Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Sunday 20 January 2013

Burl reviews Invasion From Inner Earth! (1976)

BURL HERE. WHAT IS YOUR LOCATION. Ha ha, yes, it’s me, Burl, and that was me doing my impersonation of the alien voice heard over the ham radio in the picture I’m reviewing for you today, Invasion From Inner Earth! It’s not likely that you’ve seen this one, but it’s my hope that this review will be read by a certain sort of person, that special sort of person, the kind of person who’ll be drawn to tracking the picture down, and, upon watching it, declare it “really something remarkable,” and themselves better for having seen it!
It’s a Bill Rebane picture, and for some folk that will be all they need to know! (Ha ha, I know the opening credits say it was directed by “Ito,” but trust me, this is a Rebane movie!) It was the first Rebane movie I ever saw, and it really made a mark! I saw it way back when VCRs were expensive and rare, and my pal Dave’s family had one, but nobody else in my circle did! So it was Dave’s job to tape all the interesting-sounding movies that played late at night, and then we would watch them the next day!
Invasion From Inner Earth was such a title, ha ha! We watched the whole thing, waiting for the part where the actual invasion would take place, but instead what we got was a crushing disappointment! It was just a bunch of people stuck in the woods of Northern Manitoba (though of course the picture was filmed in Wisconsin), talking about their predicament! We thought it was the most boring thing ever filmed, and the ending baffled us!
Recently I thought I ought to give the movie another chance! I’d seen several Rebane pictures in the interim, movies like The Demons of Ludlow, The Alpha Incident, and of course The Capture of Bigfoot! (I’ve still never made it all the way through The Cold, ha ha!) I was especially looking forward to the moment I remember where a drunken bearded fellow (played by Paul Bentzen from The Devonsville Terror) talks about “All the furry forest creatures” and then does a crazy “thpthpthpthp” thing with his lips!
Well, that moment was certainly there! And the movie was just as chat-heavy as I remember, but here’s the crucial difference: I wasn’t bored! At least, not very! The plot goes like this: a sister and brother who live way out in the snowy woods and run some sort of fishing lodge are hosting three scientific type guys who are conducting some sort of research! Meanwhile, panic has broken out in town, and drifts of red smoke are menacing the population! We also see two UFOs, one which looks like it’s been sculpted out of clay by Walter Paisley and another which appears to be two paper plates stapled together!
Well, pretty quickly our characters are cut off from civilization! They get warned away from landing their small plane by a lurching individual who’s got some kind of alien sickness, ha ha! They fly back to the lodge and talk about what might be going on, and occasionally a disaffected voice will come on over the radio and ask them their location! Ha ha, it’s clearly aliens! The aliens have some sort of red spotlight which can appear and do anything from travel across the walls to blow up model planes! Eventually the last two surviving people are transformed into loincloth-wearing children, who scamper off across a field!
I’ll wrap this review up, as it’s already as long as the movie itself! Invasion From Inner Earth is occasionally tedious, poorly conceived and suffers from all the usual low-budget pitfalls! On the other hand the snowy locations are great, some of the acting is not bad, and the movie is generously sprinkled with touches of the bizarre! I’m going to give Invasion From Inner Earth two radio DJs driven mad from loneliness – even though there’s only one in the movie, which is why he’s so lonely! Ha ha! And I give an extra ha ha to the VHS cover, which makes it look as though the U.S.S. Enterprise is behind it all!

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Burl reviews The Pom Pom Girls! (1976)

