Perhaps no other car in fiction has gained the level of adoration and fame as Herbie, the love bug! Or should I say no other living car!...
The Love Bug
Has-been racecar driver Jim Douglas is seeking to become an all-star racer once more, but he needs a new car. He ends up coming across an unloved VB in a car dealership run by Peter Thorndyke, and staffed by the pleasant Carole. Jim soon finds out there's more to his new car than meets the ye. Dubbed Herbie by Jim's mechanic friend Tennessee Steinmetz, the car could very well be Jim's ticket to the racing big leagues. However, the antagonistic Thorndyke has noticed Herbie's talents too, and sets his eyes upon getting the car for himself. While Jim has grown attached to the car and refuses to sell it, he also doesn't have the money yet to fully pay it off, so he and Thorndyke set up a wager, decreeing that whoever wins a st number of races will receive full ownership of the love bug...
The Love Bug is a bundle of fun, with lots to like. The design of Herbie is instantly recognizable, and despite having no anthropomorphic features, he's still an adorable and complete character in his own right.
The character interactions can be a little unpleasant, from the misunderstandings when characters don't think Herbie is real, characters getting angry all the time to each-other, as well as the awkward section when Jim hurts Herbie's feelings, which was borderline hard to watch!
One concern I had with the story is that for all his talk of wanting to get back into the racing game and prove he's still got the touch, Jim isn't really racing at all-Herbie is! That also makes the races patently unfair, when the regular cars and racers have to contend with the magical Herbie.
There are a few great scenes and setpieces, but a few moments are just odd, like when Herbie literally tries to commit suicide at the Golden Gate Bridge!
The dialogue is mostly fine, with some great lines, like when Tennessee espouses "We take machines and stuff 'em with information until they're smarter than we are!", or the bizarrely hilarious hippie scene!
The effects are impressive in some scenes, not so much in others. There's some pretty obvious green screen use, which is somewhat annoying, especially for scenes that aren't even in cars! Jim is just looking into a storefront/shop window from the street, and he's in front of a green screen! As for the good effects, the racing and driving all looks fine, minus the occasional zany moment (as well as some potential nature destruction, unless it's fake! Poor cacti), and the aforementioned finale is impressive!
Coming to its length, The Love Bug isn't exactly a short movie. It's one of those films that absolutely could've benefited from a deranged madman with a hacksaw in the editing room, but isn't sunk by its somewhat lengthy running time.
Dean Jones is a good lead, along with Michele Lee. Buddy Hackett may grate on some people, but I thought he was mostly fine. David Tomlinson was by far my favourite actor in the movie! He's hilarious as the bitter and shouty villain! Finally, I must say it was nice seeing Iris Adrian for a brief cameo!
The score to The Love Bug is great fun! There's not a whole lot of it, as evidenced by the same refrain being repeated time and time again, but though it comes close to being overused, it luckily avoids that fate by this much.
This is a really good movie, and while it's not perfect, The Love Bug is still fun for all ages...
Herbie Rides Again
The dastardly businessman Alonzo Hawke is trying to nab all the land in an industrial area, but standing in his way is one last holdout-An old firehouse that's the home to the old yet energetic Mrs. Steinmetz, and her feisty granddaughter Nicole, and a variety of fun artifacts. Hawke sends his young nephew Willoughby Whitfield to case the joint out, and to try and convince Mrs. Steinmetz to give up the property. In way out of his head, the hopeless Whilloughby is no chance for either her, Nicole, or their car Herbie, who doesn't take kindly to intruders. Soon realizing the error in his trust of his uncle, Willoughby starts to help the Steinmetz family keep their home...
At first, Herbie Rides Again seemed like a superior follow-up to The Love Bug, but as it went on, that opinion waned. In some ways it is better than its predecessor, but in other ways, it's worse. The characters are really good, but the story they're in is rather lacklustre most of the time
One major thing distinguishing this movie from the previous entry is that there's no racing, which is odd, and might turn some off, but I was ok with it. I did miss the racing, as it's an important part of Herbie, but as long as he's in the story, it doesn't necessarily need to be about the subject.
