Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Thursday, 30 March 2023

Burl reviews How I Got Into College! (1989)


Ha ha, rapscallions, it’s Burl here with a new review for you! This one is the last part of what I’ve always thought of as a loose trilogy, but which in fact is not a trilogy at all – it’s just three movies made by the same guy! That guy is Savage Steve Holland, and the not-a-trilogy I’m talking about is Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer, and the picture under review today, How I Got Into College!

Of course the first two feature John Cusack, and this third picture does not, so you might debate its place in this nonexistent triumvirate! I myself, as a teen, was a big fan of Better Off Dead and a much lesser one of One Crazy Summer, but never did bother seeing this one until just the other day, so I guess I myself also discounted its place in the Savage Steve oeuvre! But I’ve always been aware of the movie and very slightly curious about it, so when I ran across a used DVD of the thing I thought to myself “Ha ha, now’s the time!”

And the plot? Ha ha, it’s pretty much right there in the title! Our protagonist is a high school lackwit named Marlon, played by Corey Parker from Friday the 13th part V: A New Beginning; an amiable enough sort, but almost aggressive in his disinterest in any intellectual pursuit! His overriding passion is for a pretty, sociable, smart girl in the school, Jessica Kailo, impersonated by Lara Flynn Boyle from Poltergeist III! She’s friendly, on the order of a character like Diane Court from Say Anything (the picture Cusack did instead of this one, I suppose), but is only vaguely aware of Marlon's existence, despite the constant creepy pining for her he does over all the years of high school!

The plot and title kick in when it becomes time to apply for a college! We follow Marlon and Jessica separately as they try for a fictional athenaeum called Ramsey College, and also meet the Ramsey recruiting squad, which includes one called Kip Hammet, played by top-billed Anthony Edwards from The Sure Thing, and also the picture’s nominal antagonist, a dapper dan named Leo, essayed by Charles Rocket from Fraternity Vacation! And there are other Ramsay candidates, like a football player (Duane Davis from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4) and a girl who works at McDonalds (Tichina Arnold from Little Shop of Horrors)!

Being a moron, Marlon’s biggest challenge is passing the SAT, which is apparently some kind of test you need to pass to get accepted to an American college! Marlon employs a pair of coaches to help him, and these are played by Nora Dunn from Shake, Rattle & Rock and the always-welcome Phil Hartman from Small Soldiers! Meanwhile we get the debates of the recruiting committee, some jousting for the deanship, the worries and tribulations of the various students, the growing (though unrealistic) potential for romance between Marlon and Jessica, and little imaginary scenarios involving the hypothetical A and B of the SAT word questions, who grow increasingly resentful of Marlon for his idiocy! (One of these hypothetical fellows is played by noted eccentric Bruce Wagner, a screenwriter who wrote David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars and appeared as an actor in Wes Craven’s Shocker!)

We also get a long parade of familiar faces in the cast, including Philip Baker Hall from Three O’Clock High as the dean of recruitment; Bill Raymond from C.H.U.D. as the recruiter who accidentally accepted a pig; Brian Doyle-Murray from Vacation as a coach; Robert Ridgely from The Wild Life as Jessica’s dad; Richard Jenkins from The Witches of Eastwick as Marlon’s dad; Bill Henderson from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai as another coach; O-Lan Jones from The Right Stuff as a secretary; Curtis Armstrong from Revenge of the Nerds in a cameo as a bible college recruiter; Diane Franklin from The Last American Virgin as Marlon’s comely stepmom; Helen Lloyd Breed from Funny Farm as Jessica’s mom; and Taylor Negron, who played a mailman in Better Off Dead, is again a mailman here – ha ha, maybe the same mailman! Plus it ends with a cameo from Bob Eubanks of Johnny Dangerously fame, here riding majestically in the back of a pink Cadillac filled with pretty girls!

Phew, ha ha! There are a lot of balls kept in the air for a 90 minute comedy, and the picture pulls the multistory element off surprisingly well! As a procedural story about the difficulties of getting into college it’s only sporadically interesting, and relies far too much on fantastical characters, like Edwards’s beneficent cool-dude recruiter, and unlikely scenarios to reach its resolution! Marlon is a fairly annoying personality, but I liked that the movie focused just as much on Jessica, makes her a human instead of a puppy-love object, and occasionally interrogates her alleged perfection – it’s very like Say Anything in that way, and in several other ways as well!

Just about everything in the movie is serviceable, and the picture as a whole is good-natured, but it rarely rises above that – laffs are sprinkled here and there, but it never gets very uproarious! I thought it was ok, but not much more, so I give How I Got Into College two plaid jackets!

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Burl reviews From Beyond! (1986)

Well slap my bucket, it’s Burl! Ha ha, remember how good Re-Animator was? Well, on the basis of that, I recall in the mid-80s becoming very excited at each new Stuart Gordon picture that got mentioned on Fangoria’s Terror Teletype: movies like Dolls and Robo Jox, and the sadly never-to-be made Gris-Gris, and of course the picture under consideration today: another H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, and therefore the most direct follow-up to the great Re-Animator, and therefore the most exciting of them all, From Beyond! Ha ha, I had a one-sheet for this one up on the wall of my teenage bedroom, and it was a prized possession indeed!

