Tonight I just started to watch The Legendary Weapons of China again by mistake. This is why I keep blogging these movies. I will eventually forget I’ve seen them before. In any event, I forgot how awesome the first ten minutes of this film is (the rest is not that great). Leave it to the Shaw Brothers to create movies that are written for eight year-olds but filled with all sorts of graphic violence. The best moment is when a fighter is commanded to rip his crotch out. At first he has a very dainty technique:
But it ends with a quick grab and, a backwards flop, and then a fistful of gore flying through the air:
It was a rainy Halloween here in Chicago so my usual program of manning the front door, blasting creepy sound effects records and watching old (mildly) kid-friendly horror movies was cut a little shorter than usual. I did manage to watch Mario Bava’s Baron Blood. Not his best work but it has its moments. If you think burnt pilgrims are scary, this is the movie for you.
I also re-watched Four Flies on Grey Velvet. This is another Argento film that gets better with every viewing (I gave it a 7 when I first saw it). The plot is full of holes and has a vital clue that relies on such phony, crap science that it’s hard to suspend disbelief at all. But this is another Argento that is filled with humor, stunning visuals and another great, experimental Morricone score. So, if I were to rank Argento films this is how I would do it:
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage
Four Flies on Grey Velvet
Cat o’ Nine Tails
The Stendahl Syndrome
Jennifer (from Masters of Horror)
Beyond these there’s just a bunch of forgettable garbage.
Each year around this time I always tell myself that I am going to watch a different horror movie every night in the lead-up to Halloween. I never seem to get around to it and end up cramming two or three films in at the last minute’usually Halloween evening while the rest of the family is out trick or treating. Well, this year I have managed to be a little more on top of things. Especially now since we have a DVD-ready laptop positioned in front of my treadmill. There’s nothing like a bit of Fulci close-up gore to motivate the fat burning.
Speaking of which, this evening I completed Zombi 2 which I gave a rather terse review some time ago. I forgot just how creepy the zombies are in that film. It’s very bleak and dread-filled and has some really gross and disturbing effects. Modern zombie films (even The Walking Dead) don’t seem to understand that it’s this sense of supernatural dread and hopelessness that makes the zombie apocalypse so frightening. Sure there is also a ton of cheese (um, shark vs. zombie) but this is still one of the best films in this overcrowded genre.
I also watched The Bird with the Crystal Plumage again. This is more a thriller than a horror film and it’s one of Dario Argento’s best. Stunning visuals, lots of tension and, at times, a genuine sense of humor that disappeared from Argento’s later films. Oh, and it has one of Ennio Morricone’s best scores.
Luigi Cozzi’s Hercules is one of the greatest movies ever made about bear punching. Part of what really sells the bear punching in this film is the pure rage depicted in the facial expressions of the movie’s star, Lou Ferrigno. In order to demonstrate this, I have compiled some best stills from the movie for your browsing enjoyment. Note the vein-popping fury shown here as Mr. Ferrigno enters his fugue state of uncontrollable ferocity.
Fully enraged, let the bear punching begin!
There’s only one place for the likes of you… SPACE!!!
Raaarrrrr! Die erector set monster! DIE!
Chariots of the gods? Hell no! Chariots of throbbing rage!
I am Hercules, son of Zues.Taste my FURY!!!
I will crush your puny minons and feast on their souls!!
My back may be against a wall, but your false gods will wither before my screams!
Arrrgh! By the gods, my wrist is aflame!
The weak shall perish!
Something, something FURY!!!! Expect a glossy coffee table book soon.
Well it’s the first day of the New Year. This day means different things to different people. For my wife it means washing off the post-New-Year’s-Eve-bash Sharpie moustache that she woke up with this morning. For me it means it’s time to assess what I thought was the best of the media I consumed this past year.
Like last year, there really wasn’t anything that truly amazed me this year. My best rated films were Moon and The Maltese Falcon. I watched more T.V. than I have in recent years, so I suppose I could add Lost, V or The Walking Dead as honorable mentions.
Towards the second half of the year I started reading a bit more than usual and found several books truly grabbed me in ways that no movie or show did this year. If I had to pick a favorite from this year it would be George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, especially if considered along side the three other books in the series that I also read and loved. At a near-tie for the number one spot is Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind, which started my on my current fantasy lit kick. Finally, rounding out the top was Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. Honorable mentions would go to Mistborn books 1 & 2, Devil Born Without Horns and Racing the Beam.