The biggest turn-off for me with Herbie Rides Again was the zaniness. This movie feels like a cartoon in a way the previous entry never did. One scene is is particularly crazy, as instead of simply going up the incline around a car blocking the way (which based on what we've seen Herbie do so far is no mean feat), he instead drives right off the dock and into the ocean, where he drives on the water! This whole section stretches suspension of disbelief, but it does gives us the golden line "That's ridiculous. Why would a shark be following a volkswagen", so I guess ready to forgive the movie its transgression.
Herbie Rides again thankfully doesn't overdo the whimsy when it comes to the firehouse. It may be presented as a 'magical place', but the residents are normal people, rather than super quirky caricatures, which makes feel more real. Unfortunately the movie comes close to underdoing the whimsy, and we see so little of the firehouse that I wasn't that invested in it being saved, which is more than a little annoying when that's the entire point of the story.
The movie is somewhat heartbreaking when Hawke's repo men start removing all of the firehouse's belongings, but it doesn't dwell on it much at all, almost instantly cutting to the leads sneaking through Hawke's security to get the stuff back. This whole section drags the film to a bit of a halt. Another problem with these scenes is that they paint Mrs. Steinmtz as truly senile, and her actions are sometimes downright psychotic!
Despite their relationship, Hawke and Willoughby barely meet, having only two scenes together in the first hour, and one's over the phone! Following that, they continue barely interacting. It was almost unnecessary having them be related in the first place, if not for what it at least gives to Willoughby's character progression.
My biggest issue with the plot is that Hawke's actions against the firehouse are illegal. He doesn't own the property, nor have any kind of right to repossess her belongings, and he doesn't have the right to demolish the house without permission like he attempts to. I'm tempted to say this takes me out of the movie, but nope, as while this kind of behaviour should be unrealistic, I imagine corporate dickheads in the real world do this all the time. So, I'm not actually sure if this is a problem for the movie or not...
The conclusion is pretty disappointing, as well as a bit depressing. Not only does it reach peak ridiculousness, but it's also car-racist against any vehicles that aren't volkwagens! Willoughby and Nicole play zero part, and the ending is super abrupt.
Herbie himself is ok here, but he doesn't have nearly as much character as he did in The Love Bug
The effects look pretty good in Herbie Rides Again, with plenty of cars on display! Not all is great though, and the worst effect is when a couple in their car are kissing, and it's obviously a still image!
The acting is standout! Ken Berry is a fine lead, Stefanie Powers is a tough female character, and my favourite female lead in the series. Keenan Wynn is great as the diabolical and frothing antagonist, while Helen Hayes is decent, but brought down somewhat by the gradually unlikeable character she plays.
Herbie Rides Again isn't that great, but is still an ok sequel, and an ok way to kill time...
Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo
Several years past his former glory, the race car Herbie and his old driver Jim Douglas, along with mechanic Wheely Applegate, are off to France for the Monte Carlo Trans-France race in the hopes of making a comeback. Meanwhile, a corrupt police detective and two bumbling cohorts have staged a daring diamond heist, and hidden their spoils within Herbie's gas tank
Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo is ok. As with Herbie Rides Again, it's saddled with both improvements and...uh...deprovements. It feels just as different from the second Love Bug film as that did from the first. I'll say this about the series, at least they aren't just the same story repeated over and over again!
What I found most trying about this is the runtime, which is back to nearly being two hours after last movie's merciful 88 minute reprieve. The plot here really doesn't support how long its dragged out, and feels even tinier because of the length. Not a whole lot happens, and I was just feeling a bit unsatisfied by the end.
Getting more in depth with the story, it's sometimes annoying, and sometimes plain unpleasant! Everyone screws each-other over! Herbie screws Jim over by either refusing to start while in a race, or going into races he shouldn't and harassing other drivers because he has the hots for their car. Jim and Diane are pretty nasty to each-other, and Jim and Wheely are nasty to the two cars. That lie in particular was a bit needlessly depressing!
The romance isn't particularly well-handled. Far too much time goes by with Diane still skeptical of Herbie's true nature, and what took only a matter of minutes in the first movie takes damn near two hours in this one! Also tanking the romance subplot's potential is that Diane disappears for most of the final act. Speaking of disappearing acts, where's the love interest from the first movie?!