The picture begins with a long pre-credit sequence that dramatizes the entirety of the Lovecraft story the movie is based on! Ha ha, we meet young and earnest science assistant Crawford Tillinghast, played by the committed Jeffrey Combs from The Man With Two Brains and Cellar Dweller, and his boss, the voluptuary and radical sybarite Dr. Edward Pretorius, impersonated here very well by Ted Sorel of Basket Case 2 fame, and who, a trivia, was the nephew of famed Universal monster makeup man Jack Pierce! Pretorius has invented a machine, the Resonator, which opens up mutually accessible pathways to normally extra-perceptible dimensions that are populated by monsters!

When a flying eel puts a biting on Tillinghast he knows it’s all gone too far, but before he can destroy the machine Pretorius has his head chomped off, and after a neighbour lady’s dog finds the body and licks the head stump, Tillinghast is thought mad and accused of the murder! (The neighbour lady, it should be noted, is essayed by Bunny Summers from The Kid With the 200 I.Q.!) Cue the arrival of a comely psychiatrist, Dr. Katherine McMichaels, played by Barbara Crampton from Fraternity Vacation and Chopping Mall!

The next step, of course, is to have the putative axe-murderer Tillinghast released into the custody of good Dr. McMichaels so they can return to the Pretorious house and figure out what happened! This may seem an unlikely happenstance, but the authorities aren’t fools: for security they send along an ex-football player-turned-cop called Bubba Brownlee, played by Ken Foree, whom we remember so fondly from shopping centre-based pictures like Dawn of the Dead and Phantom of the Mall! The trio set up camp in the house, and as soon as dials are fiddled with and giant tuning forks start glowing purple, the extradimensional creatures show up, accompanied by a now-bestial Pretorius!

Things don’t go well from there – there are locust attacks, an encounter with bondage gear, and a giant lamprey eats off Tillinghast’s hair! Moreover, pineal glands start acting up and an officious doctor played by Stuart Gordon’s wife Carolyn Purdy-Gordon has her brains sucked out through her eye socket! Yuck! This is a scene which was depicted in the pages of Fangoria, but was cut out of all prints of the movie until fairly recently! I was glad to finally see it, but I have to admit the scene is gross!

And what of the movie itself? I like the creatures a lot, Combs is a nervous pleasure as ever, and it’s always terrific to see Foree on screen! Plus I like the pink-and-purple colour scheme (popular hues for Lovecraft apparently – remember The Color Out of Space?), and the craft across the board is very strong for a low-budget horror picture! And yet it doesn’t measure up to its predecessor! The story is fairly limp, the characters not terribly well-developed, and there are a few ropey trick effects! I don’t accuse the picture of being overly ambitious – ha ha, I admire ambition in low-budget pictures! – but they might have bit off a little more than they could chew with some of the dimensional effects!

Still, that’s not a big problem; the trouble really is the “That’s it?” feeling we’re left with at the end of the picture! It gets darker than I remembered – the conclusion has something of a Texas Chainsaw Massacre feeling, or maybe more of a Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 feeling, ha ha! But despite any shortcomings, the pleasures here are many; and if it’s not a revelatory experience like Re-Animator was, it’s nevertheless a fine chunk of 80s horror with some terrific monsters! I give From Beyond two and a half ill-fitting bald caps!

Sunday, 19 March 2023

Burl reviews The Invisible Man Returns! (1940)


With a tap on your shoulder and you turn and no one’s there, it’s Burl, reviewing a tender slice of Universal horror for you! It’s another picture about that paragon of imperception, that clearest of creatures, the least visible of villains, the ethereal evildoer himself, the invisible man! Here, in point of fact, we have the first sequel to the great 1933 James Whale spookshow The Invisible Man, and what else could it be called but The Invisible Man Returns!

But it’s not the same invisible man, because Jack Griffin was cut down by police gunfire in the ’33 picture! This time, it seems a fellow called Geoffrey Radcliffe has been accused of murdering his brother, but only the Yard thinks he’s guilty - everyone else knows he's too nice a guy to have done the deed! So he’s in prison and sentenced to hang, but luckily he’s bosom chums with Dr. Frank Griffin, who's the brother of Jack and privy to the invisibility serum formula! In his cell, hours before his sentence is to be carried out, Radcliffe uses a syringe provided by Griffin to render himself invisible, escapes the gaol, and sets about trying to find the real killer – ha ha, just like OJ did, but this time there really is one!  

Radcliffe is played (invisibly, until the very end) by good old Vincent Price, whose face was also obscured in The Abominable Dr. Phibes, but whose sonorous voice is nearly as effective here as it was when he narrated The Devil’s Triangle! John Sutton from Booloo and Return of the Fly is Dr. Frank, who, as the story starts, is trying to find an antidote as quickly as possible, because he’s certain the potion will drive Geoffrey mad just as it did Jack seven years previously!

