Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Burl reviews The Mutilator! (1984)

Chop-chop-chop, it’s Burl! Ha ha, you can certainly guess with great ease that I’m reviewing a slasher movie again, and this time it’s one of the more notorious of that disreputable genre! No, I’m not talking about Maniac or Nightmares or Headless Eyes or any of those grimy calomeries! It’s still East Coast though, so it has that soggy, sooty feeling about it, though it's still a long way from The Slayer! Of course the movie I’m referring to is The Mutilator!
I originally watched this one a long time ago; so long, in fact, that I can’t even remember if I saw the cut or the uncut version! Ha ha! I think it might have been the cut one, but all the gore shots were in Fangoria, so I probably edited them into my memory of the picture, same as I did with My Bloody Valentine!
Anyway, great joy awaits the discerning slasher viewer when the credit for Special Makeup Effects pops on in the opening titles, over a terrific theme song called “Fall Break” (the picture’s original title)! We’ve already seen the Traumatic Opening, this time around an accidental matricide by young Ed, which drives his dad Big Ed simply bats! Years later Ed is a grown college student, and he and the gang, on their “fall break” from school (Ha ha, we never had one of those!) head to the windswept and deserted coast to close up dad’s beach condo!
After an awful lot of skulking around and no inconsiderate amount of jokestering from the ginger-haired wiseacre, Big Ed springs into action! I should let you know that this time around I certainly watched the uncut version! (Vestron lets you know on the box, ha ha!) First, Ed grabs an outboard motor and fillets a tall blonde guy in a Members Only jacket and no shirt! Then he does a poking or two and chops a head, and sticks them all up for display since he’s a trophy hunter! This leads to the obligatory Discovering All The Bodies At Once scene, as popularized by pictures like Halloween!
There’s a really unsavory and frankly unnecessary scene involving a fishing gaff, and finally Big Ed gets the car bisection he so richly deserves! But, ha ha, he goes down fighting, that’s for sure! And the very end takes a stab – ha ha – at being realistic about how someone who’d just been through a maniac attack might act!
The actors are a bit amateur theatre, and I can’t say I was wishing the characters were real so I could be their friends, but for a movie with so much potential to be boring – plenty of time before the murders get going, lots of aimless wandering in the dark, a jokester character almost as bad as Shelly from Friday the 13th part 3 – it is, in general, a fairly amiable and enjoyable goof-off! That gaff scene aside, it presents some pretty brutal gore with that little hint of a wink! There’s even a brief Hal Needham-style outtake montage in the end credits, right after that downbeat psychodrama ending! Ha ha!
For giving up the grue like a slasher movie true, and for the minimal beachside atmosphere it manages (which mostly comes from one terrific shot of the nighttime beach as seen through a pair of flapping, wine-red curtains!), and for embodying the spirit of the form, however dismal the form may be, I give The Mutilator two cases of the best! Ha ha, I can’t imagine thinking much of the cut version, though!

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Burl reviews Zombies of Mora Tau! (1957)

Shambling toward you from out of the jungle dark, it’s Burl, here to review a tale of voo-doo zombification! Yes, I’m going to talk all about Zombies of Mora Tau, an oldie von moldie set in a studio-bound Africa so thoroughly colonialized that not a single African person is ever seen! Ha ha!
The setup is this: Jan, a young lady who left Africa as a girl, now returns to visit Granny, who has never budged from her coastal bungalow! But there’s zombie trouble brewing again, a problem for which only the old lady has the proper appreciation! At the same time some treasure hunters arrive to dive for the legendary lost diamonds, and since the zombies are the guardians of same, their restlessness is thereby accounted for!
These shamblers don’t bite, but prefer to give their victims a pretty stiff neck twist! Ha ha, they’re super-strong too, these zombies, which is a nice adjunct to the mythology! And this group of rotsmen, numbering about a dozen, was created in the late nineteenth century and have just been hanging around ever since, popping out of their oddly clean and spacious mausoleum when their diamonds are under threat of discovery! Granny shows off an impressive array of graves in which previous treasure hunters have been buried – it’s a pretty good scene, ha ha!
There’s a lot of deep-sea diving and some underwater zombie attacks – the divers are repeatedly pulled up from the depths covered in zombies! The mean lady played by Allison “Gunslinger” Hayes gets zombiefied somehow (the process, voo-doo based presumably, is never explained) and must be imprisoned within a cage of lit candles, as the zombies’ only fear is fire! Ha ha, a nice image, that! Meanwhile, Jan and the diver hero Jeff, played by Gregg  Billion Dollar Brain” Palmer, get their mitts on the diamonds, and, at Granny’s behest, toss them to Davy Jones’ Locker (in what looks like about three feet of water, ha ha!) so that the zombies, among whom is Granny’s husband, may finally find eternal rest! Meanwhile a professor played by Morris Ankrum, of Giant From the Unknown fame, stands around doing the same thing he’s done for the whole picture, which is nothing!
It’s a cheap little picture, much of which makes no sense; and it doesn’t have a fraction of the atmosphere found in a great movie like I Walked With A Zombie! (Ha ha, that one is one of ol’ Burl’s stone favourites!) But Zombies of Mora Tau looks moody enough, thanks to nice photography from Benjamin Kline, who also apparently worked on Edgar Ulmer’s Detour and Strange Illusion! I enjoy little programmers like this, and I’m going to give it two collapsing suits!

