Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Burl reviews Psycho! (1960)

Ree-ree-ree-ree, from behind the shower curtain, it’s Mother! Ha ha, no, it’s actually just me, Burl! I’ll let you get a robe or a towel on, and then I’ll continue with my review of the fine Alfred Hitchcock picture Psycho! It’s a movie I first saw on that fateful evening many years ago when my friend Scott and I tried walking up the beach to a nearby town where Blood Beach was playing in the theatre! We didn’t make it – it was much too far, as it turned out – so we ended up watching Psycho on TV!
Ha ha, there’s not much point in reviewing such a picture in the traditional manner! We all know the plot, and we all know how gosh-darn good the movie is! I wouldn’t be the first one to suggest that possibly the coda, in which a glib psychiatrist played by Simon Oakland tries to explain Norman’s illness, was an ill-advised addition, and that the movie should have ended a little more suddenly to maintain its shocking mood in the post-viewing moments!
Nor will I be the first, ha ha, to express admiration for Anthony Perkins’ magnificent performance in the role of the looneyman Norman Bates! All the other performances are good too, from Janet Leigh to Martin Balsam to everyone else! Even that cop and the used car salesman are pretty solid! But Perkins is the movie’s legitimate great performance, and one of the best Hitchcock ever got out of an actor! And I certainly wouldn’t be the first to mention that before Psycho, the movies (Hollywood ones, anyway) had never before shown a toilet flushing on screen!
It occurred to me for the first time when I watched the movie most recently (I’ve seen it many times, ha ha!) how downright scary Janet Leigh’s situation is! She’s there in that motel, all by herself, with a raging madman stalking around outside in a stringy wig and an ugly dress! And you’ll say, “Ha ha, but of course, Burl, that’s the movie, isn’t it?” Sure, but have you ever taken a step back and thought about it in a realistic sort of a way? It’s terrifying!
My goodness, I’d love to go back in time and sit in on a screening of the picture with a big audience! They must have freaked out, especially of course during the shower scene! And I wonder how many people screamed when Mrs. Bates spun around in her chair, or gasped in amazement when the killer’s wig came off, in that marvelous penultimate scene! And then of course I’d sit around with Hitch and chat with him for a while about his career, and about new suspense stories he could film!
The old cliché about some movies just getting better and better each time you see it certainly applies to Psycho! It has more re-watching value even than that other fine Hitchcock picture Rear Window! I award it four unbelievably deep impressions in the bed!

Saturday 13 October 2012

Burl reviews Rear Window! (1954)

Hel-lo, it is I, Burl! Yes, I’m here to review an Alfred Hitchcock picture for you today, an old favourite of mine called Rear Window! Ha ha, when I was fifteen or so, I remember making a list of my all-time favourite movies! That list has changed since then, but I remember that The Wild Bunch was on there (and might still be), and also Stand By Me, which is still a pretty good movie, but nowhere near that list now; and of course Rear Window!
Well, now, ha ha, I can think of almost a half-dozen Hitchcock pictures alone that I think are better, but it’s still a movie I think is really wonderful! Of course you all know the story: Jimmy "Thunder Bay" Stewart, an action-man photographer, has broken his leg and is recuperating in his Greenwich Village apartment during a summer heat wave; he comes to believe that his grumpy neighbour across the courtyard, Raymond Burr, well-known from his role in Gorilla At Large, has murdered his wife! As best he can from the confines of his wheelchair, and with the help of girlfriend Grace Kelly and nurse Thelma Ritter, Stewart attempts to find the proof he needs to send Burr where Burr, as Perry Mason, has sent, or will have sent, so many others: down the river!
The movie all takes place in Stewart’s apartment of course: we are trapped there as much as he! Through his binoculars and telephoto lenses, we get an amusing and enormous look at the rich pageant of life across the courtyard: not just bickering and murder, but newlywed romance, desperate loneliness, creative apotheosis, straight-up sexiness, sculpting, and sleeping on the fire escape!
There’s a subplot about whether or not action-man Stewart can settle down enough to marry his socialite gal-pal, but this is just to add a little human interest or something! I found those parts a bit tiresome, and Stewart’s character comes off as a bit of a jerk during them! (I guess making Jimmy Stewart seem like a jerk is just another example of Hitchcock’s uncanny directorial powers, ha ha!) But the movie is so great in just about every other aspect that it was easy to endure!
No, it’s not my favourite Alfred Hitchcock picture (but what is: Psycho? Vertigo? Shadow of a Doubt? Strangers on a Train? All contenders!), but it’s close, and when you put together the great acting, the marvelous suspense, the hothouse atmosphere, the huge and wonderful set, the gorgeous photography and the purely cine-psychological conceit of it all, Rear Window easily earns three and a half smashed cameras, and I’m not sure it doesn’t deserve more! It’s a great movie!