Sir Cedric Hardwick, who appeared in some Hitchcock pictures and whose voice adorns the original War of the Worlds, is top-billed here, and he plays a fellow who’s evidently an executive at the coal mine owned by the Radcliffe brothers! Meanwhile, Nan Grey from Tower of London (which John Sutton was also in, ha ha) plays Helen Manson, Geoffrey’s fiancée, who of course believes in his innocence and is helping Frank with Geoffrey’s escape, but now has to stand by helplessly as her betrothed becomes more and more devoted to maniacal laughs and paranoia!

Cecil Kellaway, who was in The Under-Pup with Nan Grey, and who later showed up in pictures as diverse as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Spinout, and Getting Straight, plays the dogged Scotland Yard inspector on the case, constantly puffing on a cigar in hopes of, ha ha, smoking out the invisible man! And Alfred himself, Alan Napier, whom we’ll recall from The Premature Burial, is the terrified, scarf-wearing Willie Spears, a gangly but pathetic figure who witnessed the real culprit but, terrified, said nothing and allowed Radcliffe to take the blame! For this he suffers the prolonged wrath of the invisible man!

Most of these people also showed up in The House of the Seven Gables, which, like this picture, was directed by the Teutonic megaphone-shouter Joe May! And I must say that while this doesn’t immediately strike one as a magnificently directed picture, I do think May brought some really nice stylistic touches to it! The script is nothing to write home about, but the cast is strong and there are some quite fantastic trick effects depicting the manipulations of the invisible man! And, ha ha, I also liked that for once there's a happy ending for the walking transparency! It’s a minor picture with some major aspects, like the terrific coal-cart scene! It’s not a patch on its predecessor, which is a movie I really like, but still, I give The Invisible Man Returns two and a half guinea pig harnesses!

Saturday, 18 March 2023

Burl reviews Leprechaun! (1992)


Ai-te-ti-te-ti-te-ti, it’s Burl, here with a touch of the shamrock for you at this very Irish time o’ the year! Yes, as I write this it’s St. Paddy’s Day, a day for the wearin’ of the green, and I’ve just revisited a picture I saw in the theatre some thirty years ago – all by myself as I recall because no one would go with me! Ha ha, I can’t say I blame them! The movie is no classic, that’s for sure, but I suppose it has a few lucky charms scattered here and there! Yes, I’m talking about Leprechaun!

The picture begins with a limousine roaring through the wilds of what is supposed to be North Dakota, but is patently California! An auld Oirishman returns to his homestead and to his wife, babbling about how he caught a leprechaun while attending his mother’s funeral on the old sod and took his gold and now they’re rich! Rich! The couple, the O’Grady’s, are played by Shay Duffin from 10 to Midnight and Pamela Mant from Freaked, but what they don’t know is the leprechaun has packed himself as luggage and is in the house with them! These elderlies are soon dispatched or incapacitated by jolly little Warwick Davis in scare makeup by Gabe Bartalos, whose work we enjoyed in Frankenhooker!

Ten years later a father, played by the sort of guy who looks at home modelling in Land's End catalogues, drags his unwilling daughter Tori (a role essayed by a pre-stardom Jennifer Aniston, whom we know best from her part in Office Space) out to a very “Look what we built!”-looking rural house! It’s the usual dynamic: the earnest dad keen on rustification versus the mobile phone-toting glamourpuss, fully citified, whining about cobwebs and bugs and poor reception! A motley gang of painters soon appears, made up of one (1) studly fellow called Nathan, played by Ken Olandt from Summer School, one (1) paint-splattered oaf named Ozzie, essayed by Mark Holton whom you’ll recall from his role as Chubby in Teen Wolf, and one (1) precocious kid!

Naturally it’s the oaf who brushes away the four-leaf clover that affects the magical mini-man as a cross does a vampire, and thereby releases him from the crate that’s been his prison for a decade! At first nobody believes the oaf's tale of a rampaging leprechaun, but when the be-buckled entity shows himself, snapping his teeth and demanding always the return of his gold, they don’t demonstrate nearly the level of surprise I’d have expected from people suddenly presented with hard-biting evidence of a supernatural entity they had previously thought restricted to Disney movies and cereal boxes! There is much running around the house, and the leprechaun avails himself of a variety of conveyances, including but not limited to a tricycle, a skateboard, and two separate motorized go-karts!  

Of course Warwick Davis is known and beloved from The Force Awakens and many other Star Wars pictures, playing jolly forest teddies or else mystical elves of magic! But here he puts on a merry rumbustification indeed in the role of the corrugated, doggerel-spouting Emerald Isle pixie! Ha ha! And there are a few other familiar faces in the cast too, like one of the Darryls, namely John Voldstad from Joysticks, who gets bloodily pogo-sticked to death by the elf; and William Newman from Silver Bullet and The Serpent and the Rainbow playing Sheriff Cronin, whose face is almost as deep-creased as the leprechaun's, and who never leaves the police station!

Although this cast provides some merriment, the movie is never in the least bit scary, nor well-written, nor craftily directed! It also fails to whip up any atmosphere, whether uncanny or Irish! Warwick Davis and his makeup are about the only effable virtues the movie can boast, yet it’s nevertheless a breezy and reasonably good-natured concoction with a few bloody moments! Again, I certainly don’t blame anyone who demurred from seeing it with me at the Towne Cinema all those years ago, but I didn’t hate watching it again on this year’s St. Patrick’s Day! I give Leprechaun one and a half buckled hats!

