Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922)


Fu Manchu is one of the most well-known villains in pulp fiction from the early 20th century, and he had simple bad guy motivations-Take over the world! OF COURSE!! However, two other villains of this time period were more complex-Fantomas, and Dr. Mabuse. Fantomas was a criminal who committed every kind of crime, for no reason other than he could, while Dr. Mabuse does that, but with a deeper philosophy. The guy is the kind of arch-criminal who just wants to see the world burn. Literally, he's the inspiration for The Joker in The Dark Knight!


Fans of this series aren't exactly the luckiest bunch, as the much-loved Dr. Mabuse films are sporadic to say the least! The first entry, Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler came out in 1922, the first sequel came out in 1933, and the second sequel (The last directed by famous genre filmmaker Fritz Lang, and the last in the official trilogy) came out in 1960! From then on, we suddenly got a flood of quick cash-in sequels, which as far as I know, are mildly entertaining romps, but lack a certain je ne sais quoi. From then on, we've gotten zero Mabuse films, aside from an unofficial one made by Claude Chabrol in 1990, and two that are still new releases. More on those later...

Today, to mark the occasion of October, I'll be looking at the very first entry in this series-Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler...

In Weimar era Germany, a sinister criminal is causing chaos wherever he can, be it screwing around with the stock market, nearly causing a crash, or hypnotising millionaires into gambling all their money away. This man has no feelings for those he manipulates, and he extends his cruel schemes all over Germany. State prosecuter Norbert Von Wenk has been assigned to the case of finding the culprit behind these seemingly senseless crimes, but he faces continuing difficulty as he's constantly bested by the maniacal Dr. Mabuse...


As you may have guessed from the release date, this is a silent film. While the editing is obviously choppy in that way only 90 year old films can be, this is still a very well put together movie! Its got neat direction, nifty visuals, and a horrifyingly long runtime that is actually pulled off-270 minutes! Speaking of visuals, this movie is only one colour! If you don't know, certain silent films have the nasty habit of changing colour palettes every few minutes. Sometimes it works, but other times it just feels uneccessary and annoying, as you're eagerly watching a movie, and the filter keeps changing from black-and-white to baby blue, yellow, grass green, or PB pink!


This is a well-written crime movie, but despite its reputation, legacy, and four-and-a-half hour running time, I find it to be pretty simple, and this is to near detrimental effect.

Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler's themes are heavily tied to the excesses of Weimar era Germany, but you don't need to know that before going in. If you know nothing about the climate of 1920's Germany, you'll still have a complete viewing experience here.


The film's lead protagonist Von Wenk is likeable, and carries the film well, getting the majority of the screentime.

Rudolf Klein-Rogge is fantastic as Dr. Mabuse! He always has a stare that's so cold and evil, that it's borderline iconic! His performance is very over-the-top, but in a way that works for a silent film, given that this is the genre where if you snorted sushi-wrapped coke off a naked woman's chest, then flailed your arms about in your ensuring high, your acting would be considered subtle.

Klein-Rogge also perfectly pulls of the various different disguises Mabuse utilizes! While it's always recognizably him, he looks unique and different each time. In fact, sometimes his eyes are the only real giveaway.


As for his character, it's decently written but not particularly impressive. The Dr. Mabuse portrayed here isn't quite the character he would later become, as here he's just an incredibly devious nihilistic criminal. There's no doctrine, or anything like that.

Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler is never boring or drawn out at four-and-a-half hours, but it is a pointlessly long run time given the utter simplicity of the plot. It'd be bearable if this was the anarchistic 'Empire of Crime' Mabuse, but this is just about a nihilistic gangster who does stuff, and a cop who's after him.


Probably my only complaint about this movie aside from its simplicity is one scene which looks like a year-spanning time lapse, but isn't. It confused the hell out of me!

One final note. The subtitles on my Kino DVD seem a bit iffy at times. Not unreadable or incorrect, but iffy nonetheless.

Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler is a very good movie. It's pretty simple, and depending on how you feel, it's also three movies too long, but I still recommend it. It's an entertaining crime flick, as well as an interesting look at both German culture in the 1920's, and of films in general of the silent era.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Masters of the Universe (1987)


He Man and the Masters of the Universe was an extremely popular Saturday morning kid's cartoon, whiich had countless viewers, and lasted for years...And that's about all I know about He Man, aside from the fact that it's eTernia, not eTHernia, and Sheera, not She-Rah. Actuallly I have one more thing to say before I exhaust all knowledge of He Man that I can utilize for this intro-There's a funny 'from the mouths of babes' story I've heard about an Evangelical families kid saying 'Jesus isn't the master of the universe. He Man is!'. *chuckles*

In the far-off planet of Eternia, a war is raging. The evil lord of Snake Mountain, Skeletor (Frank Langella), has all but conquored Eternia, and only the brave warriors He Man (Dolph Lundgren), Teela (Chelsea Fields), and Man at Arms Duncan (Jon Cypher) are able to continue the fight against the despot. They soon find Gwildor (Billy Barty), a small creature who has invented a dimensional opener that Skeletor has stolen. Knowing the damage Skeletor could do with it, Gwildor uses a prototype to send He Man and his allies into Castle Greyskull, Skeletor's new base, but an enemy squad attacks, forcing a hasty retreat to another planet-Earth...

Masters of the Universe is not a good adaptation. It not only either omits various details from the He Man cartoon, but it also gets quite a few things wrong! And of course, there's the not-so-small problem with the whole film being set on Earth, aside from the first and last ten minutes! All we see of Eternia is a small, barren, rocky desert outcrop, the inside of a hut, and the inside of Castle Greyskull! This is a horrendous adaptation, but on its own, Masters of the Universe is still an extremely entertaining movie! It's got an amusing plot, fun action, and the whole movie is a blast from beginning to end! Really the only misstep is when the movie first cuts to Earth. For one, it's really out-of-nowhere, and two, the movie is pretty slow paced with near-boring human stuff for nearly twenty minutes! I guess it's understandable, since the movie's gotta set up its human characters, but this portion really does grind the movie to a halt.

Masters of the Universe is pretty decently written, but nothing special. It's just a run-of-the-mill action-fantasy, with a simple hero, simple villain, and simple conflict.

The effects in this movie are pretty good. There are decent practical effects, and your familiar '80's laser special effects, which look good. The set design in Eternia is pretty meh, though. Castle Greyskull looks bland. Also, there's a near problematic Star Wars aesthetic, given Skeletor's darth stormtroopers!

Surprisingly enough, Masters of the Universe is quite a violent movie! Not Commando levels, but it has more blood than Goldeneye, that's for sure! I guess that's what happens when you let Cannon make a kids movie! I for one am glad that the movie had plenty of blood in it, as it makes the villains more threatening than if they were just harmlessly tossing people around.

The acting in Masters of the Universe is all decent. Dolph Lundgren is good, but not great, as the script doesn't elevate his character beyond anything other than a beefcake heavy. Frank Langella on the other hand, if fantastic! Not only does he deliver a top-notch performance as Skeletor, but he gets some really awesome bits of evil dialogue! Skeletor is by far the script's best aspect, even if he does take a cue from The Rocky Horror Picture Show meets The Village People with his getup in the climax!

Meg Foster as Evil-Lyn makes for a pretty good secondary villain, with those eyes of hers made doubly creepy as she plays the evil lady so evil, it's part of her name! A young Cortney Cox is pretty good here, as is future Star Trek actor Robert Duncan Mcneill.

Chelsea Field's acting isn't perfect, but it's serviceable. Also, she's hot! *drools* From Teela's sexy bondage catsuit to He-Man's strapped battle loincloth, this movie has something for everyone!

James Tolkan (Principal Strickland from the Back to the Future trilogy) is quite good as the skeptical cop Detective Lubic, and he gets to do plenty. Despite again playing a stern authority figure, Tolkan is very different than he is in Back to the Future, which shows that Tolkan is pretty damn talented. It kinda makes me sad that he didn't appear in more.

Finally, the soundtrack. The theme to Masters of the Universe is unequivocally the Superman theme, just slightly tweaked! This is incredibly distracting at first, but after a while, it starts to sound less like Superman. I guess due to 'indoctrination'-You hear a ripoff tune enough times and it starts to sound original.

Masters of the Universe is a bad version if He Man, but on its own it's a highly entertaining action-fantasy, and I highly recommend it! You can't often go wrong with Dolph Lundgren, whether he's violently killing things, or awesomely yelling "I HAVE THE POWER!"...