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Burl reviews An American Werewolf in London! (1981)

Aroooo, it’s Burl! Ha ha, yes, I have a review of a werewolf movie today, and it’s one of the best: An American Werewolf in London! 1981, by many reckonings, was The Year of the Werewolf, since this picture, The Howling, Full Moon High and Wolfen all came out that same twelvemonth! (Wolfen, it should be noted, isn’t really a werewolf picture, but in many ways it might as well have been!) And there was a lot of debate at the time, and there is still for all I know, about which was the better picture: this or The Howling!
Well, ol’ Burl is here to tell you that they’re both great, and choosing the better one is like choosing your favourite child! You might think you have a preference, but then you find it’s changed, and in any case most of the time you love them both pretty much equally! And, most importantly, you just don't have to choose!
Anyway, I’ve always enjoyed this movie most robustly! It’s the story of Jack and David, two students on a trip to Northern England, which I thought was a strange choice of destination until I traveled as a young man myself, and guess where I ended up! The lads get attacked by a werewolf of course! Jack dies, David is scratched up a bit and ends up in a London hospital, having a love romance with a nurse played by the gorgeous Jenny “Logan’s Run” Agutter! In the meantime his dead pal shows up and tries to persuade him that he’s a werewolf himself now, and that suicide is the only answer!
Of course David thinks this all hooey, and there follows a famous transformation scene! It’s very impressive, the more so today with all the weightless CGI they put on us! I don’t mean to fly my fogey flag too energetically, but give me those old fashioned Special Makeup Effects any day! Ha ha, and then there’s some killing, a policeman who appears to be auditioning for John Cleese’s part in Monty Python, further visits from Jack, the dawning of the truth, See You Next Wednesday, the freakout in Piccadilly Circus, and the final alleyway encounter!
I will say this in agreement with the picture’s detractors: the ending is a bit weak! There’s a very brutal series of car crashes in the Circus, which was the standard Landis climax of the day, and then an attempt at an emotional climax that the movie almost but has not quite earned! It unfolds with an admirable economy though, and you can’t complain about a good, sudden fade-to-black followed by the Marcels’ version of “Blue Moon!” Ha ha, no you can’t!
And the first chunk of the movie, the beautiful credits sequence right through the pub scene, is purely wonderful stuff! The two leads, David “The Sleeping Car” Naughton and Griffin “After Hours” Dunne, are perfectly cast, especially Dunne! Ha ha, imagine if John “Into the Night” Landis, the director, had cast whoever was big that year, in that age group! Imagine if the movie starred Robby Benson and Christopher Atkins! Ha ha, imagine that for just a moment! As in The Thing, the absence of big stars is of great benefit to the picture!
Some people complain about the wonky tone, but it’s always worked magnificently for me! It’s chock full of great British actors, it’s funny, it’s gory, the photography is nice, the trick effects are glorious! It’s logically challenged at times, certainly (ha ha, where are David’s parents?) but a marvelous picture really, one which, in its design, feels as Important as any Goldcrest production, but in spirit is one of the great 80s latex makeup movies! Chariots of Fire meets The Power! Ha ha, and the tag line on the poster was lifted from Prophecy!
I’m as fond as I can be of this picture, though I recognize its flaws! I’m going to award An American Werewolf in London three and a half walking meatloaves!

Sunday 20 October 2013

Burl reviews Loving and Laughing! (1971)