Sunday, 12 March 2023

Burl reviews 65! (2023)


Ha ha, Burl returning to you good people after an absence! Sorry about that – I’d have warned you there would be one, but I simply didn’t know! These things sometimes happen in Burl-land, and although I’ve watched plenty of movies I’d like to review, the old reviewing muscles simply weren’t twitching! But I’ve just returned from the cinema show, and I figured I’d review you the picture I saw while it’s fresh in my memory! It’s the sci-fi dino-fest 65!

And I know you’re saying “But Burl, by garr! What does that title mean!” Well, it refers to the time frame in which the picture is set: 65 million years ago! It seems an alien man named Mills, played by Adam Driver, whom we recall from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Inside Llewyn Davis and The Dead Don’t Die, is driving his spaceship past ancient Earth when he gets knocked askew by a meteorite! But there’s some backstory, economically told thank goodness: Mills, we learn, is only driving this spaceship to earn enough money for lifesaving medical treatment to cure his ailing daughter, which is a plot point only an American could come up with! Ha ha, on a sophisticated, futuristic, Trek-style planet, they’ll have universal health care, believe me!

Anyway, Mills crash lands on a planet, which, tah-dahh, is Earth in the dinosaur times, and all the colonists or whomever Mills is ferrying are killed, but there’s one survivor, a little foreign girl! Together she and Mills must trek across the jungle primeval to the other half of the crashed spaceship, where there might be a blast-off pod! Along the way they must deal with dinosaurs, gross bugs, geysers, quicksand, cave-ins, language difficulties, and more dinosaurs! And of course their visit to Earth is perfectly timed with the impending arrival of the planet-killing meteor that wiped out the thunder lizards! Ha ha!

And that’s about it for plot! The bulk of the picture is the overland trek, punctuated by dinosaur encounters and the other hazards mentioned, and it’s all done passably well, but there remains a feeling that more excitement, more suspense, even more art, could have been wrung out of this premise! Driver does a fine job, though his attempts to communicate with the girl don’t always make sense; and the mere presence of the girl, a stand-in for the daughter he misses so much, is about as un-nuanced and sophomorically convenient as storytelling gets!

Still, the whole thing moves well, looks good, and clocks in at a trim (for these days) 93 minutes, so even with its obviously huge budget, it counts as one of those appealing B-cinema theatrical experiences that I treasure so well! One does occasionally wish for the R-rated version that might have been, in which there are more survivors among the passengers and therefore more potential victims to be bloodily chewed on by lizards and bugs, but there’s an appeal to this trimmer PG-13 iteration too – ha ha, it was a family outing for us, and it never got too gruesome for my 11 year-old! (He’s got a pretty high threshold for that stuff though!)

Altogether it was more straightforward and enjoyable than, say, Jurassic World or any of those recent ones – it was more on the level of Jurassic Park III, another unpretentious 93-minute special! I can’t accuse 65 of excessive originality or style or a very good title, but the premise works and it’s a night out, barely! I give it two mouthfuls of bug goo!

Friday, 3 February 2023

Burl reviews Frankenhooker! (1990)


Ha ha, wanna date? No, just kidding, it’s Burl here to review another movie for you, and if you ever had “Wanna date?” shouted at you by a VHS box, you’ll know which one it is! Now, here’s an interesting case: as of the other night, I’ve now seen this movie twice, and both times it was in the theatre! The first time was a midnight show in Montreal the summer it came out, which as you can imagine was a lot of fun, and then it was playing here in my town on a double bill with its soul mate, Re-Animator! Ha ha, this is the sort of picture it’s unlikely to have even seen once on the big screen if you don’t live somewhere like New York, and since I don’t, I call that an accomplishment! The movie I’m talking about is Frank Henenlotter’s third picture as a director, Frankenhooker!

Henenlotter is a funny case: studied from a distance he seems an inevitable product of New York City, and in particular of Times Square before they tidied it up! He’s made a little industry out of exploring the psychopathologies of young New Yawk men who find themselves in tragic and monster-related situations, and there’s a grimy collegiality to his movies that usually leavens the less-pleasant aspects of his stories! Basket Case, the first and grimiest of his movies, doesn’t always manage this of course, but there’s still an underlying jollity to it, and the monster certainly has his rough-hewn charms!

Frankenhooker is a picture that could have gone wrong, but Henenlotter made several deft choices along the way! As much as I appreciate well-done gore, I think he was correct to keep this movie on the dry and more cartoonish side – instead of guts and blood, the hookers in this movie explode in sparks and what appear to be mannequin parts! It doesn’t quite go the “green streamers” way of Evil Dead II, but almost! (And, like that movie, it was forced to go the unrated route anyway!)

