Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lover Come Back (1961)

Lover Come Back, Doris Day and Rock Hudson's second outing together, is the second film I've seen where he's seducing her character under false pretenses. That's...disturbing!...

Madison ad executive Jerry Webster (Rock Hudson) is stuck in a battle with Carol Templeton (Doris Day), a rival from another company. She's trying to ruin his career, and even turns a ladyfriend of Webster's against him, but he wins back her favour by starring her as the lead in a series of advertisements of a mystery product known as Vip. Jerry immediately shelves the commercials, having no desire to ever air them. Unfortunately his boss and friend Peter Ramsay unwittingly allows the ads into the public. After being away from the world on a camping trip for a short time, Pete and Jerry come back to find that Vip is in high demand, with everyone eager to know what this product is, and dozens of companies wanting to get it on it.

Jerry hires the misanthropic Dr. Linus Tyler to create Vip, and sets out to distract Carol, who's intent on finding out about Vip and taking its account for herself.  While Dr. Tyler is in a rush to create whatever Vip may be, Jerry is taking his time in seducing Carol, pretending to be Tyler...

Lover Come Back is a comedy, but don't believe any source that calls this movie a romance, as the only thing close is the main character's deception. More on the story below.

The acting is all good. Doris Day is definitely a delight (I have a thesaurus in my hands and I have no intention of stopping), but this is Rock Hudson's movie for sure. My Doris Day four pack should be retitled The Rock Hudson four pack (which coincidentally, is exactly what most women (and undoubtedly plenty of men too) envision on his chest). Tony Randall is hilarious, from his first scene, to his last! I need to watch more films with this guy! There's also Ann B. Davis (Alice the maid, from...that show), who's pretty funny, but unfortunately she's only in the film for a bare minimum of scenes.

Lover Come Back's writing is solid, and it's very funny, and there are many hilarious lines and exchanges!
Pete: "Well you should feel sorry for me. You don't know what a handicap it is to be born rich!"- Jerry: "Some handicap!"- Pete: "Don't sneer. Wealthy people are hated and resented! Look what's written on the Statue of Liberty. Does it say 'Send me your rich'? No, it says 'Send me your poor'. We're not even welcome in our own country! It's all very well for you to laugh, you're one of the lucky ones, you grew up in the slums!"- Jerry: "That's lucky?"- : "Of course it is, you had everything going for you. Poverty. Squalor. There was only one way for you to go-Up. But I started at the top. I've done it the hard way!"
Carol "All I know is Jerry Webster's trying to land it, but we're going to beat him to it."-Millie: "Are you sure you wanna tangle with him again? He fights rough."-Carol: "Then we'll fight rough. This is war, Millie!"-Millie: "That means liquor, wild parties, getting sponsored girls, right?"-Carol: "Right!"-Millie: "Good. I'd like to volunteer for frontline duty."
Pete: "We've sold a product that doesn't exist! We have ruined the great agency of Ramsey's."-Jerry: "Relax, Pete."- Pete: "Dad will kill me!"-Jerry: "Pete, your dad's dead and gone."-"No he isn't, he's around someplace. He wouldn't go away and leave this business to someone like me!"

Lover Come Back is unfortunately not without problems. Once the 'romance' part of the film starts, the films slows down a lot. Not only does the main plot come to a complete standstill, but the likeable Jerry Webster becomes a pretty unlikeable sack of crap due to his actions-Actions that don't even make much sense! He could have just skipped the whole rigmarole, and (either as himself, or pretending to be Dr. Tyler) told her to go away. That way, we wouldn't lose an entertaining comedy, and he wouldn't go to jail for committing serious fraud.

The film's ending is odd and rushed. It seems like production was wrapping up, but the script wasn't yet over, so they hastily wrote the ending on a tissue on a Ritz dinner table.

There are also some pretty irksome qualities about the film's final act. As far as this ending is concerned, if you and the woman who despises you for grievously deceiving to her get drunk and bang, then you're both a-ok fine, as long as you were married in the interval. Well that just makes everything ok, doesn't it!...Yeah, this is painfully dated, almost to a degree of misogyny, and possibly misandry too. Neither party wanted to knock boots, and especially not get married! Granted, the moment this happens, Jerry is instantly in love with Carol, which is pretty out-of-nowhere, as is her eventual reciprocation.

So, to finish, this is a fine comedy, albeit one with serious issues. I also haven't the slightest idea why it's called Lover Come Back. Still, I recommend it to Doris Day and Rock Hudson fans...

