Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Burl reviews Con Air! (1997)

My goodness, it’s 90s action again! Ha ha, I’ve reviewed a lot of these lately, it seems, and this one, Con Air, is a picture I may well have tackled back in my old reviewing days, and if I looked I might be able to find the old notice itself! But I recently watched the picture again, so I can provide opinions that are popping fresh and hot out of the oven! Hee hee!
I’ve said it so often that the words have lost all meaning: here, truly, is quintessential 90s action! But I’ve felt the same about pictures as minor as Passenger 57 or as forgotten as Executive Decision, though if I were applying myself seriously - ha ha! - I might have to give the title to something like Speed, or even to the execrable Bad Boys or The Rock! Con Air, for its part, is more the latter than the former: one of those Bruckheimer crundleburgers that practically bust a nut trying to earn the baffling critical acclamation “Testosterone Fueled Action!”
Well, here is where the movie scores highest: in the simplicity of its plot and in its singular cast! Nicolas Cage pulls out his Sailor Ripley accent, with just a touch of H.I. McDunnough, to play a man just paroled from years in the pokey, hitching a ride on a plane with a load of convicts who are all being taken to a big new jail! But soon the hard cases take over the plane; these include legendarily monstrous criminals played by the likes of John Malkovich, doing the same sort of thing he did in In the Line of Fire, Steve Buscemi from Escape from L.A. playing a calm maniac, Ving Rhames from Mission Impossible III as a Black revolutionary, plus M.C. Gainey from Starman and Django Unchained, Danny Trejo from Machete, and Mykelti Williamson from Streets of Fire as the diabetic buddy! We also get famed instability comedian Dave Chappelle playing a young wiseacre! Ha ha, so you see what I mean about the cast!
The tensions come from Cage trying to keep his identity as a parolee from the other cons, and particularly from Malkovich! Meanwhile, on the ground, John Cusack is trying to figure out how to get what he constantly refers to as his plane back down on the ground without blowing it up, which is what hothead Colm Meaney wishes to do! (To be fair, Meaney has seen this kind of thing before, from when he played a pilot in Die Hard 2!) Up in the plane, where convicts are constantly rooting through Cage’s stuff and discovering his secret, there are violence fights and near-misses, and it all ends with a crash in Las Vegas and then a fire truck fight, and then an over-the-top showcase death for main heavy Malkovich! Ha ha, he catches a real piledriving right upside the head!
Rachel Ticotin from Total Recall plays the only lady on the flight, and as such becomes the focus of Danny Trejo’s horrible rapist character! Of course he gets his just desserts without having a chance to practice his horrible avocation, but, after enjoying a tea party singalong with a little trailer park girl, Buscemi’s maniac is allowed to stroll off for a some action at the roulette table! Ha ha, all of this simply reveals a script that privileges mindless button-pushing over structure or characterization, or other things a motion picture scenario usually aspires to!
All it really has to offer are moments scattered here and there to juice up the audience and make them whoop and say ha ha! We get scenes like the dumping of Chappelle’s battered corpse from the plane down to a city street; the destruction of a classic Corvette by use of a plane, a length of cable, and a hook; and the time Cage rolls under a truck to avoid an explosion, only to find Dabbs Greer already there! Ha ha! And these are all fine, and the movie’s 115 minutes move quickly and entertainingly! It’s clearly aware of its own absurdity, and the cast is just having a ball, but there’s a forced cynicism and faux edginess to the whole thing that really wears thin, and some of the special trick effects are pretty bad too! It’s a movie of its time and doesn’t have the staying power of some of the better 90s actioners, and so I give Con Air one and a half bunnies in the box!

