Film Blitz

The Accused (Jonathan Kaplan) – It’s tough to give this film a bad review without seeming unsympathetic to rape victims, but it has to be done even if it’s hard to convey just how loathsome it is. With a tediously obvious and laughable plot (a witness is traced by his name in a video game hi-score table!), it’s sensationalist nature makes it as much a serious film about rape as “Fatal Attraction” was a serious film about marital problems. The rape scene is leeringly shot and pointless since by the time it happens, you have no sympathy for the victim. Jodie Foster emotes a lot to minimal effect (a Sympathy Oscar if ever I saw one) and Kelly McGillis seemed to think she was still in “Top Gun”…

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Terry Gilliam)
1. A lot of money, a lot of hype – is it worth it? Nooooo, not quite, considering that for the same money Fred Olen Ray could have made about 400 films, each as much fun. There are some truly jaw-dropping moments, the effects ARE remarkable; in fact, there’s very little I can complain about, really, except the ten year old sitting behind me who punctuated every five minutes with “What’s he doing?”, “Why’s he doing that?”, “Can I have an ice-cream?”, “Can I have another ice-cream?”, “I’m going to be sick!”, etc. Any film that introduces to me to a new stunning beauty (Uma Thurman) has to be fairly worthwhile; unfortunately, it’s otherwise very much a case of good, but not THAT (for ‘THAT’, read $40 million) good.

2. Terry Gilliam’s latest offering, which can be roughly described as a ‘buddy’ film about a very old man and a very young girl, would have to do a great deal to fulfil what people have come to expect of him. Massively over budget and beset by catastrophes, the miracle is more that the film was ever completed that that it is at the least a half-decent film.

For those of you who have missed the many publicity blurbs, the plot is basically that of Baron Munchausen, infamous for his many tall stories, attempting to raise the Turkish siege of a town that he had caused long enough ago for most of the town’s population not only to forget that he was the cause, but also to forget that he actually exists.

He escapes the town by talking all the women of the town into relinquishing their underwear in order to build a hot-air balloon (a feat which many of my male friends seem eager to emulate), and proceeds to search for his trusty servants, without whom he appears to be absolutely useless. Watch out for Sting in his cameo role and for Robin Williams for his uncredited [though every review seems to credit it!!] performance as King of the Moon.

The film’s only problem is that the stunts are so well done as to cease being spectacular. Still, it’s an entertaining film, with morsels of violence and nudity for the more bloodthirsty/lustful among you, and just the right attention to detail. If you liked “Brazil”, you’ll probably like this, but considering the budget, the overall assessment is ‘Could do better’.

Angel of Vengeance (Abel Ferrara) – Mr. Ferrara has had an interesting career, ranging from the notorious (and highly tedious) “Driller Killer”, to TV movies such as “The Gladiator”, recently shown here. This film (also known as “Ms. 45” & not to be confused with “Avenging Angel”) falls in the middle, chronologically, and is a lot better than either, thanks mostly to a great performance from Zoe Tamerlis as the mute who is raped twice in one day, which causes her to wreak revenge on every man who looks at her. She overcomes the difficulty of having no dialogue very well and Ferrara does what he does best, painting a picture of the City as Hell on Earth. One supreme moment with Ms. 45, dressed as a nun, kissing the bullets as she loads them up, which is simultaneously the stuff of fantasy and nightmare.

Bad Girls Dormitory (Tim Kincaid) – Great title, disappointing film. Women-in- prison piece goes for ‘realism’ rather than tackiness and suffers as a result. The music’s better than “Reform School Girls” to my ears – in all other categories, it loses. Watch out for one of the worst choreographed fight sequences it has been my misfortune to endure.

Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens (Russ Meyer) – Third in his Vixens series, taking his breast fixation to extremes with Francesca ‘Kitten’ Natividad. Nudity in abundance, I don’t share Russ’s fetish, the humour’s my style instead. Acceptable.

Betrayed (Costa-Gavras) – Deborah Winger plays a CIA agent who goes undercover to track the White Power killers of a radio show host. Generally gripping; even if it does occasionally descend into sentimentality, some scenes made the hairs on the back of my neck stand. Superior to many films about The Land of the Free – if the South IS like that (I don’t know), I don’t think I want to go there.