Jam (2000)

Some comedies are lighthearted, some are more risque, while others are more ribald. Then there are those that are dark. Black comedies can come in various forms, and the one I'll be looking at today, 2000's Chris Morris helmed sketch show Jam, is so dark and morbid that come consider it to be just as much horror as it is comedy...

Jam has a ghoulish sense of humour, will make you laugh out loud sometimes, and then you'll probably feel creeped out at yourself for having done so...Unless you're like me, in which case you would've just laughed and thought nothing more.

The sketches include such ideas and plots as a man trying to commit suicide by jumping off a first floor balcony forty times rather than just jump off a fortieth floor in case he decided to change his mind part-way through suicide, or one where a man in a noose ties it to his car and sets it off, so it'll decapitate him, but it gets in a car wreck, leaving him completely uninjured. One of my favourite sketches is the one where a man needs to dispose of a body, and the specialist he hires is a six-year old girl.

Some of the sketches in Jam are gross, others are horrific, while some are just plain old surreal, like a doctor who consults his patients over the phone even though they're in his office, and one about a faulty television that pours out lizards.

Some have some very questionable moments such as the Gush sketch, which pointlessly shows very sexually explicit material (albeit using prosthetics, but you wouldn't necessarily notice). Now, my issue with this sketch isn't so much that it shows this explicit stuff, but rather that it shows so little of it, making it pointless to try and push this envelope in the first place-They might as well have shown nothing.

Not all the humour in Jam works. Some are unfunny, and some seem to lack a punchline, like the one with the jilted boyfriend (I guess) who goes outside his girlfriends window and kills himself. There's no joke, he just kills himself offscreen, the woman shrieks, sketch over.

There's one unfunny sketch involving a man in a psychiatrist waiting room asking a receptionist if she's seen a dove a few times. Now with this sketch I'm willing to be a tad lenient on, on the chance that I just didn't get it. But then again, I've analyzed it all over, and also struggled to get through the follow-up sketches, so maybe it's just plum not funny.

Worse still, not only do the last two episodes seem to have the greater volume of not-so-good sketches, but the very last one of the whole series is crap! What rotten luck!

The acting is good althroughout. There are extras, and sometimes bit players, but for the most part, the same six actors are Chris Morris, Mark Heap, Kevin Eldon, David Cann, Amelia Bullmore, and Julia Davis, and they all do well. If you've seen The IT Crowd, then you're probably expecting Chris Morris (Denholm) to be an absolute madman here, but surprisingly enough, his role in the regular sitcom is far more angrily psychotic than anything in Jam.

Music is very important to Jam. The scoring is  usually ambient tunes, sometimes twisted (like the Backwards Music Station, but better-crafted), sometimes not, always heavily emphasized. Unfortunately it sometimes drowns out the soft dialogue in some scenes. This is further worsened by the lip-syncing, I would imagine. Apparently, in numerous sketches, the actors have been dubbed with their roles from the radio predecessor to Jam, purportedly to add the show off and unsettling feel, but all it accomplishes is making the actors hard to hear some of the time.

Despite its problems, and sometimes unfunny sketches, Jam is entertaining, and is actually a rather mature show that actually has wit behind its jokes and sketches, rather than just parading a bunch of gross stuff around for its running time and claiming to be disturbing despite having no effort put behind it (an example of that being Slaughtered Vomit Dolls, which is a boring fetish 'horror' film made by a compulsively fibbing dumbass, who, among other things, can't make movies). I recommend Jam, but only if you know what you're getting into. If you're not interested at all in questionable and morbid black comedy, then you likely won't find much enjoyment out of this.

What's really surprising is that I don't write comedies like this! I used to write incredibly, horrifically dark stories, and I usually write comedies, yet they're normal ones, despite my morbid imagination...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace (2004)

So many movies that try and be so bad they're good fail, as they tend to be really forced, and the makers don't understand why movies such as those of Ed Wood are so amusing in the first place. Short-lived British TV series Garth Marenghi's Darkplace does, however...

Back in the '80's, famed horror writer Garth Marenghi wrote, directed, and starred in a TV show called Darkplace. Due to its 'radical' nature, the BBC refused to air the show, and it was locked away. Now, in the wake of a television drought, the channel has 'come crawling back', with Marenghi pleased to be finally bringing his magnum opus creation to TV screens everywhere...

In Darkplace Hospital, Dr. Rick Dagless M.D is always at the rough end of the pool, frequently having to stop various supernatural occurrences from tearing the hospital apart...

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is a show-within-a-show,which both pokes fun at the low-quality sci-fi horror fare of period British television, while also paying it homage in a way. As I'm an Australian, I've seen a few of these types of shows, and I can certainly attest to Darkplace both capturing and mocking their feel perfectly!