Coming to the villains, the French and German racers are so villainous you'd think this was a
nationalistic British movie! The rivalry between them and Jim probably
would've gone down better than it did had the movie focused more on that
rather than the diamond caper, though that direction would've been a
pretty cliched one to take. Points against the movie for partly going
down that route, but points for not making it the main conflict.
One thing that especially irked me are the numerous instances where due to falling behind, or being waylaid or sabotaged, it would be IMPOSSIBLE for the leads to get back in the running, yet not only do they do just that, but they win! Also annoying me is that this film really does hammer it home even further that the drivers here aren't doing shit, and Herbie's a magical racing car with no use for anyone behind the wheel, which comes off as cheating in a race!
Everything relating to the cars looks fine, and what effects there are are good. Apparently if you keep an eagle eye out, cars often disappear between shots, though I never noticed that, even when somewhat trying to spot such goofs (though I was mainly focusing on just watching the movie).
The acting is ok. Dean Jones is good as usual, even if his character is more unlikeable this time round, and his age is a bit distracting given how much more youthful he appeared in the first movie. Co-star Don Knotts does what he can. His character is a dick, but he's still at least slightly amusing. Julie Sommars is an ok female lead, but can get a bit frustrating to watch at times. Jacques Marin makes for an ok villain. Weirdly enough, one of the weaker performances was from Bernard Fox! Huh?! How unthinkable! I think the lacklustre script just didn't give the man anything to work with. Roy Kinnear fares a bit better, but not much. Finally, Xavier Saint-Macary is fun as the doofy and eager cop Fontenoy.
Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo is an ok watch, but I don't really recommend it. It perhaps might be the lowest point in this series...
Herbie Goes Bananas
Famed former racecar Herbie is in the care of two young guys, skeptical of the VB's prowess. They're planning on taking him to race in a South American race, and they set out on a voyage via a cruise ship run by an eccentric captain. Unfortunately, a mishap on the ship sends Herbie out to sea, and he washes up on the shores of Mexico. There he meets Paco, a young street urchin, and they become fast friends, eventually uncovering a criminal smuggling plot, all the while Herbie's proper owners are searching for him...
We're now at the last, and what's considered by pretty much everyone to be the worst, Love Bug film (not counting remakes, and that short-lived TV series).
Herbie Goes Bananas feels cheaper than the other entries in the series. Perhaps it's because of the lack of car action. In the first three, even when they weren't racing-centric, there were still dozens of cars on display, whereas here, there's only Herbie. This, together with other problems make the movie feel spiritually cheap, if that makes any sense.
There aren't any familiar leads this time round, to the film's detriment. Now one could make the same argument with the second film, since the first film's characters have completely vanished in that entry too, but we're still in a familiar location, and there is at least some attempt at an explanation on the relation between the old and new protagonists, so they're not too out-of-left-field.
main reason don't like Paco taking centre stage is that he to the point where he doesn't even know his name! Though if he was to call him anything], Ocho is an amusing nickname
is that Herbie himself has nothing to do with the plot, with this being compounded by the above mentioned problem of Paco not knowing who he is. Really he's just ambling about, while stuff just happens. A child watching might be more receptive to Paco as a lead, but lemme tell you, as a kid I did NOT appreciate this movie for having Paco painting Herbie over!
The plot is [pretty weak] in various areas. As I said, it's pretty ambling, and only really kicks into gear in the final act. There's a superfluous matador scene, which is a little amusing, but/though it feels like it drags out the plot/stops the plot in its tracks.
The romance here is pretty weak. The two actors have decent chemistry, but the script doesn't care enough about their romance to give it much focus at all, so we see the start of it, Melissa gets pissed at Peter, then the entire remainder of the movie happens before we come back to it! Even then, it's just a brief making up, and making out.
The humour in Herbie Goes Bananas is likewise weak. Some of the dialogue did make me laugh though, like Harvey Korman's delivery of "It's a car, woman, not Lassie.".