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Burl reviews Stryker! (1983)

From out on the wasteland it’s Burl, here with a review of one of the many Road Warrior rip-off pictures of the early 1980s! Ha ha, most of those were Italian, like Warriors of the Wasteland, Warrior of the Lost World and Warriors of the Year 3000, but some came from other lands! New Zealand gave us Battletruck after all, and from the Philippines came today’s picture, Stryker!
Ha ha, of course it’s a direct and shameless hatchling from Mad Max 2, aka The Road Warrior, but in some ways it predates Mad Max: Fury Road! In The Road Warrior the precious fluid was oil, and here, more sensibly, it’s all about water! For after the global destruction and the environmental catastrophes, it’s a world of thirst, and even though nobody ever looks particularly parched, they’re all fighting about the H20!
There are several different groups on the trail of a mysterious and bountiful spring, with a lone wolf in a fine fastback Mustang sort of noncommittally along for the ride! This of course is Stryker himself, a beefsman played by Steve Sandor from The Ninth Configuration! Along comes another lone wolf, the simian Bandit, played by William Ostrander from Christine, who joins up with Stryker so they can be lone wolfs together! They rescue Andrea Savio from House of Death, who represents the group who already live at the spring, and who is being pursued by the baddest of the gangs, which is led by a devil-bearded headbald called Kardis, played by Mike Lane from A Name For Evil! And there’s also a gang of ladies, featuring such familiar faces as Monique St. Pierre from Motel Hell and Julie Grey from Gimme an F, and of course a group of midget monks who make pipsqueak noises and turn out to be a good bunch to have on your side!
There’s a little bit of road warrioring, but lots of gunfights too! As in the Italian variants there are some chunky gore effects scattered here and there, but not too many of these really! Still, the few that we get certainly help add that necessary pep, but good car chases certainly would have, too! Almost every major character seems to need rescuing at least once, ha ha, and there’s a scene where somebody pees on somebody else’s head; and in a world without water you wonder whether that’s an insult or a favour!
It was directed by that stalwart Cirio H. Santiago, who brought us all sorts of pictures, from T.N.T. Jackson to Cover Girl Models to Vampire Hookers to Final Mission! He does a fine job with the material he’s got, and who could deny that! Sandor is a bit of a cummerbund as the hero, and of course it’s all very silly, especially the monks, but it’s energetic and mildly compelling nonsense! And I was glad the cars didn’t have that whining noise you hear so often in the Italian ones! Ha ha! I give Stryker two leather diapers!

Friday, 26 June 2020

Burl reviews Doin' Time on Planet Earth! (1988)

Well hello there, it’s Burl, here to review an 80s oddity for you, as I’ve done many times before! This one comes from those Golan-Globus boys, but it’s one of their more obscure efforts and an altogether kooky concoction! Believe it or not, it was directed by Walter Matthau’s son Charles, and the picture’s called Doin’ Time on Planet Earth!
I recall many years ago reading an article about this movie in a magazine called Cinemafantastique (a combination Fangoria and Starlog for the wispy-moustache set), but I nevertheless knew little about it, other than a spinning restaurant is somehow involved! Ha ha, and indeed that proved to be true! But for much of its scant running time it seems like a belated, point-missing entry in the teen science whiz subgenre, with a clever black sheep family-oddball type called Ryan who is roundly loathed or at best barely tolerated by his family!
Ryan’s dad, played by Hugh Gillin from Psycho II, runs the Holiday Inn with the spinning restaurant on top; his mom is a ghostly nonentity; his brother hates him and is about to get married (the brother’s wedding plays a bigger part here than the comparable event does in My Brother’s Wedding); and his sister, played by Paula Irvine from Phantasm II, hates him even more, in fact detests him beyond even the pathological rage of the sister in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or the justifiable contempt of the one in Teen Lust!
Meanwhile, as in an ordinary 80s high school picture, the gormless Ryan’s main concern is Losin’ It! Ha ha, and the object of his virginal desire, a lounge singer at the revolving hotel played by Andrea Thompson from Hot Splash, returns his puppy love with the same opprobrium he receives from his family! Only a weird bus-driving couple played by Adam West from The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood (and who I met at a car show once!) and Candice Azzara from Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? show Ryan any respect, and that’s because they believe him to be born of alien DNA just as they and their Heaven’s Gate-type followers are; and furthermore that he is the star navigator who will lead them back to their home planet in the spaceship that is currently disguised as a revolving Holiday Inn restaurant! Ha ha!
It’s a movie that tries to be many things at once: a high school coming-of-age comedy, an oddball comedy about feeling out of step with the world, a speculative sci-fi eccentricity! If it aspires to anything, it’s to join the ranks of Repo Man, Rubin & Ed and UFOria! But it doesn’t accomplish this to any satisfying degree, despite a few lightly amusing lines and cameos from old warhorses like Roddy McDowell from Fright Night and Heads, here playing a preacher, and Maureen Stapleton from Interiors and The Money Pit as a wacky balloon lady! Ha ha, even the big chocolate bar-munching oaf from Friday the 13th part V shows up!
None of it works terribly well thanks to inconstant direction, some dicey performances, and a script carved from real butter! The revolving restaurant is theoretically a nice touch, and to be sure it’s featured heavily, but in the end, like the narrative itself, all it does is go round and round! (I did like the band that plays the climactic wedding party though, led by a non-singer singer called Cecil Hill!) Ha ha, I watched this with my fairly uncritical eight year-old, and even he complained about the unsatisfying resolution! Doin’ Time on Planet Earth is obscure, but, while I appreciate that it’s trying something different, and its heart is in the right place, so far as I’m concerned it’s not something that requires rediscovery, so I give it one and a half helium inhalations!

