Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Wednesday 27 September 2023

Burl reviews Thunderbolt and Lightfoot! (1974)


Wacka-doo, snakecharmers, it’s Burl, here to review a picture I’ve long wanted to see but somehow never got around to until now! It’s a Malpaso picture from the 1970s, and you know what that means: Clint! And most of those movies, whether Eastwood directed them or not, have that Malpaso feeling: you watch them and just know that each take is the first or at most the second, and that whether it was directed by Don Siegel, who was Clint’s directing mentor, or James Fargo, whom Clint mentored in turn, or by Clint himself, in each case the same philosophies and work methods were employed! So there’s a sameness to these films, which isn’t unwelcome – in fact it’s comforting! Nevertheless, when you see one that’s clearly operating on its own principals, it’s pretty refreshing, and Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is just such a film!

Of course we know Eastwood from such pictures as Blood Work and Tarantula, and here he plays a laconic vault cracker-turned-fake-priest known as Thunderbolt, and we meet him at the pulpit just as an angry George Kennedy from Creepshow 2 and Earthquake arrives at the church and tries to shoot him dead! In his frantic escape he hooks up with a young Jeff Bridges, not yet of Starman and King Kong fame, who has just stolen a roadster from a used-car salesman played by none other than Gregory Walcott from Plan 9 from Outer Space! Bridges, of course, is Lightfoot, and soon this pair of sillynames are bombing around picturesque Montana, being buddies and, in their masculine, mid-70s manner, falling in love!

Their first adventure together involves catching a ride from a completely insane driver played by Bill McKinney from Cannonball! Ha ha, this demento keeps a caged badger in the front seat and tears it up on and off the road, and after he’s barrel-rolled the auto it turns out he’s got a trunk full of live bunny rabbits, which he starts blasting at with a shotgun! Soon we get a taste of George Kennedy again, and it turns out that Kennedy is playing Red, an old partner of Thunderbolt’s who believes the craggy longuebönes to have stolen some ill-gotten loot! Red and his confrere Goody, played by Eastwood buddy Geoffrey Lewis, whom we’ll recall from Smile and ‘Salem’s Lot, first do some fisticuffs with and then enter into a foursquare partnership with Thunderbolt and Lightfoot in order to once again take out the vault Thunderbolt et al. had robbed the previous time!

So the gang is assembled and the plan is made, but first they all have to get jobs to buy the equipment they need to do the heist! Ha ha, we get all sorts of amusing vignettes featuring famous faces like Gary Busey from Silver Bullet, looking young and handsome; Burton Gilliam from Fletch, playing the sort of grinning good old boy he made his stock-in-trade; Dub Taylor from Creature from Black Lake just being Dub; and Luanne Roberts from Simon, King of the Witches as a stark naked housewife! Lightfoot has an encounter with a motorcycle rider who’s handy with a hammer, played by Karen Lamm from Ants!; and before the heist can be pulled off, the fellow monitoring the security alarms must be taken care of by a drag Lightfoot, and the security fellow turns out to be a chubby, girlie magazine-reading individual played by Cliff Emmich, who played another chubby security officer who gets hit on the head later on in Halloween II!

The picture dwells less on the robbery details than most heist pictures do – perhaps because it’s not centrally a heist story but is organized more around buddy themes! Still, there is the unique aspect that the vault is broken into by means of a 20mm cannon, ha ha, and the use of this tool is what earned Thunderbolt his name! And then of course after the heist it all goes pear-shaped, and the tensions within the group are expressed physically (and boy-arr-dee, how great an actor is George Kennedy!), and we come to realize that a line delivered earlier in the picture (“Ate ‘im?”) was a case of Dramatic Foreshadowing!

