Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Monday 30 July 2012

Burl reviews Madam Satan! (1930)

From out of the clouds appears a huge, cigar-shaped aircraft – it’s Burl, riding aloft a dirigible, here to review a movie for you! Ha ha, what a fanciful scenario! And yet it’s somewhat less fantastical than the climax of this olde-tyme domestic comedy-drama!
It’s called Madam Satan, and it’s a pre-Code comedy of manners from none other than Cecil B. De Mille! I was very excited to watch it, because, you know, DIRIGIBLE MOVIE! I love those! Ha ha, I’m a huge fan of Frank Capra’s Dirigible, for example, a rousing adventure I’ll review here soon! But De Mille of course is legendary for his spectacle and excess, so naturally I thought “Ha ha, C.B. De Mille + dirigible = delirious cinematic bliss!”
It didn’t quite turn out that way! The movie is nearly two hours long, and more than half of that is generally dreary, unfunny, wildly overextended bedroom farce of the sort where people race in and out of doors, hide in closets and lurk beneath satiny bedclothes! It seems there’s a rich lady, Angela, whose husband Bob, played by Reginald Denny from My Favorite Brunette, is fooling around with a chorus girl named, naturally, Trixie! Bob’s dipsomaniacal pal Jimmy, played by the great Roland Young, gets mixed up in this triangle when all he’s trying to do is help out! Eventually Jimmy, who is a rich industrialist, throws a crazy costume party on a blimp, and all the confusions are first greatly amplified and later, in the midst of a proto-Hindenburg disaster (well, nearly!), are sort of worked out!
Ha ha! I know, it sounds great! And parts of it are great, but not nearly enough! I don’t know, maybe my expectations were just too high, because, you know, DIRIGIBLE MOVIE! My main complaint is this: Bob, who is supposed to be a put-upon husband, perhaps a bit of a rascal but ultimately decent, like some upper-crust Homer Simpson, is in fact a fool, a bounder, a twister and a cad! He’s totally unsympathetic, and why his wife wants so desperately to reclaim him was a complete mystery to me! Angela, on the other hand, is a decent sort, but everyone in the movie, including herself, concludes that she’s ultimately to blame for her husband’s houndogging ways!
Of course this is a movie made in 1930, so the attitudes were a little different, but it’s still irritating simply because it doesn’t make any sense as human behaviour of any period! Luckily as a balm to all this we have a touch of the De Mille spectacular, and of course the insane costumes on board the dirigible! The dirigible runs into trouble when lightning strikes it and it tears loose of the mooring mast, but this was seven years before the Hindenburg disaster, so there’s no visual reference to that event, except accidentally! The greatest part of the picture is when all the weirdly-costumed guests parachute out of the doomed craft and land in strange and undignified places!
There’s plenty to like in this movie I suppose, but it really isn’t all that good! There’s a fantastic cameo from The Spirit of Electricity, some ribald pre-Code shenanigans and the mugging of Roland Young, the novelty of Lillian Roth from Alice, Sweet Alice in the role of Trixie, as well as a few other interesting performances; but the tepid farce and the irritating character Bob, and the fact that the dirigible interior seems like nothing but a ballroom set dressed up with a few girder-like structures here and there, as though in a dirigible you can ride around in the whole thing rather than just a gondola below, take it down quite a few pegs! I give Madam Satan just two bespangled masks!

Saturday 28 July 2012

Burl reviews Explosion! (1969)