Burl reviews Cheerleader Camp! (1988)

Gimme an H, gimmie an A, and what does that spell? Ha ha, it’s Burl! Yes, I’m here with a review of a cheerleader picture for you; and not just a cheerleader picture, but a cheerleader summer camp picture; and not just a cheerleader summer camp picture, but a cheerleader summer camp slasher picture! Ha ha, as you might well have guessed by now, the movie I’m talking about is called Cheerleader Camp!
The setting is remote Camp Hurrah, where the big cheering competition is underway, and our protagonists are a cheerleading crew made up of Betsy Russell from Tomboy and Private School, Lorie Griffen from Teen Wolf, Terri Weigel from Innocent Blood, and Rebecca Ferratti from ¡Three Amigos!, and also, oddly, a couple of fellows: a receding-hairline dick played by Leif Garrett from The Banker, and a portly jokester essayed by Travis McKenna, known for his apposite portrayal of an oaf in Real Men, and from his appearances in Quiet Cool and Road House! Rounding out this gang is the cute alligator mascot played by Lucinda Dickey from Ninja III: The Domination!
And of course George “Buck” Flower, whom we remember from The Fog and Teen Lust, is on hand to play a lasciviously sinister handyman who drawls and leers at all the girls, with one eyebrow raised and a bloated pink tongue, wet and glistening as a molded cherry jello, lolling slowly from his mouth to drag itself across moist, liver-slab lips to the accompaniment of slurping sounds and a graveling groan that suggests some extreme of erotic contemplation has been achieved! Ha ha, classic George “Buck” Flower!
There are plenty of catty little fights and love dramas going on at the camp, and viewers will be forgiven for occasionally forgetting this is a slasher picture at all! But eventually the murders begin, and the picture reveals itself as a whodunit with some of the reddest herrings this side of Dr. Seuss! Near the end we get a party at which the portly fellow wears a hat holding a half-dozen beers at once, straws running down to his mouth, but this hat notwithstanding he cracks yet another beer, roaring in drunken, oafish triumph when he manages to get the cap off!
The murders appear at first blush to be gory, but that impression comes from copious blood rather than proper Special Makeup Effects, along with a certain slight inventiveness of method! Ha ha, most notable among these are an incident involving some garden shears, later seen in several repeating shots with worms dancing on the tips, and another featuring a bear trap and a sheriff’s head! But the more horror-based scenes in the movie are so ineptly done that these images are utterly denuded of any gruesome power they might have otherwise had!
In fact the picture as a whole is bedeviled by the point-and-shoot direction of a filmmaker whose idea of style is having George “Buck” Flower repeatedly turn his flashlight on and off! Worse still are the characters: while some of the ladies are likeable enough, even the ditzy one, Garrett’s fiveheaded jerk is utterly intolerable, and his portly buddy, always hanging his enormous moons and blasting people with his flatulence, is just annoying! I didn’t care for the picture - it lacked pep and failed to live up to its minimal potential! I give Cheerleader Camp one giant pants!