The humour in this series has multiple aspects. For a start, we've got a series of absolutely absurd plots, including PMS 'tellykinesis', gates to hell, human-to-ape contagions, eerie and sinister Scotsman mist, among others. The effects are intentionally bad, as is the continuity, acting, and editing. For those intentional so-bad-it's-good movies, they always fail when deliberately having terrible effects, yet Darkplace succeeds. Maybe it's because of just how far this show goes in how many of its aspects are shoddy, and in how straight it plays everything. And of course, it helps that the show is friggin' hilarious!

There are numerous riotous lines of dialogue in this series. "I kept thinking about Larry, and how inconvenient his blowing up had been.".
Liz: "Do you really buy this portal to hell deal?"-Dagless: "I wouldn't say I'm buying it, Liz. Let's just say I'm window shopping, and right now there's a half-price sale on weird!".
Garth Marenghi: "Thankfully, when I impregnated my wife Pam, she dutifully gave birth to twins-A huge relief. Though for years, I couldn't shake off the fear that one of them might eat the other. Luckily they didn't, which I put down to good parenting."

The characters are great fun, from the melodramatic Rick Dagless, the suave and quick-tempered Julien Sanchez, the subservient and psychic Liz Asher, and the hard-liner head-of-staff Thornton Reed. The real world counterparts (who show up in the prologues, and interview segments) are just as hilarious. The titular writer is sexist and up himself, while Dean Lerner is a sleaze, and possible murderer.

The acting, deliberately hammy and/or terrible, is a riot! Matthew Holness, Alice Lowe, Matt Berry, and Richard Ayoyade all do great jobs. Ayoyade is definitely the best, given the stark difference between his two characters Thornton Reed and Dean Lerner.

The scoring is very effective, both in creating a mood of horror, and of incompetent filmmaking. It's frequently over-the-top, very synthesised in the way that only the 80's could be, and glitches out sometimes, or is just cut off way too abruptly, with all these instances perfectly lending to the feel the show is trying to cultivate. The main theme is definitely awesome! It's kinda like the theme to Dario Argento's Inferno, but not as ridiculously over-the-top.

From flying killer plates with visible strings, to easily visible boards in actors' shirts when they get stabbed, or the drawn out slow motion, the effects in Darkplace are always a laugh riot! What I especially like is the modelwork for the exterior shots of Darkplace Hospital.

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is a hysterically funny horror-comedy, and it's a shame it only lasted for six episodes!...Granted, six episodes constitutes a healthy lifespan in terms of British television. After all, the monster hits of Fawlty Towers, and The Young Ones only went for twelve episodes, respectively, while Dad's Army, and George and Mildred (to my American readers, it's the original Ropers, except actually funny and popular) were oddities in that they actually surpassed 38 episodes! Darkplace's 'place in history is assured', and its unique style and humour won't be forgotten any time soon...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Isle of the Dead (1945)

Ah, it's been a while since I've seen a Boris Karloff film!...Well if you wanna get technical about it, it's been ten hours, but prior to The Raven, I haven't seen a Karloff film in some time. Too long! That's something I must rectify!

Tonight I'll be looking at Val Lewton's 1945 drama/'horror' Isle of the Dead...

In 1912 era Greece, during the Balkan wars, an American journalist is doing a piece, and talking with a tough-as-nails military general Nikolas Pherides (Boris Karloff). The two sail to a nearby island to pay respects to Pherides' dead wife, but soon realize that septicemic plague has struck the island. The general quarantines the island, firmly demanding that no-one may leave. Only one person is allowed to come to the island-A doctor.

With the doctor's death a short time later, the general's faith in rationality is shaken, and after being influenced by Kyra, a superstitious old woman, he takes to believing the old tales he once derided. He soon starts to think Thea, a kind young woman, is a malignant spirit, and to get rid of the plague, he must destroy her...

For the first two acts, Isle of the Dead is a very good film! For a start, it's very well-directed, and has great imagery. Its setup is good, and not only is Boris Karloff's character well-rounded, but all the other characters are too, even ones who die at the 30 minute point! It's one thing for a film from this time period to have one three-dimensional character, but for its whole cast to be is damn impressive!

The acting in this movie is very good, with the obvious standout being Boris KARLOFF, who's fantastic in what's basically a straight role for him. There's a very good reason why the man's a horror icon, and it's not just because he played a lot of monsters.

Unfortunately, here's when we start to get to the bad. The final twenty minutes of Isle of the Dead are badly paced, and the story completely goes off the rails, completely botching two character arcs, capping it off with the 1940's equivalent of an ADR rush job doing some 'moral' closing line, as the Hays Code was wont to do. At least the Code ensured that the psycho bitch Kyra dies horribly!

