Ha ha!

You certainly never know what movie he'll review next!

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Burl reviews The Secret of My Success! (1987)

Hi, it’s Burl here with a secret – ha ha, The Secret of My Success, that is! Yes, I’ve finally taken the leap and watched this Reagan-era Yuppie office-tower comedy, in which I previously had very little interest! I didn’t suddenly develop an interest, we should note; it was more that an opportunity to watch the picture came along, and I took it!
There were many boardroom comedies made in the 80s, as befits the business-friendly attitudes of the decade! We had Big Business, Head Office, Beer, and a few others as I recall, none of which I ever bothered to watch! Ha ha, I guess it’s just not my genre! But as Roger Ebert and others have pointed out, The Secret of My Success belongs equally to the same category as the glossy Universal boardroom comedies of the 1960s, which usually featured Tony Randall! Ha ha, this picture is a Universal product as well, so I guess it makes sense!
Michael J. Fox, perhaps best known from Teen Wolf, plays Brantley Foster, a corn-fed youth with a business degree from the local cow college! He leaves the farm for New York, where he has a genuinely soul-wrenching time of it – unexpected tribulation in a breezy genre like this, ha ha – until one day he convinces his hard-bitten third uncle twice removed, a nasty capit*list played by Richard Jordan of Dune and The Mean Season, to hire him on in the mail room of the vast company he runs! But after he espies a junior executive Princess Di simulacrum essayed by Helen Slater from Ruthless People, Brantley decides he’s got to move up in the company! He takes over an empty corner office and, through a deft  combination of memo-sending and rapid changes of clothing, assumes the role of Carleton Wisecracker, the newest grey flannel suit in the building! Ha ha!
What follows are mild variations on s*x farce routines, with Carlton/Brantley beginning an af*air with the boss’s lady-wife and constantly changing his clothes in the office or the elevator, while also trying to evade his tough mail room boss (played by Christopher Murney from Maximum Overdrive)!  Brantley/Carlton has a mail room pal played by John Pankow from To Live and Die in L.A., and, though I spent the entire movie waiting for him to appear, we do eventually get a touch of Fred Gwynne! There are also about a million montage sequences set to the worst songs the decade had to offer! I mean really awful, stinky songs, of which 'Walking on Sunshine' is probably the best, which should tell you something!
Montages aside, it’s entertaining enough in a mindless 80s way, and Fox, while asked to do plenty of the smirky, cocksure, ain’t-I-a-stinker fiddlefaddle typical of the young male leads of that decade, maintains his Edmonton charm! It’s a harmless movie precisely because the fulsome support it gives to its desperate ladderclimbing hero, and its prostrate fealty to the executive class (bad apple Jordan aside), are so outrageously transparent! Nothing unexpected either happens or doesn't happen in this picture, and whether or not that sounds like a recommendation depends on you! Ha ha, I give The Secret of My Success one and a half bodybuilder poses!

Monday, 30 May 2016

Burl reviews Alien 3! (1992)