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Burl reviews Nothing But Trouble! (1991)

Ha ha and ham candies, it’s Burl, here to review one of the stranger Celebrity Dream Projects ever to have been made: Dan Aykroyd’s Nothing But Trouble! Ha ha, I’ve been consuming information about this thing for years, but until yesterday I’d never seen it! Everything, but everything I’d heard was bad, though; and Aykroyd is by all accounts an unusual fellow, so the prospect of a weird-looking movie written and directed by him, and of course featuring him as some sort of bloated, scab-covered old man, was a daunting one! I was prepared for a truly terrible movie-viewing experience, ha ha!
The picture’s original title was Valkenvania, and I maintain that whatever timid, unimaginative studio exec decided it should instead be called Nothing But Trouble did both the picture and its legacy a grave disservice! Ha ha, what’s in a name you might say, especially if the film itself is as inept and pointlessly grotesque as people say it is! But movies, even bad ones, are fragile and finely-wrought creations, like pixies or unicorns, and so with them everything matters, and the slightest misstep can be like coughing on a house of cards!
There’s a strong comedy cast: not just Aykroyd from Ghostbusters, but also Chevy Chase from Vacation, who must have got along with Aykroyd when they worked together on Spies Like Us, and John Candy, with whom Aykroyd co-starred in The Great Outdoors! Demi Moore, well known from her role in Parasite (the original; accept no substitute, ha ha!), is in here too, along with familiar faces like Taylor Negron (with whom I had lunch once, and who was a garrulous and maximally entertaining dining companion) and Brian Doyle-Murray!
Chase plays some sort of Manhattan financial player who meets his new neighbor Moore, a lawyer, and almost immediately offers her a ride to some kind of event in Atlantic City! With two annoying faux-Brazillians tagging along, they detour through the town of Valkenvania, where they run afoul of local constable Candy! He escorts the BMW full of yuppies to Valkenvania’s reeve, an ancient crank played by Aykroyd in leperous maquillage, who entraps them in his mansion/junkyard/funhouse and torments them with conveyer belts, pop-ups, and piles of bones!
Malefactors whom the reeve likes even less are sent immediately to Mister Bonestripper, a big machine that grinds people into skeletons! Ha ha! Meanwhile, Moore is stuck with two enormous, filthy diaper babies, one of whom is also played by Aykroyd! Ha ha, with all that time in the makeup trailer it’s amazing he had time to direct the movie! But direct it he did, and while I won’t say he did a great job, I can say I’ve seen worse! The busy production design and experienced cinematographer (the portly Dean Cundey, who shot The Thing and many other fine films was behind the camera here) certainly help the picture seem professionally made!
It’s really just an elaborate comedy version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which already had its elaborate comedy version, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), but merely the fact that it was this story and no other that Aykroyd wanted to tell in his directorial debut is simply delightful! Ha ha, it’s true that Chase puts in a particularly low-key, possibly even lazy performance, and it’s true the narrative is shapeless and deflated, like something I might have written in high school, but I nevertheless found plenty of laffs in the picture! It’s weird and gross and goofy-bad, but it's undeniably ebullient, and I felt very much that I was on its wavelength, that I was picking up whatever it was Aykroyd was laying down! (I sort of wish I’d been wearing gloves though, ha ha!)
The big diaper babies alone make it an irresistible treat! There are some extremely annoying characters you wish could take a trip through Mister Bonestripper post-haste, but there’s also an obliging hip hop crew who perform a number and who are freed by the reeve possibly because one of them, like the reeve himself, wears a false nose; and there’s a second, mute performance by Candy as a lady with unearthly strength! I wasn’t expecting to like this picture, but I did! I give Nothing But Trouble, alias Valkenvania, three cans of Hawaiian Tropic!