Now, this is the first picture from Mr. Michael Cimino, who vaulted into the prestige picture business with his follow-up, The Deer Hunter! This one isn’t a prestige picture though – it’s a genre film with a higher-toned style and an almost defiant insistence on theme and subtext! The idea of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot as unconsummated lovers is not very subtle (although I’m not sure Clint was cognizant of it, Bridges was, definitely), and what it really is, once you factor in the other couple, Red and Goody, is a study in how well an all-male machine, each component having a few teeth missing from their gears, can operate; and the answer is, ha ha, not very well! I found the movie a splendid entertainment, wonderfully photographed and impeccably cast: an unsung gem of the 70s! I give Thunderbolt and Lightfoot three broken cigars!

Tuesday 26 September 2023

Burl reviews Cockfighter! (1974)


Buck buck b’kaw, it’s Burl, here to review a movie at which many would cry fowl! Ha ha, you know, old Burl is an animal lover, so I find it hard to get behind a movie that depicts – indeed, has caused – harm to any creature! I actually think Cannibal Holocaust is a pretty effective movie, but that tortoise-killing scene really sours it for me! (To be honest, some of the other gnarly stuff in there does too!) I’ve praised many an old Western film, but when they start tripping horses I spend the rest of the movie thinking about how mean that is! And then comes along a movie whose story, theme, very essence, and even title, involves heavy doses of terrible animal cruelty: Cockfighter!

What to make of it? I’d seen it before but watched it again the other day, because someone I know is writing a book about the movie! Ha ha, I’m raring to read it! And I’ll tell you what, I also met the director of this picture, Monte Hellman, when I stayed at his house in the Hollywood Hills, where he hosted an Air B‘n’B! He was a nice fellow and we chatted quite a bit about movies and such! The third outside factor which might somehow affect how I think about this movie is that once, for moviemaking reasons too complicated to get into, I had to keep a rooster overnight in my apartment! I built a big cage for the thing, put it in my living room, and then of course the bird went off at four-thirty in the morning, cock-a-doodle-dooing away and waking up all the people in my building; and only playing the song “Bali H’ai” from South Pacific could get it to shut up! Ha ha, the incident didn’t endear me to roosters, I’ll say that!

So: Cockfighter! It’s the story of Frank Mansfield, played by Warren Oates from Blue Thunder and Race with the Devil, a down-South fighting-cock trainer who has taken a vow of silence after letting his own foolish words cause him to lose out on a chance to be Cockfighter of the Year! Only once he wins that medal does he plan to speak again, and so far, we gather, it’s been a couple of years since he first clammed up! (Ha ha, we get to witness his pre-vow chattiness in a flashback, and he’s so obnoxious that I was quite happy to have him spend most of the movie with zipped lips!)

Frank travels around with his birds and a gal named Dody, who has only ever heard Frank talk in his sleep, when he blusters and yells and threatens to kick people across the room! Dody is one of a very few performances from Laurie Bird, who was also in Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop and later in Annie Hall, and that’s it! Frank loses yet another bet to his frenemy Jack Burke, played by the great Harry Dean Stanton from Christine and Repo Man, and Jack walks away with Frank’s money, car, camper trailer, and girlfriend! This is where we get a sense of how much Frank values human relationships, in particular with women, which is to say not very much! We also see how he treats his brother (played unexpectedly by matinee idol Troy Donahue, known from Grandview U.S.A. and Deadly Prey) and sister-in-law: Frank arrives at the family home, stays the night, and the next day steals the house (which technically he owns) right out from under them and has it shipped off down the road on a truck!  

But Frank does have at least one true pal in Omar, essayed by Richard B. Shull from Klute and Spring Break! Ha ha, Omar is a mighty appealing character, or at least as appealing as someone who engages in a pointless blood sport can be! Frank hangs out with Omar and with Buford, another affable fellow, here played by James Earl Jones’s dad Robert Earl Jones, whom we may recall from Trading Places! Much of the middle act of the picture involves Frank hanging out with these two, or episodes in which he encounters such characters as a gangly overall-clad goofbuster played by Ed Begley Jr. from Get Crazy, or Steve Railsback from Lifeforce, playing a cocky cockfighter with a loosey-goosey pointin’ finger who likes to give his birds a little bit of digital persuasion!