Herbie has returned to his vandalistic ways after a reprieve last movie, smashing up a cargo-bay's worth of presumably priceless antiques and ornaments. Also, this is quite a depressing entry for the poor VB, given how beat-up, dirtied, and rusted he gets! One almost memorable scene he gets is where he's made to walk the plank, but it turns out I slightly misremembered how this scene plays out. I was right on what happens, but not on the how. From when I saw this as a kid. I could've sworn Herbie is actually stood up on his rear on the plank while Korman's holding him at swordpoint! I remember thinking it was such a striking (yet profoundly silly) image.
Something random I appreciate is how much these Mexican characters in Mexico speak their own language, rather than English. You see that all the time in movies, and it's annoyingly unrealistic. On a related note, the locale is neat, with the Mexican landscape being a nice change of pace for the series, after entries in America, and France.
The effects present are pretty decent, minor some obvious green screens here and there. The golden artifact prop is clearly not heavy, but props to the director for trying to be realistic, in having the three villains using all six hands between them to carry the 'hefty' artifact.
Onto the acting. Joaquin Garay III is decent, but a little annoying sometimes. Stephen W. Burns is a pretty milquetoast lead, so it's kinda good that Garay wrests the movie's attention away from him! Elyssa Davalos is ok, but doesn't appear as much as 'd hoped, while Cloris Leachman fares a bit better. She's nice in her role. Bruce Dern lookalike Charles Martin Smith at first comes across as a less talented Don Knotts stand-in, but as the movie goes on, he becomes more bearable, even if not particularly likeable. John Vernon isn't as good here as other roles but he's still a joy to watch, and exudes villainy. The other two baddies, played by Richard Jaeckel and Alex Rocco feel a bit wasted though. Harvey Korman was annoying at first, and while the jury's still out on whether that's still the case for me, he did kinda grow on me as the movie went on.
The soundtrack is ok, but not really special. There's a briefly heard rescoring of the main theme, which just feels a bit inferior, while the song that plays midway through the film and over the ending credits is decent, but a bit overly kiddy.
Ultimately, Herbie Goes Bananas is by no means terrible, and it's worth a watch for fans, but it's definitely not on par with The Love Bug. In fact, none of these sequels are! The series really is a great example of the steady decline in quality a series can go through if you don't leave well enough alone....
This post is for The Shortening, a blogathon set up by Emily of The Deadly Dolls House of Horror Nonsense.
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Casey, a young American street kid, is found by unscrupulous British crook Harry Bundage. Noting her resemblance to the missing grandaughter of the once-wealthy Lady St. Edmund, he plans on using her to locate a hidden treasure. Casey is trained with all the knowledge she needs to imitate the granddaughter, and once presented to the Lady, fools her completely. Casey marvels at the old house, now somewhat of an orphanage, and immediately starts digging in for its secrets. As the weeks go by, Casey gradually becomes used to her new lifestyle at the manor, and is more and more unwilling to sell out her new friends and family, but Bundage and co. are still on the prowl, and there's still a treasure to be found...
Candleshoe is an alright movie, but there are a few things about it that stopped me from fully enjoying myself. The biggest problem is that the lead character is kind of a bitch! Willfully conning an old lady, and colluding with rotten scoundrels. Thankfully the predictable ends up happening and she eventually comes around. On that note, the predictable also doesn't happen. I assumed that Casey would turn out to really be the missing heir to the estate, and was fully prepared to let out an expected but no less exasperated groan, but that never happens! She might be, but the film never goes out of its way to explore that potential plotline, which is both good and bad. Less cliched, but also a missed character opportunity
Moving back to Casey being a bitch. Firstly, her plays when trying to convince Lady Edmund of her authenticity are so obvious and unsubtle it's a wonder the ruse wasn't up instantly! Later on, when she's getting used to the house, one of the teens there mistrusts her (for good reason, as the audience knows). Their rivalry starts getting uncomfortable to watch, but thankfully the characters move past that quickly and Casey makes friends with everyone in the household, so we're spared scenes of Casey using her position to accuse the other girl of wrongdoing, which I can't stand in media.