This is rumour control, ha ha: here are the facts! Yes, it’s Burl, here to review the first feature from David “Gone Girl” Fincher: Alien 3! I saw this one in the movie theater of course, and remember thinking that it was a curiously grubby affair, and a decided, even egregious, change from the thrills we well recall from Aliens! I watched it again more recently, and it’s still a rusty barnacle, ha ha!
Sigourney Weaver of Ghostbusters returns once again as Ripley, who awakes after a crash landing to find that both Newt, the little girl she spent the entire previous picture rescuing, and Hicks, her good Marine friend, have been unceremoniously killed by the impact! She’s not exactly back home though: she’s stuck on a prison planet, or at least the remains of a prison planet, where only a small fraction of the prisoners have been left behind at their own request! Ha ha, this was a Troubled Production that went through a number of iterations before the Fincher version came out, and back when the movie was supposed to be a Vincent Ward picture, it was a gang of space monks living on a planet made entirely of wood! Ha ha, I’d sure like to have seen that version!
So we have prisoners instead of monks, but they’re a highly religious bunch who’ve taken vows of celibacy, so we’ve essentially got monks anyway! Charles S. Dutton from Mimic is one of them, as are Paul McGann and Ralph Brown from Withnail & I; Charles Dance from For Your Eyes Only is the resident doctor, and Brian Glover from An American Werewolf in London and Jabberwocky plays the warden! The alien shows up too of course, having reborn himself from a dog, so he’s more doggy-shaped than in previous installments! Ha ha!
Of course he puts a biting on the various prisoners, who are pretty resentful of Ripley for bringing it to their world! Naturally Lance Henrikson from Pumpkinhead and The Horror Show appears playing the human model for the android he achieved his fame with in Aliens (the human version is just another slimy executive of that nasty troublemaking corporation, it turns out), and there’s a climax that echoes not just that of Revelations 19, but of Terminator 2 as well! Ha ha!
The picture certainly looks good, all brassy and dirty and grim thanks to the camerawork of Alex “The Keep” Thomson; the acting, too, is strong, with Glover a particular highlight; and there’s are occasionally moments that recall the terrific original! But it’s not as atmospheric as it would like to think it is, and the narrative is a real sauce! Plus, I find it curiously forgettable somehow: I remember seeing it, but not that much what actually happens in it! Ha ha, it’s not scary either! So I’m going to give Alien 3 two instances of rumour control!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Burl reviews The Serpent and the Rainbow! (1988)

Good day, it’s Burl! How did you sleep last night? Ha ha, you dreamt of me, and of the grave – I know, because I was there! No, not really, I’m just doing some of the scary lines spoken by the villain in The Serpent and the Rainbow! To me he’s always been an unusually effective villain, at least until he transforms into Freddy Krueger near the end! We should recall that Krueger-like faces pop up in so many Wes Craven pictures – this, the Nightmare movies, Deadly Friend, Shocker, probably others – that one assumes he carried a terrible childhood memory of burn wards, along the line of Griffin Dunne’s trauma in After Hours!
Anyway, The Serpent and the Rainbow is quite simply one of Wes’ best! Bill Pullman from Ruthless People and Spaceballs plays a scientist who’s on the trail of a marvelous anesthetic, which he suspects might be the same thing used by voo-doo doctors as a zombification powder! He makes his way to Haiti, which had at that time only recently rid itself of Baby Doc Duvalier and was still in the grip of poverty and desperation, with, as we now know, worse yet to come! Craven’s portrayal of the country is surprisingly gritty and earthbound; it seemed to me at the time almost documentary in its realism! Ha ha, but what did I know: now I can see that, while leagues ahead of most 1980s horror in its attempt to ground its terrors, the picture is still in many ways pretty cartoonish!
Despite not being quite right for the role, which is itself pretty unbelievable, Cathy Tyson from Mona Lisa gives a solid performance as the pretty lady doctor who serves as Pullman’s guide through the brutal politics and strange witchdoctory of Haiti! Even better is Zakes Mokae, known from his appearance in The Island, who plays the evil houngan, who heads up the secret police on the side! Ha ha, altogether a dangerous individual, and the ever-snarling Mokae oozes forth every bit of threat innate to this excellent character, and bathes in it! Ha ha, he’s terrific! We’re also lucky to have Paul Winfield, from The Horror at 37,000 Feet, Damnation Alley, The Terminator and Blue City, in the cast, and Brent Jennings from Fear City and Michael Gough from Top Secret as well! Ha ha, I also liked the guy who played the reanimated hoodoo victim in the graveyard – the secret hero of the picture if you ask me!
The hallucination and dream sequences, Wes’ specialty of course, can occasionally be silly (the long arms! the angry chair!) or over-familiar, but they can be pretty compelling too; and the special effects required to pull off these sequences are for the most part excellent! Ha ha, poor Pullman is really put through the ringer in this one, and there’s one part in particular that’ll have the menfolk cr*ssing their legs for days! It’s still a pretty unique horror picture, and one that has aged very well, even if it has still never really found its audience! I give The Serpent and the Rainbow three prune-faced brides!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Burl reviews Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