Burl reviews The Demon Lover! (1977)

Heh-heh-heh, it’s Burl! I’m here to review another movie for you, this time a regional obscurity of some small infamy entitled The Demon Lover! It’s known also as The Devil Master, but Demon Lover is the title it was made under, and the title under which I first saw it years ago, and so that’s what I’ll call it!
I remember having a little mini film festival with my friends when we were in junior high school! The unintentional theme was “funny main character names!” That night we watched Don Dohler’s Night Beast, with its main character Sheriff Jack Cinder; Taxi Driver, featuring of course Travis Bickle, alias Henry Krinkle; another movie I’ve forgotten; and, finally, The Demon Lover, with its fearsome blonde bad guy Laval Blessing, played by Christmas Robbins, aka co-director Jerry Younkins! Ha ha, enough funny names for everyone!
It was many years before I got a chance to see this picture again! I was encouraged to because I’d heard about Demon Lover Diary, a marvelous documentary made about the production of this low-budget picture; and also I read the compelling rave review of the movie itself from my pal Bleeding Skull! Well, I’m glad I tracked it down, because in many ways The Demon Lover is, alongside the best of Dohler and Rebane, the ideal Midwestern regional horror picture!
Like every good example of same, this was shot in the autumn months, so it has that grim, bleak, über-70s atmosphere that brings me back to my early childhood! Ha ha, if ever there was a decade that actually was shot on grainy 16mm colour stock, the 1970s was it! And this movie is such a product of its time that, watching it today, it almost feels like the incantations Laval Blessing intones are not so much going to raise any demons as open a vortex to fly back forty years into a land of plaid pants and walnut siding!
Laval is a burly guy with long blond locks and a big beard, and he runs an ad-hoc little devil cult out of his so-called castle in deepest Michigan! Ha ha, his mistake is in recruiting bored seventies people for his coven, and pretty soon they get fed up with Laval’s horndogmatic ways and split the scene! But, between bouts at his karate dojo (at which the diabolist gets his bum kicked) and a random bar brawl (at which he kicks the bums of others), Laval conjures up a shaggy, resentful demon creature to help get revenge against his ex-acolytes for their lack of devotion!
Things get pretty bloody, I have to say! And, in fact, the violence is so raggedy and drawn-out and painful-looking that it’s rather unsettling! In its sporadic moments of completely unexpected effectiveness, the picture reminded me of Satan’s Black Wedding; in the strangely disturbing resonance of its violence, it echoes (or rather, is echoed by) the loopy Bigfoot picture Night of the Demon!
It’s a picture that was made by more or less talentless amateurs (talented amateurs in the same region, using similar resources, made The Evil Dead, just as a point of comparison), whose sheer commitment to the project resulted in a movie that is almost accidentally good! But you can’t really call it good: the script, acting and direction are uniformly terrible, and the trick effects, by future trick effect heavyweights the Skotak brothers, are pretty lousy!
But it’s got a certain something! Ha ha, I’m not going to deny that! It also has some very groovy fashions, a Frank Zappa lookalike, a midget man doing the boogaloo, a nude lady, lines of dialogue like “If it’s no hassle, let’s go into the castle,” a Gunnar Hansen cameo, an indoor lovemaking tent, and a scene where a man is shot in the croscharea by a crossbow and spends the next ten minutes writhing on the floor, screaming in pain! Ha ha, yikes!
For all this and its rough regional atmosphere, I’m going to give The Demon Lover two and a half whipping cream fights, and recommend that you try to get your hands on a copy this Halloween season!

