I meant to do this post a while ago. Better late than never, I guess...
I'd like to talk about the ending to Bloody New Year, so obviously there'll be spoilers involved.
You're still here? Good! Either you've seen the movie, or just don't care, or you do care, but don't want to pay 200 dollars to see the film. Let's start then.
Bloody New Year is a horror film about a bunch of teens who go to a deserted island, where they find a hotel. It's abandoned, yet they don't think so for a while, as everything looks fresh and new. Soon enough, however, ghostly things start happening on this island...And it actually isn't really supernatural! It isn't a Scooby-Doo reveal either.
Partway through the film, a TV turns itself on when no-one's looking (I guess the TV knew we were watching!) and we see a panel of scientists discussing an experiment. The experiment is doing light tricks in order to make planes stealthier, and one scientist thoroughly derides the experiment, claiming it's dangerous, playing God, and interfering with time itself! Uh, dude, bending light is a light trick. It won't destroy the web of time! Unless...I once shone a torch through a glass of water, bending the light, HOLY SHIT, I must have destroyed time! I'm sorry everyone!
As it turns out, that experiment went wrong, and the plane crashed, and that really fucked the island up, shattering the time there. Now while the 'bending light' explanation for the experiment is stupid, everything else about it is great! There are several things we see over the course of the film-an open magazine that one of the teens was reading closing itself: after one of the group play some pool, the balls rearrange themselves back to the original position; the hotel looks fresh and new, despite having been abandoned in 1959; footprints appear then disappear; we sometimes see the zombighost of a pilot; on the island's shore is razor wire and a Keep-Out sign (likely put up by the government) etc. At first, these seem like the regular doings of a haunted house, but when you realize that time was destroyed on this island, all these little things come to mind, and (to me at least) it's a great bit of foreshadowing. What I think is so great about it is that these were all little things that I'd largely forgotten, and then I remembered them all, and everything came together in my mind. I thought the climax's reveal was fucking stupid at first, but after I thought for a moment, I was impressed at how much sense the explanation made when I added together all those little things up!
This does bring up a few annoyingly unexplained things, however. Like, why are the island's inhabitants evil super-demons?! Seriously, why?! Did they just think, "Hey, the web of time's been destroyed. Happens every Tuesday. *yawn* Oh well, I guess I'll just turn into a deadite now and violently slaughter any visitors to this island."?! Also, there were a few things that didn't make sense once the reveal came. For example, how does the shattering of time turn tablecloths into giant seaweed monsters?! How does it make people in films leave the screen and attack people?!
Now that's really all I have to say about Bloody New Year. I would like to touch upon the main theme though-Recipe for Romance.
Don't you hate it when you hear an awesome song in a movie, but when you listen to the officialy released version of the song, it's different?! That's the case here! All versions on youtube have the same different beat to them (it kinda sounds similar, but at the same time, it doesn't), so the only way to listen to the version of the song that I like better, is to track down a copy of this film...Which is not an easy task! I watched Bloody New Year on Dailymotion, and no matter what I try, or what computer I use, the video ALWAYS makes constant long pauses that can't be stopped! So I guess I'm just shit out of luck...
...BUT! But, to cement my claim that this particular version of the song was nowhere to be found on Youtube, I went looking, to reverify, and I came across the version of the song I wanted! It was only uploaded about thirteen days ago, which is why I didn't know it was there before. So, go forth and listen, my friends! Listen, and goodnight!...
"You take one boy, take one girl, add a little love and you shake it up, shake it up; that's, recipe for romance, that's, recipe for romance!"
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Monday, June 24, 2013
Fiancee of Dracula (2002)
I've been on a bit of a Rollin bender the last few days, having watched this, the incredibly boring Sidewalks of Bangkok, the just-as-boring Zombie Lake, and Requiem for a Vampire*.
*I watched Requiem for a Vampire and a bunch of The Abott and Costello Show eps as a double feature. Yeah, that was as strange a viewing experience as it sounds!
Fiancee of Dracula is about a Van Helsing like professor and his assistant, who are looking for the remains of Count Dracula, and they come across all sorts of strange events and people, as well as monstrous 'Parallels' over the course of their journey...