The Classic Fu Manchu Trilogy (1929, 1930, and 1931)


Why the hell haven't we had a Fu Manchu movie since 1969?! Hell, I can count the amount of Fu Manchu books we've gotten since the 80's on one hand! Marvel ended up getting into a bit of trouble with their Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu character, as they created him as the son of Fu Manchu. Unless they've since gotten the rights back, they're strictly not allowed to even mention Fu Manchu's name. Given there hasn't been a film with the insidious devil doctor in 45 goshfucking years, Marvel really should get the rights back, because it's pretty fucking clear that no-one wants ANYTHING to do with Fu Manchu! What the hell?! In fact, where the hell is Charlie Chan, too? Um, studios and filmmakers, you realize those two characters aren't racist caricatures, right? You ARE allowed to make movies with them once in a while! Or not, I guess. We live in a world where movie budgets are spiraling outta control and movies have to literally make back the equivalent to a national budget just to simply break even, and it tends to take three to four years to make one movie! I miss the Golden Age of Film, where a movie took two weeks and a few pennies to make...

The point to all of this is that in the early 20th century, we got a trilogy of films featuring the pulp Yellow Peril supervillain Fu Manchu, and I've finally, finally, managed to watch these hard to find movies!...

The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu

In 1908, during the Boxer Rebellion in China, a doctor named Fu Manchu is living with his family. He's gladly helping the British against the Chinese rebels, giving aid to them, and even takes in Lia, a missionary's daughter, after her father has to go somewhere potentially fatal. Things go horribly wrong when some rebels hide in Fu's house, and the British troops fire upon it, killing Fu's wife and son. Distraught and driven mad, Fu Manchu swears vengeance upon the whole white race, and vows on his dead ancestors to find and kill everyone who was involved in the attack on his house. Twenty years later, Fu Manchu has killed all of his enemies, including their families, and only the Petries remain...

The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu isn't a very good film. It's not bad, or even boring, but it's completely unremarkable. Unlike other Fu Manchu tales, this never globetrots, and instead spends its time in a few English sitting rooms, and a set pretending to be a Limehouse gambling den. The film itself isn't boring, but its locale sure as hell is!


The writing is painfully standard, and the characters are basically cardboard cutouts, with a 'swoon' direction for the actresses. The film's love story between Jack Petrie and Lia is very rushed, but not King Kong rushed. Speaking of rushed, that's what the ending is. This movie couldn't end fast enough! It also climaxes with a confusing and kinda out-of-nowhere plot point

For a film from the time period where calling someone a 'filthy nigger' was entirely culturally acceptable, this film is surprisingly not as racist as you'd think! It's still creaky, but it portrays Fu Manchu near sympathetically, given his backstory and evolution into a villain, rather than just as a one-note Yellow Peril caricature.

Also for a movie from a time where film plots were rushed out in a minimum hour, this one surprisingly takes its time in setting up its villain-A good ten minutes, at least. However, despite all this time for development, Fu Manchu's shift to villainy is still really abrupt, as after he swears vengeance, we cut to twenty years later, and he's suddenly an evil criminal mastermind.

Due to being a neglected and forgotten film from 1929, Mysterious' quality is terrible, as you've surely noticed from these screenshots, but thankfully the dialogue isn't too hard to hear, which is a blessing!


All the Asian characters in this movie are white people in yellowface, but the film's bad quality hides this pretty well, as it reduces everyone to white voids. Due to this, I've no idea if the black Noble Johnson is playing a character called Li Po in yellowface, or is just really poorly named.

The acting here is mostly barely passable. Some performances are worse than others. Warner Oland (famous for playing Charlie Chan) boring for the first hour, but very entertaining in the final twenty minutes, although his delivery is a bit shaky at times. As for Noble Johnson, he's apparently in this movie. I say apparently, because I couldn't see him at all! Maybe he really was in Yellowface!


Surprisingly for a film from the '20's, this has a flamboyant gay stereotype! In 1929? The character in question is the Petrie family butler, and he's annoying at first, but gets more likeable as the movie goes on.

The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu is a pretty crummy movie, and I don't recommend it. It's not terrible, but it's not good either.

The Return of Dr. Fu Manchu

Yes, Fu Manchu returns, despite dying at the end of the last movie! Be prepared to take a lot of that, no matter which Fu Manchu movie you watch! The guy really must have the full support of the gods with his evil plans!

Having survived his fate at the end of the last movie, the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu wastes no time in plotting his continued revenge against Jack Petrie, as well as Lia Eltham, and his arch-nemesis Detective Nayland Smith...