The story we get is ok, but feels merely serviceable. Nothing special, but not all that great either, and it didn't exactly leave me with a sense of wonderment and adventure. The biggest issue with the plot is when Casey's lie is revealed. It really isn't! The characters do all find out the truth, but she tells them offscreen, and we never see their reactions to it! They're just instantly fine with it and Casey suffers no repercussions for her deceit.
The whole climax and ending overall didn't do much to impress me There's also an annoying amount of destruction based humour, all the while I stuttered "Th-that's probably a 60 million Pound estate! Th-Think of the history, dammit!".
The subplot with Lady Edmund and her butler Priory is quite good, reminiscent of Dinner for One, and with a pretty sweet conclusion. If you'd cut out all the semi-annoying children, and the plot therein, you could have quite a poignant short film about two people maintaining their friendship through silly charades as they age and lose other people around them, enjoying the time they have left in each-other's company...Uh, it sounds less depressing when you actually watch it, I swear!
While her character may not be exactly likeable at times, Jodie Foster still delivers quite a good performance. The remaining child actors range from ok to sometimes kinda poor. Moving onto the acting heavyweights, with Helen Hayes, and David Niven. She's convincing with an English accent, to the point where I was surprised to find out she was American! Niven does well with what he has, including pretending to be a few different characters, which is fun to see. Likewise, Leo Mckern is great in his role, as you'd no doubt expect. He also seems to have an American clone, as evidenced by the beginning of the movie. I was freaked out!
Onto more positives, Candleshoe looks fantastic! The British scenery is lovely to behold*, and Candleshoe manor itself is a great, idyllic looking estate. The real property standing in for the fictional Candleshoe manor was the country house Compton Wynyates, which was used for a few British films around the same time, and presumably in a few since.
*Man am I gonna feel awful if it turns out the film was shot in Scotland, Ireland, or Wales!
I'm not really sure if I'd recommend Candleshoe, but it's not awful, and some good scenes as well as the acting and general harmlessness make it a tolerable enough watch...
This post is for The Shortening, a blogathon set up by Emily of The Deadly Dolls House of Horror Nonsense.
In the tradition of That Darn Cat, it's time for more feline shenanigans courtesy of Disney/Buena Vista!...
From the far reaches out space, and alien race has made contact with the Earth thanks to a ship malfunction. Being identical the the cats of our planet, the pilot goes looking for supplies to fix his ship, while the government locates it and takes it away for study. The cat, soon dubbed Jake, finds a local scientist Frank Wilson, enlisting his help (and that of his somewhat uncouth coworker Link, and would-be girlfriend Liz) to fix his craft and get back home...
The Cat from Outer Space is a highly enjoyably watch, and further proof positive that kitty cats provide the best entertainment next to dogs!
This is a kids movie in the respect that it has a G-rated plot, but focuses on adult characters, which could go either way. Sometimes there might be justifiable complaints that kids want to watch movies about other kids, not 45 year olds. On the other hand though, I seriously dig the confidence Disney had in their kids movies that they could have them be about adults, and trust the kids to understand them. I think what I like about such stories is a tendency to not talk down to children. However, there are some..odd elements in this for its target audience, namely the amount of booze present and consumed!
My favourite aspect to the story is how believing everyone is. Link takes a little convincing, but a little feline telepathy soon changes his tune, while revealing the truth to Frank's paramour Liz works just fine, and their interactions with the military ends up going a pleasing and unexpected direction too!
My least favourite thing about the story is the kinda pointless addition of a big bad, who doesn't appear until over 70 minutes in, and doesn't really accomplish much. He does set the events of the climax in motion, but doesn't really end up amounting to much himself. I think the best solution would've been to have him appear more, and possibly to have Roddy McDowall play him rather than the put-upon subordinate.
Back to some positives, the film sports some great dialogue, including "Anybody ever tell you you've got a terrific set of whiskers?". That Jake sure is a hit with the ladies!
Ok, time for the most important part of this movie-The cat! It does a really good job! It's always very co-operative, giving off the impression that it's a hyper-intelligent being, and you always believe that it is, and all without CGI, too!