The story has Jeffrey Franken, a coverall-wearing amateur mad scientist played by James Lorinz from Street Trash and Last Exit to Brooklyn, suffer a terrible bereavement in the opening moments of the picture: his fiancée Elizabeth, played by Patty Mullen from Doom Asylum and nothing else, is run over by a remote control lawnmower! Well, Jeffrey manages to save her head, and, after he has an impassioned chat with his mother, played in a cameo appearance by Louise Lasser from Bananas and Crimewave (the Raimi one), we discover that he’s keeping the noggin in a freezer in his garage laboratory! He’s got to find some replacement body parts if he’s going to reassemble his lady love, so of course his next course of action is to head across the bridge to Times Square and find some hookers to explode with his lab-created super-crack!

It’s when Jeffrey gets to New York that the picture really comes to life, ha ha! He meets some lively whores and a fearsome bemuscled pimp named Zorro, and also encounters a portly bartender named Spike played by the mighty Shirley Stoler from Klute and Splitz and Three O’Clock High and Grumpier Old Men! And after Jeffrey has exploded a roomful of working girls (accidentally, because he’s had a change of heart and decided not to go through with it after all), he collects their bits in plastic bags and constructs a new body for Elizabeth! But when she’s brought to life by lightning, she’s no longer Elizabeth, but rather a sort of hooker automaton, and she immediately shambles back to Times Square to ply her ancient trade!


By the end of the picture Zorro has become involved, and has suffered a nasty encounter with a freezer-full of mutated bits – poetic justice for his cruel practice of addicting his ladies to mind drugs! Jeffrey himself comes to the sticky but apposite conclusion befitting one who would pervert science and meddle with nature and reconstruct his lawn-mown girlfriend without her consent! Ha ha!

The picture is a bit ramshackle, but it’s amusing! There are no affrights to speak of, but that’s not the goal! Nor is it a gross-out picture, though it has its moments, as any movie featuring a cooler full of disembodied breasts must! It’s a real artifact at this point in history, which gives it some additional interest; and the special effects are janky but appropriate and the performances unexpectedly strong! I particularly liked Mullen’s twisty-mouthed work as the jigsaw zombie! Ha ha, it’s kind of a shame she didn’t stay in the acting game, because I thought she was really solid! Anyway, the whole movie has a likeable backyard quality that mostly overwhelms the conceptually unsavory aspects, and so I give Frankenhooker two and a half Visible Women!

Saturday, 28 January 2023

Burl reviews Men At Work! (1990)


Good gravy and big blue bananas, it’s Burl! Yes, I’m here to review another movie, and this time it’s the famous garbage comedy Men At Work, which I saw in the theatre back when it came out in the late summer of 1990! Why did I go see such a movie on the big screen? At this late date I can’t tell you, and now, having re-watched the thing for the first time since that mysterious and long-ago evening, I’m even more perplexed about it!

Let’s take a look at some of the other comedies released that year: Loose Cannons, Madhouse, House Party, Nuns on the Run, Opportunity Knocks, Ernest Goes to Jail, Crazy People, Far Out Man, Cadillac Man, Ghosts Can’t Do It, Ghost Dad, Betsy’s Wedding, Quick Change, The Freshman, My Blue Heaven, Taking Care of Business, Sibling Rivalry, Look Who’s Talking Too, Almost an Angel, and others I’m too disgusted to bother typing out! But glance through those titles, ha ha – with a couple of exceptions (Quick Change, mostly), all of them are reportedly terrible scourges that have roundly earned their historical obscurity! I’ve seen exactly two of those movies, The Freshman and My Blue Heaven, and of those only one, The Freshman, did I see in the theatre! And that was the cheapo second-run dollar theatre, ha ha!

So what am I getting at here? Well, to its discredit, Men At Work fits right in with all those other debouchments, and yet something drew me to the cinema to fork over my hard-earned bucks and 98 minutes of my youth to see the thing even as I properly ignored all the others! Did it stand out somehow in the blasted post-apocalyptic landscape of 1990 comedy film? I couldn’t tell you! Maybe I won tickets in a radio station contest or something!

It’s the tale of two idiot garbagemen, one, Carl, played by Charlie Sheen from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and No Man’s Land, and the other, James, essayed by his brother Emilio Estevez, whom we know from Nightmares and Maximum Overdrive and who also wrote and directed this thing! Unsurprisingly they’re not very good at the job – they throw cans all over the street and make a lot of noise, and they roll discarded bowling balls all over the neighbourhood!

As a sort of probation, their boss, played by Estevez’s old Repo Man buddy Sy Richardson, assigns his brother-in-law to ride along with them! The brother-in-law turns out to be a guy named Louis, played by Keith David from The Thing and Road House, a hair-trigger Vietnam vet prone to flashbacks and general grumpy behaviour! And while all this is going on, a whistleblowing city councilman played by Darrell Larson from When Time Ran Out… and Six Weeks is threatening to grass on a corrupt slickback called Maxwell Potterdam III, who manufactures paint thinner and is played by John Getz from The Fly II! Potterdam III is dumping yellow barrels of waste into the ocean, and the councilman has the whole caper recorded on a cassette tape!

