMEN (1971) - 5 (period Spanish drama about an asylum) 
A QUIET PLACE (2018) - 8 (excellent horror film) 
THE HOUND OF BLACKWOOD CASTLE (1967) - 8 (excellent krimi) 
A STUDY IN TERROR (1965) - 7 (Holmes vs Ripper) 
AT MIDNIGHT I'll TAKE YOUR SOUL (1964) - 7 (rewatch) 
THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937) - 7 
READY PLAYER ONE (2018) - 5 

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Marvel Monsters Comic Book Covers

I found a cheap copy of the first volume of the hardback Marvel Monster comics today so these tales are on my mind! 

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Time for a HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981) revisit

Because May starts off with my birthday (thank you very much) I thought it would be interesting to rewatch this one.

I did not come to this film in the 80s or even in the 1990s. The first time I saw HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981) was when it was issued on DVD more than a decade ago. My memory from that single viewing was that it was pretty good - not great - but interesting enough to hold on to for possible future viewings. Now that I've watched it for the second time in my life I have to say that although it is problematic it's a pretty good film.

That's not to say that it's pretty good across the board because, quite honestly, it's far too long. Clocking in just 10 minutes shy of two hours it is a full 20 to 25 minutes too long for the type of story it's trying to tell. I'm not sure what I would eliminate from this overstuffed running time but it certainly needs to be a good deal shorter. Maybe remove a character or two? Maybe do away with the Glenn Ford character? Possibly one less obvious red herring scene? I don't know.

As a typical 80's slasher film it is built around one of my favorite things in the world - a whodunit plot. One of the better things about HBTM is that it's story isn't just built as a 'who is the killer' game but also as a 'why is this happening' tale as well. The film spends an inordinate amount of time pointing the finger at the main character of the story and making it pretty obvious that if she's not the killer then something really, really strange is going on. I mean damn! Melissa Sue Anderson's Virginia has a pretty ntense set of psychological problems including feeling partially responsible for her mother's death!  No, I'm not going to spoil the film but I will say that the final third act twist ending is pretty damn entertaining and does a good job of redeeming some of the more problematic moments throughout the film. It doesn't make this a great movie but it does make it a pretty fun one. I think I might want to watch this again one day. Maybe on a future birthday! 

Thursday, May 03, 2018

KONGA (1961) Poster Art & Lobby Cards

KONGA is one of those movies that I love regardless of it's less than excellent level of quality. It has a giant killer ape and that seems to be about all I need sometimes. 
One day I have to read the Steve Ditko comics that this film spawned. I hear that they are much better than their inspiration. 

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Rare Mexican Horror Films

The above poster art is for a selection of hard to find Mexican made horror films from the 1960's to the 1930's! I have yet to see any of them but I have put them on 'Hunt Down' list because they look extremely interesting. I was clued-in to the these movies by a friend linking to this BLOG POST  that does a good job of making them seem quite enticing. 

OK. I'll be honest. 
I've already found three of these features in the darker areas of the web. And they have subtitles. The fourth one is still escaping me but, with a little luck, I'll track subs down for it as well!