The Blob (Chuck Russell) – More proof that throwing money at a film doesn’t always work. The effects are acceptable, the acting corny and the characters cliched. I can’t help wondering what the money was spent on – certainly, the sections I enjoyed most, such as “Garden Tool Massacre”, the film-within-the-film parody of the Friday the 13th genre, showed no sign of the budget. Nice to see a movie with a message these days. And the message is ‘If you put your hand down a girl’s blouse, her face explodes and strangles you.’ After “Nightmare 3”, strike 2 for Chuck, I’m afraid.

Crazy Love (Dominique Deruddere) – Dismantles the ‘romantic’ view of love and life with clinical precision and inspects it in an unflattering, cynical light. The three stories concern the same boy/man at different ages: the first sees his instruction in the facts of life, the second has him having to cope with SERIOUS acne and the third has him stealing a corpse for a joke and falling in love with it. Bitter-sweet stuff, often accurate to the point of being squirm-inducing, funny and sad in equal quantities. Excellent.

Demons (Dario Argento) – Argento is supposedly the master of the Italian horror film – if this is so, what’re the amateurs like? Minimal plot, a ludicrous climax, bad dubbing/acting and the gore that might have made it tolerable removed. Rotten. [Er… please see this cringing apology]

Drowning by Numbers (Peter Greenaway) – Surreal weirdness from the director of the very odd “Zed and Two Noughts”. Surprisingly, it works; a bit like an “Alice in Wonderland” for adults, it has an internal consistency which makes sense after a while. Here, we have three generations of women who drown their husbands and use their sexual wiles to bribe/blackmail the coroner into covering up. Visually striking, try and understand it at your own risk. Includes an imaginative new use for an ice-lolly… Friday the 13th Part VII – The New Breed – Every other review of this latest Jason flick has been totally negative (“It blows dead ghoulies in hell” – Chas Balun). I don’t see why – it seemed no worse than the last two and, unlike “Jason Lives”, it offers an action packed extended climax, though Jason’s actual demise is pathetic. Four and a half out of ten.

Ghosts of the Civil Dead (John Hillcoat) – Australian film, set in a prison of the near future, detailing the events leading up to a ‘lockdown’, when the prisoners are confined to their cells. Minimal dialogue, told mostly in voiceover, it’s not an easy film to watch. It’s worth the effort, though it’s completely pessimistic and brutally realistic nature makes it very different from other ‘prison’ films. Nice cameo from Nick Cave as a psycho and great stuff for paranoiacs. See it if you can.

Hands of the Ripper (Peter Sasdy) – One of the better late Hammer films, with Angharad Rees giving an excellent performance even by Hammer standards, as the daughter of Jack the Ripper who occasionally slips into psychotic frenzies herself. Surprisingly bloody for a ’15’, especially a nasty bit of eye-violence.

Hellbound – Hellraiser II (Peter Atkins) – As promised, a re-review of this one, and a report on how it’s done at the BBFC. I stand by most of what I said in TC 0; it is nowhere near as good as “Hellraiser”, the dialogue is rotten as is most of the acting and the story line is weak involving a lot of running about. The hell scenes are impressive, on the other hand and the FX are astonishing – if the original wasn’t one of my favourite films, this would be quite tolerable. As for the cuts, scratch almost the entire mattress sequence, reduced to about three shots from about 90 seconds, both Pinhead and Channard’s cenobitization are cut, as is the scene where the Channard slaughters his ex-patients and the one where he loses his head. None of these, except the first one struck me as being too blatant and the editing has been done well. Overall, it could have been a whole lot worse…

The Howling II (Phillipe Mora) – Now out on budget video. It never takes itself seriously enough or QUITE slides into total parody – either way might have been better. Christopher Lee does his best against some crass Americans and appalling werewolf FX (to be fair, some of the other pieces are OK) and Sybil Danning turns in her usual, er, fine performance. Watch the end credits for an example of sheer overkill as the same shot of SD whipping her top off is used at least twenty times!