Burl here everybody, spiraling back to the year 1980, when disco dancing was on everybody’s mind and the curiosities of the 1970s – pet rocks, roller coasters, disaster movies and Evel Knievel – were quickly losing their lustre! The last big Irwin Allen disaster picture, When Time Ran Out, came out that year, and so did Caddyshack, Airplane and The Empire Strikes Back; but all of these had been out in theaters for some time by the dates upon which the story of Everybody Wants Some!! is purported to take place (August 28, 29, 30), so the characters have probably already seen those movies, especially the Yoda picture! Ha ha! But they meander about so much that we would hardly be surprised if their peregrinations took them to the cinema, and the camera stayed with them in something approaching real time!
Yes, Everybody Wants Some!!, the newest effort from Richard Linklater, is a “spiritual sequel,” apparently, to the great Dazed & Confused! Ha ha, as a fan of that picture, I certainly was happy to rush out and see this new one, and I’m happy to say it did not disappoint! It doesn’t match the standard set by Dazed & Confused, mind you, or even the remarkable Slacker; but few films could!
Instead of high school and junior high school students running around on the last day of school, we’ve got college students on the last weekend before the first day of school! Our everyman quasi-protagonist is Jake, who carts around a box of records as he meets his new roomies in a university baseball house! Ha ha, I didn’t know they had those either – I certainly don’t recall hearing of such accommodations in my happy college days! I don’t even know if my school had a baseball team, ha ha!
But apparently they are real, because that’s where Linklater lived when he went to college! And these houses were full of hyper-competitive guys wearing moustaches, whose judgment skills have not quite caught up to their expansive senses of self-worth! But of course lessons are learned and characters are built, a little tiny bit anyway, over the course of the weekend descried in this picture! Some of the characters are more appealing than others, and though they're all nominally members of the same social caste, which is to say jocks of high standing, within that group there are all manner of sub-types and stratification! Ha ha, there's even a st*ner!
Now speaking of that, I saw this movie under pretty optimal circumstances: in the movie palace with a couple of buddies, a dose of wig-tightener and a smuggled-in king can! Ha ha! And, watching under these conditions, what really struck me about the movie was the fair play it employs with its characters: no one, not even the preening superjocks or the maniacal, violence-prone jerk, is all bad, and nobody else, even the wide-eyed naïf representing the writer-director, is all nice! Everyone gets their chance at being a di*k or a Decent Dan, ha ha, and the movie is better for it! We get to see these adaptable lads at a country bar, a punk show, an art school party and even, briefly, on the baseball diamond!
It was altogether a hugely enjoyable experience at the movies, I must say, but only time and further viewings will tell whether this is a movie with staying power! I do look forward to those future viewings, however, and in the meantime give Everybody Wants Some!! three and a half duck-feet necklaces! Ha ha!

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Burl reviews C.H.U.D.! (1984)