Friday, 19 June 2020

Burl reviews Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins...! (1985)

Sweet Johnny-on-a-junk-sheet, it’s Burl, already back and here to review mid-80s action! Ha ha, here’s a movie I saw in the theatre, back in the days when I used to bus on downtown and catch anything that looked the least bit interesting to my teenage self: mid-budget bunberries like Black Moon Rising, F/X, Dreamscape, or this one, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins…!
And guess who directed it? Ha ha, that’s right, Guy Hamilton! It seems to be all Hamilton all the time around here, and the fellow didn’t even direct all that many pictures! This was one of the last movies he made, and I suppose he got the gig because of his Bond experience, seeing as how Remo Williams was an attempt to create a blue collar, meat-and-potatoes all-American version of the superspy! Ha ha, and from the fact that they made only one Remo Williams picture, you can guess how it turned out! Performed Below Expectations, as they say in Hollywood, or at least as they used to say back when there were expectations!
Fred Ward, that busy actor from Escape From Alcatraz, The Right Stuff, Secret Admirer, UFOria and of course Summer Catch, was the slightly unlikely choice to portray this rough-edged hero! He starts out as a New York cop with a false nose and a black moustache, courtesy I suppose of Special Makeup Effects man Carl Fullerton, whose work we know from Friday the 13th part 2! This cop is dumped into the East River, kidnapped and has his face changed by plastic surgery, all by a secret agency headed by none other than Wilford Brimley from The Thing, Death Valley and High Road to China! (Ha ha, of all these outrages, the plastic surgery is the one Remo minds the least!) Then he gets trained in the ancient art of a made-up martial technique by an even more heavily made-up Joel Grey, whom we know from Kafka and who plays the role of the Korean chopsman Chiun! Yes, that’s right, we have a white actor playing a Korean, because I suppose there were simply no Korean actors who could be hired! I’m sure they looked their hardest, but the fact that there were simply no Asian actors to be found in the mid-80s stymied even their best efforts!
Of course I’m being bitterly sarcastic here! Grey does a fine job in the part, and the makeup is well-done, but the fact that he’s just some white guy playing an old Korean is a constant, puzzling distraction, and I remember being puzzled by it even back in 1985! At least the only other agent in Brimley’s super-secret three-person organization is played by a genuine actor of colour, namely J.A. Preston from Real Life!
Much of the picture is given over to the training and the odd-couple relationship between Remo and Chiun, and eating rice and crawling through sand piles like a mole and so forth, but we get occasional shots of Brimley sitting in the office he never leaves and squinting concernedly at his computer screen, which shows shots of the picture’s bad guy, an arms manufacturer played by cold-eyed Charles Cioffi from Klute, whom Remo will eventually get around to fighting! Others on the bad guy team include crooked general George Coe from Best Seller; a grinning, diamond-toothed henchman played by Patrick Kilpatrick from Death Warrant; and stalwart Michael Pataki from The Bat People and Graduation Day!
The only female presence in the picture is army lady Kate Mulgrew from Star Trek: Nemesis, who discovers discrepancies of some kind, and is constantly fending off sexist comments and ham-handed pick-up attempts! She doesn’t get a whole lot to do, however, and it’s left to the dubious charisma of Remo himself to carry the picture! You’d think maybe the action scenes would help matters, but they’re either very darkly shot, as in a long warehouse-based dog-evasion scene; or curiously pep-free, as when Remo spends the entire climax hanging from a suspended tree! If there’s an action centerpiece to the picture, it’s the scene on the Statue of Liberty, which they made a big deal of in the movie’s promotion, as you can see, but which is only a moderately satisfying sequence!
So the picture was not a success, and the beginning of Remo’s adventure was also the end (outside of a TV movie or two)! There are compensations: a few funny lines here and there, some impressive physical feats from Ward, and a parade of familiar faces in the margins, like Reginald VelJohnson from Die Hard, Jon Polito from Highlander and William Hickey from The Sentinel! But for the most part it’s a simple, flat bafaloukas, and I give Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins… one bowl of rice!