The effects in The Cat from Outer Space are mostly fine. The spaceship looks neat, if a little underdecorated, while the location work is nice, particularly at the climax. There's some noticeable but decent green screen usage, visible wires in one flying scene, and an ADR screw-up near the end. Then there's the use of the cat itself, which I already went over. All round, it's flawed, but for a movie that presumably didn't have a huge budget to work with, it's good.
The acting here is god. Ken Berry is a nice lead, Ronnie Schell is great as Jake (sadly the cat itself goes uncredited). M*A*S*H* alumni McLean Stevenson and Harry Morgan are both entertaining, though only get a couple of short scene together, so we don't get a whole movie of Colonels Blake and Potter. Sandy Duncan is fun, as is Roddy McDowall! The rest of the acting is decent, though the guy who plays the villain, is underused.
The Cat from Outer Space is a ridiculously silly time! It's not perfect, but I recommend it, especially if you're decidedly not a dog person!...
This post is for The Shortening, a blogathon set up by Emily of The Deadly Dolls House of Horror Nonsense.
Saturday, February 24, 2018
Anything distributed by Troma is bound to be a weird experience! Good? Not necessarily, but I try to give everything from this company a fair chance, because I know those behind the scenes of such pictures are usually amateur filmmakers who are just starting out, likewise giving jobs to new actors who might have trouble finding roles at this stage in their career. Sometimes this trust ends up sort-of misplaces when it comes to such dreck as Rock and Roll Space Patrol (despite that film's somewhat brilliant tangent at the end), but I can safely say it hasn't been with today's film...
Kristy is a young woman who's just moved to the promising Los Angeles, staying with her unpredictable relatives, but not all is going how she'd planned, as a menacing killer stalks the streets, and is eyeing her as his latest conquest...
L.A. Maniac is an oftentimes effective little horror film. It's not too long, and succeeds pretty well in what it set out to do, with its portrait of a serial killer's twisted psyche, with little touches of Cinderella, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. While the movie's tone is almost surreal at times, the plot is kinda creepy in a very real world way, in that it's showing what could happen if by pure chance you caught the attention the wrong random person. The villain is simultaneously uncomfortable to watch, and borderline hilarious at times, with my favourite moment being when he refers to dolphins as 'water-bound Lassie'.
The plot moves along at an ok pace. It's not really story heavy, mainly just following these characters as stuff happens. Don't take that to mean it's boring though, because it's not, most of the time anyway. I was a bit disappointed in the ending though. It's not necessarily what happens that bugged me, but what didn't happen. There's an important scene that's completely offscreen, and there's not really a proper conclusion. It's partially effective in a TCM kind of way, but it also feels like a bit of a cheat, like you watched the whole movie for nothing.
There's variety in the death scenes, with stranglings, stabbings, beatings, and more. My favourite was the plastic bag kill, which was a great workaround for budget. With the bag over the actresses head, it covers the fact that they're not really stabbing it without the need for a possibly fake effect, and doubles as being a bit creepy in how we're not seeing the character's face as it gets bloodily mutilated. Less is more, sometimes a lot more! Some of the more gruesome special effects looked a bit too over-the-top for me, and sometimes a bit unconvincing, but at least the movie tries to be creative, instead of having every death be the same. And if I have to pick a specific example, L.A Maniac looks better than Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, for whatever that's worth.
The editing is chaotic in a mostly good way. While at first it seems like just bad editing, I felt it had a deliberately disorienting effect. Not sure if it works all the time, but I appreciate it. There were some moments where it seems like you're left wondering if what we're seeing is actually happening, or all in the killer's head.
The soundtrack is ok. The score is quite good in places, having a sort-of industrial ambient sound, but the licensed songs used are not really my type. Your mileage may vary on that, depending on how much you enjoy death metal.
Paul Tobin is like a demented Michael Gross (read: Michael Gross in half of his non-Family Ties roles) in his turn as the titular serial killer, and he's got a fun and creepy presence, as well as a lot of the funniest lines. While her character doesn't get a whole lot to really do, I liked Celeste Martinez's performance as a sweet reserved country girl who also happens to like partying and heavy metal!