Good day, eh! It’s Burl! I’m here to review a picture that’s as Canadian as apple pie, and twice as sweet! It’s called Explosion, and I should clarify right off the top that we’re talking about a mental explosion here, not a big old flaming fireball! There’s a little bit of mayhem in the picture, but no explosions of the usual sort!
The movie was made during the Vietnam War times, so that conflict figures in heavily! It seems that, somewhere down in America, a Very Sensitive Lad named Alan, played by Gordon Thomson from Starship Invasions, is slowly going mentyl! His beloved older brother Peter (played by Robin Ward from Dr. Frankenstein on Campus) has been sent off to war by the browbeating of their nasty father, and it was there Peter was killed by the ‘Cong! So Alan does what Peter had planned to do, which was run off to Canada and join a commune!
There he meets Ritchie, another draft dodger, and they become unlikely pals in the mold of Joe Buck and Ratso Rizzo! They have adventures in Vancouver and in increasingly bleak areas around Vancouver! But Alan, who is extremely highly strung and speaks in a girlish voice that seems forever about to crack into total hysteria, has a nasty habit of imagining people are actually his father, then killing them! His psychiatrist, played by Richard Conte, is hot on his trail just like Dr. Loomis in Halloween, warning everyone who will listen that Alan is on the verge of a complete Explosion!
It all comes to a climax high in the mountains of B.C., where Alan descends fully into hallucinogenic mania! He’s surrounded by Mounties, but believes himself to be in Vietnam fighting the very same ‘Cong that killed his brother! Well, needless to say, the ending is a bit on the tragic side, involving flying bullets and a weeping Stroud!
Alan is a pretty funny character, with his plummy Lord Fauntleroy diction and his turtleneck sweaters! His pal Ritchie is played by the great Don Stroud, whom we know from The Amityville Horror and Death Weekend and Armed and Dangerous! His performance is kind of heartbreaking! It’s nice to see Richard Conte in a role that doesn’t require him to be a soldier, a cop or a gangster, though he’s good at playing all those parts! Remember him in The Big Combo? Ha ha, that was a terrifying performance!
It’s a strange picture, this one, though it looks pretty good, with its moody photography from Joseph Brun, who shot the great caper picture Odds Against Tomorrow! It’s got some ludicrous folk songs in it and a lot of very funny scenes, like when Alan and Ritchie get into a fight in the woods and a live-action Elmer Fudd ambles by and breaks it up!
But it’s ultimately just a dewberry, a Wet William that doesn’t deliver on whatever muddled themes it’s got rattling around in its head! Anti-war? Ha ha, what a bold stance! Perhaps it’s a plea for greater compassion and care towards the mentally unstable! The expression of chagrin on Richard Conte’s face as his patient is gunned down would seem to indicate so, but there’s not much else to go on!
I did enjoy the movie though! It has a certain bleak ambiance that I enjoyed, even though I usually don’t like to watch winter-set movies in the summer! I think I just enjoyed the desperately uncool earnestness with which it goes about its business, and of course I did like the performances from Conte and Stroud! I liked the attempts at au-courant elliptical editing, and the scenes of Alan bucksawing logs in his sweater and Hush Puppies! I give Explosion two blisters the size of quarters and urge you to seek out and watch this rare and cloudy gem!

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Burl reviews Stand By Me! (1986)

Ha ha, hi, it’s me, Burl! Yeah, you bet your fur it’s me! I’m here to review an old favourite of mine, a picture that, when it came out back in the summer of 1986, I hastily placed on my Top Ten list of all-time greats! The movie is Stand By Me, and though it’s long since been supplanted by many movies I much prefer, I still have a soft spot for this geezer classic!
Of course it’s based on a Stephen King story called “The Body,” but they changed the title so people wouldn’t be fooled into thinking this was a spookshow! And of course it certainly is anything but! It’s a warm-hearted late-summer snapshot of youth in days gone by, a story of how your friends can be a bunch of goofs, but they’re still your friends!
Yes, the story itself is very familiar: a group of youths played by Wil Wheaton (of The Curse), River Phoenix (of Explorers), Corey Feldman (of Friday the 13th The Final Chapter) and Jerry O’Connell (from Mission to Mars) hear about the body of a dead kid being found near the railway tracks, and embark upon a hiking mission to go check it out! Their trek is complicated by such obstacles as a testes-obsessed junkyard dog, some leeches and a group of older bullies featuring Kiefer Sutherland from Max Dugan Returns and Casey Siemaszko from Secret Admirer!
Anyway, the movie is mostly about the memories of small-town childhood in the late 1950s, and there’s a soundtrack of the goofy pop songs that were beloved at the time, tunes like “Rockin’ Robin” and “Lollipop!” Ha ha! And the lads talk of Goofy and of Lemure and of who would win, Superman or Mighty Mouse! There’s an elegiac, late-summer vibe that suits the themes to a T, and that is probably why I, a melancholy-prone youth on the cusp of leaving behind my own childhood when I first saw the film, embraced it so whole-heartedly! I still feel wistful when I hear the late, great Jack Nitzsche’s adaptation of the title tune, which plays on the soundtrack as the boys tromp homeward!
The lads are all good in their roles, particularly River Phoenix as Chris and Jerry O’Connell as Vern Tessio! Wil Wheaton is okay, but I always wondered where the second L in his name got to! And Corey Feldman, of the famed Two Coreys, doesn’t come across quite as crazy as Teddy Duchamp is supposed to be, but he’s still not too bad! The rest of the cast is good too, with Richard “Jaws” Dreyfuss as the Stephen King simulacrum, Marshall “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2” Bell as the sensitive kid’s one-note dad, and a special appearance by John “Grandview U.S.A.” Cusack! The movie looks good and is directed with simplicity and restraint by Meathead! Altogether I’ll give this pleasant concoction a ringing three Cherry Pezzes!