I’ve not talked much about the cockfights themselves, which are frequent and often bloody! They’re faked to an extent – the sharp spurs are mostly not actually made of metal – but there’s only so much you can fake these things really, and there are times when the cocks are clearly killing each other! It’s pretty grotesque, but also a powerful dramatic device! Through the course of the picture, in spite of or maybe because of Frank’s silence, we move more than we may like into his point of view and the fights become less brutal and alien; but when the object of his silent amours, his fiancée Mary Elizabeth, played by pretty redheaded Patricia Pearcy from Squirm, finally witnesses a cockfight, we see the bloody spectacle from her perspective and are suddenly repulsed anew by it, along with her!

The picture is exacting in its detail and almost never strikes a false note! It’s clear the cock pits we see are real cock pits, the spectators are real spectators, and of course the roosters are real roosters, fighting and clawing and beaking each other bloody! The cast is just about perfect: ha ha, what a gallery of faces, and in addition to those already named we get folks like Warren Finnerty from The Laughing Policeman, Tom Spratley from Deadly Friend, and even Kermit Echols from Grizzly! But it remains that Mansfield, as ingratiating as he can sometimes be in his silence – slapping his knee in response to a joke, or darting out his hand for a shake to seal the deal or to indicate agreement – and as marvelous as Oates’s performance is, is ultimately a damaged and inhumane guy; and that the sport itself, in spite of occasional bursts of first-person narration trying to explain Frank’s love of it, is indefensible! It’s a wonder that this movie exists, and, cruelty aside (if that’s possible), it’s one of the most perfectly-crafted things Roger Corman, or the 1970s for that matter, ever produced! And that’s saying something on both counts, ha ha! I give Cockfighter three and a half busted beaks!

Monday 25 September 2023

Burl reviews Oppenheimer! (2023)


Bang boom and blast, it’s Burl, with a report on a big summer movie that I’ve only just gotten around to seeing, as opposed to the big summer movies I managed to see but haven’t yet reviewed! (I hope to review them for you soon, but who knows!) This is one of the biggest of the summer pictures, or at least one of the longest, and I’m sure by now you’ve figured out that I mean Oppenheimer!

Ha ha, as a casual WWII buff, I already knew the broad strokes of the story, and was aware that, after spearheading the logistics of the bomb-building and after the war was won and his utility exhausted, Oppenheimer was subsumed by the Red Scare business of the 50s, mostly, it seems, just to get him to shut up, and also for revenge! All of this is told fairly plainly in the film – we jump around a bit in time, as is the norm in a Christopher Nolan picture, but it seemed pretty straightforward biopic material to me!

Oppenheimer is played by the veteran zombiefighter and Irish-man Cillian Murphy from 28 Days Later, looking rather gaunt and zombielike himself! Ha ha, with his suit and hat and skeletal physique, he seems a pretty good candidate if they ever want to make the William S. Burroughs story! (Unless Peter Weller wants to do it, ha ha - maybe they could share the role!) We meet the titular atom-juggler as he’s testifying before some kind of panel we don’t yet understand, but we will many times return to this small, unprepossessing room to see more of what we soon understand to be a kangaroo court!

We flash back to Oppenheimer’s time at Cambridge, where he nearly kills first his tutor and then, accidentally, Niels Bohr (played with appeal and a fine Danish accent by Kenneth Branagh from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein) by means of a poisoned apple! Then we get into some science madness and relationship wackiness, including a few nude-lady scenes which elicited a gasp from the woman sitting next to me! (Ha ha, is a perfectly tasteful sex scene really so shocking? Have we really sunk so far back into puritanism?) We also get into Oppenheimer’s politics a little bit, which were refreshingly similar to my own! And of course then mustachioed army man Leslie Groves, played sternly by Matt Damon from The Martian, shows up to enlist Oppenheimer into the Manhattan Project, and the race to build the biggest bomb in all the world is on! (Ha ha, but they prefer to call it a "gadget!")