The first character to have their arc botched is Miss St. Aubyn. She's cataleptic-Wont to fall into deep trances which seem like death. She's been afraid of this her whole life, and being buried alive is a chilling possible reality for her. However, she eventually loses her fear, comes to terms with death, and is at peace for a long while, until she dies of sickness, and the remaining characters, knowing of her condition, even do the requisite tests to make sure she's really dead...But it turns out she's not dead, and is entombed alive! Well fuck you, movie! Worse still, she goes pretty trident-crazy afterwards, a role I was sure Boris freakin' Karloff would play!

Now, while I am glad that Karloff's character didn't go crazy and kill-crazy (unlike what the poster would have you believe), as he was a likeable character, and such a downward spiral would be pretty depressing, I also feel that's what should have happened, as 1, that's what was being set up, and 2, this is apparently a horror film after all, so something horrific has got to happen at some point.

One last thing to note is this film's genre-Despite what everything seems to class it as, it's not a horror film. For the majority of its running time, it's more of a drama, and only in the last five minutes does anything even remotely horrific happen. The film has a sombre tone of unease, and accepting death, but it's never ghastly.

Isle of the Dead is a very flawed movie, but it also has some very good qualities, so I do recommend it, especially for the great performance from the fantastic Karloff the Uncanny!...

The Raven (1963)

Horror icon Boris Karloff has an interesting history with Edgar Allen Poe adaptations of famous poem The Raven. He was in the 1935 film adaptation (co-starring with horror legend Bela Lugosi), which had nothing in common with the story (but was related to Poe, so it wasn't an entirely unwarranted title), and he's in the 1963 version (co-starring with other fellow horror legend Vincent Price), which I'll be discussing tonight...

Dr. Erasmus Craven is a simple magician, powerful but content in staying at his secluded home, still despondent over the death of his wife Lenore two years prior. His grieving is soon interrupted by the arrival of a talking raven. He turns it back into its human form-Dr. Bedlo (Peter Lorre), a fellow magician who tells of how he drunkenly challenged cruel sorcerer Professor Scarabus to a duel and lost. He also tells of how he saw Lenore at Scarabus' castle, enthusing Craven to go to the villain's castle and free his lost love's spirit...

Roger Corman's The Raven is a comedy, which may throw some viewers off at first if they were expecting a straight horror film, especially after the solemn and serious opening. The humour in this film definitely works, with many funny, sometimes hilarious, situations and lines ("Magic by gesture of the hands is the most advanced sorcery!").

This story has nothing to do with Poe's poem of the same name, and is not even the same genre. While this is slightly problematic, it's easily overlooked given the film's general good quality, and a couple of positive points-The opening with Vincent Price reciting part of the poem (the man was born to recite Poe!), and the poem's backstory of Lenore lending a great portrait of grief for Price's character. Though of course, that latter point is scuppered by the revelation halfway through the film. Ultimately, The Raven acts as framing for the film, and whether or not it's a good decision to frame The Raven around a Gothic comedy-horror depends entirely on the viewer.

There are numerous great scenes in this movie. An especially great setpiece is the magical duel at the end. It's nearly ten minutes long, and has no dialogue, instead carried along by the actions and performances of Price and Karloff. The special effects are nifty too, even if one does get a little literally cartoony. The matte paintings present look nice, especially Scarabus' gloomy castle! As for the raven that appears here and there (mainly in the film's first act), it's cute and neatly well-trained!

Vincent Price plays against type here, as he's a meek and gentle protagonist, rather than a diabolical cackling villain. His character is very well-written too, making a definite character journey, starting out as one thing, and being another come the film's end.

Boris Karloff is highly amusing when he's pretending to be benevolent, and delightfully evil when his true intentions are out in the open! He manages to be both funny, and intimidating in whatever scenes demand which tone.

Peter Lorre is very amusing as the drunken and cowardly Dr. Bedlo. The rest of the acting is decent. Olive Sturgess and a young Jack Nicholson are both decent, while Hazel Court is pretty funny as Scarabus' evil partner.

The Raven has neat direction and fantastic pacing! The films is so enjoyable that it breezed right by without me realizing it had been 83 minutes! That's one of the best feelings you can get when watching a film, because it means you're really enjoying yourself!...Well, most of the time it does, anyway...

The Raven is a great film, that doesn't mock the classic horror genre with its humour, but rather meshes the two genres together perfectly, having a load of fun and utilizing two of the biggest figures in horror history fantastically!...