Hi, Burl here with a review! Ha ha, I’m still playing catch-up, so I’m going to review movies as though the chuds were on my tail! Yes, it’s true, I watched C.H.U.D. again recently, and was reminded of the times I watched it as an adolescent and appreciated the mid-low-level New York horror rung on which it sat – lower rungs of course being occupied by movies like Basket Case and Street Trash and Troma films, and the higher by, oh, I guess The Sentinel and stuff like that! Rosemary’s Baby would be at the peak of this ramshackle pyramid I’m attempting to describe!
What I’m talking about are not only budgetary considerations, but a level of street grime that renders the horror sort of realistic in a Big Apple sort of a way! C.H.U.D., which largely takes place among the street people and soup kitchens of the city, as well as beneath it in the sewers, achieves a very tangible level of grot, which is probably its most valuable asset!
It’s a story of monsters, ha ha! These entities, with their lighbulb eyes and obvious halitosis, lurk in the sewers, tragic mutations created thanks to the radioactive waste stored beneath the streets, which renders ordinary subterranean hoboes chudlike! Above grade we find a photographer played by John Heard from Too Scared to Scream and Heaven Help Us, and an activist for social justice played by Daniel Stern from Get Crazy and It’s My Turn, and a cop called Bosch, played by Christopher Curry from F/X! There’s also the terrific Kim Greist, from Brazil and Manhunter, as the photographer’s ladyfriend!
There’s an almost Jaws-like quality to the relationships between the trio of males! Heard is our Roy Scheider, gaping around at the strange new waters he’s navigating; Stern, the hippie street preacher, takes the part of the sharp, likeable younger man, bearded and iconoclastic; and Curry is the blustering captain! Dotting the film also are such familiar faces as John Bedford “Trading Places” Lloyd, Frankie ”Maximum Overdrive” Faison and Jon “Miller’s Crossing” Polito! Ha ha, even John “Matinee” Goodman shows up at the very end, only to become chud-chow pretty quick!
But the real stars of the picture are the piranha-mouthed chuds! They don’t actually spend much time on screen, these old boys, and it might have been nice to spend a little more time with them! At the same moment, while I’m strangely fond of the creatures, I don’t blame the director for trying to cut around them!
A little more pep in the direction, and in general, would have been nice, and the atmosphere is undeniably one of actors slumming; but this is in many ways a superior iteration of the 80s rubber monster genre, close kin to The Outing, Rawhead Rex, The Kindred and Pumpkinhead! I’m going to give C.H.U.D. two half-bums!

Monday, 25 April 2016

Burl reviews Hush! (2016)

Ha ha, quiet everybody, it’s Burl, here to review a new-style slasher picture called Hush! It’s a bit more refined than your typical 80s-era hack-‘em-up, but shares some real similarities! Ha ha, for example, both this picture and Friday the 13th part 4 feature corkscrew deaths, ha ha; but in contrast to the Jason movie, this picture really skimps on the spaz-dancing!
The situation here is that a lady novelist with hearing issues is living alone in a house out in the woods, with only her fluffy white cat (who seems marked for death from the outset) and a pair of neighbours, with whom she is friends, and her indecision as to how she should end her latest thriller!
All of this is interrupted by brutal murder and mayhem! First to go is the neighbor lady, and her demise demonstrates the mean-spiritedness of this particular slasher-murderer! He wears a mask at first, the usual creepy featureless mask that we’ve seen in pictures like this since Halloween, but he removes it soon enough to reveal a face in need of a shave, ha ha! And with his crossbow and set a’ steak knives he clearly means business! Still, of course, our deaf lady Maddie is not going to take all this lying down, and, as in Misery, she will use everything in her writer’s toolkit to defeat the bearded menace! (But unlike in Misery, that will not include actual items in the toolkit, such as a typewriter, ha ha!)
The movie is not badly done, and there are some solid suspense scenes! Of course her hearing impairment is a factor, but not as much so as I’d thought it would be, and the incorporation of new technologies is not as clumsily done as in most modern horror pictures! There’s nothing really stellar here; no new ground broken; and while clearly that wasn’t the intention it might have been nice of the movie to give us a little something to remember it by! It’s the kind of movie that invites the application of the word “exercise,” like something that would be pulled off by the more talented students in the film school if their end-of-semester assignment was to demonstrate rote suspense! As such I will award Hush two unexpectedly hale and hardy pussycats! Ha ha!

