Ha ha!

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

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Burl reviews Getting Even! (1986)

Ha ha, y’all, it’s Burl, here with a little Texas action for you! No, it’s not Action U.S.A., or 2020 Texas Gladiators (as apt as that would be in this pestilential year, ha ha!), but a minor and largely forgotten work called Getting Even!
Edward Albert from When Time Ran Out and Galaxy of Terror stars as Tag Taggar, a millionaire industrialist from the Lone Star State who doubles, we see in the opening sequence, as the leader of a commando band made up of his friends and employees! Ha ha, it’s sort of like conservatives wanted to have their own version of Buckaroo Banzai, but instead of a rock star/brain surgeon/physicist/hipster with an alliterative name, they went for a businessman/commando/good ol’ boy with an alliterative name!
Tag’s mission in Afghanistan or wherever involves securing several canisters of poison gas, which he then brings back to Texas and secures inside a glass cupboard! Meanwhile Tag Taggart’s business rival, an industrialist/bad guy called King Kenderson who seethes with bitter jealousy at Tag Tagger’s success, plots to steal the deadly chemical! Since the chemical is kept in full view in the glass cupboard, he succeeds easily! Ha ha!
Joe Don Baker, from Fletch, The Living Daylights, and Tomorrow Never Dies, plays King Kenderson, and his performance is one of the picture’s great assets! He manages to make King a properly hateful bad guy in a very human and understandable way, while injecting his character with some humour and the general sense of having a good time! Audrey Landers, meanwhile, plays Paige Starson, an old flame of Tag Taggert’s, who also represents some kind of government law enforcement agency! While her performance is nothing special, the character, in a welcome change from most 80s action, is presented as competent and intelligent, and is deeply involved in the action! Ha ha, by the end, after figuring out some allergy-based clues, she’s piloting a helicopter while firing a machine gun out the door of it while the putative hero is hanging helplessly off a building!
The picture spins its narrative wheels for a good chunk of the middle act as Tag Taggartt and Paige Starson try to figure out who stole the gas! Since we, the audience, have known from the beginning, a certain impatience sets in! Luckily we’re still jazzed from the scene where King Kenderson sends his girlfriend in to test the gas on a hamster, and, after an accident cracks the hamster’s terrarium, can only watch in hysterical horror as she and her assistant melt down into slag puddles! Ha ha, this part reminded me of the more elaborate meltdown in Spasms, which involves Al Waxman and the venom of a giant snake! (An interesting fact: Waxman, as you know, played The King of Kensington, whereas this picture features King Kenderson!)
There are a few faces lurking about that are familiar from various Texas horror pictures! Blue Deckert from The Outing plays the ill-fated Kurt, Tag Tagertt’s good friend whose melted corpse is found hanging from a tree! Caroline Williams from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2 plays the equally ill-fated lady scientist; Dan Shackleford from Deadly Blessing is Raoul, a henchman; and Tommy Splittgerber from Race With the Devil plays a dimwitted gun shop owner! We also get an appearance from Woody Watson of Eddie Macon’s Run!
Except for the narrative glaciation of the second act, the picture moves briskly enough! It could use more meltdowns, and one eagerly anticipates King Kenderson having his own run-in with the gas, but we wait for this in vain! Still, the movie punches a little above its weight in its action scenes, and there’s some impressive stunt work along the way! Getting Even is no masterpiece, not even close, but it’s a night out (or, these days, I should say strictly a night in), and I give it two exploding hamsters!

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Burl reviews Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb! (1964)