Monday 23 July 2012

Burl reviews The Boogey Man! (1980)

Hodely-hodely, it’s Burl here! Yes, here to review another movie, this time a spookshow from the early 1980s called The Boogey Man! This was a movie that always stood out in the horror section of the video store because of its evocative box art and (for a youngster) scary title! It was made by Ulli Lommel, the same fellow who later brought us The Devonsville Terror, which is not a well-loved movie, but, to me anyway, has a certain something that raises it above the typical bad, boring horror movie!
Does The Boogey Man manage the same trick? Well, in part it does! It manages to mill its Poverty Row budget into a certain amount of regional charm, and though it’s never as scary as the poster and title promise, it has an earthiness about it that I like! And the region in which the picture is set, namely the shores of Chesapeake Bay, is not one I’ve seen used before in such a picture – it reminded me a little bit of the Long Island Sound shores seen in the early Amityville Horror movies!
The story is a little different than the usual sort of thing as well, which is nice! It seems that twenty years ago, Lacey and her brother Willie saw their mother making love to a man in a panty-hose! Ha ha, he had the panty-hose on his face, I mean! Anyway, he gets the chop, and the whole thing is witnessed by an ugly mirror! Twenty years later Lacey and her Wonder Bread of a husband live on a farm with her grandparents and Willie, who is now a mute! Lacey starts having flashbacks to That Night, and her psychiatrist, John Carradine (whom we know and love from Satan’s Cheerleaders of course!) advises her to visit the house where it all happened! Well, the mirror gets broken by a chair-wielding Lacey, and then evil things start to befall random teenagers!
Ha ha, those are the good parts, really! One teenager, a fellow wearing a Triumph shirt, gets a poke through the neck! Another one runs afoul of a scissors, and, as in The House on Tombstone Hill, an annoying youth learns the mortal dangers of leaning in through a sash window! It all wraps up back at the farm with some pitchfork impalings and a touch of possession, and these climactic scenes reminded me how much I like it when movie characters in some horrific situation have to run from the house to the barn and back and forth again! Here are some movies with scenes like this: Critters, Deadly Blessing, The Strangers, Blood Massacre and Friday the 13th part III! There are probably more, but that’s all I can think of for now!
On the debit side, The Boogey Man is a pretty lame movie that makes very little of its interesting concept! Ulli Lommell may have worked for Fassbinder in his younger days, but that didn’t stop him from making some pretty bad movies! I’m going to give this one one and a half lazy susan hiding spots!

Sunday 22 July 2012

Burl reviews Satan's Cheerleaders! (1977)