Eh bon, eh bon, c’est Burl! Oui, it’s your old ami Burl, ici avec another review d’un pellicule Franco-Canadien! The picture is one of a late-60s / early 70s cycle known as Maple Syrup Porn, and is called Loving and Laughing!
Ha ha, this is certainly a free-spirited movie, all right! Here’s a bit of trivia about it: none other than David “A Dangerous Method” Cronenberg campaigned hard to get the job directing the thing! And who can blame him, since it must have been a real gas to work on this film, as you’ll see! Anyway, poor Cronenberg didn’t get the gig, of course – a fellow named John Sole did, and then apparently never directed another movie ever again! Maybe he felt he’d done it all with this one!
This is the closest Canada ever came to making its own Malibu Beach, at least in ol’ Burl’s opinion! There’s more of a plot, but not much! It’s a hippie Trading Places more or less, and begins with a fellow named Reggie, the scion of an Anglo old-money Montreal family, leaving his overbearing mother for a summer trip to Vermont, where he’ll teach the daughter of a family friend to speak French! Along the way his car breaks down and he meets up with a funky bunch of free-wheeling Quebecois hippies! After a bit of skinny-dipping, they take Reggie to their commune! Lucien, the de facto leader of the commune, helps Reggie adapt to hippie life, and the two decide that Lucien should go on to Vermont instead of Reggie! Since the cops are after Lucien due to his fondness for marijuana weed, he agrees, and from then on it’s a case of two story threads running in parallel!
At the commune, there are several scenes of Reggie bumbling through the communal lifestyle, slowly losing his bourgeois inhibitions while wooing a lady called Lovely, and in Vermont, Lucien settles in with the rich American family: a hot-blooded mother, a sexy blonde fitness enthusiast, the pulchritudinous young lady to whom he is meant to be teaching French, and the delicate, lilac-scented son in the family, Edgar! There’s also a flirtatious French maid who regularly forgets to button up her blouse! “Ha ha, it’s going to be a long, hard summer!” Lucien moans!
It’s lighthearted shenanigans from here on in, with seemingly every scene ending with everybody taking off their clothes! Even when there’s trouble with the law – as there is in both Quebec and Vermont – nudity runs rampant! Ha ha, it’s pretty gritty nudity, it must be said, but there’s a sunny, carefree attitude to it that’s undeniably appealing! And there’s a very strange scene in which Lucien apparently uncovers the fact that the entire U.S. Army is gay! Ha ha!
As with Malibu Beach, there’s no distinct forward motion to the narrative, leaving it anyone’s guess where the movie is going or when it might be over! But also as with Malibu Beach, you don’t want it to be over, because the world of Loving and Laughing is a gentle, groovy, gossamer place, where potential buzzkills are swatted away with the flick of a whifflebird feather! As with any number of other pictures – The Beach Girls, Cheerleaders Beach Party and King Frat all come to mind – there’s a scene in which a dull, bourgeois party is reduced to a gigglefest by the spiking of the canapés with pot!
It may not be a very exciting movie, but it’s a comfortable place to spend an hour and a half, I’ll tell you that! It’s frequently bizarre, and, ha ha, it’s a time capsule par excellence! And as a bonus, it ends with a couple making sweet love on top of Percé Rock! I’m going to give Loving and Laughing three flexing buttocks!

Thursday 17 October 2013

Burl reviews The Man From Planet X! (1951)

Attention Earthlings! It’s Burl here to review a movie about a most peculiar alien invasion! Ha ha, the picture is called The Man From Planet X, and it’s a production of that great dalyrimple Edgar Ulmer, director of Strange Illusion and of course the subject of Edgar G. Ulmer: The Man Off-Screen!
The Man From Planet X is mostly told from the perspective of a newspaperman sitting about the three-quarter mark in the story! Ha ha, do you understand what I mean? The picture begins with him writing his account of what happened on that fateful day (and never mind that he wasn’t around for a lot of it, ha ha!), and when he gets to the present moment of his narrative, the movie is still going!
The story is this: the newspaperman receives word from his friend, The Professor, that a rogue planet is going to come whizzing by the Earth, or maybe even hit it! The only place to be for this event is a remote Scottish island, which, according to The Professor’s calculations, is the nearest point on earth to where Planet X is going to whiz! Then an alien craft is sighted by The Professor’s daughter, and she also sees a crinkle-faced football alien, no taller than three bricks and a short refrigerator! The Professor’s nasty assistant, Dr. Mears (played by Joe Dante stock player William Schallert, known for his appearances in Gunslinger, Innerspace and Matinee, ha ha!), is interested in this, and would like to tear out every secret the spaceman has! And he does!
This is the kind of movie I like, with plenty of trudging around foggy, studio-bound moors, and a terrific model spaceship! The Man himself is a curious looking fellow: a homunculus with a giant oval head and squinty eyes! He doesn’t seem particularly threatening; and in fact this is the central question to the whole picture: what were his intentions? This is left up to the viewer to decide! We never find out, because the Man’s abuse at the hands of the nefarious Schallert gives the alien a pretty good excuse for acting hostile! His ultimate fate is therefore rather sad!
The great thing about the ending to the movie is the planetary swoop-by, rolling and tumbling over the astonished heads of the characters and causing a few rocks to be displaced! Sure, the special effects are of a rather low-budget nature and the falling rocks are stock, but that hardly matters because conceptually the scene is a genuine whiz-banger! It’s a terrific ending to a moody little bargain sci-fi pic, a picture about human nature as observed from without!
The movie is completely its own thing, which is a point much in its favour! The performances are strong, John “Psycho” Russell’s cinematography is low-budget luscious, and old Edgar gets his mild misanthropy plainly across! Altogether a fine little movie, and I give The Man From Planet X three too-easily-accessible breathing supply knobs!