The movie opens with a never-named Professor (Jacques Regis) and his young assistant Eric (Denis Tallaron) watching a crypt at midnight, waiting for a vampire to emerge. When the vampire (Sandrine Thoquet) emerges, a dwarf, Triboulet (Thomas Smith) comes to her. Triboulet, who is in love with the vampire, is grabbed by Eric and the Professor. They demand to know where 'the master' is, and Triboulet tells them that a 'Parallel' at the 'Tower of the Damned' knows.
The duo head to said tower, find 'the madwoman of the tower' (Magalie Aguado) and hypnotize her. Thanks to the hypnotized woman, they find out that only the demented Queen of Shadows knows where Dracula is, and they find out her location-she is held by nuns of the Order of the White Virgin.
The Professor and Eric go to the convent of the Order, where all the nuns have been infected by the madness of Isabelle (Cyrille Gaudin), an insane woman they are caring for. After some crazy talk, Isabelle tells the two that she is the betrothed of Count Dracula. The professor hypnotizes her, and instructs her to leave the convent at midnight, letting nothing stop her, in the hopes that she'll lead them to Dracula.
Come midnight, however, the parallels manage to get Isabelle. And as hard as the Professor and Eric try to stop it, the wedding of Dracula is going well underway...
Lots of great directors seem to start sucking late in their career (cases in point, Dario Argento-The Third Mother, Wes Craven-My Soul to Take, John Carpenter-too many to list), so did the same thing happen with Jean Rollin, with his 2002 effort Fiancee of Dracula? Hell to the no, this movie is great!
One thing I liked a lot about this film was the mystique of Dracula. Over the course of the film, he never appears, and we never hear much about him, yet he's the driving force behind the events of the film. That mystique does crumble a bit once he appears, and we see that he's just some guy in a cape (frankly, I wouldn't care if he never appeared in the movie), but by the end, that didn't bother me too much.
There are a couple of plot points that the film neglects to explain. The big one is that the movie seems to start midway, with the Professor and Eric already on their quest to find Dracula's remains-a quest we know nothing about. And we know nothing about the professor and Eric at all, least of all WHY they're involved in all this 'Parallel' business.
And that brings me to the only real problem I had with Fiancee of Dracula-the plot. Now unlike The Sidewalks of Bangkok, the lack of much plot doesn't affect this movie in many places, but in others, it does. Like, who is Dracula in this universe? Is he an evil vampire a la Christopher Lee, or what? He doesn't appear much, and when he does, he doesn't do anything but say a couple of cryptic things. I may have appreciated some of the mystique the count had in this movie, but not all of it.
Another silly part of the plot is the super insta-love with Max towards Isabelle. Seriously, only a few days ago, I saw a film from the 50's with insta-love between the two leads, but even that doesn't hold a candle to Eric in this!
The supernatural beings (called Parallels) in this movie are pretty cool, from the vampire woman, who's a walking corpse with no initiative of her own, to a madwoman by day-baby-eating ogress by night, a witch couple, and the She-Wolf, played by Brigitte Lahaie.
Now as for the Ogress looking purely human, and not ogre-ish in the slightest, I actually don't mind that, thanks to my extensive knowledge of world mythology. Ogresses tend to (in Arabian mythology at least) disguise themselves as normal human women in order to trick their prey.
There isn't much violence or gore in Fiancee of Dracula, but what's there is fine. There's also a surprising lack of nudity in this particular Rollin film.
The acting in this film is all fine. Cyrille Gaudin is especially good as Isabelle, the kinda-insane titular fiancee of Dracula. As for the actor who plays Drac, he looks fine in the role, which is all there is to him, as he only has about two lines of dialogue in the whole movie.
Now, when it comes to artistic films, I'm usually one dull tack, and that is indeed the case here. I didn't gauge a single thing from Fiancee of Dracula. Though however, I did notice (Read: I googled the quotes), a few linking things. The recurring "The presbytery has lost none of its charm, nor the garden its colours" line is from Gaston Leroux book The Mystery of the Yellow Room; the book we keep seeing with Isabelle is Queen of the Sabbath, by Gaston Leroux; and the line "I am, I am the small boy who went to look for your scarf by the sea" is (a paraphrasing at least) from The Phantom of the Opera...by Gaston Leroux!
But did I understand what all these things meant? Largely, no. I have no idea what signifigance the line "The presbytery has lost none of its charm, nor the garden its colours" has.