Let banners wave, let flags unfurl, who’s on the scene, it’s Burl, Burl, Burl! Ha ha, I’m here to review another movie for you, just like you like me to do, I hope! This one is called Satan’s Cheerleaders, and it was directed by Graydon Clark,  the same fellow who brought us Without Warning and other fine classic films of that ilk! With people like Jack Palance, Martin Landau, Joe Don Baker and John Carradine appearing in his films, it’s safe to say that Mr. Clark has casting skills on the level of Fred Olen Ray! Ha ha! He’s got Carradine and Yvonne De Carlo and John Ireland and Jack Kruschen in this one, so it stacks up pretty well!
Aside from the cast, there are other qualities which stand out in this particular movie! When you appreciate genres and microgenres as purely and specifically as I do, you come to appreciate those films which try to put a foot in more than one genre at once, and Satan’s Cheerleaders is certainly one of these films! It starts out very like The Pom Pom Girls or some other 70s cheerleader spectacular, and at about the halfway mark turns into one of the many satanic movies from that same decade, like The Devil’s Rain or Race With the Devil or The Brotherhood of Satan!
It’s well balanced in its genre-sharing, but of course it’s not as good a cheerleader picture as those Crown International movies or the other similar pictures of the period, and it’s not in the league of those devil movies I mentioned earlier either! But that’s okay, because it’s a special thing all its own!
It seems there are a number of cheerleaders at Baker High, and they’re just as self-centered and mean a bunch as you might ever want to meet! They're pretty nasty to just about everyone! They have a ditzy spin case of a coach and stay pretty busy entertaining the members of the football team! They also tease and make fun of their stammer-prone school janitor, Billy, played by Jack "The War of the Worlds" Kruschen in rhinestone spangles! Billy is a peeping tom, of course, as all such janitors are, but he’s also a Satanist associated with Sheriff John Ireland’s coven!
This group is like a country cuzzin coven to the erudite globetrotters of Rosemary’s Baby, though their devilish mission is less specific! But when the four cheerleaders and the coach fall into their hands, it gains a little focus: it’s virgin sacrifice time! Naturally there’s a snag: these are cheerleaders of the 1970s, so their maidenheads are decidedly on the ragged side! However there is one lady of unexampled purity in the group – ha ha, or there would be, if only that darn sheriff weren’t such a loose-trousered scoundrel! Oh oh, the devil isn't going to like this!
The picture was shot by Dean Cundey, the portly cinematographer of Halloween, Halloween III and Roller Boogie, but it’s not a particularly good-looking movie! It’s okay, but it doesn’t demonstrate the usual eye-pleasing sheen of this talented cameraman! The movie is a bit clunky all around, and suffers also from an underuse of Carradine, who plays a troubling bum with only two scenes! It was apparently rated PG, though there’s some nudity and a violent scene in which Jack Kruschen gets rolled down a hill! And there’s some pretty bad acting from the cheerleaders, the coach and the football players!
Altogether, given that Satan’s Cheerleaders doesn’t quite live up to the potential promised by its exploitation classic title, I’m going to have to give this particular wafer cake one and a half well-concealed peepholes!

Saturday 21 July 2012

Burl reviews If You Don't Stop It... You'll Go Blind!!! (1975)

Ha ha, do you like ribald jokes? Do you enjoy funny stories involving ladies with no clothes on? Do you enjoy outrageous arcana of the 1970s? Then you may very well want to see If You Don’t Stop It… You’ll Go Blind!!!
I remember seeing the video box cover to the sequel of this one way back when I was a youngster! It was called Can I Do It… ‘Till I Need Glasses?, and I was never quite sure what that title was supposed to mean! Well now, after all these years, I’ve put two and two together!
I’ve still never seen the sequel, but I can tell you about the first one! It’s a series of skits which dramatize sexual jokes through the ages! They’re enacted by a large cast of generally game actors, only two of whom I recognized: Patrick Wright and the famous Swedish bombshell Uschi Digard! Some of the skits are pretty funny, and some of them – the musical ones, generally – go on quite a bit longer than maybe they should! The skit involving Omar the Sex Machine and another one about a sexual awards show are two of the more overlong non-song segments! There’s lots of nudity, and it all wraps up with a song-and-dance number called “Don’t Fuck Around With Love!”
All of these gags are shot in rich low-budget style against sets which range from dime-store to rather impressive! There’s a little more production value to this thing than you might think, and the commitment to the premise is admirably followed through! Ha ha, the logistics of marshalling all those actors on a penny-poor budget must have been quite complex!
And speaking of the cast, I want to talk about Patrick Wright for just a moment! This rarely-mentioned thespian was a burly, hillbilly-looking fellow who somehow got a foot in the door of exploitation movies and did all the sleazeball parts you can imagine! He was in several Russ Meyer pictures, appeared in the seminal cheerleader picture The Cheerleaders, played Pa in Sassy Sue, took the role of Eduardo in The Amorous Adventures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, was the busy-fingered policeman in Revenge of the Cheerleaders, and showed up in films as diverse as Hollywood High, Track of the Moon Beast, Roller Boogie and Graduation Day! He often played a cop or a redneck of some description, and usually interacted with nude ladies! Ha ha, that's quite a career, and he was a good complement to the great George “Buck” Flower – hey, I wonder if they ever acted together in the same movie? They would have made a fantastic team, perhaps as two detectives solving erotic mysteries! Ha ha!
Anyway, it’s hard to properly critique a movie like If You Don’t Stop It… You’ll Go Blind!!!, so I’ll just say that you’ll either like it or you won’t, and I’ll award it two freshly-lacquered toilet seats!  