This is an unnecessary sequel, but it's quite entertaining, and certainly better than the previous movie! It's still dull-ish with its choice of locations, but the movie is a lot faster paced than Mysterious.

Warner Oland continues his energetically villainous performance as Fu Manchu from the previous movie's final act rather than the dull Fu of that film's first two acts, thankfully, and he's never boring. He and Nayland Smith even share a neat dynamic!


The explanation for Fu Manchu's survival of the events of last movie is explained pretty well (It's a Romeo and Juliet type of fake death poison, hence Fu survived whereas Petrie would've woken up in a coffin had things gone to plan) and helps make Fu even more of an evil bastard, given he now has a predilection for insuring dozens of his victims get unintentionally buried alive. However, the first explanation-Nayland Smith's theory-is decidedly weaker, as it just says 'maybe the poison wasn't really poison', which is dumb and makes no sense within the context of the first movie.

Lia is actually pretty proactive here, which is much better than her being a cardboard patsy like in Mysterious. Another returning character from Mysterious is the flaming gay butler, Sylvester, and he's pretty entertaining, thankfully, and even kinda endearing in a way, given his friendship with Jack, and how he wants to help take down Fu Manchu.

The video quality to this movie sucks, but it's a slight improvement over Mysterious, so actors aren't merely white silhouette's.

While still not a great movie, The Return of Fu Manchu is watchable. I don't recommend it, mainly due to its print quality, but it's not as dull as its predecessor.

Daughter of the Dragon

This movie sucks!

Daughter of the Dragon, very much the black sheep of this trilogy, should be retitled Ignominious: The Movie! It's set twenty years after the last two movies, and Jack Petrie and Lia (recast, and both looking a hell of a lot older than as if merely twenty years has passed) are living happily!...And then Jack is brutally murdered by Fu Manchu! (who for some reason waited twenty years before doing this). Yeah, pretty big middle finger to those who enjoyed the last two movies! And guess what-Fu Manchu dies too! Twenty minutes in! From then on, his previously non-existent daughter Ling Moy picks up the slack to go after Jack's son Ronald.


This movie's other problem is that it's a misogynist pile of crap! Whereas Fu Manchu in this universe had complete and total control over his henchmen, Ling Moy is constantly belittled and harangued by her subjects for being a 'weak woman', resulting in some incredibly eye-rolling dialogue! Yeah, these are sexist attitudes from the film's villains, but this is still 1931-I really don't think these views weren't what the writer already thought!

Funnily enough, the only negative thing this film isn't is racist. It's even got an Asian protagonist who's actually played by an Asian guy!

Daughter of the Dragon is also boring! The script is poorly written, has bad pacing, and feels a hell of a lot longer than 70 minutes. Once it's over, it feels like nothing has been accomplished, and we're back to square one again!

Finally, the acting. It sucks! It's largely mediocre, but Sessue Hayakawa is wooden, and poorly emotes, while Bramwell Fletcher (Ronald Petrie) is too emotive, delivering a pretty bad performance. Warner Oland is barely passable in his extended cameo, and Anna May Wong is meh as the film's lead villain, and really annoying when she constantly refers to herself in the third person! Shut up, Anna May Wong!

I apologize in advance to the ghost of Anna May Wong...

You can't do much worse with Fu Manchu films than Daughter of the Dragon! I've seen all the Christopher Lee movies, as well as the entirety of the Adventures tv series, and Daughter takes the cake! Its only contender may be the reputedly painfully unfunny Peter Sellers movie The Fiendish Plot of Fu Manchu!...

Overall

Y'know, it's really not a good sign when you watch three Fu Manchu movies in a row, and the only thing they do is leave you with a taste for Fu Manchu, as they contain so few elements of the franchise they leave you feeling like you've just watched three-and-a-half hours of something almost entirely unrelated to Fu Manchu!

While two out of three of this trilogy are passable, I don't recommend them. The low quality of the seemingly only available prints online on Youtube are dreadful, and the movies themselves are just not all that great. Enter the terrible third entry, and you have a movie series that's not worth your time. The two Jess Franco Fu Manchu movies get a lot of crap, but I've seen them, and they're damn entertaining pulp movies, well worthy of the Fu Manchu name. Watch them, and the previous four entries in the Christopher Lee series, and also try and hunt down the Boris Karloff movie, or even the movie serial if you can find it cheaply, and you'll have a much better viewing experience than you would with this trilogy...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Task (2011)


Ah, the After Dark horror festival films to die for  films so sc-sc-scary that *gasp* they can't be shown in regular theatres!...Or, you know, they're Direct To Video crap, and that's why they don't get such a release. Yeah, I am not a fan of After Dark movies. They're usually mediocre at best, hence my extremely low expectations for 2011's The Task, but this movie left me pleasantly surprised!...