Hi, ha ha, it’s Burl here to review a cheerleader picture! There were lots of them through the 1970s, beginning in 1972 with The Cheerleaders, and in 1976 Crown International Pictures produced one called The Pom Pom Girls! This made four consecutive years in which major cheerleader pictures had been released – long enough for audiences to start taking the phenomenon for granted, ha ha! There was no reason to believe in those heady times that every year hence would not feature such benchmarks as birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving and a fabulous new cheerleader movie!
The Pom Pom Girls begins with the titular girls practicing their routines while clad in tiny 1976 bikinis! This opening promises much, but for a more accurate preview of what is to come, study the inter-cut shots of the foot-ball team practicing their own moves under the direction of a dictatorial coach! (The coach is an aggressive, sexually repressed, mean-spirited bible boy, and he’s a dead ringer for George Bush Jr. physically as well, ha ha!) The two key jocks are handsome Jesse, the class stickman, and crazed, goony Johnnie, well-known as the school maniac: a reckless daredevil prone to bursts of hysterical rage or childish petulance! Johnnie is played with great physical bravado by Robert Carradine, the youngest of the three Carradine brothers, Berzak himself from Number One With A Bullet, and who donned taped glasses in Revenge of the Nerds! In The Pom Pom Girls, he pulls off stunts which no doubt make him shudder when and if he recalls them today: climbing on the roof of a moving car, taking a garbage can to the head, motorcycle daredeviltry, being hit by a car and rolling painfully down some bleachers while wrestling Bill Adler from Malibu Beach! Jesse, meanwhile, is subjected to the sadistic, homoerotic whims of the deeply closeted coach, and makes time to mount a mutually antagonistic courtship with the gorgeous but straight-laced pom pom girl Laurie!
There are plenty of other terrific scenes of delightful insouciance in the film! A wordless food fight between Johnnie and his rival in romance Duane is punctuated by shots of the other students firing their straw wrappers into the ceiling! The four main characters run, roll and somersault down a vast sandy seaside slope as breezy So-Cal pop plays on the soundtrack! Tugs o’ war, dirt bike races, pep rallies and fun at the beach are scattered throughout the film for no better reason than to show these activities happening, ha ha!
But where in all this is the cheerleading, you might well ask? We don’t get to see the girls in uniform until almost an hour in, a sad state of affairs for a cheerleader movie! Instead of the big climactic football game, the movie’s wafer-thin dramatic spine leads to a game of “suicide chicken” between Johnnie and Duane! This brand of duello involves speeding towards a cliff edge, and the first guy to brake is the loser; Johnny, having been refreshed on the rules, remarks “Oh yeah, ha ha – I saw that in a movie!” But Rebel Without A Cause this film is not, and its goodtime vibe would hardly countenance a death, even that of a sourpuss bully dressed in full Wild One Brando kit!
If there is a single movie that Dazed and Confused is emulating, right down to the beer-swilling jock heroes and their hard-bottomed coach, The Pom Pom Girls is it! The PPG universe has its jerks, its monsters, its angst and pain, but like all these movies it somehow remains appealing and desirable nonetheless! Even Jesse, the duplicitous, monstrously immature and self-centred “hero,” fails to harsh the buzz! Pleasantries abound: the one football game we see – or almost see – turns into a violent donnybrook before the game is ten seconds old; one which is scored with jaunty lounge music and serenely observed by a pair of beatifically smiling stoner benchwarmers! Deep sadness, when it intrudes, is expressed by jogging along the beach at sunset to the sound of a drippy ballad! One can hardly fault Linklater for wanting to recreate this consequence-free world in his native Austin seventeen years later, nor for successfully imitating its basic plotlessness!
The Pom Pom Girls was a fitting close to the golden years of the cheerleader film, providing as it did a more or less seamless transition to the broader high school pictures of the late 70s! Post-Watergate cynicism was no longer as evident: antics ruled the day! Ha ha, I give The Pom Pom Girls two stolen fire trucks!

Friday 11 January 2013

Burl reviews Dead Heat! (1988)