Of course once the Trinity test is successful and the bomb carted off by the army, and Oppenheimer has qualms about the morality of it all, there’s still the third hour left in the picture, which is mainly back to the kangaroo court I mentioned before! We learn that an administrator and would-be Cabinet member called Strauss, played very well by Robert Downey Jr. from Weird Science and Due Date, has orchestrated Oppenheimer’s downfall because one time Oppenheimer was a wisenheimer and Strauss has never forgiven him for it!

We meet many, many characters in the course of all this, most of them played by familiar faces! Oppenheimer’s tart-tongued wife Kitty is played by Emily Blunt from Edge of Tomorrow; his emotionally disturbed girlfriend Jean Tatlock is Florence Pugh from Midsommar; Roger Robb, the bulldog prosecutor in the disciplinary panel scenes is played by gimlet-eyed Jason Clarke from Twilight (the Paul Newman one, not the vampire one); silver fox inventor Vannevar Bush is Matthew Modine from Full Metal Jacket; Strauss’s aide is Alden Ehrenreich from Stoker; a fellow called Borden, whom Strauss uses as ponyboy in his pursuit of Oppenheimer, is David Dastmalchian from the more recent Dune; a miraculous defender of Oppenheimer is played by Rami Malek from No Time to Die; and a presidential aide called Gordon Gray is Tony Goldwyn from Plane!

It’s a long picture, but made up mostly of short, often punchy scenes – ha ha, you can tell there was a very concerted effort to keep things moving to offset the inevitable criticisms that this really is mostly a movie about white guys endlessly talking in rooms! It can be difficult to keep track of who’s who and what their motivations are, but a general understanding is really all that’s required to discern the larger themes and narrative drive at work! And some the major concerns here include power and responsibility, and it seems to me the picture is proposing an inverse to Uncle Ben’s great maxim “With great power comes great responsibility!” Oppenheimer – and Oppenheimer, for that matter – asks whether that responsibility still applies when it turns out one doesn’t have much power after all! The conundrum torments our science bug, and is addressed directly in late-picture scenes featuring a no-nonsense Harry Truman, played by Gary Oldman of Track 29 fame, and, separately, an avuncular Professor Albert Einstein, impersonated here by Tom Conti from Reuben, Reuben!

Nolan provides some poetic visuals that are meant to spring from Oppenheimer’s imagination: here we have raindrops depicting the sort of atomic chain reactions he’s looking for in a bomb, or rather gadget; there, a trick effect dramatizing what might happen if the chain reaction simply didn’t stop! But these sometimes seem shoehorned in as sops to the audience, and, as with the deliberate punchiness of the scenes, the non-stop music attempting to wallpaper over the seams, and the declamatory quality of some of the dialogue, one can here and there see the popular-cinema pulleys, cogs, and wheels hard at work, more so than the director intends!

Still, it’s a real achievement, almost as much as it assumes itself to be, and the sheer volume of craft on display is nearly overwhelming! I’m glad this long, talky, science-minded picture was made and that it’s doing well, and I for one was consistently engaged! (My twelve year-old got pretty antsy after the Trinity test, however, ha ha!) There’s something marvellously old-fashioned about it even beyond its mid-century setting, and I’m going to give Oppenheimer three slatherings of a topical jelly!

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Burl reviews Somewhere in Time! (1980)


Tick tock, it’s Burl here with a touch of time travel for you! Ha ha, when you think of late 70s-early 80s time-travel pictures, what comes to mind? The Final Countdown, of course, and also, no doubt, Time After Time! But there was another time-travel extravaganza of the era, in which not a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, not Jack the Ripper, but a simple lovelorn longuebönes is sent hurtling through the temporal rift! Yes, I’m talking about the cult romance picture Somewhere in Time!

The longuebönes is a playwright named Richard Collier, played by Christopher Reeve, whom we all recall from Monsignor! In 1972, when he’s a young scribe celebrating his first success beneath the proscenium, an old lady approaches, gives him a pocket watch, and whispers “Come back to me!” Ha ha, eerie! But horror isn’t where we’re going with this, more’s the pity: we flash forward eight years by which time Collier is well-known and much-produced, and struggling to finish his next play! He decides on a change of scenery and drives to the giant Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, where he soon becomes infatuated with a woman in a portrait: a famed stage actress from yesteryear called Elise McKenna, played by Jane Seymour from Live and Let Die!