Several people are collected for a new reality TV show called The Task. The aim of the show is to put people in terrifying circumstances, in gloomy locations, and film the reactions as the contestants perform allocated tasks of varying spookiness. Today's shoot is in an abandoned penitentiary, where countless vile atrocities were commited by the evil Warden Harvest, and the show's producers see it as a perfect location. However, it turns out to be too good, as what seems to be the ghostly spectre of the warden is roaming the walls of the prison, and is living up to his final words-'My work is not yet done'. Both the game show contestants, and producers are horrifyingly out of luck...


The Task is a decently written horror film that definitely has some neat scares! The characters are all likeable, never annoying (thank God!), and even get some pretty amusing lines now and then ("You know, people used to say I look like Will Smith. Now they say Barack Obama... okay!"). The blonde woman is very underused though, to the point where I kept forgetting she existed. The acting is all good, which is great news, as bad acting is the real enduring terror-Bane to DTV horror films all over the globe...of America.

This is a very tense film, with numerous suspenseful scenes, and others that some may definitely find creepy, such as the chapel, and gas chamber scenes, and others. Thankfully the stupid evil clown masks from the film's poster/DVD's are only present in the film's first few minutes, when the contestants are being punk'd before they're introduced to the game show.


The death scenes are unfortunately The Task's biggest downfall. For a film that's rated R (Australian R, that is, not a pansy American R) and is part of a selection of films 'too disturbing to be shown in theatres', The Task is tame in the gore department. There is violence, but it's usually offscreen, or in the camera's blind spot. There is one scene which has a bit of blood pouring, but it looks so unlike blood that it's hilarious more than disturbing. There's another aspect of the death scenes that's also problematic, but that has spoilers, so I'll get to it below.

The film's villain, the possibly ghostly Warden Harvest, definitely looks right for intimidating an audience! He may just be a topless guy in suspenders, but his blankly evil facial expressions, and those cold eyes help sell the part.

The Task is a well-paced movie too. While there are barely any death scenes in the film's first 'half', it's never boring, and the plot's suspense and effective mystery manages to carry it along without the immediate need for GBH.


The setting for this movie is great! Old run-down abandoned places almost always make for spooky and atmospheric locations, especially prisons, hospitals, and asylums! Granted, the use of these settings are pretty cliche at this point, but still effective as long as the movie in question is good.

The Task's plot is standard, but entertaining. For a movie that only takes place in the one place, it works, and never feels like it needed changes in location or anything.

The soundtrack is yet another positive to The Task, especially the ooky music that plays over the end credits, after the badass conclusion!

The direction is very stylish, and it utilizes a split camera technique in a way that isn't stupid, pointless and contrived! YES! Suck it, Ang Lee's The Hulk! I especially like the brief interview cutaways, especially the last one. The changes that sets it out from the rest really made that scene creepy! The only problem with The Task's direction of the super zoom-ins it often utilizes.


Finally let's talk about the ending. Non-spoiler opinion, it's a downer, but a badass, and unpredictable in a way downer, which makes me like it more than I would've had it just been regularly depressing. As for my Spoiler opinion...


SPOILERS!
SPOILERS






The climax turns out just like April Fool's Day, revealing that no-one really died, and Connie, The Task's co-producer, was the show's real target. This cheating (in a good way) ending completely took me by surprise. I was grinning while swearing at the screen! If you've seen April Fool's Day, then you can clearly tell that I love that type of ending, rather than despise it like many others do (granted, I myself could very easily despise an 'everybody really survived'  type ending depending on how it's executed).

...Then things take a turn for the twist-y, and it's revealed that a couple of the 'contestants' really are dead. From then on, we get an ending that I didn't necessarily find satisfying (in that I liked these characters, and them really dying is, y'know, a downer), but it's at least pretty badass considering how it all happens.

My above-mentioned problem with The Task's death scenes is that many are far too abrupt, or are just plain offscreen. This does end up making a bit of sense considering these people aren't really dead (well, most of them anyway...), but it's still a problem.





END SPOILERS!
END SPOILERS!