Monday 14 October 2013

Burl reviews The Big Fix! (1978)

With a mellow grin it’s Burl, here to review a movie about a shaggy, uncommitted anti-detective plying his trade in 1970s Los Angeles! Ha ha, no, I’m not talking about The Long Goodbye, but about The Big Fix, which you might say is a sort of Long Goodbye-lite!
The movie stars Richard Dreyfuss from Jaws (and he also produced the picture!) as a the detective, a weepy, cynical, bong-smoking ex-activist named Moses Wine! He’s got a cast on his hand, an ex-wife, two kids he sees part-time (but often has to drag around with him on investigations), a delightfully bolshy aunt, and a gun with a crayon in it! He gets caught up in a case involving the attempted smear of a gubernatorial candidate and an Abbie Hoffman-type revolutionary! There’s also a rich man, his missing son, a lot of talk about the good old days at Berkeley, and, eventually, a murder!
I won’t go into the plot too much, because what the movie’s really about is the Sixties, and what became of those heavily invested in its hippie spirit a decade after the fact! It would have been an interesting movie to see on its original release – it would have been relevant, maybe even compellingly so, instead of a rather quaint period piece! I guess you might call it a victim of The Big Chill effect!
But the longing for 60s idealism is also the picture’s strongest feature, as well as its thematic and emotional spine! It’s about the most post-Watergate picture there is, with the possible exception of All The President’s Men, ha ha, and the distance between 1968 and 1978 never seems so great as when the greying (but still young) Dreyfuss watches a compilation video of the earlier decade’s greatest protest hits, and weeps for its loss! Ol’ Burl has great sympathy, politically and otherwise, for those progressives of long ago, and it was a treat to find a genre picture that explored their world!
As a detective thriller it suffers a bit from an overly complicated plot and a terribly inappropriate musical score from Bill Conti, who was every bit as prone to that as the notorious Dave Grusin! But there’s a great supporting cast – F. Murray Abraham from The Grand Budapest Hotel plays the missing activist, John Lithgow from Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Cliffhanger is a campaign manager with a secret, and Bonnie “Die Hard 2” Bedelia plays Wine’s annoying ex-wife! The elderly aunt, who apparently is extremely elderly as she claims to have dated both Bakunin and Kropotkin, is a grand creation, the kind I’m always happy to see on screen! (Ha ha, I guess maybe it’s time to watch Reds again – I haven’t seen that picture since I was a small fry!)
And one unexpected pleasure of The Big Fix is that it’s a Halloween movie! Ha ha, it just happens to take place around that particular time, so you get some nice scenes with trick or treating kids and so forth! I like movies that take place during a holiday season, but the season is completely incidental to the story!
I enjoyed The Big Fix perhaps more than it really deserves to be enjoyed! It’s no crundlebum, but to my mind it could have been a whole lot better – a 70s detective classic like The Long Goodbye or Night Moves! Instead it sits down on the Solid Efforts level with The Late Show and other such pictures! Oh well – I’m still glad it exists, and was happy to have watched it! I give The Big Fix two and a half VW bug car chases!

Sunday 13 October 2013

Burl reviews Road House! (1989)