There’s a confusion of course, and the councilman’s comely campaign manager Susan, played by Leslie Hope from Crimson Peak, ends up with the herring-cassette, the councilman is killed by assassins, and the garbagemen end up with the corpse, which has been stuffed into one of the yellow barrels! Ha ha, they never go full Weekend At Bernie’s with the body, but it gets pretty close a couple of times! Then things become all about male duos, Platonic shadows of our dimwit heroes! The garbagemen have trouble with three separate pairs of antagonists: local bike cops who hassle them, essayed by John Putch from Jaws 3-D and Tommy Hinkley from L.A. Story; co-workers with whom they’re in a prank war, played by Geoffrey Blake from Secret Admirer and Cameron Dye from Fraternity Vacation; and hit men in Potterdam III’s employ who are chasing them for the cassette, and also to kill them, played by John Lavachielli from Time Walker and Hawk Wolinski from Electra Glide in Blue! And so Louis doesn't feel left out of the duello structure, he gets a comrade when he and the garbagemen kidnap a pizza man played by Chainsaw from Summer School!

It all devolves, as much as anything already so primitive can devolve, into a series of location shifts occasionally bridged by chases! An unforgivable lack of jokes - or, if jokes be present, they’re stolen from other movies, like Better Off Dead – keeps the thing scraping along at ground level; logic is never a consideration; there's no suspense; and the characterizations are thinner than a spaghettini! The garbagemen are half-assedly given a goal (to jointly open a surf shop) and some allegedly solveable personality problems (though the vast majority of their defects remain on display but unmentioned and unchanged), and then virtually none of this is followed through in any way! The garbagemen at the end have defeated the bad guy, sort of, we assume; but, except for a romance between Carl and Susan, they have not improved their situations in any way! In fact I think they’d be unlikely to keep their jobs and stay out of jail, if the movie had decided to cover the next six or so hours of their lives! Ha ha, of course scrupulous reality is not what I was after with this picture, but an occasional airy wave in that direction might have been nice! And, sorry Emilio, I like you man, but it’s all shot with a minimum of art and mostly, and criminally, absent the sort of peppy entertainment the 80s did so well! (Sure, this came out in 1990, but I think it was written at least a half-decade earlier - it's 80s material all right!) Anyway, I may have enjoyed it in the theatre, just because it was being projected onto a big screen, but I don’t think so! I give Men At Work one short golf clap!

Monday, 23 January 2023

Burl reviews Troll! (2022)

Höch now, it’s Burl, here to review sweet monster madness! Yes, we’re in giant creature territory here, but not in Japan this time, nor even in Korea or North Carolina! No, this monster hails from the northern reaches of our world, up in Norway! Of course we’ve had monster troubles up there before – ha ha, we all remember Trollhunter! Well, here’s a picture in the same vein, and this one is simply called Troll!

It’s not that Empire Picture from 1986 called Troll, the one where Sonny Bono turns into a jungle! No, in fact it's a pretty basic giant monster picture, garnished with a specific mythology and featuring a more human-like monster than usual! The movie reminded me of War of the Gargantuas if it had just the more sympathetic brown gargantua and not the evil green one! Still, the giant troll in this one does, like his grouch-coloured gargantua forbear, munch down on a poor unfortunate guy, eating him up just like a junior mint!

Anyway, the story is pretty simple! After a prelude showing a girl and her father climbing to the top of a Norwegian mountain and talking about the legend of the trolls, we skip to twenty years later, the present day, by which time the girl, Nora Tidemann, now played by Ine Marie Wilmann, has become a professor of paleontology working with The Rocketeer himself, Billy Campbell! When a mountain-drilling project being protested by environmentalists suffers a strange disaster which kills drillers and protesters alike, the Norwegian government puts together a task force which includes the initially baffled Nora!

Turns out the legends her father always talked about are true, and a hundred-meter troll has awakened in a grumpy mood and is wreaking destruction across the countryside! He’s not a destruction-for-the-sake-of-it sort of a monster, but he sure doesn’t shy away from causing carnage either! He’ll kick a house down without thinking twice if the house is in his way, and his melancholy, bulbous-nosed expression stays constant! But he does start to get irritated when they start shooting at him with rockets, ha ha! And who can blame him!

Most of the time is spent with the humans, though, following Nora as she's recruited by the prime minister to help out after an anthropoid form has been spotted in the billowing dust of a panic video! She’s paired up with a nerdy assistant who’s always telling people about his crazy book ideas, then is seconded to a military unit, and it looks like a pace-crippling romantic triangle might develop between Nora, the nerd, and a handsome military man, Kaptein Kristoffer; but thankfully that never happens! The gang visits Nora’s old dad, who’s now a crazed hermit because no one would listen to his troll theories, and there’s some tension between daughter and dad that needs to be worked out!

Meanwhile the troll attacks, or rather strides through, Lillehammer, where pesky helicopters are ringing church bells at him! Though annoyed he takes a moment to save a father and son from certain doom, and this is where everyone, characters and audience alike, realizes the troll’s primary goal actually isn’t to flatten (or occasionally eat) humans! But he doesn’t mind doing it either, and it soon appears that what he really wants is to stomp Oslo! It turns out he’s got his own agenda beyond that, but I’m not saying Oslo also doesn’t get a little stomped on in the process!