Despite being an After Dark movie, The Task is a very effective horror movie! It's no masterpiece, but it's certainly an ooky sit, and I highly recommend it!...

The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962)





1962's The Awful Dr. Orlof (thankfully not aptly named, just as The Horrible Dr. Hichcock isn't) is regarded as one of Spanish genre filmmaker Jesus 'Jess' Franco's best films. Franco made nearly (or over) two hundred movies, and some are good, some are bad, some are awful, some will fucking eat you, and a few are really good!


In France, 1912, several women have disappeared, and the police are desperately searching for the culprit. The man responsible is Dr. Orlof (Howard Vernon), a deranged doctor who's been kidnapping women in order to give his disfigured daughter a new face. Each experiment has been a failure for the mad doctor, hence the growing death toll as he desperately craves more test subjects. Orlof soon realizes his mistake-He only tried taking the faces of dead women, not living ones...

The Awful Dr. Orlof is a pretty simple movie. It's a straightforward 'bad guy doing bad things, while hunted by police'. A majority of the movie is the police investigating, and thankfully the lead character Inspector Tanner is likeable. As for his girlfriend/fiancee Wanda, she's a pretty proactive lead, which is nice!...Although she does still need to be saved at the end. At least she is saved though-As this is a Jess Franco film, I was expecting something absolutely horrible to happen to her (akin to bumping into Ilsa the Wicked Warden at her most sadistic). The finale is pretty tense, but Orlof is taken out far too quickly, and the movie's ending is extremely abrupt! 1920's style abrupt!

Howard Vernon makes for a pretty good villain as Dr. Orlof, although he doesn't do a whole lot of villainous stuff here. Ricardo Valle definitely looks neat as the evil doctor's deformed henchman Morpho, the film's monster!

The Awful Dr. Orlof is surprisingly tame for a Jess Franco film. There are boobs in a couple of scenes, and a little bit of blood, but the movie's basically PG. Because of this, this is probably one of Franco's more accessible movies.

Something you might have noticed by now is Dr. Orlof's similarities to George Franjou's 1960 film Eyes Without A Face. According to Jess Franco in an interview on the DVD/Blu-Ray, he claims that Orlof is not a ripoff, but that he and Franjou met up before 1960 and discussed their movies with each-other, decided to each make their own take on the face transplant horror idea. Now, half of everything Jess Franco says should be taken with a grain of salt, but this might be true. Who knows...

Orlof's soundtrack is pretty decent, with some ooky scoring. The main theme, however, is an annoying cacophony of metal banging!

The Awful Dr. Orlof isn't a great film, but it's certainly enjoyable, it won't scar your soul like other Jess Franco movies, and it's a neat entry to Spanish/French horror if you're curious...However, good luck trying to find it for a reasonable price! There's no such thing as an affordable Redemption DVD! Fucking Redemption!...

*I was going to have plenty of screencaps from this stylish flick, but my Blu-Ray copy is being a bastard and not running on my computer.*

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)


Vincent Price was truly one of the titans of horror! The man was a machine, appearing in countless horror films over the decades, always giving memorable performances, usually with his devilish Price charm! Some people hate the fact that he 'could have had a serious career if he kept acting in films like Otto Preminger's Laura', and to those people I say phooey! Horror is a serious genre, and anyone who says otherwise is a snob! There's not a lot of room for leeway in that opinion, because I am rarely kind to bigots!

One of Price's most famous films is also lauded as one of the best horror films ever made-The Abominable Dr. Phibes!...


In 1920's England, Detective Inspector Trout is investigating a series of bizarre murders, which he eventually links together. He realizes that all the victims were in the medical profession, and all involved in the unsuccessful surgery of a woman named Virginia Phibes. Her husband, famous composer Anton Phibes, was distraught, and as he raced to be with his wife, he was involved in a deadly collision that supposedly saw him killed. However, he survived, and for years, he has been planning his revenge against the people he felt killed Virginia.

As Trout and the police search for Phibes, more and more of the ill-fated medical team are horrifically murdered, all in ways pertaining to the ten plagues of Egypt, and Phibes is saving who he sees as the guiltiest party for last...


The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a morbid movie, with a host of elaborate and violent death scenes that each stand out. I won't dare spoil a single one! This is also a wickedly funny film, with quite a few darkly humorous moments that'll really make you chuckle. Especially great is that it has humorous cops who aren't bumbling!...Well, not 'falling off of a chicken wagon in Last House on the Left' bumbling, anyway.