Ha ha, let me be the first to say welcome! It’s Burl, here with a movie review for you, and today’s review is of a picture called Dead Heat! This was a movie that got a lot of coverage in the genre magazines when it was made, and then seemed to take forever to come out! And when it finally did, everyone realized that it wasn’t actually very good! Ha ha!
Yes, it was a part of the Mismatched Buddy-Cop subgenre of the 1980s – written, in fact, by the brother of the fellow who kicked it all off with his Lethal Weapon script! So in theory the picture has the right pedigree for this genre, and on top of that a fine wrinkle on the buddy cop formula! There had already been Black Cop/White Cop (Lethal Weapon, Number One With A Bullet, many more); and Human Cop/Alien Cop (Alien Nation, The Hidden); and of course Human Cop/Gnome Cop (A Gnome Gnamed Gnorm); and Dead Heat gives us Live Cop/Dead Cop!
“Treat” Williams plays a slick city cop called Roger Mortis, and his intolerable lout of a partner, whose name I forget, is played by none other than Joe Piscopo from Wise Guys! Certainly this muscled comedian puts a truly Piscopian spin on his character, resulting in one of the most grating and unpleasant cops ever seen on screen! Ha ha, he’s the one you wish would be dead, but in this movie that would only mean he’d become even more annoying! (The proof of this comes at the end of the picture, when Piscopo does die!)
But it’s “Treat” Williams who dies and is resurrected for twelve hours of investigation before he will disintegrate into goo! Together “Treat” and Joe uncover the mystery behind the series of jewel robberies by burglars who don’t fall down when they get shot! This leads them into a Chinese butcher shop run by a machine gun-toting Keye Luke (of Gremlins and Gremlins 2 fame), where all the foodstuffs come to life and attack the cops (who each get a sound beaking from angry duck heads); and then to a resurrection clinic for the rich run by super-elitist Vincent Price! Ha ha, and along the way, just about everyone bites the biscuit!
There are really two main virtues to this picture: the trick effects, which are generally quite good (there’s a three-faced mega-oaf that’s particularly effective!) and the supporting cast! Besides the great Price and Luke, we get Kolchak himself, Darren McGavin, and Robert “Matinee” Picardo, and of course Professor Toru Tanaka! Unfortunately we almost get the magnificent Dick Miller, well known from his role in The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood, but, as was the case for poor Dick in Pulp Fiction, his scenes hit the cutting room floor!
Apparently quite a lot of stuff was cut out of this movie, and I suppose it moves along at a pretty good pace, but it really seems to be missing some crucial animating spark! The script, frankly, is terrible, and many things make no sense at all! There’s plenty of gunfire and zombiefights (so much so that they become rather boring), and one or two bon mots, but Piscopo is so irritating, and the absence of a compensating Dick Miller so keenly felt, that I can’t in good conscience recommend the picture! I’m going to give Dead Heat one and a half Peking Duck heads!

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Burl reviews The Ward! (2010)

By crackee, it’s Burl here! Yes, I’m reviewing yet another movie for you today, and this time it’s John Carpenter’s long-awaited return to feature filmmaking, The Ward! Ha ha, I’ve taken my sweet time in catching up with this one, mainly because I’d read some reviews of it! But I believe firmly that Carpenter is one of the twentieth century’s fundamental cinematic intelligences, so the bottom line is that I’ll happily watch anything he makes! The Thing is one of my all-time favourite movies ever made, I’m a big supporter of Prince of Darkness, and you already know what I think of Christine and Halloween and The Fog!
I was excited to hear about The Ward, but then everybody was kind of ho-hum about it, and it came around at the same time as Wes Craven’s horror comeback, My Soul To Take, which also was considered ho-hum! Worse than ho-hum, actually – more like po-pum or even bo-bum, ha ha! But I finally decided to give it a look, and yes, I must report that this is not one of John Carpenter’s better movies! It’s not his worst either, though – it’s no Escape From L.A.!
For perhaps no better reason than to obviate the cell phone question and keep certain superannuated psychotherapies in play, the movie is set in 1966! You have to keep reminding yourself that it’s 1966 though, as the period detail is rather slipshod, or so it seemed to ol’ Burl! A young lady, Kristin, is burning down a house, and the next thing you know she’s been popped into a psych ward overseen by Jared Harris, who makes a sinister presence indeed, as he played Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows!
There are a number of other young ladies in the ward, all with their own special problems and personality quirks, and they’re all being stalked by the ghost of yet another young lady, a ghoulish creature named Alice! Alice performs a number of semi-gory murders before a third-act twist makes us tally up the movies we’ve seen before that had more or less the same twist!
Frankly, the whole movie is made up of what I hate to call clichés! I hate to call them that because I think that word is so overused and frequently misapplied as to be meaningless; but frankly this picture is like one of those Scary Movie things, but without the jokes! Everything in it seems to have been imported whole from somewhere else! It’s trying to be one of the classic Asian spookshows I guess, but as with Big Trouble in Little China (a movie I love!), Carpenter really can’t quite get the elements quite right when he tries to ape the Asians! Ha ha!
But the movie is not all bad! There are a few effective sequences, and a couple of the classic Carpenter jumpers! The performances are generally pretty good (these ladies are committed in more ways than one, ha ha!), and I have to admit that the ending, while itself a well-traveled path, undercuts the clichéd nature of some of the earlier clichés! Ha ha, do you see what I mean? I guess you’ll have to watch the picture to know for sure!
It’s not the Carpenter comeback I might have wished for, but it’s not the complete blight some have claimed, either! I’m going to give The Ward a rousing two repetitive escape/recapture scenes!