With a hootin’ and a hollerin’, it’s Burl! Haw haw, I’m here to review a much-beloved camp item, the two-fisted Swayze picture Road House! It’s a picture full of honky-tonk punch-ups and redneck romance, and there’s no shortage of Jeff Healey tunes on the soundtrack! Ha ha, in short, it's entirely the sort of picture you'd expect would be made by a guy named "Rowdy!"
Investment in the picture depends on accepting the premise that there are famous bouncers who travel from bar to bar like blue-jeaned superheroes, cleanin’ up the joints and then moseyin’ on to the next one! Dalton, played by Grandview U.S.A.’s own Patrick Swayze, is one such individual, and when he’s invited to a small town just outside Kansas City (though the landscape looks pretty California to me, ha ha!) to clean up the dusty ol’ Double Deuce, he takes the assignment on with tai-chi stoicism!
Well, he makes a lot of enemies, and quickly attracts the attention of both local kingpin “Brad Wesley” and a lady sawbones known only as Doc! Of course Ben Gazzara plays “Brad Wesley,” and, to borrow a phrase from another movie reviewer, if you place an overripe ham beside your television as you watch the movie, you’d swear it was shot in Smell-O-Vision!
Everything you expect to happen in the picture happens: a series of battles with “Brad Wesley’s” henchmen in which everyone involved takes superhuman levels of punishment; a romance with Doc that equally tests credibility; the arrival of Dalton’s shaggy friend and mentor Sam Elliott; another tune from the blind guitarist Healey and then another and another; the belated rebellion of the local businessmen “Brad Wesley” had theretofore kept under his thumb; and the final bloody battle at “Brad Wesley’s” mansion!
Ha ha, there’s a lot of goofology along the way, right up to and including “Brad Wesley’s” final demise, in which he’s blasted repeatedly with shotguns but doesn’t fall down for the longest time! Then, when the cops show up and ask for an explanation of all the dead bodies lying around, everybody shrugs and says “Ha ha, I didn’t see nothin’!” It’s a mostly enjoyable goofology, because as it plays out you can see how earnestly the picture is working to deliver the goods expected of it!
But there’s plenty of disappointment along the way too! Sam Elliott, well known from Frogs and Fatal Beauty, is an enjoyable presence while he’s on screen, but he’s not on screen enough! Even worse is the fact that Keith David is hired on as a new bartender at one point, and then doesn’t get to do anything at all except serve drinks! Ha ha, anyone who’s seen him in The Thing or They Live knows Keith David is capable of delightful tough-guy antics, but he’s kept on an inexplicably short leash here! At 114 minutes the movie is overlong, and the stuff that should have been cut out and replaced with Keith David kicking ass is extremely apparent!
But even though “Brad Wesley” has a silly name that everybody keeps saying over and over again (and maybe I just think it’s silly because an annoying dog named Wesley lives down the street from me, and I constantly hear his owners screeching that name), he makes a pretty good heavy, mainly because he’s such a bizarrely banal one! He’s just a normal, wealthy guy who apparently decided one day to act like a supervillain out of a Bond picture! Ha ha, he’s got a little group of maybe six or seven guys to back up his reign of terror, and he also owns a monster truck and isn’t afraid to use it!
The picture has a kooky script, a glossy look courtesy of portly cinematographer Dean “Halloween III” Cundey, an unexpectedly solid performance from Jeff Healy, a bit of tomato paste, equal-opportunity barenakedness and several scenes in which Swayze does The Claw! It all adds up to a brainless good time at the movies, but one that could have been a much, much better bad movie than it is! I’m going to give Road House two car dealership showrooms that display early-80s autos ready for crushing by a monster truck!

Friday 11 October 2013

Burl reviews Grave Secrets! (1989)

WooOOOoooOOOooo, it’s Burl, here to review a tale of booga-booga from years gone by – from way back in the late 1980s, in fact! It’s called Grave Secrets, and it’s a movie that’s gone strangely unremarked upon over the years! Maybe it’s not so strange, because in fact it would not be unfair to call the picture unremarkable!
Still, it’s a movie with a certain mid low-budget gloss and some recognizable faces, and even a few effective moments, so you’d think it would have some fans! And maybe it does, but they’re just not the types to review movies, which is fair beans as far as ol’ Burl is concerned! Ha ha! In any case, I’ll do my best to let you know whether or not you should put the effort into tracking this picture down for yourself to watch!
Grave Secrets stars Paul “Strange Invaders” LeMat as a tenured parapsychologist and grieving widower! He believes wholeheartedly in ghosts and so forth, and often performs séances so he can speak to them or shoo them away, or whatever needs to be done! He’s like a quiet, small-town ghostbuster, just plying his trade! A mercurial innkeeper played by Renee “The Fourth Man” Soutendijk approaches him and asks for his help cleansing her haunted B&B! Ha ha, but then she changes her mind!
Much of the middle of the picture is Le Mat following her and just hanging around, trying to persuade her to let him tackle the problem! The ghost, in the meantime, turns out to be a big galoot who at one point bedevils Le Mat by sitting on him! And I guess the identity of the ghost – who turns out to be headless, by the way, ha ha! – is meant to be a surprise, so maybe I shouldn’t give it away here!
Well I will anyway, because when are you ever going to see this? The ghost turns out to be Renee’s nasty old dad, a horrible man entirely deserving of the beheading Renee gave him! David Warner turns up briefly as a medium (I thought maybe he was meant to be an aged and mellowed version of Roddy McDowall’s character in The Legend of Hell House - the movie you should be watching instead if you haven’t seen it - but, no) and is later carted off in an ambulance! And then the ghost finds his head (well actually Lee Ving, known from Streets of Fire and Get Crazy, found it first, ha ha!) and reconstitutes into a zombie, I think! But they defeat him using the power of a ghost baby!
It is, as I say, a not-very-remarkable movie in many ways, or rather a remarkable movie in very few; but the headless ghost is not too bad, and there are a few spooky moments scattered here and there! Paul LeMat is pretty bad in it, I’m sorry to say! He’s been fine elsewhere, like in American Graffiti, but here he’s pretty snoozy! And really, in the end, not much happens in this picture, plot-wise! It’s a bit of a blumpkin, and while you could do worse, you could also do a whole lot better! I’m going to give Grave Secrets one and a half deflating head sacks!