The writing here is very good, especially when it comes to Dr. Phibes monologues! The man was a perfect actor!

Dr Phibes has a very art-deco look to it, which definitely excels the movie's visuals, and fits with the tone. The set design looks lovely and well-crafted, and and the same can be said for Phibes' assistant Vulnavia's multiple outfits. The lady has one hell of a fashion sense!


The direction here by Robert Fuest is great! There are numerous scenes that are so well-filmed, most notably the dance sequences, and the elevator scene in the hospital.

Vincent Price's performance as Dr. Phibes is fantastic, and very intriguing! He has very little regular dialogue in the film, yet the dialogue he has, as well as his mysterious visage, and macabre motive and handling, makes him an extremely interesting villain!...Or protagonist, if you believe the end credits...And I do!...


The rest of the acting is decent. Nothing bad or mediocre, and all entertaining. The most best actor here who's not named Vincent is Virginia North, who, despite not saying a word, maintains a strong presence, and you really wonder what her character's backstory is. Many theorize about who, or what, she is, and it's all interesting stuff!


The effects in Dr. Phibes are, for the most part, very good!...However, the string on that bat at the start of the movie is so obvious! And the blood in a bunch of jars in one scene looks like sugar water!

And finally, onto the soundtrack. The score to this movie is beautifully composed, from the organ melodies, to the dance scenes with Phibes and Vulnavia, and the jazzy rendition of 'a certain song' that perfectly closes the movie.

Along with the stringed bat, I only have two other problems with The Abominable Dr. Phibes. 1, He's not a doctor. 2, I don't really like what happens to Vulnavia at the end.


The Abominable Dr. Phibes really is one of the best horror films ever made! It's creepy, ooky, funny, Sadean with its death scenes, and featuring one of the best performances from the late great Vincent Price! I highly recommend this movie! Your horror collection isn't complete without it!...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Innerspace (1987)


As anyone who reads this blog regularly will know, I have a lot of favourite movies, from Grease 2, to Mannequin, to Bloodsport 2, Street Fighter, and many others. One such film to receive that honour is Joe Dante's 1987 sci-fi comedy Innerspace!...

Lt. Tuck Pendleton is a washed out pilot who's just been dumped by his girlfriend. He focuses his efforts on training for a top secret government experiment in shrinking technology, but as Tuck is shrunken down and about to be injected into a rabbit, the laboratory is attacked by a group of criminals, intent on stealing the microchips that make the shrinking process work. Scientist Ozzie manages to escape outside to a mall, but is fatally wounded by a hitman, and in his dying moments, he injects Tuck into a random bystander. The man, Jack Putter, is a hypochondriac and a nervous wreck, always worried about something. Unfortunately for him, he now has something to be worried about, as the second microchip is in Tuck's submersible, and the criminals, led by businessman Victor Scrimshaw, are now after Jack. Tuck successfully manages to make contact with Jack from inside his submersible, and directs Jack through events as the due have to evade danger and retrieve the stolen microchip before Tuck's oxygen runs out...

Innerspace is a hilarious film that never gets old for me! Part of it is that the movie is just plain rewatchable, but it's also because I just like the plot so much. The characters are so much fun, and the evolution of Jack Putter's character from a frail wimp to a self-assured in-control guy is a joy to watch! This is a really well-written film from beginning to end, and that includes the end credits! The movie ends on such a high, and plays such a good song over the credits that you'll be glued to your seat until the 'theatre's lit up'.

The leads in Innerspace are perfect! Martin Short is great as the nervous hypochondriac Jack Putter, and isn't annoying, which is a plus! Dennis Quaid is likeable as the rogue-ish Tuck Pendleton, and Meg Ryan is entertaining as journalist and Tuck's ex Lydia, sharing great chemistry with Short. While the three main actors all do great jobs here, the villains really shine! There are four unique and distinctive antagonists in this movie, from the silent heavy Mr. Igoe, to the eccentric thief-for-hire he Cowboy, as well as the two baddies, played wonderfully by Kevin McCarthy, and Fiona Lewis.

The special effects on display here are fantastic! This comedy manages to have practical effects portraying the vastness of the human body just as well as a serious movie about the same concept, such as Fantastic Journey, and without the plot holes, too!

And finally, the film's soundtrack is great! The Sam Cooke tunes complement the movie perfectly!

Innerspace is a fantastic movie, and I never get tired of it! I highly recommend it, for any occasion!...