While I might not have understood this film, I'm still thinking about it, and what many of the various things mean or symbolize. Fiancee of Dracula does have merit as a symbolic film, it's not just some meaningless, pretentious garbage.
There's something I'd like to quote from blogger Tenebrous Kate's review of this film (she's awesome by the way, you'd do well to read her blog), as she words it way better than I could.
"The overall effect of watching this film is of nostalgia for a supernatural past that never existed but is slowly dissolving. It's tragic to watch the fading monsters and know that the present day world is just outside of the universe of this film, threatening to erase this strange land."
In places, I definitely did get that impression-mainly from the Ogress. By day, she's a careless madwoman who dances around a dilapidated tower, usually being victimised by young hoodlums. And by night, she's a starving ogress, stuck in a cave, and her hunger is only sated by human flesh. And the vampire woman is almost entirely pure instinct, to the point that she doesn't even notice that she's walking outside while the deadly sun is coming up.
While watching the last minutes, I was afraid that there'd be a nothing ending, but the final frames made me like the ending!...Except for one thing...
...Eric, you had one job, ONE JOB, and you fucked it up! What the hell kind of vampire hunter doesn't arm himself with, I don't know, a STAKE, or a super-soaker full of holy water?! When he had an opportunity to kill Dracula, Eric just watched blankly as Drac rose from his coffin!
While that little thing did irk me, I grew to like every single thing about Fiancee of Dracula's ending more and more soon enough.
The film is darkly funny in places, always involving the nuns, from the crazy stuff they do thanksto Isabelle's influence, and there are a couple of funny lines during a nun attack near the end.
The film's scoring is very good, and there are a few awesome bits of music here and there!
Rollin usually only had small budgets to work with, but he knew the importance locations can have on a film. Fiancee of Dracula may have had a small budget, but it feels grander, thanks to the use of it's locations, such as a castle, or a dilapidated tower. Also in the film is a beach that Rollin likes to have in his films (it features heavily in Rape of the Vampire).
Fiancee of Dracula won't be everybody's cup of tea, but I definitely enjoyed it a lot! It was a fascinating sit, and one I'll definitely revisit in the future!
Now, before I fly to the world of the supernatural, know that the the presbytery has lost none of its charm, nor the garden its colours...
Saturday, June 22, 2013
The Whip Hand (1951)
Now THIS is a film I was looking forward to!
I wanted to watch 1951's The Whip Hand for two reasons-It had a cool sounding plot, and mainly because it starred Carla Balenda-Betty Leonard from The Adventures of Fu Manchu! Unfortunately this is one hard film to track down. I tried looking online for this flick several times, but to no avail. The only results eBay yielded for The Whip Hand was about three pages worth of the book by Victor Cannning. Luckily a blogging pal, Stacia (of She Blogged By Night) managed to procure me a copy, for which I am very grateful!
The Whip Hand is a thriller about a journalist on holiday, who comes across a small town that seems good, but is hiding a deadly secret...
The film opens with journalist Matt Corbin (Elliot Reid) out fishing in the country, at Lake Winnoga when a storm starts. He goes to leave and slips, hitting his head against a rock. He drives off down a road towards a property (not seeing a 'No Tresspassing' sign) and asks a guard by the gate if he can come in and patch up his bleeding head wound. The gun-toting guard refuses, and demands that Matt leave immediately.
Matt goes into town and goes to the doctor's office to get patched up, and he meets the doctor's sister, Janet Keller (Carla Balenda), who he strikes up a bit of a frienship with.
Matt goes to the inn, where the manager, Steven Loomis (Raymond Burr) tells him that all the fish in Lake Winnoga died of a virus five years prior-an event that turned Winnoga, a booming fish-egg industry, into a ghost town. Loomis tells Matt of a nearby town with plenty of fish to catch, and he draws a map for Matt on how to get there.
The townspeople act friendly to Matt, but when he's gone, the majority of the townspeople, Loomis included, are revealed to be hostile, and they want Matt out of Winnoga as soon as possible.
Matt is perfectly willing to leave, until he keeps noticing shady things going down in Winnoga. He decides to stay and write a story on the town, which the angry Loomis pretends to be ok with.