It's always neat seeing Dolores Quintana in anything, and while she doesn't get the chance to take part in the action proper, she does get a chance to show off her singing skills, which is lovely. She's also hilarious in her second scene! A shame she doesn't appear more.
I recommend L.A. Maniac if you're into seedy horror flicks, and if you don't mind super low budget shot-on-video aesthetics. It's not perfect, but definitely worth a shot, as long as it appeals to you...
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
The Seventh Annual Vampire's Day Soiree: The Vampire Woman (1967) and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
If I were to mention the existence of a Persian vampire film, your mind might immediately spring to the recent picture A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Not surprising, as if you try and google 'Iranian vampire films', or 'list of Persian vampire films', you'd be inundated with results for that movie. Surprisingly enough though, I was able to find another! Zan-e Khoon Asham is from the 1960s, which I imagine is quite an uncommon period to find horror from Iran, since it's not even that common a genre there to this day, with only the occasional film like The Rings by Mohsen Makmalbaf, or 2013's Under the Shadow. I'm positive there are more out there throughout the decades, because The Vampire Woman is so rare and obscure that even people compiling lists of Persian horror films pass it by unnoticed (though thankfully not all of them)! With that in mind, I'm glad to be taking a spotlight on this particular piece of cinema.
The Vampire Woman
In Iran, a smooth-talking playboy comes to a small village to meet up with a friend, and in the process sweeps a young lady off her feet. He soon leaves for Tehran, promising to come back for his newfound beau, but immediately forgets her and shacks up with the next woman he gets the hots for, with the fact that she's already married having zero effect on his decision. Soon causing her marriage to be ruined, the man starts having terrifying supernatural encounters. Could the undead be real and tormenting him, is this all in his mind, or could something else be at play?...
When The Vampire Woman gets going, it moves at a good pace, but a pretty sizeable problem is that the entirety of the first third is plodding. Most of it is taken up by a wedding sequence, and as interesting as it is seeing a different culture's nuptial celebrations, it drags. Also, the performers involved can't sing! It's because of this that while the story moves along at a good pace, it takes it's sweet ass time actually starting. This also creates another issue. The second half hour is the guy screwing over the women in his life, while the last third is the revenge portion. Now, had the movie opened with, say, 10 minutes of introduction, then half an hour of the guy being a dick, everything would be fine as there'd be plenty of time remaining, but because the inciting incident section doesn't wrap up until the hour mark, it's too far in, as there's now very little time left for any spooky stuff, or for the sweet revenge.
While they're few in number, the revenge scenes are quite well done, and spooky in an old-fashioned way. Quick cuts insure we never get too close or lingering a look at the fake fangs, at least until the nifty reveal at the end!
The plot seems to follow the Turkish romance formula of Girl meets Boy, Boy slights Girl, Girl plots intricate and emasculating revenge, cowing and taming Boy into a suitable partner, They live happily ever after. An unorthodox way of doing business if I may say so, ladies, but it seems to get the job done in these movies!
I watched The Vampire Woman in unsubtitled Persian, but as with Al-Kaboos, the print I saw was sooo low-quality that I struggled to make out the dialogue at all! The plot's not that hard to make out without the luxury of subs, but the only print I could find is super rough, looking murky and yellowed. Had I seen this film in better quality, I'm sure that would've improved the experience. I know that seems obvious, but some movies you can just tell wouldn't be improved by better quality. Let's hope that watching faded 50 year old VHS quality copies won't be the only way to watch this film in the future.
Given how this is a movie about two women teaming up to get back against the man who screwed them over, this is quite a feminist movie for 1960s Iran. Hell, it's quite a feminist movie for 1967 period! And how often do you see in movies even to this day where a woman and the person her husband was cheating on her with team up. After all, the other woman is usually an innocent party, but is often demonized in films. Here though, the two recognize the real one at fault and band together! Good on those behind this for wanting to tell such a story!
One element I appreciated is that this film portrays a non-sexual female vampire. Sexual ones are all well and good, but when that's the only mode they ever come in and male vampires get more variation, there's a problem. Just a shame we get very little insight into the vampire. There's a reason for this, of course, but it's still a shame.