In many ways this is a Scandinavianized update of King Kong Lives, ha ha, but luckily they left out most of the stupid stuff! It’s not much more than a standard kaiju, complete with a “let nature be” message, and it has a few monster-less longeurs, but it’s never boring and pretty consistently entertaining! Plus the trick effects are solid, the troll is a sympathetic figure, and the whole thing is played at just the right pitch – not too self-serious, not too self-aware! Sure the characters aren’t much to write home about, some stuff doesn’t make sense, and a few threads are left dangling, but if you like a giant monster movie this ought to scratch the itch! I give Troll two and a half vintage Chevy pick-ups!  

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

Burl reviews Zapped!! (1983)


Bzzzztt, it’s Burl here with some science psycho-pervations for you! Ha ha, here we have a precursor to the science wizard pictures of the mid-80s, like Weird Science and My Science Project, or the more reality-based (and better) The Manhattan Project; and of course a descendant of the Dexter Riley movies of the decade before, of which The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes is an example recently reviewed! But here we have a movie that started out with the innocence of a Dexter Riley movie, or even a Flubber and Shaggy Dog-era Disney picture, but, in the wake of Porky’s, was garnished with some extra boobs and bums to bring it up to 80s code! Yes, I’m talking about Zapped!!

Ha ha, it’s always nice to review a movie that comes with its own exclamation point! Zapped! is the story of nerdly-but-dreamy school science wizard Barney Springboro, played by Cha-Chi himself, Scott Baio, well known for being The Boy Who Drank Too Much, and, more recently, for being a bit of a right-wing loon! As the movie opens he’s got mice swimming around in diving suits for some reason, and we learn that he’s growing special orchids for the school principal, played by Robert Mandan, the super familiar-looking guy from The Carey Treatment, and growing special mary-hoo-wanna for his best buddy Peyton, played by crinkle-haired Willie Aames from Paradise! Peyton is a strange amalgam of types: a horndog party animal who’s also a spoiled rich kid, and also, I gather, supposed to be sort of an unpopular nerd! I guess they just had him be whatever they felt was convenient for the movie in any given moment, ha ha!   

Felice Schachter is a nosy teen newshound called Bernadette who always wants to report on whatever Cha-Chi is up to with his science! What he’s most recently up to is falling victim to a lab accident that gives him Carrie-style psychokinesis, and when Peyton finds out about the power, he immediately enlists Cha-Chi to help him win first a baseball game, and then against the frat house boys in casino gambling! This causes complications and confusions, because at the same time, Cha-Chi and Bernadette are becoming fond of each other, and Bernadette strongly disapproves of the gambling; while meantime Peyton is trying his best with Jane, the randomly flatulent queen of the campus played by Heather Thomas from Red Blooded American Girl, who is dating Greg Bradford from Lovelines, the usual blond BMOC quasi-fascist and head of the casino frat house! Ha ha, phew, it’s a situation so complicated I had to use a run-on sentence to describe it!

Also meanwhile, Miss Burnhart, played by Sue Ann Langdon from Without Warning, is trying to make time with the principal and also to bust Cha-Chi for weed cultivation! And Cha-Chi’s prune juice-guzzling dad, played by Roger Bowen from M*A*S*H and Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home, is sleeping through everything, and his mom, essayed by Mews Small from Sleeper, stays awake, terrified, believing her son possessed by the devil and recruiting priests to exorcise him after his powers have been revealed to her in the form of a flying ventriloquist’s dummy!

Barney’s other friend is Dexter the baseball coach, played by the great Scatman Crothers from The King of Marvin Gardens and The Shining! Ha ha, it’s always nice to see him! LaWanda Page from Mausoleum plays Dexter’s wife, and is the main antagonist in an insane hophead dream Dexter has when he’s exposed to big billows of pot smoke from the furnace: he goes bicycling with Albert Einstein and chatting about relativity, until suddenly his wife comes thundering along in a chariot, dressed as Attila the Hun, bellowing threats and firing pork products at him from a bazooka!

Ha ha, and there are plenty of other familiar faces in the margins! We get Jewel Shepard from Raw Force and The Return of the Living Dead; “Boof” from Teen Wolf makes a small appearance; and there’s even a walk on from I Wanna Hold Your Hand’s Eddie Deezen, who wears a driving cap, a cardigan, a bowtie, and a shirt that reads “God’s Gift to Women,” and only sticks around long enough to accuse his friend of constant masturbation!

It sounds like I’ve been describing a parade of nonstop delights, but I’ve got to report the shocking truth: it’s not a good movie, ha ha! Sure, Cha-Chi makes dresses fly up and cardigans come apart with the power of his mind, but on the other hand Cha-Chi makes dresses fly up and cardigans come apart with the power of his mind, and it’s just all so stupid! The character of Peyton, meanwhile, is so smarmy you could spread him on toast! My goodness, what a self-satisfied, smirky, misguidedly entitled nougat he is! But you can’t argue with that supporting cast, and it does seem like a Dexter Riley movie with sleaze, which is in theory a really appealing concept! But of all the Zapped!s you could imagine might result from that concoction, the Zapped! we got would be well at the low end of those expectations! I give it one tiny scuba suit!