With his camera in tow, Matt sneaks into the suspicious property that he stumbled upon during the film's beginning (which he's been told is owned by a reputed eccentric), and takes some photos of some shady people. Suddenly an alarm goes off (as a camera saw Matt), and he runs off, hiding his camera (which looks REALLY damn small for a camera from 1951!) in some brush.
Realizing the danger he's in, Matt decides to leave for a nearby town (and wants to take a frustrated Janet with him), but his car won't work. Now stranded in Winnoga, a hostile town controlled entirely by the enemy, Matt Corbin is in real trouble indeed...
The Whip Hand is an entertaining little thriller flick, with good acting all round (although Carla Balenda is pretty underused until the final half hour).
The film maintains a good atmosphere. You definitely get the feeling that the town of Winnoga is a very dangerous place. The bad guys control everything from the phone lines to the local business', they can screw with your car, follow your every step, and can kill you without anyone ever thinking that it was foul play.
The whole last act is unavoidably a letdown, story-wise, because the whole movie is a low-key mystery, and then suddenly COMMUNIST PLOT TO DESTROY AMERICA! If the communism factor was woven throughout the whole movie, then it wouldn't be too much of a problem, but it isn't. At least the film never feels like it was made by a McCarthy-ist, so props for that.
The villains in this movie weren't always communists though. Originally The Whip Hand was meant to be about evil nazis in rural America, not communists, but it was changed, and the movie was refilmed accordingly, when executive producer Howard Hughes thought that nazis were old hat as villains, and that communists should fill the void. That original plot doesn't sound too bad, but here's the kicker. The film was going to have Hitler in it! Yeah, THAT Hitler! This film's plot would have REALLY suffered if it was a low-key mystery for most of its running time, then suddenly introduced nazis and Hitler into the mix right out of left-field!
Come to think of it, if that original story had remained, then this'd be the second time (well, first, but you get my drift) that Carla Balenda has encountered and fought a still alive Hitler! The first being in that one episode of The Adventures of Fu Manchu...But then again, I'm pretty sure The Master Plan of Fu Manchu was one of her character's Coffee* episodes.
*Wherein Balenda's usually kinda-proactive character of Betty Leonard does little to nothing but make coffee for the MEN.
The acting is all fine, minus one role (which I'll get to in a bit). Kinda-Ken Berry lookalike Elliot Reid is a fun hero with a hilariously wholesome smile, and Raymond Burr makes for a good villain (he's not the main villain storywise, but he gets the most screentime).
Carla Balenda is good in her role, but the character she plays isn't as good. She isn't very proactive, and I don't find it believable in the slightest that this woman reluctantly dragged to a small town by her brother would stay there while weird shit is going down for HALF A DECADE! If it was a year, or six months, I'd understand her not leaving, or doing anything, but FIVE YEARS?!
She also gets one stupid scene when she and Corbin are captured and put in a van. When it arrives at its destination, the bad guys open the door and Corbin jumps them, with difficulty given their numbers...and the fact that Janet DOESN'T HELP HIM AT ALL! She just sits and watches!
One particularly funny thing about The Whip Hand is the insta-love between Matt and Janet. They have a couple of random conversations, then at one point, during a serious discussion, Matt pashes her! Dude! Not ok! Haha, oh 50's... Also funny about their romance is the height difference!
The rest of the acting is fine, but one actor in particular is not very good-Otto Waldis as Dr. Wilhelm Bucholz, the main villain.
One thing I appreciated about The Whip Hand is that the two heroes get out of captivity near the end themselves, rather than just being saved by the military at the nick of time
Speaking of, the military guys who come in at the climax are dressed like the Rat Pack! The Fedora Squad to the rescue!
The film has a hilariously abrupt ending! When Bucholz is having his evil speech about destroying America, there's literally less than two minutes of the film left!
So, to finish, I recommend The Whip Hand (and no, I don't have any idea what that title has to do with anything), assuming you manage to track down a copy. It's definitely a fun little sit!
Friday, June 21, 2013
The Sidewalks of Bangkok (1984)
Time for a first for my blog, a first that I'm surprised it's taken me this long to get to-Reviewing a Jean Rollin film!