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Burl reviews Death Wish II! (1982)

Hi, Burl here, just looking for the ol’ wet-dry vac! Ha ha, actually I’m here to review a picture for you, and this time it’s one of those Charles Bronson Death Wish affairs, specifically the second one, Death Wish II! This is a movie that got terrible reviews, particularly from that old standby Roger Ebert! Ha ha, he hate-hate-hated it as I recall! I myself saw it many years ago when I was a young teen, or maybe even earlier, at the house of a friend whose family had just acquired laser disc technology! Ha ha, remember those? The darn things were a foot across!
I barely remember that viewing experience, but I did recall Ebert’s review! I thought, well, ha ha, maybe he was overreacting a bit! I mean, look at his review of Blue Velvet! Could be the same deal, I thought! I knew it was a kind of down-and-dirty picture, and moreover it was a part of the phenomenon I call Sophomore Slim! That refers to the strange propensity for the second entry in a movie series to be the shortest picture in their series, usually running about 87 minutes! You see it time and again: Friday the 13th part 2 (87 minutes), A Nightmare on Elm Street part 2 (87 minutes), Exterminator 2 (89 minutes) and so forth! Death Wish II runs 88 minutes! Ha ha, but it's important to bear in mind there’s absolutely nothing remarkable about this phenomenon!
Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before, ol’ Burl is not a big fan of rape scenes in movies! It’s not because I’m a sensitive new-age fellow, though I am that, but mostly I just find them really unsavory! And perhaps it was watching movies like Death Wish II (which seems to be all rape all the time) and Savage Streets at such a young age that gave me this attitude, so maybe I should be grateful to them!
In any case, Death Wish II follows the same path as its predecessor! Bronson plays Paul Kersey, a former New Yorker who has relocated to Los Angeles, where, strangely, he seems to have become the in-house architect for a radio station! Tragedy befalls his family when a local rape gang steals his wallet, then goes to his house and performs one of the most hideously protracted sexual assault scenes outside of Irreversible on the poor maid! Then when Bronson and his daughter, who is still traumatized from her rape in the first picture, arrive home, they bop him on the head, kidnap the daughter, rape her too, then chase her out a window from which she plummets to a gruesome death by transfixion!
Ha ha, after that, the stone-faced Bronson dons a street-bum outfit and takes to the streets, where he very implausibly tracks down the gang members, and takes out a few extra muggers and another rape gang in the bargain! The cop from the first picture, Vincent Gardenia, follows him from New York, but then is blasted by the gangs! And it ends in a hospital where Bronson is helped out by a bearded orderly played by John Carpenter mainstay Charles “Halloween” Cyphers!
All of this is done very badly! The movie at once is a surprisingly realistically depiction of gang violence – namely, it’s messy, skeezy, disorganized and boring – and a boneheaded revenge fantasy that can’t even pull off its Neanderthal idea of catharsis! It goes without saying that the political nuance on view here is of the single-celled variety, but even in filmmaking terms, the movie is so inept it’s almost shocking! So, in short, Ebert was not overreacting to this one – ha ha, you had the right idea, brother!
I’ll refrain from saying more, because it’s just not worth it! Because Bronson has his own appeal, because some of the gang members are actual, decent actors (Kevyn Major “Full Metal Jacket” Howard, whom I always took to be the lost Howard brother, and Laurence “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3” Fishburne are among them) and because buried within the awful music by Jimmy Page, there is one halfway effective track, I’ll give Death Wish II one half of a cheesy glass cat! Bleah, stay away!

Burl reviews Our Idiot Brother! (2011)

Ha ha, peace to all! It’s Burl here, to review a perfectly pleasant and generally unremarkable comedy! I guess I’ll have to find some remarks to make, though, if I’m going to review it, ha ha!
The picture is called Our Idiot Brother, and it features a big dogpile of comic actors dramatizing the story of a loveable beardo named Ned, who is selling vegetables one day when an underhanded cop baits him into what should be a perfectly innocent marijuana deal! Well, this leads to prison, and when he gets out there’s more bad news for this poor naïf! His loathsome girlfriend has hooked up with a new fellow, and also states that she is going to keep Ned’s beloved dog, Willie Nelson!
From there it’s to the big city, where Ned couchsurfs between the homes of his three sisters and gets into trouble! His guilelessness roils their lives in predictable ways, and they react by becoming less and less likeable! Ha ha, at times you think to yourself “Hey, maybe they’re right – maybe this guy is a terminal bonehead!” But then along comes a scene where he expands upon his worldview, and it makes a certain sense! By the end, all loose ends have pretty much been tied up in a cheerfully tidy way, and you think to yourself “Ha ha, I certainly seem to have just finished watching  a movie, all right!”
With its mellow, weed-smoking protagonist, its low-stakes tone and its NYC backdrop, this is a very similar picture to Jack Goes Boating! That one was more of a drama though, and this one is, or tries to be, more of a comedy! It has some amusing moments, certainly, and I’ve never been one who insists that his comedies be laff-riots anyway! So I didn’t mind, and I will say that the genial and peaceable atmosphere tickled my fancy!
For a movie where not that much happens in narrative terms, it’s also pretty fast-paced! It’s been cut to the very bone, adhering quite admirably to the “enter late, exit early” school of storytelling! It didn’t spell everything out – well, plot- and character-wise anyway; but morality-wise is a different story! Ha ha, They certainly don’t want you leaving without having learned that innocence is a vital part of the well-lived life!
Paul Rudd from Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers plays Ned, and he does a very good job of it, with plenty of easy-going charm emanating from within his big beard! There are a couple of other likeable characters (namely a neighbour of one of the sisters, the girlfriend of another, and the child of a third, played by Emily “Harry Brown” Mortimer), but just about everyone else is a pretty wet hen! Steve “The Trip” Coogan plays an especially nasty galloper! But still, everyone does a solid job, and the movie in general is a competent piece of craftsmanship!
It doesn’t say or do much in the end though, and is pretty simple-minded! I enjoyed it while it was on, and under the right circumstances you might too! I’m going to give Our Idiot Brother two and a half bonus stalks of rhubarb!