Sunday 6 January 2013

Burl reviews Django Unchained! (2012)

Yoplait, friends, it’s Burl here again with a movie review! It’s a newer movie: a Quentin Tarant*no picture called Django Unchained! Ha ha, it’s another high-camp genre story, and a bit of revisionist revenge history along the line of his previous picture, Inglourious Basterds!
This one starts with a meeting between Django, a slave in the antebellum South, and a German dentist/bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz! Dr. King deplores slavery in a very 21st century manner, and he frees Django post-haste and enlists him to help with his bounty hunting activities, as tooth-pulling and cavity-filling are things of the past for this Teutonic gunman, despite the big bobbling tooth atop his wagon! Pretty soon they’re on their way to Candieland, a plantation run by Leonardo DiCaprio, to rescue Django’s wife! Ha ha, there’s brutality galore, in both the form of horrible violence against the slaves, and cartoonish gunfights in which, as in Robocop, great geysers of blood and steak-sized chunks of meat come fountaining out of every bullet hole!
There are two countervailing impulses motivating this picture, I think! Tar*ntino at once wants to make a picture that nobody’s seen before (at least, not since Mandingo, ha ha): a movie that doesn’t blink when confronting this evil chapter of American history! At the same time he wants to make a movie that everybody’s seen before, which is to say a movie assembled out of bits from the pictures he’s loved over the course of his long and busy history of moviegoing! Mostly in this case he’s cannibalizing from spaghetti Westerns as well as regular Westerns, and from other genres too, like buddy pictures and Blaxp*itation movies!
The strategy mostly works! The tone stumbles here and there, there are a few clunky and unnecessary lines, and Tarantino makes a poor choice in casting himself as an Australian, but the picture is for the most part a well-crafted entertainment machine whose 167 minutes fly by; at least until the final act, where some momentum is lost along with several principal characters! There are also several scenes in which someone is left to squirm in agony on the floor for several minutes, as though T*rantino was tipping his cap to The Demon Lover! Those parts didn't pass quite as quickly, ha ha!
Samuel L. Jackson appears as a scary L’Oncle Tom, and his performance is really quite good! He looks like no Samuel L. Jackson you’ve ever seen before, that much is certain! Christoph Waltz at first seemed simply to be very pleased with himself rather than bothering to give a performance, but this approach grew on me as the movie progressed, and in the end I thought he was pretty good! Everyone else, especially the lady who plays Django’s wife, was good too; though Di Caprio was a little cartoony! But he fit in pretty well anyway!
And of course there are many shout outs, little and big, to movies gone by! I even caught a reference to The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai – and maybe another one simply in Tarantino’s hiring of that film’s production designer, the late and obviously very weird J. Michael Riva! And Franco Nero, famed from his roles in The Visitor and Die Hard 2, shows up as the other Django, and the opening credits trumpet his “friendly participation,” just as we see in so many Euro-pictures of the 60s and 70s! Ha ha, that made me smile!
It’s a flawed but entertaining picture, and I’d like to give Django Unchained three nodding horses!

Friday 4 January 2013

Burl reviews Fireball 500! (1966)

Vroom vroom, it’s me, Burl, here to review a racing-car picture for you! It’s called Fireball 500, and it’s essentially one of the AIP beach pictures given a different setting and some higher stakes! It tries to be tough at times, which sits hilariously with the scrubby-clean hangovers from movies like Beach Party and How To Stuff A Wild Bikini!
It was apparently Frankie and Annette’s last team-up! And, in fact, though there’s certainly some flirting and huggerjugger and other assorted quasi-romantic byplay between them, they aren’t actually a couple in this movie! No, she’s a girlfriend of that other teen singing sensation, Fabian, well known from his role in Get Crazy!
The movie is set somewhere in the American South, in some county adjacent to Hazzard and whichever one Thunder Road is in, where hicks battle hayseeds for dirt-road supremacy and jars of mountain dew are apparently indestructible! Frankie, in the role of Dave Owens, an up-and-coming racer from Cal-i-for-nai-yay and owner of the famed Fireball 500 auto, arrives and immediately begins a hard-hitting campaign of competition with local hero Leander, played by Fabian! Chill Wills, the voice of Francis the Talking Mule himself, plays Big Jaw, the local promoter who benefits the most from this rivalry!
Dave beats Leander in their first race, and most of their subsequent competitions, including a figure-8 chicken race and a bout of fisticuffs that runs about three times longer than the donnybrooks of The Quiet Man and They Live put together, end in a draw! Leander ultimately wins the quest for Annette’s affections, but this seems a Pyrrhic victory to me since she comes off as an annoying scold for most of the picture, and a prude too! Ha ha, and anyway, Leander is constantly surrounded by ladies sporting shorts with “We Love Leander” embossed on the bums! Any one of those ladies would probably have been more fun to date than the former Mouseketeer!