Jean Rollin, for those not in the know, was a French director who used to make porn films, then started making kinda artistic movies that tended to involve vampires (usually of the lesbian variety), lots and lots of nudity, a slow pace, and dreamlike atmopheres.
The "Mask of Fu Manchu inspired" Sidewalks of Bangkok is one of Rollin's most accessible films, as it's just a simple crime flick. But mind you, when I say it's one of his most accessible films, I don't mean it's good! Au contraire, when it comes to boring, The Sidewalks of Bangkok is on par with Zombie Lake! Yes, fellow Rollin fans, I went there!
The film opens with the death of Rick, a spy, who was in Bangkok, acquiring a tube containing a biological weapon. All he left behind was a film reel with random shots of Bangkok. One thing of importance in it, however, is the presence of Eva (Yoko), a local dancer who Rick got friendly with. The other secret agents who look over the film assume that Rick gave her the tube for safekeeping.
A short time later, an agent is killed and the film is stolen by underlings of Rita (Brigitte Borghese), a gang lord. She sends an agent of hers, Claudine (Francoise Blanchard) to Bangkok to assume the role of Djong, a secret service contact, and the real Djong is killed.
Eva is a dancer at a bar run by a small-time crime lord name Tong (Jean-Paul Bride, who's dressed up to look like Fu Manchu). One of Rita's lady goons tells Tong to get Eva to give him the object that Rick gave her, but given the presence of the French secret service, they decide to smuggle Eva out of the country first.
Claudine goes to Eva before the secret agents can, and pretends to be an acquaintance of Rick's. She tells Eva that Rick is in France, and wants Eva to come over to him. Eva believes Claudine, and she is soon smuggled out of Bangkok via a ship, with the help of a Captain Bruissu (Jean-Pierre Bouyxou), and is sent swimming out into the bay when the ship docks in France. As secret service agents try and get ahold of her, Claudine continues stringing Eva along as she heads towards Rita's chateau...
Like I said before, The Sidewalks of Bangkok is boring! There's pretty much no plot or character in the film, there's just a macguffin everyone's after, and one woman travels a lot to get somewhere. That's the extent to this movie's story. If only there was more plot written, then I could get behind the movie more.
As if the film wasn't boring enough, about fifteen minutes in, there's a long string of nude dancing (including one chick who I'm pretty sure was doing The Robot-Either that or she's a terrible dancer), nude massages (that sure looked like one hell of a massage!), and nude mud wrestling.The stretch might not be a particularly long time, but it sure as hell feels like it!
The character of Eva just exists, and I barely gave a crap about her character in the slightest! She's a largely weak character, who is incredibly boring, and does almost nothing of note. Like I said, she just exists. Yet the majoity of the movie follows her!
There's a moment near the end of the film that really pissed me off! I won't spoil it, but it reveals that the movie's following of the nothing Eva character was entirely pointless! The movie is just a big time-waster!
When I saw the part where the secret service guys were tied to train tracks, I went "Really, movie?! Really?!". It's hilariously stupid, but if this movie is meant to be in the style of old serials, then I can't fault its cliches. What I can fault the movie on is that it saves those two secret agents from certain death...just to kill them moments later! *seethe*
There's one REALLY stupid scene partway through the film. One of the agents is at the Bangkok harbour looking for Eva, and he comes across Claudine. At a stalemate, with both their guns pointed at each-other, Claudine suggests that they both drop their guns. She does, and then so does the agent! What the hell?! And then the dumbass agent is immediately attacked by a three henchgoons, none of whom have guns!
Now I haven't seen The Mask of Fu Manchu, so while it doesn't seem like this film has anything to do with it, I wouldn't know. But considering this movie is supposedly inspired by Mask, it seems pretty insulting to have the Fu Manchu character be some wimpy low-rent gangster who gets killed twenty minutes in!
Sidewalks is said to be reminiscent of old serials, namely in its cliffhanger structure, and I suppose it could be viewed like that, but I didn't really see it that way.
The acting in Sidewalks is all passable. The best is definitely Francoise Blanchard (R.I.P.) as Claudine (who sports a hilariously 80's harstyle), partly because she's awesome, partly because she's the only main character worth a damn who gets to have more than five minutes of screentime. Her character does undergo a baffling 180 chararacter change at one point though. Yoko, who plays Eva, is dull as dishwater though.