Saturday 5 October 2013

Burl reviews The Reptile! (1966)

Ssssssss, it’sssss Burl! Ha ha, yes, it’s Burl here to review a snake movie – and no, it’s not Ssssssss or Stanley or Spasms or even Holy Wednesday! And to tell you the truth, it doesn’t actually have a real snake in it at all, just a stuffed one and also a snake lady! And it all takes place on the lovely moors of Cornwall! Ha ha, the picture I’m talking about is of course the Hammer Films production of The Reptile!
I was recently in Cornwall, or anyway nearby it, but in any case decidedly on the moors, so I was quite delighted to watch a picture with a moorish setting! This one starts out just as it should, with a man trudging across the moors, heading toward a distant manor house! On his arrival he’s attacked by something with sharp teeth, scaly skin and a pony tail, and the next thing you know he’s rolling down the stairs and foaming at the mouth!
Well, the man’s brother, Spalding, and his wife, arrive in the town to take possession of the delightfully wrecked Cornish cottage! Everyone in town is sort of mean and unfriendly to the couple with the exception of two worthies: a kindly bartender played by the great Michael Ripper, and a local madman who declares the region to be cursed, cursed I tell you! Ha ha!
Well, the doomcrying madman soon turns up dead as well, and the Spaldings and the bartender form an investigative team to get to the bottom of things! Naturally the lord of the nearby manor (a doctor of theology, not a mad herpetologist as I’d assumed going in), his gorgeous daughter Anna and their sinister, vaguely Asiatic manservant have something to do with the foaming fits and subsequent deaths! And you know what? A snake lady figures into it all as well, ha ha!
The Reptile is not one of the well-known Hammer movies, but I’ve always liked it! It was shot back-to-back, and forms a sort of unofficial Cornwall Duology, with Plague of the Zombies, which is another modest, charming little winner! I count the low ambitions of The Reptile in its credit column actually! There’s something nice about a picture that just says “Ha ha, here’s a movie about a pony-tailed snake lady killing people in a little English village circa eighteen-hundred-and-hulgh-hulgh,” and then follows through on that claim to the letter!
I liked the performances in this picture! Noel Willman makes a good grumpy Lord of the Manor; Jennifer Daniel and Ray Barrett make a bland but perfectly serviceable hero couple; Michael Ripper is always good, and he’s good here; and Jacqueline Pearce, playing Anna, is not only a solid actor, but, as mentioned, very beautiful too! Easy on the eyes as they say, ha ha! It’s a little slow here and there, and not all that much takes place, but if you’re in the mood for it, you’ll have a grand time at the movies! I’m going to give The Reptile two and a half smashed sitars!

Thursday 3 October 2013

Burl reviews R.O.T.O.R.! (1988)