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Burl reviews Armed Response! (1986)

Ha ha, bang bang bang, it’s Burl! Yes, I’m here to review an action picture for you, but it’s not quite in the league which I refer to as Ridiculous Action! You remember this microgenre, I’m sure – movies like Deadly Prey, Young Warriors and Raw Force are all charter members! Today’s picture, Armed Response, dips a toe into that arena, but never wholeheartedly commits, despite it being a Fred Olen Ray movie! Ha ha, he’s the fellow who made Evil Toons after all, so when Fred is behind the camera, all bets are off!
The one thing you can usually be sure of in a Fred Olen Ray movie is a sterling cast of Hollywood timers both old and new! This one delivers in spades: we have David Carradine, Lee Van Cleef, Mako, Michael Berryman and the great Dick “Bucket of Blood” Miller! There are also such huckleberries as Laurene Landon from Roller Boogie, Ross Hagen from Night Creature, Bobbie Bresee from Mausoleum and Burr De Benning from The Incredible Melting Man! Wow, it hardly gets better than that! You may or may not like the Olen Ray touch (I’m middling on it myself), but you can’t argue with his casting!
Lee Van Cleef is the crusty paterfamilias of an entire brood of Vietnam vets! Carradine, his oldest boy, suffers from regular ‘Nam flashbacks in fact, which seem borrowed from some other, even cheaper movie! The other two sons are younger, and seem perhaps a little too young to have participated in that particular conflict, but oh well! Lee seem like the kind of dad who might have taken his twelve year old twins to Southeast Asia in his suitcase if he had to, just to give them a chance to gun down some people of Asian persuasion!
They get to do so as a family once again when trouble comes knocking in the form of a deal gone bad! It seems Mako wants a certain ugly little statue for some reason, and one of the Van Cleef sons has hooked up with a crooked partner to do a deal with Dick Miller to get it! I have to admit, if the details of this transaction were provided, I missed them somehow! Anyway, the crooked guy acts as crooked guys do, and the next thing you know Dick Miller is lying on the ground, his red crushed velour suit filled with bullet holes! Dick’s tall blonde partner is shot as well, and Number Three Son also catches a gutful of hot lead!
The Van Cleef family is not pleased about this, so they plan a response – ha ha, and I’ll bet you can guess what kind! The next thing you know, Number Two Son has fallen into Mako and Michael Berryman’s hands and receives the same needle treatment we saw in that Takashi Miike film Audition! Ha ha, iki iki iki! “Once again, the nefarious yellow man is torturing the good, righteous American,” says Mako, as though stating the movie’s theme!
It’s funny to see this level of Asian-o-phobia in a relatively modern movie! Ha ha, Mako might as well be Fu Man Chu the way he’s treated in the script! I guess Armed Response might make a good double feature with the similarly West vs. East action cheapie Steele Justice, but that might be a little too much brown-bashing for one night for a guy like ol’ Burl! Ha ha, I’m a peaceable sort who wishes we could all just get along!
Anyway, Armed Response has that great cast, and it’s got some pretty good car stunts and action bits too, but it’s also pretty conventionally plotted and slightly deficient in action! Well, I guess you can’t get it all! For Dick Miller alone I could give this a pretty high rating! I think I’ll temper my fandom for the nonce and award it an even two fearsome Berrymen!