Ha ha, it’s Burl here, living it up on Condition Red! Yes, I’m here to review one of the best movies I can think of, a fine work from Mr. Stanley Kubrick, the maker of pictures like The Shining and Full Metal Jacket! Of course I’m talking about the great Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb, a movie I’ve seen many times! It’s one of my father’s two favourite motion pictures, the other one being Richard Fleischer’s The Vikings!
Do we all know the plot of this anti-war satire? Ha ha, of course we do: it’s more or less the same as Fail Safe, the movie in which Henry Fonda was inducted as President In Movies For Life! In Kubrick’s movie, it seems that General Jack D. Ripper, played by Sterling Hayden from such marvelous pictures as The Asphalt Jungle and The Long Goodbye, has gone hot bananas and decided to start World War III by sending impossible-to-countermand orders to his in-flight bomber pilots! Ha ha, he’s worried about precious bodily fluids and whatnot, so naturally global decimation is the only solution!
Peter Sellers, whom we know from Down Among the Z Men and Being There, plays three roles in the movie: a visiting British officer stationed at Ripper’s air base, and morally tasked with trying to talk him out of his mad plan; the American president, Merkin Muffley, desperately trying to convince his Soviet counterpart that the nuclear firestorm shortly to ravage his country was not delivered purposefully, or at least not purposefully by him; and of course the good doctor of the title, the cartoonish ex-Nazi Strangelove!  
George C. Scott from Exorcist III plays another manic general who indulges in a little fighting in the War Room, and makes the odd comment to his pal Jack Creley from Tulips; and, back at the air base near the end of the picture, Keenan Wynn from Piranha and The Dark and Herbie Rides Again appears as the blockheaded Colonel Bat Guano! In the airplane, our third major location, we find Slim Pickens from This House Possessed and White Line Fever and a young James Earl Jones from The Hunt for Red October! It’s really a pretty incredible cast, ha ha!
And there’s not much else I can say that you folks don’t already know! It’s a precision satire machine that scores strategic hits on an array of targets! It’s a beautifully shot, designed, directed and acted picture that might lean a little heavily on shticky gags here and there, but doesn’t ever stray from its noble, hilarious course! I love the picture and so should you, and I have to give a special mention to Sterling Hayden and his marvelous performance! Ha ha, I give Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb four deviated preverts!

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Burl reviews The Firemen's Ball! (1967)

In the light of the dancing flame, it’s Burl, here to review a fine example of Czech cinema for you! Yes, I’m talking about Milos Forman’s exquisite amusement The Firemen’s Ball, which he made after rusticating in a small town and attending, yes, their fireman’s ball! He and his co-writers were inspired to put what they saw first on paper and then on film, and, ha ha, I for one am glad they did!
The picture opens with a little pre-ball vignette that displays, in microcosm, the disasters that are to come! The rest of the story takes place at the ball itself (ha ha, the picture is aptly titled!) and displays the many blockheaded misadventures of the fire brigade, which is made up of variously dim, stubborn, misguided or foolish men! And what a gallery of eastern European faces is on display here! Ha ha!
The purpose of the ball is to honour an ancient and retiring member of the volunteer brigade, and to present him with a token, an ornamental axe! There’s a raffle, but the prizes, exotic foodstuffs heaped on the table at the beginning of the evening, begin to disappear - ha ha, no surprise in the environment of privation that is 1960s Czechoslovakia! Everyone in the cast - all of them non-actors - is a suspect, and in fact all of them might be guilty, but nobody would blame anybody for the pilfering either!
The film’s centerpiece is a beauty contest, or at least an attempted one; and a true catalogue of bumbling, mismanagement and dirty-old-man ogling it is! The young ladies shanghaied into participating in the goofstravaganza are a truly fascinating lot: some are pretty, some not, but all of them are compelling in their own way! And they’re a lot smarter than the old boys of the fire brigade!
By the end of the picture there’s a fire, and it turns out, to no one's surprise, these fellows are no better at dousing conflagrations than they are at holding balls! The very end of the picture I won’t detail for you, but it hits the precise note of humour, melancholy and cutting satire that it needs to! It’s one of those movies that seems to ramble while it’s on, and then in the very last shot everything is tied together tightly and beautifully! Ha ha, I love those kind of movies!
The tone of the picture is that of a more allegorical, more politicized Bill Forsyth film! As it turns out, that’s a pretty good combination! And it’s all still relevant today, ha ha! As a chronicle of the incompetence, ignorance and venality of authority that ends in shameless pilfering and avoidable tragedy, it all seems very applicable to the current goings-on down in Yankee Doodle land! Ha ha, but the movie is at the same time very funny, and I recommend it with a hearty ha ha! I give The Firemen’s Ball three and a half head cheeses!