Burl reviews The Mirror Crack'd! (1980)

Pondering the mysteries of life, it’s Burl, here with a touch of Christie for you! Yes, today I’m reviewing one of the star-studded Agatha Christie whodunits, but not Murder on the Orient Express or Death on the Nile, no! This is a distinctly lesser effort that came trailing along later: The Mirror Crack’d!
It’s set in a little English village, so it lacks the exoticism of the earlier grander efforts; but there are still any number of Hollywood glamour-pusses reeling about, even if well beyond their sell-by date! The story, set in 1953, begins promisingly with a movie-within-a-movie: a mystery picture screening at the vicarage, which resident biddysleuth Miss Marple, played by a well-cast Angela Lansbury, solves when the film breaks just as the killer is about to be revealed!
The tale proper involves an invasion of the village by Hollywood moviemakers, who are for some reason shooting an Elizabethan drama in this tweedy Tudor town, which, we are led to believe, is home to a large studio facility! The film’s star is fragile, violet-eyed Elizabeth Taylor, famed from her role in Night Watch; its director is the Taylor character’s husband, played by Rock Hudson from Written on the Wind and Seconds! Hudson seems to be having an affair with his assistant, the hay fever-ridden Geraldine Chaplin from The Moderns and The Forbidden Room; and soon enough a boorish producer, played by Tony Curtis from The Manitou, arrives on the scene with his wife, another actress, and a nasty, bitter rival to Taylor, played by Kim Novak from Vertigo! And guess who else shows up, playing the Mayor: none other than Thick Wilson, whom we certainly recall from Sex With the Stars, Strange Brew and Bullies!
At a party for the village noteables, held in the estate where the movie’s above-the-liners are staying, there is an unexpected death! But who was the glass of poison really meant for, and will the killer strike again? On the case of course is Miss Marple, though she must engage with it remotely for the most part, due to a sprained ankle! Most of the legwork is undertaken by Marple’s nephew, a Scotland Yard detective played by Edward Fox from Never Say Never Again!
The catty byplay between the starlets is fun at first, but wears thin quickly! Ditto the provincial eccentricities of the townsfolk! Curtis’s crass producer is a caricature to be sure, but we can tell the actor is injecting some of the realities he’d encountered in his career into the performance! Rock Hudson, also clearly channeling some Hollywood reality, bestrides about the place, towering over everybody else in the picture! Ha ha, maybe this was a more subtle jab at Hollywood and stardom: to make no effort, with camera angles and apple boxes, to prevent Curtis, Fox, and certainly Lansbury, from looking like midgets in comparison!
Like The Man With the Golden Gun, which I watched on the same evening, this picture was directed by Guy Hamilton! This unintentional Hamilton double header did not elevate my estimation of his filmmaking talents, I’m afraid, though it was not necessarily a representative sampler! There’s not a great deal of style or atmosphere on display in The Mirror Crack’d; little more than you might find in a BBC television production of a Miss Marple story, anyway! It all relies too much on the aging stars, who march about like automatons mechanically uttering lines that might have played better on a West End stage forty years earlier!
It all wraps up with a pretty unconvincing twist ending, and the solution to the mystery, after ninety minutes of determinately keeping Miss Marple away from all the action for some unknown reason, comes to her in the middle of the night apropos of nothing, with the blue-haired sleuth sitting up in bed to exclaim “The vicar!” When you compare it to a really good English village mystery like Green For Danger, or even A Canterbury Tale, which isn’t even principally a mystery, it comes up pretty short! I give The Mirror Crack’d one and a half jars of Kensington gore!

Burl reviews The Man with the Golden Gun! (1974)