Friday 12 October 2012

Burl reviews Vamp! (1986)

Bluh bluh, it’s Burl! Yes, I’m here to review a vampire picture today, Vamp, and it’s one that doesn’t get talked about all that much! I discovered the movie on video, and it was one of those pictures that I considered at the time to be incredibly stylish, and the (considerable) entertainment value of which arose directly from that style! But just to give you some perspective, other movies I felt that way about included Fandango and Three O’ Clock High!
These were not my favourite movies or anything, but I enjoyed them! And when I watched Vamp again very recently, I still enjoyed it, and once again wondered why it didn’t become a bigger sensation! The style is pretty sophomoric, with red and green gels, canted angles and overhead shots getting plenty of play! But it still has a genuinely cinematic energy that I find compelling! Plus it has a decent soundtrack, including a song by Concrete Blonde, whose music was all over the place in those days, livening up pictures like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and The Hidden!
The story is pretty simple: three college fellows are tasked by the fraternity they hope to join to procure a stripper for a big frat party! It’s a similar starting point to that fine fellow 80s horror-comedy, Night of the Creeps! The lads are played by Chris Makepeace from Meatballs, Robert Rusler from A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and Weird Science (he plays pretty much the same character in all three of these pictures, ha ha!) and Gedde Watanabe from Sixteen Candles and Gremlins 2: The New Batch! They end up at a peeler bar run by none other than Grace Jones, and from there it’s vampire antics all the night long!
I recall Vamp getting compared to Fright Night a lot at the time, and I guess that’s fair! But it’s also quite a bit like After Hours, the fine Scorsese picture about one man’s scary night in the big city – in other words, it’s an example of what Roger Ebert (I think!) calls the One-Damn-Thing-After-Another movie! Poor old Makepeace is nearly eaten by an elevator, chomps on a cock-a-roach, has his lifestyle shirt assaulted, faces down a nefarious albino, and his best pal is turned into a vampire! Also, he’s involved in an incredible car spinout, which is one of the best parts of the picture!
The acting is pretty good all around, and Grace Jones is a particular standout, even though she doesn’t have a lot to do! But she does a (ha ha) BURL-esque dance in paint-makeup designed by Keith Haring himself (who also made a chair for the scene), and also has a pretty sexy scene with the smarmy, oft-doomed Rusler! There’s a little bit of blood and gore in this scene, and one or two others, which livens the movie up still further! Her vampire meltdown at the end is a little on the budget side of things, especially when compared to something like Fright Night, but it serves the purpose pretty well!
Vamp is not a movie I can defend with logical arguments or eloquent verbiage! It’s just a little, neglected movie that I used to enjoy most heartily, and which I’m glad I now own the DVD of! I was happy to watch it again, and I’m going to give it two and a half flying little girl vampires!

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Burl reviews Friday the 13th part 2! (1981)

Chuff-chuff-chuff, pah-pah-pah, it’s Burl here again with yet another Friday the 13th movie review, part 2 this time! Ha ha, it just seems like the season for these things, though I have to admit, whenever I watch one, I do tend to think to myself “Ha ha, why on earth am I wasting precious time watching this silly movie?” I watch much worse pictures and don’t have thoughts like that, but there’s just something so calculated and disposable about these movies, which, when you add the fact that they’re pretty terrible, engenders these soul-crushing bafflements!

But I’m still drawn to the things for some reason, as are many others – you perhaps included – so we must accept our lot and make what we can of it! As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, for parts 4 and 6 for instance, as with the Star Trek pictures, I tend to prefer the even numbered installments of this particular series! The first Friday the 13th has never done much for me, anyway! So what’s to prefer about part 2? Ha ha, it’s exactly the same story, except instead of Silly Steve Christie trying to reopen Camp Crystal Lake, it’s Upstanding Paul trying to open some sort of councilor training center at another abandoned camp right next door, and also on Crystal Lake!

It makes no sense, but it’s a clever way of skirting the issue that dogs these summer camp maniac movies, which is to say, how do you deal with all the kids running around? Anyway, of course the main difference between the two pictures, and the only difference required, many would say, is that it’s no longer Jason’s mother doing the poking, but Jason himself! He ties up a little unfinished personal business by jabbing the lady from the last one with an ice pick, and then it’s off to the councilor training center!