Sunday 15 July 2012

Burl reviews City of the Living Dead! (1980)

Ah ah, ciao amici, qui é Burl! Yes, I’m here to review one of those pictures commonly referred to as a “Pastaland Chunkblower!” Of course Lucio Fulci was the master of these pictures, or one of the reigning masters anyway, and his movie City of the Living Dead was one of the grosser examples of that notoriously gross genre!
Ha ha, I first saw this picture years ago under the title Gates of Hell! I always thought of it as one of the lesser lights in the Italian-zombie-movies-released-on-video-by-Paragon group of films, but now I’m having to reconsider! (I guess I ought to see Dr. Butcher M.D. again before I fully commit to this opinion!) But I remember thinking there weren’t that many zombies in Gates of Hell/City of the Living Dead, and that the gore, which is what I was looking for in the movie, had kind of been replaced by the people vomiting up their intestinal tracts, which for me was not so much gore as just really grotesque and unsavory!
It certainly is those things, of course! But in re-watching the movie recently, I found it pretty gory in a conventional sense after all! The zombies’ favourite method of murder is to just grab you by the back of the head and rip your brain out! Ha ha, yuck! And of course there’s the famous drill press scene, which I guess is this movie’s version of the splinter through the eye from Zombie! How did they do it? I still can’t figure it out!
The story has more going on than the usual Italian zombie picture, too! It’s almost like a cross between the down-n’-dirty Zombie and my secret favourite of the bunch, the weird and great Zeder! (If you haven’t seen that one, you certainly should!) It’s as though, instead of taking the whole of Dawn of the Dead as inspiration, they took just the spooky scene where Peter tells of his grandfather’s playful motto: “When there’s no more room in Hell, ha ha, the dead will walk the earth!”
In a nutshell, the story is this: A priest hangs himself in the graveyard of Dunwich, New England! Who knows why, but in doing so he manages to open the gates of hell! Next thing you know, barflies are being terrorized and an unholy ruckus spreads across town! The priest can appear and disappear wherever he likes! A harmless oddball is drill-pressed! And a psychic who almost got buried alive (a great sequence!) joins forces with Christopher George (famed from his role in Mortuary!) to investigate the happenings in Dunwich! And then what happens?
Well, many brains will be ripped out, that’s all I can tell you! And the zombies are actually kind of scary, which usually isn’t the case in these films! On the other hand, none of it makes much sense (which usually is the case in these films, ha ha!), and while it’s all attractively photographed in that low-budget Italian manner, it seems to end prematurely, before the concept has had time to mature and flower to its true potential!
I remain impressed by the movie’s commitment to disgustingness! Even in the small scenes that have nothing to do with anything, this tendency displays itself! I enjoyed it when a cop discovers a lump of putrid, unidentifiable stuff on the floor and says “Inspector! What the dickens is this?” Ha ha, what the dickens indeed? On the basis of this and other such vignettes, I give City of the Living Dead two and a half near misses with the pickaxe!

Burl reviews Poltergeist II! (1986)