The name is Burl, James Burl! No, ha ha, my name’s just plain Burl, but I am here with a review of another Bond picture for you! It’s another Roger Moore one, in fact, and while I’m a great fan of Roger Moore as a person (so far as I know about him, which isn’t much) and as an actor in pictures like ffolkes, but I’ve always thought he was a terrible Bond! He looked wrong, somehow - he was good-looking, sure, but in the wrong way! There’s not a part of him that’s a brawler!
The plot begins when a golden bullet inscribed with 007 is sent to MI6, but though a threat to his life seems clearly implied and his bosses are concerned, Bond, well used to gold-obsessed villains, is not himself for one moment daunted! He sets out to find the notorious assassin Scaramanga, known for his deadly aim, his golden bullets, his one million dollar fee, and his unbroken record of success! Scaramanga is thankfully played by Christopher Lee from Nothing But the Night, and, lucky are we once again, he has a midget manservant called Nick-Nack played by Hervé Villachaize from Seizure and Forbidden Zone! Ha ha, and these fellows enjoy nothing more than to invite other assassins to their special Chinese island and stick them in a sort of funhouse-shooting gallery they’ve created!
To give the story the global stakes Bond viewers are used to, we get something about some kind of solar energy device, but all that is clearly appended to what the writers hoped would be a thrilling mano-a-mano between two steely-eyed, evenly-matched killers! Except they forgot that Moore was still their Bond, so the steely-eyed bit was out; and they undercut their villain by revealing halfway through the picture that he hadn’t initiated the conflict after all, and had no real interest in a contest with Bond until he suddenly is at the end!
In some ways it’s the sleaziest of the Bond pictures, or at least one of the most risqué! There are lasciviously-shot scenes at a strip club called Bottoms Up, and Benny Hill himself might have written some of the double entendres, ha ha! Even the theme song, sung by Lulu, contains more leering innuendo than usual! It’s more sexist, too, with an inept and bumbling British Intelligence agent named Mary Goodnight, played by Britt Ekland from Endless Night and Fraternity Vacation, forever being kidnapped and pressing the wrong buttons with her bikini-clad bum! Maud Adams, who we know from The Christian Licorice Store, and who tangled with Bond again almost a decade later in Octopussy, at least seems a little more intelligent, and for this she is repeatedly raped by Scaramanga, and later dismissively killed by him!
To make matters worse, Clifton James from Juggernaut shows up playing the same Roscoe P. Coltrane-type he was in Live and Let Die! (James is a good actor; it’s the character who’s intolerable!) The action is set in China and Thailand, so this baccy-chawing cracker ought to have been the last person we had to worry about, ha ha! He’s involved in one of the greatest stunts in the entire Bond series, the corkscrew jump, which the filmmakers shot blandly, and to which they idiotically added a slide whistle sound effect!
It’s all pretty terrible! There’s not much action and precious little style, and for Guy Hamilton, usually one of the more reliable Bond directors, it represents a calamitous drop in quality from the heights of Goldfinger! On the other hand there are some lovely locations, some decent trick effects, and Lee does his best with the character he was given! None of this is enough to save it, I’m afraid, so I give The Man with the Golden Gun only one fake nipple!

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Burl reviews Volcano! (1976)

Ha ha: Burl here with a dash of reality for you! Yes, it’s a documentary, one I saw years ago and recently revisited! It’s called Volcano, but the full title is, I think, Volcano: An Inquiry Into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry! Ha ha, that’s a mouthful! But as I recall the title card on the movie itself is simply Volcano, so that’s what I’ll go with, even though some may confuse it with Volcano from 1997! That would require a good deal of confusion, and cause even more!
Because this Volcano is an almost experimental Canadian documentary about Malcolm Lowry and his great creation, and possibly my all-time favourite novel, Under the Volcano! Boy oh boy, I read the Penguin edition of that thing when I was twenty years old, and I was by golly hooked! I return to it regularly, in fact, that same battered copy! Ha ha!
The documentary, which came along seven or eight years before the John Huston adaptation of the book, with a great drunkard act from Albert Finney as the Consul, uses interviews and location footage, and one curious courtroom re-creation scene, to give a full biography of Lowry from cradle to grave, packed with every detail you might want to know and several you might not! The portrait is of a tormented genius; a desperate, devoted inebriate; a disordered emotional state and crippling lack of self-confidence! It’s not a pretty picture, but if you’ve read Under the Volcano, it’s precisely what you’d expect!
Lowry, born into comfort in England, leaves this behind to become a cabin boy on the high seas, and then, after some schooling, writes his first book, Ultramarine! Ha ha, the movie doesn’t mention this, but my understanding is that, en route to a publisher, the young author left his only manuscript in a cab, which then drove away, and he had to rewrite the entire book from scratch! Soon after that Lowry was married, and spent some harrowing time in New York where his copious mental health problems erupted into full bloom, and he ended up in Bellevue! Next he went to Mexico, where he began work on the manuscript that would become Under the Volcano, and where his wife called it quits on their troubled marriage! He married again and moved to a small shack outside Vancouver, where the book was finished, rejected by every publisher there is, and then rewritten and, after eight years, finished again!
The rest of the tale contains both triumph and tragedy, and many atmospheric shots of the Mexican volcano Popocatépetl! On the soundtrack we have plentiful narration from director Donald Brittain (who also gave us Sweetheart: The Hal C. Banks Story), a lot of Lowry readings from Under the Volcano or from letters, voiced perfectly by Richard Burton from Exorcist II: The Heretic, and an eerie avant-garde music score by Alain Clavier! Many of the interviews, and the interviewees themselves, are horribly fascinating, and are just the type of eccentric old Brits that I’ve met quite a few of myself!
On the debit side, the picture is quite definitively just a bit too long: removing just a few volcano shots and other Mexican material might have helped! And it seems to revel a bit too much in the harshest aspects of Lowry’s life! But these are very minor complaints: I find Lowry fascinating, his book spellbinding, and Volcano an exceedingly worthwhile account of both! Ha ha, I give it three and a half unnecessary photos of syphilis victims!