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Steven Spielberg) – I have to admit to being disappointed by this one. Apart from a wonderful performance by Sean Connery, this is little more than a remake of the first in the series; Jones vs. Nazis, religious imagery, a long chase, etc. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this time – even the chase is too long (I fell asleep in the middle!). Some nice ideas aren’t fully developed and there are gaping holes in the plot. The climax felt like something out of a bad fantasy game and I would have been much happier all round if it had stopped after The Temple of Doom.

Kamikaze (Didier Grousset) – Impressive French film, about an unemployed guy who gets so annoyed at TV announcers he invents a gun to kill them by remote control, and the policeman who has to track him down. It loses it’s way a little in the last third, when it gets too wordy for it’s own good, though the climax is chilling stuff. The best foreign film for a while and the sooner someone really invents a gun like that, the better!

Licence to Kill (John Glenn) – I go into each Bond film wondering how they’re going to surpass the previous one and come out in a daze. This one was no different, easily living up to “The Living Daylights” with astonishing stunts. Timothy Dalton is perfectly acceptable as Bond – you don’t go to these films for the acting! It does deserve it’s ’15’ certificate with blood and a nasty bit involving someone in a decompression chamber. The climactic car chase, or rather, tanker chase may well be the best one of the year. Add two cute bimbos and a very funny performance by Q and you have an excellent piece of expensive trash!

Nightmare on Elm Street 1, 2, 3 & 4 (Wes Craven, Jack Sholder, Chuck Russell and Renny Harlin) – I’ve never been a great fan of the Nightmare films (any series with a child killer as a hero is on dodgy ground – a Freddy fanclub for chrissake?) but when Wimbledon Odeon put on all four for a fiver, it was too cheap to miss and I have to say I was surprised how well-made at least three of them were. The plot is the same in all four: Freddy comes back from the dead and slaughters a few teens before getting destroyed, though within this framework, each director has a style all his own.

The first one is a straight horror story, done well, though Wes Craven has the easier task of not having earlier films to live up/down to. Tense and effective stuff. NoES 2 has come in for some flak, mostly for the Freddy-by-the-pool scene – fair comment and a shame, as up to then it had been better than NoES 1, with more believable heroes and the border between dreams and reality less explicit. NoES 3 was, for me, the worst, and a real turkey – what’s all this “in my dreams, I can be a wizard” crap? No mention of this in the first two films! Schmaltzy and cute, more like a kiddies’ TV series than a horror flick.

Finally, the new one – NoES 4. It’s a little cracker. Renny Harlin, who gave us “Prison”, one of 88’s best, has given us one of 89’s best too. ANYONE can die at ANY time – I was onto my third choice heroine by the end. Although a couple of the dream sequences don’t quite work perfectly, this scarcely matters and we have the first horror pic of the year that even makes an attempt to kick ass. I, for one, can’t wait to see the result when Renny Harlin directs a William Gibson script for “Aliens 3” [ STOP PRESS – Harlin’s dropped out ]. What odds it’ll be one of 1990’s best? Oh, keep an eye out for the name of the cafe, where much of the action takes place…

Parents (Bob Balaban) – The director claims it’s not a horror story – I beg to differ. It IS relatively restrained; it’s plot about a boy who comes to believe his parents are cannibals can hardly be described as romantic comedy though. Deviation behind a facade of normality is the theme and the performances from Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt as the parents bring this out, with a lot of black humour. Even if the climax owes more than a little to ‘Halloween’ and other unkillable killer flicks, it is still one of the most original & enjoyable horror films so far this year.

Patty Hearst (Paul Schrader) – For those of you too young to remember, Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army and held to ransom. She was next seen helping her kidnappers rob a bank. Finally, the FBI caught up with her and she was sent to jail, though she is now free. This film is based on her book – surprise, surprise, she comes up smelling of roses! It was all the evil SLA’s fault because thet brainwashed her, raped her and were generally nasty to her (I remain unconvinced she wasn’t just a rich bitch out for kicks). Paul Schrader directs with a severe lack of lustre – the first half an hour or so seems to take place in a cupoboard, which isn’t very exciting. Only in odd moments does the pace or the acting rise above the pedestrian.