Ha ha, BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, ha ha! No, it’s just me, Burl, here to review a ghost picture! No, not Poltergeist, but Poltergeist II! Ha ha, that’s the one with the evil preacher, though maybe the third one, which I’ve never seen, has an evil preacher too! I guess I’ll find out someday, because the DVD of Poltergeist II that I have has the third one on the other side, but I’ve never watched it! Ha ha, the same thing goes for the Robocop movies – I have all three of them, but have never bothered with the third installment! It’s a Nancy Allen thing, maybe!
Anyway, if you remember the original Poltergeist, it concludes with the Freeling family fleeing their haunted house and ending up in a motel, where the first thing they do is roll the TV out the door! But in this second one we discover that the TV wasn’t the problem; it’s just that ghosts don’t like the Freelings! Now they’re living with Granny in Arizona, and what do you know, the supernatural is soon literally knocking at their door, aiming to start up their shenanigans once again! The evil preacher is played by Living Theatre co-founder Julian Beck, and he’s the best, creepiest thing in the whole picture by a very long shot!
Other guest stars include Will Sampson from The Outlaw Josey Wales as the mystical Aboriginal gentleman, and the return of the diminutive ghost whisperer Tangina, whose performances in these movies always have me half suspecting it’s meant as some sort of joke or put-on! Ha ha, people talk about a curse on the Poltergeist movies because so many of the actors passed on before their time, but I think Tangina is the real curse! (Ha ha, the dying actors thing doesn’t seem like a curse so much as just a sad turn of events, and calling it a curse doesn’t really show much respect to the poor dead actors!)
Many strange things occur! For one thing, Granny sports a distinctly un-Arizona accent! Then the young boy’s braces run amok for some reason; and the little girl, who barely looks older than she did in the first movie even though this one was made four years later, is kidnapped by spooks once again! Also, the dad becomes a possessed Bad Dad for about five minutes: a little tip of the hat to The Shining, I suppose! There are some mildly Lovecraftian creatures in the mix, and I appreciated those! I liked the monster mezcal worm too!
It’s pretty amazing how much this family drinks, by the way! The dad is always slugging on his bottle of mezcal, and that stuff is pretty potent! The mom, on the other hand, likes her Jack Daniels, which she sips casually in the afternoons as though it were tea! Well, when ghosts are on the attack, maybe it’s best to counterattack with some spirits of your own, ha ha!
The dad is a bit of a numbskull in this one, playing the part of the skeptic once again despite all that happened to him before! Well, he never struck me as too smart a guy, and the actor who plays him is even dumber, I think! Ha ha, that guy was on some kind of right-wing talk show not too long ago, telling all the poor people out there that they should simply pull up their bootstraps and not expect any handouts from the government or anybody! After all, he says, in his younger days he was on welfare and food stamps, and no one ever helped him! Ha ha! That welfare and food stamps was the help, you tetherball, and was the reason you survived long enough to become the Coach!
Well, sorry for my little rant – Craig T. Nelson may be a bit of a blockhead, but his performance in this picture is pretty good, if you like ham! The stuff involving the preacher's back story is pretty creepy, and nicely anti-clerical to boot! Too bad the movie wraps up with a bunch of bunkum and honeydew on the so-called Other Side, with the family rescued by a combination of their great love for one another and a surprise granny ex machina! It’s a really so-so movie, and gets even sillier than you might imagine! There's no finality to the conclusion of this one either, and after all the random, goofy, pointless Freeling torment, it's got a wet cruickshank for an ending! I give Poltergeist II one and a half Freaky Freelings, and that's mostly for Julian Beck, who died as the movie was still being made! Too bad, he could have had all the great horror roles he wanted after this one!

(Ha ha, an extra note: do those fade marks on the movie poster look like skeleton hands reaching out of the darkness for that little girl to anyone else? They do to me! Ha ha, creepy!)

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Burl reviews No Small Affair! (1984)

Hi, Burl here to have a look at another one of those 80s teen comedy romance pictures that the major studios churned out in an effort to emulate John Hughes and other such gurus of youth! Ha ha, this one, No Small Affair, reminds me a bit of Secret Admirer in that way, except, in order to cast its net still wider, it includes a dash of irrelevant nudity!
No Small Affair features that rascally ducktailed scamp Jon Cryer, the poor man’s Broderick some say, and well-known to all as the star of pictures like Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home and Heads! And here he is in a movie from the director of Panic in Needle Park, and shot by the venerable cinematographer of McCabe and Mrs. Miller! Ha ha, he must have felt he was in the big time and no mistake! It wasn’t all downhill for him from here by any means – Pretty in Pink was still two years in the future, after all – but rarely or never again would he headline a studio picture like this, much less with Demi Moore as his co-star!
Cryer plays a perpetually sarcastic poor little rich boy who styles himself a photographer and attempts to back up this dubious self-designation by taking snaps of everything he sees! His mother is a purse-mouthed hag, a refugee from the Golden Girls who is making sweet love every day to Jeffrey Tambor, who in turn gets several shirtless scenes! But Cryer is out one day wildly snapping his shutter this way and that when he happens to catch a photo of Moore, who is having a dreadful argument with her boyfriend! Well, when he develops the picture and sees her face, he gets hearts in his eyes and begins the pursuit!
From here the young Cryer has to dodge the owner of the club in which the manly-voiced Moore sings her bone-scrapingly awful rock songs, and this portly fellow is played by Norm from Cheers! But here Norm is not quite as jolly as we’re used to him being, and he also grabs Moore’s bum at one point! Ha ha, Norm would never do that in Cheers, I don’t think! But the shutterbug uses all the talents at his disposal to find Moore, attract her attention and then capture her heart! And all the while he has to deal with the upcoming marriage of his noogoodnik brother to E.G. Dailey – no Pee-Wee, he! – as well as the ridicule of his frienemy Tim Robbins and the erotic attractions of Jennifer Tilly in nerd drag! (Ha ha, he romanced Jennifer Tilly in Heads also, if I recall correctly, that lucky duck!) So there’s some pretty typical 80s movie chaos! But it’s all kind of sluggish for a supposed comedy, and given the pedigree of the director and cameraman, one can’t help but feel it was pretty phoned-in by these guys! The scriptwriters too were on autopilot from the looks of it, as all the bases are hit with paint-by-numbers accuracy! There are some nice San Francisco locations and the supporting cast is pretty good, but it’s a little more drab and sluggish than it really needs to be! There are some okay moments, but ol’ Burl has seen better! I give No Small Affair one and a half pictures of flies!