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Burl reviews Executive Decision! (1996)

Ha ha, Burl here with a simple question for you: what would you get if you combined Die Hard with the 1970 Ross Hunter production Airport? One assumes you’d simply get Die Hard 2, or maybe something like Air Force One! But I’ll tell you what: I think you might get a picture very like Executive Decision!
“Ha ha, Executive what?” you might ask! And your question would not be a foolish one! This picture is a real product of the 1990s, but now it seems largely forgotten, though it was as slick and big-budget an action-drama as they came in those days! It was directed by Stuart Baird, a film editor with plenty of action-movie cutting experience, who managed to infuse all the pictures he directed - well, the ones I’ve seen anyway, which include this one, a semi-sequel to The Fugitive called U.S. Marshals, and the last of the Picard Star Trek features, Star Trek Nemesis - with a strange, subliminal, post-viewing suggestion that the audience immediately forget anything about the movie they’ve just seen! This Peter Reveen of the cinema made his directing debut with Executive Decision - and, ha ha, it’s okay to admit if you’ve forgotten the title since the last time I typed it!
There’s something kind of machine-tooled and generic about the movie, and I’ve always thought the utterly banal title of the picture suited it nicely! There’s a fine, high-concept premise: a gang of terrorists, led by David Suchet in brownface, takes over a 747 with the goal of delivering a deadly payload of nerve toxin, and an elite force of covert operatives slip onto the plane in mid-flight in order to foil the plan! Ha ha, this involves sneak-flying underneath the airliner and crawling through a shaky tube up to the belly and through some kind of service hatch!
Kurt Russell from The Thing plays the unwilling hero, a strategic analyst unused to the action shenanigans of the field! Once aboard he gets in touch with Halle Berry, playing a spunky stewardess in the tradition of Karen Black in Airport 1975! Meanwhile the bomb is ticking down and the U.S. officials are getting antsy, ready to send fighter planes to shoot the plane down the moment it crosses into their airspace! As befits a picture made by an editor, it does a reasonably good job of juggling two or three separate but parallel suspense sequences all happening at once!
It’s got a lot of the 1990s in it, this picture, and that’s largely thanks to the supporting cast! John Leguizamo from the even blander Collateral Damage is one of the commandos; J.T. Walsh from Misery is a grandstanding senator; Oliver Platt is the fellow who came up with the tube idea; B.D. Wong is yet another commando; and Joe Morton, an actor I’ve admired ever since I saw him in The Brother From Another Planet, and who became an unlikely action figure in movies like Terminator 2, Speed, and this, plays the bomb defusing expert who gets badly shaken about during the tube transfer and spends the rest of the picture gaff-taped to a stretcher! Ha ha, even Marla Maples is in it! And, of course, in the most 90s touch of all, we get Steven Segal, who was formerly Hard to Kill, but proves not to be so here! Ha ha!
Yes, you heard that right: they got Steven Seagal, then at the tail end of his mid-budget action stardom, to play the boss commando of the movie, then they tossed him out of a plane at 35,000 feet! Ha ha, you’re pretty grateful to see him go, since his character is pretty much just a jerkier version of any of his other characters! He flies out of the tube in a noble act of self-sacrifice, but I sure wish they’d gone with the original plan and had his head explode in a thrilling rush of depressurization! (Seagal himself put the kibosh on that, claiming that his fans wouldn’t have liked to see him go that way, but I think they would have loved it!)
Anyway, it’s not a good picture, though of course it presaged 9/11 in many respects; but it’s a modestly entertaining one, with a few thrills here and there, all the lavish slickness a studio can offer! (Alex Thomson shot the picture, mostly, but in keeping with the whole, the cinematography is merely competent, without that dark and velvety style he gave movies like The Keep, Alien 3 and even, at points, Cliffhanger!) It is instantly forgettable though, and I had to force myself to recall enough to even write this review! Ha ha! I give Executive Decision one and a half chewed straws!