The Seven-per-cent Solution (Herbert Ross) – Surprisingly entertaining film, with Nicol Williamson (who played Merlin in John Boorman’s “Excalibur”) playing Sherlock Holmes as a cured coke fiend. Part-parody, part-homage, it might have been a disaster, instead it stays entertaining and frothily on track until the ‘surprise’ ending, which is telegraphed a long way in advance.

The Strangeness – Takes the second half of “Alien” and relocates it to a desert mine. The monster, here, being an ancient Indian folk-lore demon, is stop-motioned and iis barely glimpsed until the last ten minutes. It’s dull – didn’t deserve to be placed in Shock Xpress’s 50 most boring movies list, though.

Street Trash (Jim Muro) – This movie has as much chance of winning an Oscar as Salman Rushdie has of being given the Nobel Peace Prize. The word “Trash” is very apt for this movie – it’s the cinematic equivalent of a Big Mac; the acting is non- descript, the plot is more flimsy than the baggage inspection at Heathrow and the FX are totally gross. I love it! The film is set in the gutters of a USA inner city; scum & lowlife roam the streets and live on a liquid lunch(bit like a Napalm Death gig). A local store-keeper finds a case of liquor in his cellar, gives it a dust down and ships it out at a dollar a throw. No harm in that you might think, the problem is that the beer contains something very unpleasant(no, it’s not Hofmeister) which makes the consumer, well, MELT…

This is when the fun starts, one poor chap melts into the toilet (must have had Tandoori chicken), all that’s left is his deformed head peering out of the porcelain god. Add to this a deranged Vietnam vet, a stupid cop (aren’t they all?) and a sex mad scrap yard owner who likes to indulge in a spot of necrophilia. The film does tend to drag it’s feet a bit in the midle, but it’s still a great piece of sleaze – the highlights have to be a chap getting his head and most of his upper torso blown off and a game of ‘piggy-in-the- middle’ with a poor individual’s love truncheon… Why Barry Norman never included this in his Top Films of ’88 I’ll never know!

The Streetwalker (Walerian Borowczyk) – Sylvia Kristel and Joe d’Allesandro in the current leader for the Film With Least Plot prize. Life in the Paris red-light area sums it up. Not as good as some of his films – far too ‘normal’ to be interesting!

Supervixens (Russ Meyer) – Superb stuff. Part ‘Carry On’ film, part psycho killer, a weird mix, but it works. A guy argues with his wife – by coincidence, she gets slaughtered by a cop (in a scene short on gore, none the less nasty for it). He’s suspected and goes on the run to be waylaid by ANY & EVERY female he meets, until he meets the cop again… Reality takes a back seat permanently in this one, which may be Meyer’s best and is certainly the most entertaining to watch.

The Tall Guy – Better than I expected, from the man at least partly responsible for the appalling “Morons from Outer Space”. Never hysterically funny, never dull either – a few nice moments, though the much-touted sex scene isn’t very sexy or funny. Wait till it’s on TV.

They Live (John Carpenter) – Further evidence of a return to form, following the under-rated “Prince of Darkness”. Roddy Piper is a surprise as the labourer who puts on cool sunglasses and discovers the earth has been invaded by aliens. The action sequences are, as ever from Carpenter, excellent; he will insists pointless scenes that are nothing more than blatant attempts to give the characters character, instead of letting their actions speak for them. Candidate for line of the year: “I have come here to chew bubble-gum and kick ass. And I’m right out of bubble-gum.”

Terror on the Menu OR Terror at the Red Fox Inn, (depending on whether you believe the video box or the film titles respectively) – This is a trashless American drive in movie – ‘trashless’ via it’s lack of gore, horror and (needless to say) sex. It was produced in the mid-70’s and involves a pretty young student winning a holiday at a countryside inn which is owned by a group of cannibals. An endless dinner sequence (lots of closeups of mouths chomping away) deep-sixes this movie early on. To be ignored and forgotten.

Vixens (Russ Meyer) – First in Meyer’s top-heavy trilogy, probably the dullest of them, despite some odd moments when it starts getting political, with a communist hijacker. Wafer-thin plot about, er, I’m not sure what, does little to hold the interest and, unsurprisingly, the acting is awe-inspiring awful.