Well, ha ha, he figures out this is the very same old lady who approached him eight years before, and, his infatuation rapidly metastasizing into obsession, he attempts to hypnotize himself into the year 1912 so that he can meet the object of his fancy! Eventually this actually works, and sure, why not? He manages to meet and charm Elise despite energetic counterefforts from her moustache-twirling manager Robinson, essayed by Christopher Plummer, whom we know so well from bad-guy roles in Dragnet and The Silent Partner and Dreamscape and so many others! But Robinson, though evidently in the grip of his own Elise obsession, even willing to employ toughs to rough Collier up, is unable to prevent the couple from achieving their romantic and sexual destinies! However, the ill-timed discovery by Collier of an anachronistic coin in his pocket sends the gangling clockhopper hurtling back into 1980, where he becomes so depressed that he locks himself in his room, turns white, and dies!

Now, ha ha, this movie was no hit when it was released, but in the years since it’s attracted a cult of romantically-minded people nearly as obsessed with the movie as its hero is with Elise! That doesn’t make it a good movie, but it suggests that there’s something to it, some core attraction worth considering! Is it in the concept, or the execution of that concept, or both? I think it’s maybe a bit of both: the concept is compelling but not exactly groundbreaking or unique; the execution is competent but not exactly brilliant, and these virtues together add up to something that a certain sort of person is just going to love!

The story is very simple: maybe, it seems to me, too much so! That simplicity is probably one of the secrets of its appeal to those who love the picture so much that they travel to Mackinac Island every year for the big Somewhere in Time celebration! Yes, there really is one! But there are lots of little virtues here that I appreciated – the location is very nice, and the acting is strong, for example! And it’s dandy to see veterans like Teresa Wright from Shadow of a Doubt, who plays Elise’s latter day companion, Miss Robert, and Bill Erwin from Jet Pilot and Planes, Trains & Automobiles, who is the elderly bellboy Arthur!

And I do like a time travel story! This one suggests a looping and rhyming time structure, especially once we realize that the photo which initially entranced Collier is the same one we see being taken in a later scene, and that her smile in the photograph was her genuine reaction to catching sight of him coming into the room, so the smile was indeed and directly meant for Collier, which is what entranced him about the photo and led him to do his time travel in the first place! Phew, ha ha!

There’s something very 1980 about the picture, and it fits in, or at least alongside, the other movies of the era that fascinated me as a youngster by the insights into the adult condition which I believed they provided! (I’ve spoken about this elsewhere regarding pictures like The Last Married Couple in America, Six Weeks and It’s My Turn!) As a time travel picture it slots more into the dreamy, was-it-even-real tradition of Midnight in Paris than it does the nuts and bolts approach of, say, The Terminator, but I say there’s room enough for all of them! I can’t say I’ve ever fallen under this film’s spell, but I’ll acknowledge that the spell is real, and that weaving a spell for anyone regardless of their predispositions, is a genuine achievement, and so I give Somewhere in Time two old suits!

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Burl reviews Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds! (1977)


Screech screech and aiyeeee it’s Burl, here with Japanese monster action! Ha ha, when I was a kid I had several issues of a magazine called Hammer’s House of Horror, and one of them contained a piece on a movie called Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds! The article was allegedly a review, but the author obviously hadn’t seen the movie and didn’t try to hide that fact; but the write-up, which described centipedes acting up and eels appearing in people’s beds, along with the accompanying photos of dinosaurs and monster birds, made it look like a must-see!

Now all these years later, thanks to the magic of the internet, I’ve managed to catch up with this (in my mind) legendary movie! Now, first off, the title: despite the plurals, the movie contains just one dinosaur and one monster bird! (I guess you could say it’s the titular legend speaking of multiple creatures rather than being a promise of the title itself, but I still say the plural is a bit of pocus!) Secondly, there were no centipedes or eels to be found, unless I nodded off for a minute and missed them! And, I’m sorry to say, nodding off during this picture is a definite risk!