Monday 2 July 2012

Burl reviews Jaws! (1975)

Doo-doo! Doo-doo! Dum-dum-dum-dum, dum-dum-dum-dum, dootle-dee! Ha ha, no, don’t worry, it’s not Jaws, just me, Burl, swimming up alongside of you here in the sea! Yes, I’m here to review Jaws for you, a very special movie and the best one Steven Spielberg ever made!
I saw Jaws at the neighbourhood theatre when I was just a tiny sprout! Ha ha, I was probably much, much too young to be taken to such a picture, but thank goodness I had liberal-minded, easy-going parents! It was a formative experience, one I still remember very well! I particularly recall being terrified when Ben Gardner’s worm-ridden head came rolling out of that boat hull, and shocked and amazed at the fountain of blood spouting up from poor Alex Kintner’s torso! On the way home from the movie we stopped at a neighbour’s house and my dad told him we’d just been to see Jaws! The neighbour, a real card, asked me if I wanted to come to his cabin and swim at his lake! I got excited and said sure! But he was only joking, I guess!
Clearly I don’t feel any great need to review this particular movie in the accepted sense, as everyone has seen it and there have been many thousands of words written about it! I’ll summarize it for the one guy who maybe hasn’t seen it, though: a Great White shark puts a biting on people off the shores of a small island community, and it’s up to the local police chief,  a crusty sea captain, and a young ichthyologist to go out and hunt up this terrifying predator before he can munch down on anyone else!
Those are the broad details, but by now I’ve seen this picture so many times that it’s more a collection of small pleasures for me now! I love the beachtown atmosphere of the first half, even including the cheeseb*ll mayor and his anchor-patterned sportsjacket! I really like Chief Brody’s reading area, his little desk in the windowed corner of his house with the great view of the sea and the evening sky! I like the visual motif of the snow fencing that seems to be everywhere on the island! I greatly appreciate the pants on the young lady who is painting and spots Jaws going into the estuary for a quick meal!
Ha ha, I like the excellent prosthetic limbs they use for Jaws's victims! I like the shot of Pippet’s stick floating in the water, though of course I was sad about Pippet himself! I like the way doomed Ben Gardner helps Richard Dreyfuss from the boat and says “Hello! young feller.” I like Captain Quint’s silent little old buddy who follows him around!
Of course I like the Indianapolis scene, but then so does everyone! I like the way Chief Brody doesn’t participate in the scar-off, but glances down at his own torso, perhaps recalling a bullet or knife wound he’d suffered in the course of police duty! I like the animated barrel lights and meteors seen periodically through the second half! I like the call of the whale!
I like most of the performances, even that of Bad Hat Harry! (I wasn’t so hot on Brody’s wife’s performance though, but it’s not terrible I guess!) I do wish Spielberg had found a part for Dick Miller, perhaps as the sea captain (though Robert Shaw is excellent) or the mayor (ditto Murray Hamilton), but we’ll always have Miller’s performance in Piranha, so that’s okay!
And there’s a lot more pleasure where that came from! I could watch this movie many more times, and I probably will! And I’ll very likely show it to my own son at some vastly inappropriate age! I give Jaws four panics on our hands on the Fourth of July!