Ha ha, but I haven’t even really mentioned the main plot yet, which is that both Leander and Dave, being drivers, get caught up in the local moonshine-running business, which is apparently run by the unlikely team of Harvey Lembeck  (who played Erich Von Zipper in the beach movies) and a rich, sexy blonde lady! And not only are a pair of revenooers making trouble, but some mysterious party has seen Goldfinger and is using the art of maxi-reflection to run the ‘shine deliverers off the road to their fiery doom! (But the ‘shine itself always survives somehow, ha ha!) I was pretty sure Chill Wills would turn out to be behind it all, but I was wrong!
Well, the picture ends, and then there’s another fifteen minutes of road racing, which is a little boring I must admit! I’m just not a fan of the Non-Athletic Sport Centred Around Rednecks, so it’s just as well I don’t live in the South! But despite the fact that it’s Dave’s car that sports the name Fireball 500, it’s Leander’s car that turns into an actual fireball in the grand finale! I thought his goose was cooked for sure, but it turns out he just gets a really bad sunburn from the ordeal!
It’s a pretty entertaining picture in many ways, even though it’s dumb at best and suffers from some yawny patches, especially when it gets onto the oval! But the constant tension between adherence to the Beach Party innocence and the urge to move beyond into sexier, more adult territory, is fascinating! It is and could only be a product of its exact, precise historical time, and ol’ Burl always appreciates that! I give Fireball 500 two unexpected Claymation openings!

Wednesday 2 January 2013

Burl reviews Repo Man! (1984)

Happy New Year, it’s Burl! Ha ha, 2013, who would have thunk it! Today I thought I’d review a cherished favourite of mine from years gone by, Repo Man! Not only did I love the picture, but the soundtrack album, along with those of Return of the Living Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and Some Kind of Wonderful, ha ha, was marvelously formative! So if you’re ever wondering to yourself “Say, ha ha, how did Burl come to be so punk rock,” you can put the blame on Repo Man!
Well, I watched the picture again just yesterday, and it still holds up extremely well! It tells the tale of Otto, a young SoCal white suburban punk who gets caught up in the shady, adrenaline-fueled world of car repossession! Ha ha, it’s perhaps fueled more by methamph*tamines than adrenaline, actually! Anyway, the hippest cat in the impound yard is Bud, played by the great Harry Dean Stanton! Stanton was going through a pretty wonderful period in his career at that time! He’d done Alien in 1979, then through the early 1980s he appeared in movies like Wise Blood, Escape from New York, One From the Heart, Christine, and Paris, Texas! Ha ha, not too bad! It also represents the high point of Emilio Estevez’s acting career, in my estimation, though there are some who would accord that honour to St. Elmo’s Fire!
Otto starts wearing a skinny tie and helping Bud and the rest of the repo men with their shady work! In the meantime a mysterious Chevy Malibu, driven by a dying, cancerous scientist played by Fox Harris (who also played a dying, cancerous scientist in Forbidden World), is prowling the streets of Los Angel*s, zapping anyone foolish enough to look in its trunk! What’s in there: aliens, fission rods, a flying machine, an angry ghost? Nobody knows! And in yet another meantime, Otto’s punk friends are committing crimes, and Otto is falling for a young UFO enthusiast!
Ha ha, this movie is great! It’s got that terrific soundtrack (as so many Alex Cox films did, like Walker and Sid and Nancy), some lovely camerawork from Robby Müller, excellent performances all around and a marvelous and highly quotable script! When you’re a young teenager and a movie like this comes along, you’d have to have a heart of pure huckleberry not to embrace it! And I have a meat heart, so I loved it, and I still do!
I always remember the last scene as including Harry Dean Stanton somehow! In the final scene, the Chevy Malibu (which was the first brand of car I ever owned, by the way!) glows green and flies around the city with Tracy “He was, you boys” Walter at the wheel and Emilio Estevez riding shotgun! In my imagination Harry Dean is in the back seat, reclining in his hospital gown and slowly being healed of machine gun wounds by the alien powers that are carrying the car aloft! And that’s the ending I’m going to carry in my meat heart whenever I think of this picture! Ha ha, I give Repo Man four plates of shrimp and advise you to see it at your first opportunity! Happy 2013 from me, Burl!