The story is set at one of the lakes which surround Mount Fuji, and I really liked that specificity because I didn’t previously know much about this region! Dinosaurs and monster birds aside, it looks quite pleasant! Nearby is that forest you’ve heard about where people go to kill themselves, and that gets a mention in the movie too – a skeleton discovered there is dismissed as just another suicide, rather than being recognized as the dinosaur and/or monster bird victim that it is!

We open with a woman – a would-be suicide, I think – wandering in the woods! She falls into a cave (there’s a terrific shot of her plummeting toward the camera), where she finds some eggs, and then an egg cracks open and she sees a goochy eye staring back at her! Then we meet the picture’s alleged hero, a geologist called Takashi, who’s described in the film’s IMdB synopsis as an “action scientist,” and ha ha, I guess that’s what he is! On the other hand, for most of the picture he seems almost as sleepy as the Russ Tamblyn character in War of the Gargantuas, a film I was strongly reminded of as I watched this monster bird movie!

The scientist sees the story of the woman who discovered the giant eggs on TV and instantly becomes obsessed first with finding the eggs and then, once he realizes the possibility, with seeing an actual living dinosaur, which was also a pet project of his late father's! Once at the lake, Takashi hooks up with an old flame, Akiko, who is an underwater photographer! More stuff happens, not much of it having to do with either dinosaurs or monster birds though, and finally the picture borrows a scene whole from Jaws (a major inspiration on the first half of this movie) when two wiseacres panic people with a fake fin in the lake! The stunt cruelly interrupts a country music concert held on a floating barge, but thankfully the two pranksters are first swirled in the water like the turds they are, then chomped! A third fellow witnesses this, but, in a heartrending scene, no one will believe him when he reports it!

The monster rumours extend far enough to bring a Scotsman, who tells everybody that, as a Scotsman, he knows it’s no picnic dealing with giant lake monsters! Akiko can certainly confirm this once her diving buddy is chomped in half by the dinosaur, but the gruesome tragedy doesn’t prevent her from taking a shower (providing the picture with that rarity in the kaiju genre: a nude scene!) and doing a cheesecake underwear scene which concludes with a cutaway shot of a doll in diving gear with pink troll doll hair!

When the monster bird finally shows up, it’s almost worth the wait! He grabs people with his talons and then drops them like a jerk; he buffets them with his wings and slaps them with his tail, then causes them all to blow up! Inevitably the two props battle it out, bumping into each other and making screeching noises! A volcanic eruption puts a stop to this rumbustification and provides a seemingly endless final scene in which the two leads are caught in a deadly situation, dangling from a log over a river of bubbling lava!

This absurdly overstretched sequence and its uncertain terminus are frustrating but apt for a movie that’s a frequent bore and a narratively unstructured mess, ha ha! Plus, the monster bird looks like a really ugly version of one of those dino-head grabber toys, and the dinosaur has a freakishly pliable neck! Other trick effects are actually pretty good though, and the slight nudity and slightly more frequent gore give the whole thing a grindhouse feel; also we get the occasional striking shot or moment, like that plummet in the cave! Too often it’s tedious though, and sure could have used more monster attacks, more people being eaten up like junior mints, better characters, a proper story, and a heavy dose of pep! If it comes down to a choice, stick with War of the Gargantuas, but if you do watch Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds you will be able to wring at least some enjoyment from it! I give this picture one and a half depth charges!

Wednesday 6 September 2023

Burl reviews Humongous! (1981)

Wauuugghhh, it’s Burl, here with late-summer maniac madness! Yes, it’s another Canadian slasher picture today, this one from the director of Prom Night, so he had previous experience in the form! Ha ha, I recall seeing a poster for this one back in my childhood and thinking it looked pretty darn scary, but of course I was too young to check it out back then! I’ve seen it several times since, though “see” may not be the right word, as the VHS release is so very dark that often you can hardly discern what’s going on! Anyway, the movie is none other than Humongous!