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Burl reviews Raw Deal! (1986)

Ha ha, it’s Burl here, neither drinking nor baking, but trying to play catch-up on all the reviews I haven’t written lately! For example, it’s now time to look at a slightly oddball Arnie picture that I rewatched some weeks ago and should have reviewed back then, but didn’t! Anyway, better late than never, ha ha! Today’s picture, Raw Deal, hasn’t survived in the cultural memory banks as well as other Arnies of the era, like Commando or Predator, and perhaps the reason for this is that it’s so resolutely unmemorable, seemingly by design!
But all these attempts to be a normal action-drama upend the narrative and make Raw Deal one of the stranger pictures Arnie made in the 80s! For one thing, he’s given a scene of domestic drama to play, and it comes off more like a skit from Saturday Night Live! Ha ha, that’s the one where his drunken, resentful wife throws a cake at him, and he advises her not to drink and bake!
Ha ha, she’s drunken and resentful because Arnie, who used to be an FBI agent, was forced to resign and become a smalltown sheriff in a place where everybody only talks about agriculture! The scene ends tenderly, with Arnie carrying his passed-out wife to bed and then sipping on a whiskey; but when Arnie’s friend Hyarri comes knocking with tales of Chicago gagsters who must be stopped, the muscleman doesn’t hesitate to fake his own death-by-megaexplosion and take on a new identity in order to embed himself in the Windy City underworld!
From then on he assumes the persona of Florida sharpie “Joseph P. Brenner,” eager to work for badman Patrovita, of the Chicago mafia! Ha ha, perhaps to make up for the fact that, as played by Sam Wanamaker, Patrovita is not a particularly memorable villain, there is a tripartite hierarchy within the mob gang: Patrovita; his right-hand man Rocca (played by Paul “The End of August” Shenar), and Rocca’s right-hand man Max, as essayed by Robert Davi from Wild Thing! Schwarzenegger sports an expensive lifestyle suit and pulls a bit of a Yojimbo, pitting the Patrovita gang against a rival enterprise! He meanwhile keeps in touch with Hyarri (played by Darren McGavin from Hangar 18) and embarks on a chaste romance with a lady gambler played by Kathryn Harrold from Into the Night! A couple of actors from Lassiter, Ed Lauter and Joe Regalbuto, figure in to all this as well! Ha ha!
Anyway, there’s some action and plenty of gunfire, and a scene in a transvestite bar, but on the whole it seems meant as a step up on the classiness scale for Schwarzenegger: an action-drama rather than the pure action pictures he’d theretofore made his stock-in-trade! They hired a real director for the thing (John Irvin, who brought us Ghost Story) and a big deal crew (Alex “The Keep” Thomson was the cinematographer; Anne V. “In the Line of Fire” Coates the editor)! But, though it has a few good bits of dialogue and some durable if unexciting performances, it’s also rarely exciting or thrilling or funny, features an intolerable musical score and is generally unmemorable! In those ways, and also with the Chicago setting, it reminded me strongly of Next of Kin, ha ha! I give Raw Deal one and a half guys from the dress shop!

Monday, 28 March 2016

Burl reviews The Towering Inferno! (1974)