Crowhaven Farm (1970)

I've been on a bit of a TV movie horror kick as of late, and with The House That Wouldn't Die proving to be a fantastic sit, I decided to try my luck with 1970's Crowhaven Farm, which I'd read positive things about...Well, it's not awful, at least...

At the will reading of a relation, a man inherits Crowhaven farm, a patch of land in a town near Salem. A mysterious little girl causes him to crash into a tree, killing him instantly, and his relations, married couple Maggie and Ben, inherit the estate. Maggie is instantly repelled by the farm for an unknown gut feeling, but is persuaded to stay by Ben. The couple, who are a bit on the rocks, soon adopt Jennifer, a seemingly kind-hearted ten year old. However, it soon turns out that she's evil-Cathy's Curse evil-and will stop at nothing to take Maggie's soul, because of a witchy deal-with-the-devil gone south back in the 1700's...

Crowhaven Farm is a passable horror film. Things take a bit to get going, but a witchy vision and the ooky prologue help the film's pacing, so it doesn't just set its characters up for 18 minutes without a single scare. As the movie goes on, however, the thin plot starts to become a problem. It's not a drastically underwritten film, but it's still very lacking, made all the worse by the downer ending that not only see fit to depress you, but make you hate all the characters in the movie!

A pretty sizeable problem with this movie is that the timeframe is very rushed, and at one point, you'll be wondering how the hell Maggie's having a baby when she only got the news that she was pregnant seemingly a few days prior, and she's as slim as a board. The birth is said to be premature, but given the skewed timeline, it feels like it was premature by 9 friggin' months!

The characters here are tolerable. They're sometimes likeable, sometimes annoying. Ben is a dickhead at first, but once that first leg of the movie is over, he gets more likeable...Until the finale, anyway! As for Maggie, she's likeable for the majority of the film's runtime, but aside from the crap climax, there's also one scene where she's a total idiot! When walking out at night, she witnesses a black sabbath, including an animal on an altar, and the next day, she goes to investigate the remains of the site. She sees a red wet stain on the altar, and she runs her hand through it! The stupid part comes when she realizes what it is and screams, flailing her hand. What did you think it was, dumbass?! Rasberry jam?!

The film's highlight is definitely Cindy Eilbacher as the requisite evil little girl. She's basically the main villain, and carries the ooky atmosphere well, but the fact that she never loses kinda sours the film to me, as she's a little bitch who you want to see get her comeuppance. That's part of what I meant when I said you'll hate all of Crowhaven Farm's characters come the end. The protagonists all do sudden acts of craven idiocy while the villains get off scot free. It's a pretty frustrating ending!

For a '70's TV movie, Crowhaven Farm has some...uh...icky stuff in it. Think back to that movie Orphan where the evil little girl was really over 30, and only looked like a child. She had...unfulfilled needs. The character of Jenny here does too, but while she's kinda technically a couple hundred years old, she's also kinda technically still ten years old, so EW!

As you can tell from the above paragraph, what the villains are is extremely unexplained, much to the film's detriment! This film would've been at least a bit better had the script fleshed things out a bit more.

The acting here is all decent. There's also John Carradine in a tiny part. It's still a real role, mind you, unlike all those Trojan Carradine movies but barely there all the same.

Overall, this isn't a very good film, and while it may only be 73 minutes long, it's a pretty dull and irksome sit and I don't recommend it...

Doctor Who's 51st Anniversary: Sophie Wilson-...Okay

I don't normally review songs on here, and I certainly wasn't planning on doing so before April the 1st given the jokey post I have planned involving music reviewing, and how it's not something I ever do, but what I have to talk about for the 51st anniversary of classic sci-fi TV show Doctor Who bears discussion.

...Okay is a song by a person named Sophie Wilson, who put together this song last year in honour of Doctor Who's big Five Oh.

This song is not without minor faults. The opening verse is a bit shaky, but not bad, and the song picks up quickly. What we get is a nice tune about the lives and personalities of The Doctor's eleven incarnations, from the point-of-view of a companion. The composition of ...Okay is great, as are the lyrics, with a full detailed verse for each Doctor, almost all painting a fine portrait! I say almost all because the one's for Doctors 9 and 10 are a bit lacking, I imagine due to neither Doctors really being as well-rounded as the rest (9 was pretty unexplored, especially as he only had one season, while 10 was very inconsistent).

Ending on a poignant, and melancholy yet hopeful note, ...Okay is a perfect compliment for a great show, and I hope its well-remembered! Sophie Wilson has created what I think is a fantastic song, and I hope she feels great about it!...