That bad tape transfer has given this movie a reputation as being unwatchably dim, but I suspect and hope there have been subsequent releases which correct this! But even on VHS, one can apprehend the basic story: in an opening scene, set on the Labour Day weekend of 1946, a lady is set upon by a drunken reveler outside a big island lodge house! He achieves his unsavoury object, but is soon set upon by hounds and torn to shreds, and the lady finishes the job with a big rock! 

Then we cut to the present day, which I gather is the Labour Day weekend of 1980, to find a clutch of young folk heading out for a weekend of cabin cruising! We have two brothers, one, Eric, played by David Wallace from Mortuary, and the other, Nick, essayed by John Wildman from Blackout! Eric is a boring bozo, while Nick is a full-on jerk with all manner of issues! Eric’s girlfriend Sandy, played by Janet Julian from Smokey Bites the Dust and Fear City, is a sensible lass (and our clear Final Girl), while Nick’s ladyfriend Donna, played by Joy Boushel from Pinball Summer, has trouble keeping her shirt on, ha ha! And rounding out the quintet is little sister Carla, a female glasses nerd played by Janit Baldwin from Phantom of the Paradise!

Well, after a day cruising around in the family yacht, the fog rolls in and the youths rescue a stranded hoser named Bert! Then of course Nick goes mentyl with sibling resentment and steers the watercraft into some rocks! Everybody jumps off, and we see a small model of the boat go up in flames and explode! By the next morning they’ve all washed up on Dog Island, Bert with his leg broken, Carla missing, and Nick feeling the painful shame of the lamebrain; and by the sound of those moans and groans in the woods it’s nearly time for them to meet Mr. Humongous!

Humongous is the result of the rape scene in the film’s prologue, and he’s played by Garry Robbins, the Canadian Giant himself, who would later play another malformed backwoods psycho in Wrong Turn! Now, Humongous usually gets classified as a slasher film – not least by me, ha ha – but Humongous himself doesn’t actually do any slashing: he kills mainly by bearhug! Nick is the first to go, a relief for the audience; and thereafter we are treated to a lot of dimly-lit searching around the island, the boathouse, and the big old lodge itself! Bert meanwhile is ministered to by Donna, who finds her wherewithal when she collects berries in her décolletage, and removes her shirt one last time to keep the shivering hoser warm; but soon enough Humongous shows up to stomp them!

The rest of the story unfolds pretty much as you might expect – more creeping through impenetrable darkness, and then even at the end, when the boathouse is on fire and the moaning and groaning of the Humongous reaches a crescendo, you still can’t really see what’s going on! Paul Lynch, the director (he also brought us Bullies, ha ha) favours canted angles and shots framed through broken panes of glass and so forth; but none of this helps things much! As far as the slasher taxonomy goes there are a few Special Makeup Effects here – a glimpse of Bert’s floating head, some bloody dogbites – but most of the carnage is lost in the gloom! Similarly, while the Humongous is meant to be monstrous in appearance, we have to take that on trust, ha ha! I couldn’t tell you what he looks like if you offered me one million doll-hairs!

So it all feels a bit of a cheat! If ever I find a better transfer and my impression of the movie is materially improved by the viewing of it, I’ll come back here to append an extra paragraph saying so, as though this review needs an extra paragraph, ha ha! The movie as it stands has its pleasures though: principally a Canadian-ness so intense it seems to have infected even the actors (Julian, Wallace, Baldwin) who were imported from America or thereaboots! The Humongous is not a one-note monster but a fairly sympathetic character whose death one doesn’t mourn precisely, but we don’t really celebrate it either! The ending is downbeat in the way familiar from many other such movies, from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on down: the heroine has survived, but, we wonder, has her sanity? So it’s got some things going for it, but at the same time it’s sorely lacking in pep; the characters are mostly jerks, dimbulbs, or hackysacks; and the attempts at terror frequently fall flat! From my youthful sighting of the poster and many subsequent years of admiring its box on the video shelves, I will always have a fondness for the movie, but in the end that has little to do with the movie itself! I give Humongous one and a half plaid shirts!