Bee-dee-bee-dee-bee-dee-bee, it’s Burl, here to review another robot picture! Ha ha, this one is called R.O.T.O.R., and it’s one of those pictures the starting point of which was clearly a couple of fellows saying “Hey, RoboCop and The Terminator – those pictures were popular! Ha ha, let’s combine the two into something completely new!”
Except of course it isn’t completely new! In fact, the results are always pretty shopworn when somebody starts with a brain-matrix like that! With R.O.T.O.R. you’ve got to add a really profound filmmaking incompetence to the mix, and spice it with some bizarre and frequently entertaining narrative decisions!
Over a pixilated robot maquette we learn that crime is simply out of control and that robotic policemen stand the best chance of turning the tide! Then we meet a cowboy scientist named Coldyron – ha ha! – who likes to blow up tree stumps on his ranch before putting in a day’s work at the police robot lab! He’s trying to perfect R.O.T.O.R., a vicious, killer cop-bot being covertly financed by shady military-industrial interests!
The robot isn’t ready and won’t be for some time, which angers Coldyron’s boss, the officious Mr. Buglar! It looks like it’s up to Coldyron’s gormless assistant and the assistant’s assistant Willard, another, friendlier robot, to finish the job! But ha ha, nobody reckons on Shoeboogie! Nobody ever reckons on Shoeboogie! But who is Shoeboogie? Shoeboogie is the janitor, a lascivious Red Indian who dances with Willard, tries much too hard to pick up a lady in a lab coat, then accidentally brings R.O.T.O.R. to life by putting his Walkman headphones down in the wrong spot! Zzzzap! R.O.T.O.R. rises from his plexiglass coffin, jumps on his special velvet-rope-quarantined motorbike and gets down to business!
Ha ha, the funny thing is, R.O.T.O.R. looks pretty much like an ordinary motorcycle cop, albeit one with an especially large and ponky moustache! He shoots some people and puts a punching on others, and then fixes his red-tinted sights on one young lady, whom he chases about hither and yon, grimacing in frustration every time she eludes his grasp! Eventually Coldyron and his pal, the very bizarre lady scientist Steele, whose hairstyle might best be described as a snowhawk, marshall their forces and go after the berserk robot!
Well, this is certainly a bad movie all right, and you might even put it into the Ridiculous Action category along with Deadly Prey and Raw Force! It should have been so much more so, though! It’s very slow going in some parts, with shots being held for a lot longer than they ought to have been (like the scene where we look at the top of an escalator for what seems like a full minute before Coldyron and Steele finally appear over the crest of it!), and a momentum-killing repetitiveness to the scenes of the robot stalking the lady!
It’s too bad it’s not a little zestier, but I guess you can’t have everything! It’s still worth a look for the Ridiculous Action enthusiast, and also for the moustache enthusiasts, who must certainly be out there somewhere! I’m going to give R.O.T.O.R. one and a half chainsaws set to frappé!

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Burl reviews Prince of Darkness! (1987)

This is not a dream! It’s Burl! Ha ha, yes, I’m here to review a fine October spookshow, John “Halloween” Carpenter’s return to the small scale, Prince of Darkness! This is the picture he made after the unfair box-office flubup of the delightful Big Trouble in Little China, which is a movie so ridiculously entertaining that when ol’ Burl and a friend went to see it in the theatre, on its conclusion we just looked at one another and wordlessly settled back into our seats to watch it again right away!
I saw Prince of Darkness in the theatre too, but may have had to sneak in because it was rated R, for super-silliness perhaps! Ha ha! The picture is Carpenter’s tribute to Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass pictures, because I guess Halloween III, which Kneale actually wrote (before it was changed around a lot and he had his name taken off) didn’t quite work out that way! Carpenter wrote the script for this one himself, but took the credit “Martin Quatermass!” Ha ha, subtle!
The story has a priest, played of course by Donald “You Only Live Twice” Pleasance, discovering that a little-known Catholic sect has kept the devil trapped in a carboy in a downtown Los Angeles church! Ha ha, you can imagine his surprise! The devil is in liquid form, and for no particular reason has begun seeping out of his bottle! Naturally the next step is to recruit an eccentric physics professor and a number of postgraduate students, and have them camp out in the church to ponder on the problem!
Much of the first half of the picture is the students scoffing loudly at their situation and proclaiming it “bullshit”! It seems a preemptive stratagem on Carpenter’s part, frankly! But when they start having crazy dreams that prove in fact to be messages from a demonically-plagued future (the messages come from “the year one-nine-nine-fzzzt!”), the Kneality kicks in! Ha ha, that’s the scariest part right there, those dreams!
It comes down to a lot of running around the church (almost all the movie is set there) and fighting with possessed grad students! The movie presages the [Rec] series of pictures by conflating demonic possession with zombieism, though these particular possessed zombies aren’t as scary as they should be! Ha ha, they’re not scary at all, really, though I did like the one who stands in the parking lot calling out warnings before he disintegrates into a pile of bugs!
Almost nothing makes much sense, but that’s not a problem, at least not to ol’ Burl! I’ve always liked this picture, flawed as it is, and I fear I won’t be able to make a very lucid case for why you should see it! I just like it! I like the cast, or some of it at least, like Pleasance and Victor Wong as the physicist, and the ponky, mustached guy who plays the lead! And Dennis Dun is always good too, ha ha! I like the climax, in which Pleasance is trapped in a closet longer than R. Kelly ever was, and in which we are given some genuinely eerie imagery!
I never thought of this as a gory picture, but it does have a few heads and hands coming off, and some impalements and suchlike! Ha ha, the glasses nerd from Riptide and The Horror Show even gets turned into a living bike by Alice Cooper! Say what you like about this movie, but you’re never going to see a scene like that anywhere else! I don’t mind being a cheerleader for the film, because I figure someone has to be, and so I’m going to give Prince of Darkness three ant-filled TV sets!