The Vampire Woman isn't that great a vampire film, nor a very good Iranian film period, but it's not that bad either. While it's doesn't exactly live up to the novelty of a Persian vampire flick, it still isn't worth writing off completely, and it's worth checking out, even if it doesn't hit the mark of something like Les Diaboliques...
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
In the destitute and crime-ridden Bad Town, young man Arash tries his best to eke out a living, but is constantly thwarted by outside events. One night he discovers the savagely murdered body of a drug dealer who had previously victimised him, and steals a stash of money and drugs. Despite his newfound wealth, things still suck for Arash, and bodies soon start piling up elsewhere, and a mysterious woman roams the streets...
With words being thrown about like 'world's first vampire western!', 'vampire western, period!', 'striking!' and 'genre-bending!', I was expecting something really interesting from A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (a mouthful of a title, by the way), but I didn't see any of that. It's not a western at all for a start. Look, while I'll let the host country slide depending on how well they do (because who cares if Italy isn't the American West. And Turkey doesn't do that bad a job either), what I won't let slide is if it lacks cowboys, is set in the modern day, and bears a plot that has no western themes or motifs in the slightest. I also didn't see how the movie was in any way feminist.
The direction by Ana Lily Amirpour isn't that great, especially when mixed with pretty [bad] editing. Other moments look better, but I found this to be quite visually uninteresting. The movie is just boring! Aside from being miserable to watch, nothing happens! It takes 20 minutes before the titular vampire even shows up, and that's a very long 20 minutes, believe you me! The story never really picks up, and not much happens throughout, nor is the ending very satisfying, stopping moreso than it truly ends.
Contrary to what it seems, this isn't actually an Iranian film, but sorta-American. Pretty much everyone in front of or behind the camera are Iranian-Americans, and the movie is performed in Farsi, but shot in California. I find it super cool that people behind an American film were willing to have the whole thing be in another language. Massive props to that because it is seriously cool! I only wish it could've been for a better movie...
Looking deeper into how it looks, The look of A Girl Walks Home is mixed. Some of it is really good, at least in theory. For example, the scene where Arash and the titular girl have an encounter outside a factory looks great! As for the look of the vampire woman, it's almost really good, but I personally feel she would've looked better if just in a regular black chador. The bright striped t-shirt combo kinda ruins the effect. The audio and visual effect when she vamps out isn't that great either, making the attack scenes feel a bit overdone to me.
The acting here is decent. I really enjoyed seeing Marshall Manesh in a role where he gets to speak his native tongue, but his character is so depressing, it's a bit hard to watch, given how cheery he is in other roles!
It takes long enough, but it's over half an hour in when we finally get music that actually sounds western themed! It sounds a bit overdone, showing a little too much inspiration to stuff like Ennio Morricone in Sergio Leone's works, and thus not really standing out on its own. Compounding matters is that a spaghetti western track feels out of place as all heck given this is clearly not a western picture. There are a few rock songs on the soundtrack, which are ok, but overall it's not a very interesting score.
Onto some more positives. A couple of scenes are decently tense, and there's quite nice imagery in places. There's also some really bad imagery, that totally kills tense scenes dead in their tracks, like the skateboarding one. The one scene that I feel exemplifies the movie as a whole is when the vampire girl invites Arash to her apartment, where she puts on an 80s record, and they stand around, then stare longingly into each-other's eyes, bonding over the music. This is an oft-used scene, for good reason. The song used here is good, and kinda thematic, but what kills the scene is that the 'standing around staring at nothing' portion doesn't last for just 10 to 20 seconds, but two goddamn minutes!
I was looking forward to A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, but ended up very disappointed, and very tired. I shouldn't have watched the movie at night, because I was definitely ready for bed by the end. It's a slog of a film, and I don't recommend it...
Well, that's another year down for the annual Vampire Soiree! While I haven't gotten the opportunity to look at any Jean Rollin movies these past couple of years, I'm at least grateful to have sampled some vamp material from countries such as Mexico and Iran, and if I've spotlighted otherwise obscure movies you might never have heard of, I'm glad...