Snap, crackle, pop, it’s Burl, here to review that most burnt sienna of movies, The Towering Inferno! Ha ha, I saw this on TV a number of times as a kid, and though it was no Snowbeast or Curse of King Tut’s Tomb or This House Possessed, it was and is an artifact of the time with powerfully Proustian capabilities!
Of course there was no mistaking this for the TV movie it sometimes seems, for whatever reason, desperate to imitate! Ha ha, it sometimes seems like the world’s longest episode of Emergency! (That was at one time my favourite show, by the way! Still like it!) The production values are obviously, even to a kid, much larger than any TV production, and the cast of high prestige! It was the presence of Fred “Ghost Story” Astaire that most impressed me when I was young, because, thanks to my mother’s specific thespian enthusiasms, which she seems to have inherited unchanged from he own mother, I imagined that Astaire (along with Bette Davis) must be the biggest star in the history of the world!
Of course I also knew of Paul Newman and William Holden: they were after all the stars of When Time Ran Out, the subsequent Irwin Allen disaster extravaganza we all know and admire! And Steve McQueen was from The Blob, don’t forget! Faye Dunaway from The First Deadly Sin; Richard Chamberlain from Bells; Robert Vaughn from Starship Invasions; Don Gordon from The Beast Within; and Cluny Brown herself, Jennifer Jones: all of these and more were familiar and impressive faces! Ha ha: as anyone who talks about this movie says, what a cast!
The soapy stuff bogs it down a bit, as it must – as seems to be its job, ha ha! But the fire scenes are impressive, and the celebrity deaths, which frequently seem random (particularly incidents featuring Jones and, separately, Vaughn) have a certain impact! You won’t soon forget the rather blundersome demise of Wagner, who boasts of his fleet feet, then catches afire immediately he attempts to run through a burning room! It’s all rather horrific, I must say!
But the fire is eventually put out by way of enormous water tanks conveniently placed on the roof of the building, and this plan, it seems, ought maybe to have been thought of earlier! No matter! The firefighting tactics used in the picture seem fairly realistic, not just because of all the fireman advisors listed in the credits, but because they’re so frequently unspectacular! They spray water at fires, sure, they do that a lot; but they also trudge up endless stairs and wait for things to happen! McQueen, of course, gets to keep his cool throughout, and gets a chance to lecture Newman, and extract from him a plea for help! Ha ha, no wonder old Steve asked specifically, or rather demanded, to play the part of the fire chief! And then he demanded that another big star be given the architect role, so he could be filmed talking down to them! Ha ha, McQueen, you rascally Machiavellian!
Anyway, it’s a quality picture and its extreme datedness is mostly superficial! It pushes all the buttons it means to with expert fish-stick fingers, but is nevertheless a movie I look back on every year of late around the Academy Awards, as reassuring proof that fundamentally cheeseball pictures collecting Oscar nominations is not a new phenomenon! I give The Towering Inferno two and a half breeches buoys!

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Burl reviews No Man's Land! (1987)

Hi, it’s Burl, reviewing this picture as quickly as possible! Ha ha, I’ve got a number of movies queued up and ready for review, but this one, which I watched just last night, bounded to the head of the pack simply because if I don’t do it now, I’ll forget everything about the movie and won’t be able to tell you a thing except that, despite the fact that it features two actors who would famously do the loop-de-loo later in life, it’s totally forgettable!
And it most certainly is that! I was working in a video store when this one came out, and recall seeing bits and pieces of it on the video store TV! My impression was that it was one of those high-style 80s movies like Less Than Zero or To Live and Die in L.A., where the pastel clothes and the neon lights and the swimming pools and blinding white walls overwhelm just about everything else in the movie! (I’ve never seen Less Than Zero, but I quite like the Friedkin picture, just for the record! Ha ha!)
No Man’s Land turned out not to be that! Well, there are a few moments of 80s style, and those were the moments that had conned me so many years before, I guess! But mostly it’s pretty flat, like a TV movie, which makes sense because it comes from a mostly-TV director! (They say TV shows are more stylish now, but ha ha, I wouldn’t know!) There’s not much suspense in the suspense scenes, if indeed there were any suspense scenes, and the car chases were determinedly unthrilling!
I guess ultimately it’s a people picture! We follow a young rookie cop played by D.B. Sweeney from Eight Men Out as he’s recruited by Lieutenant Randy Quaid from The Wild Life and The Paper to investigate a Beverly Hills-based Porsche-theft ring! Quaid believes most fervently that trust-fund slickster Charlie Sheen, from Due Date, is the maestro behind not only the car thievery, but the murder of the previous undercover man assigned to the case! Ha ha, wasn’t he lucky to immediately find another young cop with an aptitude for repairing Porches!
Sweeney gets a mechanic job at the dealership owned by Bill Duke from Commando, but quickly becomes pals with Sheen, and quickly after that becomes sed*ced by Sheen’s party-boy lifestyle (though Sheen claims to “hate drugs” – ha ha, he can’t quite sell that line!) and his lovely if personality-free sister! Meanwhile, many, many Porches are stolen and driven around – ha ha, there seems to be hundreds of the things on every street! Of course it eventually all comes to a head, secrets are revealed, and then there’s gunfire, end of picture!
Now, I said this was a people picture, and as such the most interesting aspect about it is some of the relatively subtle characterizations, particularly where Sweeney is concerned! He doesn’t become a Sheen doppelgänger, which would be the easy way to go, but rather becomes his own, rougher sort of slickster! Sweeney doesn’t do a consistently great job of dramatizing the bifurcation he’s feeling, but, despite often seeming like a poor man’s Spader, he’s not bad! Sheen is not bad either, and a mini-gallery of character actors, including Quaid, Duke, M. Emmett Walsh from Blade Runner and Grandview U.S.A. (who gets a big credit at the beginning but disappointingly is in the movie for all of a minute near the end), Claude Earl Jones from Impulse and George Dzundza from Salem’s Lot (who was in No Mercy, No Man’s Land and No Way Out all in a row, ha ha), keep the acting generally strong! Only the sister lets the side down, I’m afraid!
It’s overlong and often dull, and could have used a great deal more style and pep! I’m likely to forget quite soon that I ever watched it, which is not a great sign! Whatever curiosity I developed about this picture back in my video store days is now satisfied, and I give No Man’s Land one crooked cop!