Monday, 23 March 2020

Burl reviews The Train! (1964)

Ha ha and rolling stock, it’s Burl, here to review a fantastic movie about a train - and guess what, it’s called The Train! That’s right, it’s the wartime action drama from John Frankenheimer, who also brought us such winners as Prophecy and The Manchurian Candidate! The picture is laid in France as the Liberation approaches, and the Nazis, at the behest of a German colonel called Von Waldheim, played by the terrific performer Paul Scofield, are collecting great artworks from the Paris museums and shipping them to Berlin by puff-puff!
Burt Lancaster, whom we know so well from The Osterman Weekend and Local Hero, plays Labiche, a railway yardmaster who’s also part of the Resistance! When he’s asked to use his rail-based sabotage network to stop the art train, he initially scoffs! Ha ha, he says, a bunch of paintings aren’t worth the lives of several fellows! But others in his group feel more strongly about it, and when they start acting to slow or stop the train, Labiche has no choice but to join in and do his best to foil the Nazis! Quickly he becomes the number-one enemy to the increasingly art-obsessed Von Waldheim!
Ha ha, I became a big fan of this picture the moment I first saw it, which was actually at an art gallery as part of some kind of film series they were doing! The movie clearly respects, even cherishes, the crucial role of art in human society, but as more and more partisans are killed in the effort to save the Picassos, Cézannes, Braques, Renoirs, Mìros etc. etc. from the Nazis, the tough questions are asked: how many lives are a trainload of paintings worth? Ha ha, or, is that even a fair equation?
Of course the picture has a fantastic French cast: Jeanne Moreau is in there as a wan war widow; Suzanne Flon and Albert Rémy both make appearances, and the great Michel Simon plays the dyspeptic Papa Boule! And there are Germans too of course, most notably Wolfgang Preiss, who was always playing German officers in pictures like Von Ryan’s Express (another wartime train picture, ha ha!), and who plays another one here! He does a particularly good job of it, and is a good foil for Scofield, particularly near the end!
But the puff-puff itself might be the real star! Well, ha ha, I’d give it and Lancaster equal billing I suppose, because both turn in the most extraordinarily physical performances! Lancaster is forever sliding down ladders, leaping on and falling off moving trains, rolling down hills and leaping over gullies, often while in real life suffering from a leg injured when he stepped into a gopher hole while golfing on his day off! Meanwhile the train steams grimly ahead, slipping off sabotaged rails or charging ahead like black lighting, a scream of warning issuing from its whistle!
There’s a great train collision that has to be seen to be believed, and this was accomplished not with models or other trickery, but by simply smashing one real train into another, at speed! Ha ha, my hat is tipped to Frankenheimer, his great camera crew, and all the stunt and trick effects folk who worked so hard to make this spectacle! And we should pour one out to all the cameras that obviously got mangled while capturing, in their last moments, these titanic clashes of steam, wood and metal! Ha ha, this is a fine war picture, and I give The Train three and a half one-franc pieces!

Friday, 20 March 2020

Burl reviews High Test Girls! (1980)

Ha ha and hi-test, it’s Burl, here with a review of a picture that’s not pornoo, but darn near! In fact, as with The Sensuous Caterer, some choppy and abrupt editing leads me to believe the original version probably did dally in the realm of hardcore pornoo, but, ha ha, I’m just fine with the R rated version thank you very much! The picture in question is the work of the prolific German erotechnician Erwin C. Dietrich, and, among other assorted monikers, (Six Swedes At A Pump, Swedish Gas Pump Girls) it’s called High Test Girls!
Brigitte Lahaie, from Night of the Hunted and other Jean Rollin pictures, plays one of a sextet (ha ha!) of Swedish girls who operate a gas station and restaurant called GROTTO in some small Bavarian mountain town! Well, it’s of course a station that offers FULL SERVICE, and this has the burgomaster of the town in a real tizzy! It’s a moral outrage, or so he claims!
Ha ha, the English dubbing voice this burgomaster has been given is a real hum-dinger, and I’m pretty sure I may have heard it before in either Melody in Love or Summer Night Fever! At any rate, the movie is crowded with scenes of the burgomaster arriving for a council meeting and grumping that one member is late; then the council member shows up and makes excuses! Ha ha, but what the burgomaster doesn’t know is that each time a member is late to the five-person council, it’s because he’s been playing a game of bedroom quoits with the burgomaster’s wife!
In between these scenes we get some of the various erotic vignettes that occur at GROTTO, including one bizarre and fastastical scene involving a bearded fellow on television who is able to effect physical manipulation of a lady over the airwaves, providing she gets close enough to her TV! Ha ha, talk about you high definition! And of course every time a gentleman pulls up at the gas bar, one of the Swedes jumps to the pump with an offer of FULL SERVICE! That one never gets old!
As you might have discerned, this is a pretty plotless movie! So far as it has a narrative, it involves the town council’s very slow move toward shutting down the Swedish girls’ service station, or at least investigating it more closely! At the same time, however, all the council and many of the townsmen are members of the local oom-pah band, which needs a place to practice for the upcoming town fete! They settle on using GROTTO as their practice location, and in an climax scored to endless oom-pah music, the members of the oom-pah band head upstairs one by one to visit one or another of the Swedes! Ha ha, and by the end everyone is friends, even the burgomaster, and the Swedes are free to continue delivering FULL SERVICE to the gentlemen of the town!
Ha ha, movies don’t get much clunkier than this! There’s hardly anything you’d call a movie here at all, in fact: just a series of scenes! And yet there’s amusement to be had, in the weird dubbing, in the bizarre concepts, in the scenery! So it’s not a total loss! But I do have to say, as many times as the Swedes remove their clothing, the picture is never very sexy! It’s odd, but rarely erotic! Oh well! If you like oom-pah music, you’ll consider this eighty minutes well spent, ha ha! As for me, I give High Test Girls one Citroën!