His first victim once he arrives is none other than Crazy Ralph, which I think is unfortunate! And I’m not the only one! I saw this movie on a midnight double feature with the first one sometime in the 1990s, and a fellow stood up after Ralph’s demise and said, and I quote precisely, “I love Crazy Ralph and will miss him like a brother!” Ha ha, there was respectful, empathetic applause from the whole rest of the audience, including myself!
I like the hero lady in this one – maybe that’s why I like the picture more than I should! There’s nothing special about her really, but she’s pretty, and I think I probably had, and have, a bit of a crush on her! I also like that you get to see the inside of Jason’s house! He’s thrown together some corrugated metal and plywood, installed a few windows and a door, and furnished the inside with filthy rugs, several chairs and a little table, as though he expects one day to receive guests for tea! Ha ha! I l appreciate that little detail – it does more to humanize this mad killer than the psychological rationalizations for his murderous behaviour which are delivered by the drunken hero girl later on in a bar!

Of course most of the gore effects have to exist simply in your mind, since they were cut out by de facto censors before its original run! Consequently the picture is a little dry, but not entirely! There’s a pretty good machete-in-the-face gag, and some throat slittings and so forth! But the picture looks a lot better than the first one, which is a bit of a cheapie – this one has nice photography from a fellow named Peter Stein, who also of course shot C.H.U.D.!

Altogether it’s not terribly good, but it has a comfy-cozy attractiveness and a few funny details, and of course a very pretty lady! The ending is somewhat abstract, but I don’t mind that! When all is said and done, I give Friday the 13th part 2 two untubby jokesters!

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Burl reviews A Dangerous Method! (2011)

Hi, Burl here to review a movie about the early days of psychoanalysis! It’s a funny subject for a director like David "Fast Company" Cronenberg to tackle, but then again maybe not, for it seems these days that Cronenberg is willing to tackle just about anything! He always sort of has, I think, and that’s one of the reasons I rate him so highly as a director!
A Dangerous Method has two main, frequently intersecting stories: the building and subsequent dissolution of the personal and professional friendship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud; and the love affair between Jung and his spitfire patient, Sabina Spielrein! Ha ha, she enjoys nothing more than a sound spanking, and for this reason, in early 20th Century Switzerland, she is considered quite loony!
Jung, as played by the robot from Prometheus, Michael Fassbinder, is a chilly character indeed, perfectly suited to a David Cronenberg picture! Freud is played by Cronen-stalwart Viggo Mortensen, and I have to say I really liked his performance! All the acting was quite good, but old Viggo stood out, with the possible exception of his third-act pratfall! Ha ha, whoa, whoa, boom! And Kiera Knightly indulges in an awful lot of gurning as Spielrein, which may or may not be an accurate portrayal of mental annoyance, but sometimes threatens to jump the cliff into silly!
Ha ha, at times the movie seems a bit like a dumbed-down pop history lecture, and Cronenberg’s typically unflashy style doesn’t meld well with that! But in spite of this clash, or maybe because of it, the movie whips up a mighty strange atmosphere all its own, and any movie that can manage that gets a light shoulder punch from old Burl!
That’s something Cronenberg very often manages to do in his pictures, and another reason I’m such a big fan of his! Another nice thing about the picture is the shift in partisanship the viewer might experience! Entirely notwithstanding your loyalty to their respective psycho-philosophies, at the beginning of the picture Jung seems a reasonable chap, earnest and well-intentioned, and Freud something of a stodgy and self-congratulatory fuddy-duddy! By the end Jung is a crackpot and a jerk, and Freud a gentle, avuncular smoker of cigars! Ha ha, and by the time the curtain comes down, Sabina Spielrein, especially given the tragic end to her life, which is revealed to us by postscript titles, is entirely sympathetic, even if at the beginning of the picture she reminds you of an old girlfriend you’re well rid of! Ha ha!
It’s a bit of a Masterpiece Theatre slog here and there, but this is undercut by all sorts of sly Cronenbergianisms, more and more as the picture progresses, until it comes to seem quite subversive! It’s also decidedly uncommercial, another point in it’s favour! I give this potato three vicious cuts to the face!