Tong, the Fu Manchu lookalike, is nothing but set-dressing for the first twenty minutes, then he's dispatched. The actor playing him is ok, but nothing special.
The film is shot very well, and the locations are all great, but when it comes to the effects, they really aren't very good. There's rarely any blood, bullet wounds, or even torn clothing when people are shot, and one of the few times there are, the bullets hit offscreen. And there's one guy who gets his throat slit (what would-be rapist puts their knife down to rape someone?!...Actually, would be rapists, do just that! Instant karma at work!)-In the first shot, it's painfully obvious that it's just a line of fake blood over his neck, but in a following shot, there's an actual wound. Too bad it's in the wrong place though!
Another positive is the groovy soundtrack the film has!
There are a few minor issues with the subtitles. There are some sentences that lack commas, the word 'There're' is used at one point, a character's name is misspelt once, and it keeps calling Rita's base a castle, even though the characters say chateau, which is what the base is.
So, to finish, I don't recommend The Sidewalks of Bangkok at all. There are much better crime flicks you could watch instead. Like Reservoir Dogs. Go watch Reservoir Dogs! I just rewatched it, and it's such a great flick! You'll sure do better with that than this boring time!...
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Singapore Sling (1990)
Singapore Sling is about an unnamed detective looking for a missing woman named Laura, and stumbles upon a house inhabited by an insane and murderous mother and daughter...
After opening with a pantsless (woohoo!) mother (Michele Valley) and daughter (Meredyth Herold) digging a pit and burying a body, a monologue starts up from the private detective (Panos Thanassoulis) talking about Laura, a woman who went missing three years ago.
In the house, the daughter goes on a narration of her own, talking about how three years ago, Laura came to the house, and she and her mother killed Laura, and how they relive that event as a roleplay.
Outside, the detective has a gunshot wound to the shoulder, and he stumbles from his car to the house. His ringing of the doorbell attracts the attention of the mother and daughter, who take him inside.
The phone line isn't working thanks to the heavy storm, so the mother isn't able to contact the police. She and her daughter search the unconscious detective, who they name Singapore Sling, after a drink recipe in his jacket. They find his notebook and realize he's searching for Laura, and retraced her steps to their house. They assume that he's a police officer, so they decide to keep him in the house.
The insane duo torture 'Singapore Sling', violently and sexually, so he'll tell them why he's come to the house and soon enough, they start roleplaying, with the daughter pretending to be Laura.
As he is tortured more and more, both physically and psychologically, the near catatonic 'Singapore Sling' starts devising a way out of the hellhole of a house...
Singapore Sling is a movie that entertained me from beginning to end, and at times, it's wickedly funny. The film has only three characters, and is set entirely in and around this one house, but I never once found the movie to be a drag. It never bored me.
The film's structure is odd sometimes, in that the mother and daughter constantly talk to the audience, relating the story, sometimes moments before it actually plays out. The oddness of the structure definitely compliments the film, rather than hurting it.
Michele Valley as the mother isn't anything special, but she's good. Meredyth Herold, who plays the daughter, is fantastic! She's a load of fun in her really kooky role!
For a while, the tortured detective is almost a non-entity, but his narration gives him pretty strong character, even if he doesn't bodily say a word in the entire film.
Every review of this film I've read talks about how gross and shocking it is, and really, I wasn't fazed by this movie in the slightest. Neither the puppies* nor the kittens*, or the adorable bunnies* left me disturbed or grossed out in the slightest. I guess I'm just hard to shock or disturb.
*Alternate, cute words were substituted in place of ones that might send people of weaker stomachs than me kittening all over the place.
Singapore Sling is a homage to several noir films, mainly Laura. It's just a shame I haven't seen Laura. In fact, come to think of it. the only noirs I've seen are The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, D.O.A. and Murder, My Sweet. That's it, so naturally I don't exactly have a keen eye for spotting homages to this particular genre.
So, I recommend Singapore Sling wholeheartedly, but only if you can stomach emetophilia, regurgitation, golden showers, and stuff of that ilk. If you can, you'll be treated to one deliriously kooky flick!
"And you see Laura on a train that is passing through; those eyes, how familiar they seem; she gave your very first kiss to you; that was Laura, but she's only a dream; so forget her, forget her, Singapore Sling"
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