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Burl reviews Tomorrow Never Dies! (1997)

Hi there, it’s Burl, shaken but not stirred! Yes, I thought I might give you a little review of yet another James Bond picture, this one featuring not Sean Connery from You Only Live Twice; not Roger Moore from Moonraker; not Timothy Dalton from The Living Daylights nor Daniel Craig from Spectre, but Pierce Brosnan, an actor we know from Dante’s Peak and The World’s End! Ha ha, the picture, his second appearance in the role, is Tomorrow Never Dies!
The plot is pretty boilerplate Bond! We’ve got a Rupert Murdoch-type media mogul played by Jonathan Pryce from Brazil, who’s got the following: a gizmo which fools ships into misapprehending their location; a stealth ship that can’t be detected by radar, sonar or other means; a big extendable drill that can bore through ship hulls and cause crazy chaos; and a number of henchmen, played by the likes of Ricky Jay from Boogie Nights, Götz Otto from Iron Sky, and Vincent Schiavelli from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai! Pryce’s plan is to use his toys to foment a war between Great Britain and China, and then be on the front lines with his reportage! Ha ha!
Bond comes on the scene fairly quickly, rekindling a romance with Teri Hatcher from Tango & Cash and then teaming up with a fast-action lady played by Michelle Yeoh from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon! Ha ha, Yeoh is a terrific partner to Bond in this one, and it would have been nice to have her be a repeating character! Strangely, as happened in the first Brosnan Bond, GoldenEye, an American CIA agent shows up to help out, but for some reason it isn’t Felix Leiter! No, it’s a crude-talkin’ Texan played by Joe Don Baker from Fletch! Why didn’t they still have Baker play him, but simply make him Leiter instead of “Wade?” Ha ha, who knows; and to make things even more complicated, Baker played a bad guy in The Living Daylights!
The action moves along at a fair clip - at 119 minutes, for a modern Bond picture it’s really quite slim! There are a couple of fun scenes, like the one in the parking garage with the remote control car which Bond drives from the back seat, or the motorcycle-helicopter chase, and all of this is reasonably well-handled by Roger Spottiswoode, who also brought us Terror Train, ha ha; but Pryce’s character is a weak villain (ha ha, that’s why he gets so many henchpeople, I guess!) and there are a few hints of the poor writing and extreme silliness which would infect the second and last two Brosnan efforts, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day!
Mostly it seems like a construction on which to hang a few quips and some observations about the media-driven, post-O.J. world we lived in back in 1997! (Ha ha, in fact, these days it feels slightly prescient!) Really, the best thing about it is that, Citizen Kane callbacks aside, it doesn’t try too hard to be anything but a simple-minded Bond picture! I give Tomorrow Never Dies two bossyboots car voices!