I played a ton of games this year. My highest rated game was House of the Dead: Overkillfor the Wii. It was stupid, crude, violent and hilarious… loved it. My runners-up would be Mass Effect and Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Mass Effect further proves that the best science fiction is in video games these days, and Zelda is Zelda… ’nuff said. I am still mid-game in GTA IV and Metroid Prime Trilogy but I suspect those two titles would have made this year’s list too had I completed them in time. I also played a few casual games I liked such as Puzzle Quest and Plants vs. Zombies.
Steam just finished their massive annual game sale and I stocked up so there should be no shortage of gaming for me in the next year and beyond.
My Halloween movie fest continued last night with a re-watching of Mother of Tears, the third film in the Three Mothers trilogy. When I first watched the film I pondered if it would get better on rewatching. Nope. It was actually more painful on the second viewing. What a rambling mess of a film with awful acting and dialogue all around. No screengrabs for this film. It doesn’t deserve that level of respect.
My Halloween movie fun-run continues with Mario Bava’s Kill Baby, Kill. Not really his finest work, but it is memorable for the scenes of the ghostly child at the windows.
This is a very creepy still, but, in the context of the movie, it doesn’t come off as eerie as it could. I’m probably the 9000th person to post this screenshot on the Web, but any Kill Baby, Killpost must include it.
The film is filled with more great compositions such as this one in which a young girl is compelled to impale herself with a sconce.
Italians sure do love their spiral staircases. As a note to budding architects who work in cities with high counts of maniacs and vindictive ghosts: a simple straight flight of stairs is probably a bit better in emergency situations. Oh, and avoid the metaphysical endless room loops.
My plans to watch a bunch of horror movies in the run-up to Halloween have not been going to well. I did manage to re-watch Dario Argento’s Inferno the other day. I have always considered this to be one of Argento’s weaker films of this era, but the more I watch it, the more I like it. It has much of the wonderful colored lighting, expressionist sets and dynamic compositions that made Suspiria so great. Also, despite the flawed and incoherent plot, there are plenty of memorable scenes.
For some reason I especially like this scene where our hero, Mark, gets bewitched during his musicology class by The Mother of Tears…
This is only a brief cameo from the third mother, but it’s very effective. Too bad the actual movie about her, Mother of Tears, was so mediocre. They should have just looped this scene for 90 minutes and released it as a feature.
Inferno takes it its time in getting to the main villain, Mater Tenebrarum, but the scene in which she reveals her true identity is one of my favorites in Argento’s entire body of work…
Mark, don’t be lured into her fiery trap!
Without giving away the surprise, the shot above is so, so well done. Apparently, this is some of Mario Bava’s special effects handiwork. Good stuff. I encourage anyone who appreciates films simply for their beauty to check this film out.
What you see pictured here is some of the DVD packaging for the independently produced documentary film about text adventure games, Get Lamp. In the digital age, packaging matters and the creators of Get Lamp went above and beyond in creating a DVD package that satisfies collectable object fetishists like myself. The inner gatefold sleeve is covered with a nostalgic fantasy illustration that looks like it came straight off of an Atari 2600 cartridge. The DVD also came with a fancy numbered and editioned coin (mine’s number 1540), which would seem kind of cheesy (alá the tin coin that came Ultima V) but is actually very well crafted and, dare-I-say cool. All this comes together in a well made cardboard DVD case that alone almost justifies the $40+ dollar price tag. Thankfully, the film is very good and, as one might expect, the discs contain the usual DVD extras, featurettes and bonus footage. As an added reward, you also get a nice selection of actual, playable games on the DVD -ROM partition of the disc. If you have any interest in text adventures, video games and computing history, you should check this out! More on the film itself later.
Last night I attended the Chicago premiere of James Nguyen’s Birdemic: Shock and Terror and got to shake hands and chat with the director (pictured above… he’s the one with the menacing claws). Birdemic is a movie that has to be seen to be believed. It’s an ultra-no-budget “romantic thriller” filled with tons of cheap digital bird effects, brain piercing eagle screeches, scenes of driving, hilarious dialogue, more driving and lots of, how shall we say, “creative” film editing choices.
Okay, it’s a bad, bad movie. But, I can’t deny that it is incredibly fun to watch’especially with a rowdy midnight movie audience. Much of the film’s charm is the sincerity and enthusiam of its director, James Nguyen. He seems to be loving the attention he is getting, and, despite the howls of unintensional laughter, Nguyen has the guts to stick to his guns regarding his seriousness his film and its mangled message. I highly encourage everyone to check this film out while it is still in theaters and bring as many friends as you can!