Tuesday, 17 January 2023

Burl reviews He Knows You're Alone! (1980)


Sweet gumchewers, hello! It’s Burl, here to review another old school slasher picture, one of the many that came along in the direct wake of Halloween! Of course only one of these pretenders could reign supreme and that’s Friday the 13th, but that doesn’t mean the others didn’t have something to offer the undiscerning horror viewer! Take, for instance, the picture under close observation today: an east coast stalk-n-slash entitled He Knows You’re Alone!

It all gets going with a pretty decent fake-out – a cliché-filled stalking scene featuring a couple played by Russell Todd, who would later fall victim to Jason in Friday the 13th part 2 and to robots in Chopping Mall, and Debbie Novak, who had earlier appeared in jiggle comedies Team-Mates and Incoming Freshmen; but this scene turns out to be from a movie on a theatre screen being watched by two young ladies! Ha ha, just like Scream 2! Of course one of these ladies catches a dorsal poking through the seatback, and it turns out she was a bride-to-be, and very likely, according to an obsessed but incompetent moustache cop, the latest victim of a known bride-to-be killer! The killer is a jilted groom whose own abandonment at the altar sent him totally sneebarr, and ever since he’s been killing brides-to-be wherever he may find them, including the obsessed moustache cop’s fiancée!

This of course is, alongside the inciting incident in Hospital Massacre, among the weakest motivations ever tried on in a slasher movie, but never mind that – the actor playing the killer tries to compensate for this nonsense by opening his eyes as wide as possible in every close-up! He actually does convince as a madman, and you certainly buy him as a threatening one, even as you wonder what he does in his spare time and how he earns a living when not stalking brides-to-be!

Our central bride-to-be is called Amy, and she’s played by Caitlin O’Heaney, who appeared in A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy and was the beautiful English teacher in Three O’Clock High! She’s marrying an obvious jerk named Phil, but at the same time her old boyfriend Marvin is trying in his ginger-headed way to win her back! Marvin has his own charms, being as how he’s played by Don Scardino from Homer and Rip-Off, but he’s also a morgue assistant, so tends to joke about dead bodies! Ha ha, if this had been more of a whodunit, I’m sure Marvin’s job would have made him a suspect, as it does Bill Paxton’s character in Mortuary!

Amy’s pals include Nancy, a goofy gal played by Elizabeth Kemp from Eating, and Diana the goodtime gal played by Dana Barron of Vacation and Heaven Help Us fame! Midway through the picture, Nancy hooks up with a friendly but pompous jogger played by none other than Tom Hanks from Dragnet and Apollo 13! The whole gang enjoys a midwinter carnival, where, on hearing that Amy has been feeling herself stalked by a tall man in black, Hanks casually dismisses her fears with some psych-babble, exits frame while asking “Ya wanna goober?” and is gone from the film for the duration! Ha ha, he doesn’t even reappear to get slaughtered, as, I will admit, I’d hoped he might!

Of course most of Amy’s friends, and some of the friends of their friends, and even a poor friendly dressmaker played by Joseph Leon from Brewster’s Millions, fall to the bug-eyed maniac’s cutlery one by one! There’s only a bit of blood in most of these sequences and no Special Makeup Effects (as the credits usually put it), the exception being when a rather goofy-looking severed head is discovered in a fishtank! Ha ha, having once made an equally goofy special effects head for a movie myself, I was pretty tickled to see it!

The climax of the picture takes place in the strangely vast town morgue, simply because that’s the building Amy happens across as she’s blindly running from the killer! I guess Marvin is there and she might have picked it because of that, but he’s not a lot of help, and nor is the exquisitely stupid moustache cop once he finally happens upon the scene! But there are some tense sequences in that morgue, as well as some that should be tense but weren’t given enough care and skill to be as scary as they should be! That there’s any real suspense at all still puts the picture ahead of most of its slasher brethren, though! In this way it reminded me of Eyes of a Stranger, right down to the head in the fishtank, ha ha, except that instead of Florida, this one is set in midwinter Staten Island! At least, it was shot there – it’s probably meant to be set in a Haddonfield-like small town!

It was the first directorial effort from Armand Mastroianni, who later brought us such laxomorphs as The Supernaturals and Cameron’s Closet, and while he’s no John Carpenter, he did a fair job here! There’s also some nice photography from Gerald Feil, one of those guys who had a strangely broad-based career in film, and also happened to shoot 3-D slasher spectaculars like Friday the 13th part III and Silent Madness! The cast includes stalwarts like James Rebhorn from If Lucy Fell and Shadows and Fog in the role of a horny professor, and Paul Gleason from Die Hard and Night Game playing, of course, a cop! We even get a touch of Steve James, whom we know from Avenging Force and so many other action pictures, and who should have been a star!

It’ll always be remembered as Tom Hanks’s debut movie, but it has a little extra going for it, like the generally strong cast and the appealing midwinter atmosphere! It’s no classic: the script is highly mediocre, the concept ridiculous, the ending extremely weak (the killer is trapped in a room and presumably arrested by local cops), and the last twist even more so, and the whole thing is fairly pointless, but, ha ha, we’ve all seen much worse, I’d guess! I’ll give He Knows You’re Alone two mildly ribald Boy Scout singalongs!