Monday, 16 March 2020

Burl reviews It Happens Every Spring! (1949)

Batter up, it’s Burl, with a picture about baseball! Ha ha, yes, in these pestilential times perhaps a lighthearted tale of the horsehide is just the picker-upper we all need! I know it did the trick for me! Ha ha, the picture I’m talking about, the movie that upped my spirits and might do the same for yours, is a little puffballer called It Happens Every Spring!
I happen to love movies from the 30s, 40s and 50s set on college campuses! (Okay, I’ll add the 20s too, so College and The Freshman get in there!) The first act of this picture really hits that sweet spot, as we are introduced to a bookish, baseball-loving chemistry professor called Vernon, who might have been written for Gary Cooper but Coop had other things to do, so Ray Milland from Premature Burial played the part instead! Vernon’s pretty ladyfriend Miss Greanleaf, very cheerily played by Jean Peters from Niagara, wishes him to express some commitment, but the poorly-paid Vernon wants to make some marryin’ money first! When an errant baseball obliterates Vernon’s prize experiment, along with, he believes, his career and his love life, Vernon is despondent, before noticing the curious behavior of a nearby baseball!
The upshot is this: Vernon has accidentally invented a substance that repels baseballs from wood! Ha ha, I italicize this to emphasize the specificity of the chemical’s properties! Naturally, Vernon’s first instinct is to drop out completely from his previous life and run off to join the St. Louis Cardinals under the nom de bal “King Kelly!” There’s a lot of baseball after this, and plenty of animated baseballs hopping in little loops to avoid the batsmens’ timbers!
The Cards’ dog-faced catcher Monk, played by Paul Douglas, is ordered by the front office to keep a close eye on Vernon because he’s so weird, but just becomes his pal instead! Ha ha, Douglas looks about twenty years older than Milland here (an impression heightened by Monk’s regular use of “kid” to describe or address his new buddy), but was in fact a few months younger! Ha ha, at any rate I suppose it makes sense on those lonely away games for the pitcher to room with the catcher!
It all comes down to baseball, of course, and, with our modern sensibilities encumbered by too many ethics, we expect it to come down to some heartfelt scene in which Vernon realizes it’s wrong to cheat, or he is found out and shamed, or some such thing! But no, it all wraps up in a perfectly happy, non-judgmental ending with a very pleasant mob scene on a train platform!
There’s a pretty classic cast, ha ha! Team owner Edgar Stone is played by Ed Begley from Billion Dollar Brain, and his manager of course is Ted de Corsia! The dean, and father of Vernon’s ladyfriend, is played by Ray Collins from Francis, and from a bunch of other baseball movies, and a bunch of Orson Welles pictures too, ha ha! Jesse Royce Landis, whom we love so well from To Catch A Thief and North By Northwest, is his lady wife! Everybody’s here - even Alan Hale Jr., so well known from The Giant Spider Invasion!
It’s probably got too much baseball for the romantic comedy fans, but maybe they will be more forgiving because Vernon is doing it all for love! But everybody will enjoy the scenes in which other ball players, believing Vernon’s formula to be a hair tonic, comb it into their lush locks, and then find their hair flapping around anytime they bring a wooden hairbrush near it! Ha ha, they end up looking like Moe from the Three Stooges, which is a fairly short trip since most of these mugs look a lot like Moe already! Anyway, these scenes made me laugh out loud! Ha ha!
It’s no classic, but it’s charming and funny at times, and ridiculous at other times, and a little confounding! Does Vernon run out of his solution and find himself at the World Series trying to win without the help of his miracle pitches? Ha ha, that would be telling! I’m going to give It Happens Every Spring three broken hands!

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Burl reviews Silent Rage! (1982)