Monday, 29 February 2016

Burl reviews Beginning of the End! (1957)

Fss fss, it’s Burl here with another giant monster movie to review! This is one of the big bug pictures of the 1950s, but I’m not talking about one of the great ones, like Them! or even Tarantula! No, this is Beginning of the End, and while I’ve always kind of admired the apocalyptic promise of the title, the picture itself sits down on the lower rungs of the genre!
It comes from Mr. B.I.G. himself, Bert I. Gordon! We certainly know of his ways, ha ha! He liked to make things turn big and then rampage! Of course his filmography is more varied than people think – look at Necromancy or The Big Bet, or his mad bomber picture, The Mad Bomber! But mostly he liked big things on the rampage, much as Charles Band has a strange obsession with things that are but wee!
Now here we have a picture about giant grasshoppers ravaging the Midwest, and our hero is a government entomologist played with marvelous stolidity by Peter Graves from Number One With A Bullet! It seems that one night a young couple are nibbled right out of their L*vers’ Lane automobile, and then shortly after that it’s discovered that an entire town has been destroyed by fiends unknown! Graves and a lady reporter (poor, doomed Peggy Castle) get on the case, and with stunning rapidity Graves deduces that some grasshoppers must have eaten the growth hormone he and his deaf plant scientist buddy have developed in order to create giant melons! So, yes, it’s a pretty direct rip-off of Tarantula!
The deaf fellow is eaten up pretty quickly, and the scene is notable for the fact that the actor, on being confronted by the giant grasshoppers, wildly pantomimes fear but, because he’s deaf, is apparently unable to utter any sort of sound! Soon the Army is fighting the bugs too, but they get overmatched, and it’s back to the drawing board! By this point, of course, Morris Ankrum from Giant from the Unknown is involved! Soon the hoppers hit Chicago, a heckuva town, and it looks like there’s no other choice but to drop nuclear bombs on the ol’ Windy City! But wait! Graves has a crazy idea that just might work – play a grasshopper love song on a barge in the lake and let them all swim out to their doom! Ha ha!
Well, we all know about the special effects here! It’s actual grasshoppers crawling around on picture postcards of the Wrigley Building! But really, that’s not quite fair, because there are some trick effects that work perfectly well, and even manage to give the impression that facing down a giant grasshopper in real life would be terrifying! You know, in my high school science class I did a research project entitled “Do Grasshoppers Have Lips?” The conclusion I came to was definitely yes, they do, and ha ha, I can tell you that I wouldn’t like to see those lips smacking in my direction!
It’s a silly little picture of course, sitting in the mid-lower range of the Big Bug genre, but that’s a genre I like, so I had a fine time watching this one! I’m going to give it two polygraph machines!