Burl reviews The Baby-Sitters Club! (1995)

Hi, hi, and hello, it’s Burl here, once again dredging up a c. 1990s movie review from back in my old reviewing days! I suppose I was asked to see the picture at some kind of advance preview screening, and I can’t imagine I was too excited about the prospect! As with If Lucy Fell, this is something I saw at a review screening back when it came out, have never watched since and will never watch again; so in keeping with my goal to eventually review all the movies on this site, I’ll transcribe my 1995 notice for you here and call it done! The picture in question, by the way, was based on a popular series of tween-girl books by someone with a name similar to that of the woman who played Alice on The Brady Bunch, and is called The Baby-Sitters Club!
The Baby-Sitters Club takes place in Stoneybrook, a small American town more friendly and benign than Blue Velvet’s Lumberton, but no less creepily artificial! Here, everyone fits into a comfy middle-income bracket (ha ha, those who don’t do not stay long), and even the kids are savvy, capitalistic pursuers of the American Dream!
In this eerie bourgeois paradise, seven tweenage girls have carved out a profitable niche in the babysitting business! They work together to provide the town with reliable, one-stop child care: if one sitter isn’t available to work, another will be! The club is never hard up for employment, as the parents of Stoneybrook are only, endlessly interested in stepping out for the evening so as to briefly escape the boredom of their snug middle-class lives!
The girls have their own problems, ha ha! One needs to pass a summer school science test (it’s nice to see an Asian kid in a picture who for once isn’t a natural science whiz); one wants to hide her diabetes and young age from her seventeen year-old Swiss boyfriend; and the main girl, Kristy, is troubled when her estranged father returns to town and for some reason makes her swear to keep his presence a secret from her mother! As Kristy is torn asunder by conflicting loyalties, the club faces such additional obstacles as three wicked girls who hate them for no reason, and an evil next-door neighbor played by Ellen Burstyn from The King of Marvin Gardens, whose distrust of pubescent girls might be excused by her experience with Regan in The Exorcist!
Drably directed by Melanie Mayron, whose acting we may recall from Drop Zone, the picture is as rote and flat as one of those Disney Sunday Night Movies, like Rock and Roll Mom or some other! It was shot by Willy Kurant, the French cinematographer who photographed Godard’s great banana Masculin/Feminin, but on this one he was unable to give over much visual pep, I’m sorry to say!
On the other hand the girls are all talented actors, and there’s a gallery of familiar faces in the margins around them: Bruce Davison from Lies and Spies Like Us, Brooke Adams from Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Dead Zone, Peter Horton from Children of the Corn, Colleen Camp from D.A.R.Y.L. and Track 29, and Harris Yulin from Night Moves and Fatal Beauty! Some welcome humour is derived from the weird behavior of the little kids enrolled in the club’s summer day care, so while young teenage girls would probably enjoy the picture just by default, it’s antic enough for younger folk to appreciate as well! It’s not my kind of movie, but I guess even taking that into consideration I’m going to give The Baby-Sitters Club only one and a half plaid ballcaps!