With vocal jocularity, ha ha, it’s Burl, here to give you a taste of Silent Rage! Yes, we’re talking about the Chuck Norris horror movie made by the portly director of Class Reunion! (Chuck apparently did another horror picture later on, called Hellbound, but I’ve never seen it and am not at all certain it really exists! Ha ha!)
This picture begins in a rooming house, where a mentalsman called John Kirby, played by Brian Libby from Dreamscape, sweats and mutters, then grabs an axe and gives a couple of unfortunate folks the chop! But pretty soon Sheriff Chuck Norris arrives on the scene, and there is a scuffle! The end result is the raging, flailing maniac blasted repeatedly by police revolvers! Ha ha, end of story!
But no, not so fast! The dying maniac is transported to some kind of clinic, where a trio of medicos played by Ron Silver from Timecop, Steven Keats from Black Sunday, and William Finlay from The Fury, do some Dr. Frankenstein science on him and render him invulnerable! Ha ha, just what everyone needs, good going fellows! Silver isn’t actually a part of the resuscitation - in fact he considers it unwise, while Keats acts out the monomaniacal mad scientist routine and Finlay just helps!
Pretty soon, of course, the undying maniac is loose, and on the prowl for people to kill! He settles on Silver and his wife, and there’s a good, tense scene at their appealingly bohemian house, with a great final shocker! Ha ha, this scene is perhaps the movie’s finest! Chuck, meanwhile, is having a romance with Silver’s sister and battling a biker gang; and Stephen Furst from The Unseen plays a developmentally delayed deputy whom Norris has deemed trainable! They must all go up against the terrible maniac with his self-healing flesh and superstrength muscles!
Now, as I’ve said, there are some genuinely tense and well-handled suspense scenes here; but for every one of those there are two that are muffed, bungled, or otherwise befumbled! So it’s not a classic picture, but the concept, “kung-fu sheriff vs. undead, indestructible psychopath,” is strong enough to paper over some of the stumbles! There’s an odd quality to the cinematography that I find appealing, and Chuck tries so hard to emulate human behaviour that it becomes endearing!
It’s a curio mainly, ha ha, and for that it gets some extra credit, and you can't deny it has the courage of its loopy convictions! But equally you can’t make the claim that it’s a good picture, so on balance I’m going to give Silent Rage two tragic dog stories!

Monday, 9 March 2020

Burl reviews Satan's Blade! (1982)

Ha ha and big bears, it’s Burl, here with another movie to review! No, there are no big bears in this picture, but I believe it was shot in the vicinity of Big Bear, California, several years before its release! Ha ha, the picture is called Satan’s Blade, and it’s usually listed as a movie from 1984, but the copyright date at the end is 1982, so that’s what I went with!
But whenever it was made, Satan’s Blade is a bit of a cronkité! It starts off with a bank robbery which appears to be taking place in somebody’s rumpus room, and leaves two lady tellers gutshot and groaning on the floor! These deaths are typical of the movie’s approach to murder, which generally involves a splash of blood (ha ha, no Special Makeup Effects here!) and the victim writhing around and moaning for about a minute before succumbing! It’s like watching an acting class reel with all the students attempting their own version of a death scene!
Anyway, the big reveal is that the bank robbers were ladies themselves, and then we get a betrayal and another long moaning-and-writhing death, and finally a killing involving the titular blade! After that we move into the meat of the picture: two groups of people, a quartet of galpals here and a pair of couples there, arrive at a snow resort and install themselves in cabins! There’s a lot of chatting, some flirting by the flirtiest of the galpals, much drinking of Jack, incidents of jealousy and a heartwarming scene of near-adultery, and some other doorway dramas; and eventually the local legend of the Very Big Man, who will kill anybody who befouls his territory with their presence, comes to pass, with the devilish knife put to work on the snow resort’s guests! Ha ha, it’s pokings galore!
However, they’re not very good pokings, nor scary ones neither! But what about the Very Big Man, you ask? Ha ha, that sounds interesting! Is it a spirit of Indigenous vengeance, as we saw in The Ghost Dance? Well, sort of! Unlike the similarly real estate-based slashers The Devil Rider or A Bay of Blood, it’s definitely a possession-based situation, but I won’t give away who the possessed one is! I’ll just say it’s one of those slasher movies with a downer ending, like The Dorm That Dripped Blood or something similar! Perhaps the movie this is most similar to is The Slayer, if you removed all of The Slayer’s atmosphere and Special Makeup Effects!
What I’m saying is, Satan’s Blade isn’t a movie I can recommend with one of my trademark laughs of jollity! Ha ha! No, although there was a bit of novelty to the location, and the back story had potential, and the movie follows through on the aura of misanthropy it projects from the opening scenes, and some of the actors performed their characters amusingly (the flirty galpal is my favourite), I’m afraid the utter lack of style and, almost as criminal, the exclusion of any Special Makeup Effects, prevent me from giving Satan’s Blade more than one fast talkin’ radio deputy!