Bloodhounds of Broadway (Howard Brookner) – Flinging together nearly every genre under the sun, and possessing a different subplot for each, this musical-comedy-drama-gangster-melodrama movie takes place on Broadway on New Year’s Eve, 1928. An all-star cast: Rutger Hauer, Matt Dillon and Madonna (who could do with singing less and acting more) but Randy Quaid steals the show as a perpetual loser who hits a winning streak just after selling his body to a mad doctor. While I can see why this was an expensive flop in the States, it’s still a lot of fun, with snappy dialogue and a nice sense of period. Let’s be charitable, assume it’s not intended to be serious and give it 7/10.
The Brave Little Toaster (Jerry Rees) – Cutesy cartoon feature, in which a group of household appliances embark on a quest to find their master. The animation is simple but really quite effective, managing to give inanimate objects more personality than certain actors I could name, making the idea of a desk-lamp having a flashback plausible enough. Despite possibly religious subtexts, about the appliance which died in order to save us, and did rise again, it rarely descends into schmaltz. Be warned : the musical numbers totally overload the soundtrack! 7/10.
The Exorcist III (William Peter Blatty) – Based on Blatty’s ‘Legion’, this follows the trend, started in TCM III, of pretending part II didn’t exist (probably wisely here). And while it ain’t up to the original there are some neat moments, including probably the shock moment of 1990, albeit accompanied by more cliches-per-minute than any recent movie. One benefit of devil-movies is that divine (or other) intervention solves a lot of plot problems: how else could an audience swallow a serial killer taking over a priest’s corpse and using it to possess nurses? The ending might just remind you of another movie… 6/10.
Ghost (Jerry Zucker) – All my fears about this film were confirmed with the opening shot: Patrick Swayze without his shirt on. Things didn’t get better – the only saving grace of the celebrated ‘potting-wheel’ scene was that it’s the closest we’ll ever get to seeing Demi Moore mud-wrestle. Then Swayze’s character, Sam Wheat, gets shot and things, understandably, begin to improve. I’m no real fan of Whoopi Goldberg, but as the fake psychic Sam uses to contact fiancee Molly (Moore) is really very good and with a great sense of timing. A few problems with the plot (if ghosts float through walls without trying, how can they sit on chairs and stand on raised floors?) are niggling, but overall it’s not nearly as bad as I feared it might be. 6/10.
The House Where Evil Dwells (Kevin Connor) – Susan George and Eddie Albert move into a Japanese house where, unbeknownst to them, the previous occupant had committed murder i.e. finding his wife in bed with his best friend, hubby chops off both their heads and kills himself. When Doug McLure turns up, history looks like repeating itself… A good story is drawn out too long, and the ending is hardly worth the wait. 3/10. (MM)
Hell Island (Dimitri Logothetis) – Low-grade, low-budget, mutilate-the-teenagers movie but possessing some charm, a few messy effects and an irreverent atmosphere. For reasons too complex to explain, a group of kids end up on Alcatraz getting offed by the spirit of a cannibal who has possessed one of their number. Toni Basil plays a dead rock star, Devo provide the music, the teenagers bicker realistically and the BBFC take out 1 min 14 secs. Nothing spectacularly new but pretty good for the genre. 7/10.
I Hired A Contract Killer (Aki Kaurism„ki) – Those expecting the follow-up to ‘I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle’ will be disappointed, as this is no gore-fest. Instead, it’s a quite wonderful, dotty little black comedy about a French clerical worker in London who hires an assassin to help him commit suicide. Jean-Pierre L‚aud is superbly dead-pan as the clerk and Kaurismaki has a good foreigner’s eye for London, which never looked so grimy. Hearing some of the stories about the film’s making (Ken Colley, who plays the assassin, claims tongue-in-cheek that the only directorial instruction he got was “Act better”), you wonder how it got made at all – alcohol apparently played a large part! Unlikely to get the release it deserves, Channel 4 helped fund it, so it’ll probably turn up there at some point. Definitely worth watching. 9/10
In The Line of Duty (Yuen Wo Ping) – Those in the know predict Donnie Yen may be to the 90’s what Jackie Chan was to the 80’s and Bruce Lee to the 70’s: the martial arts star. On the evidence of this film, originally titled ‘In the Line of Duty 4’ (confusing, huh? The first three didn’t get released here), they may well be right as it’s serious kick-ass, beating-up-the drug-dealing-CIA-agents, which keeps the plot zipping along on a stream of incredible action sequences. But never mind Donnie, even more impressive to this novice was Cynthia Khan, known to her friend as ‘Sheer’ (ok, she’s not, I made that up). Forget Cynthia “China O’Brien” Rothrock, Cynthia Khan (are all Cynthias experts in Martial Arts?) is prettier and a far more entertaining fighter. Perhaps this movie should be retitled ‘The Wrath of Khan’? 8/10.
Night Sun (The Brothers Taviani) – Nastassja’s latest movie confirms her post-“Revolution” retreat from Hollywood, with another classy French-German-Italian co-production. Also starring Julian Sands (dubbed into Italian), the first third is the part of most interest to Kinski-watchers as she plays the woman who causes Sands to enter a monastery. The rest of the film deals with his struggle to achieve peace and tranquility in the face of all that fortune can hurl at him, as despite his efforts he becomes a living saint. Art-house fodder, certainly, and while more Kinski and less clothes might have helped, it’s another film she needn’t be ashamed of and should help her commercial rehabilitation.
ART : **** ENTERTAINMENT : *** KINSKI CONTENT : ** FLESH : None!
Nikita (Luc Besson) – After the big yawn of ‘The Big Blue’, Besson goes back to his ‘Subway’ roots with this thriller, which could easily be titled ‘Assault of the French Killer Bimbos on Smack’ for the video market, tho’ to be honest there’s only one bimbo. Her death is faked by the government, who train her as an assassin and then let her hang around for months between hits. Very stylish, as you’d expect, very blue (in the colour sense – the nipple count, at one, is the lowest in ages for a French movie), a little overlong at 116 minutes and nicely violent with a warped twist, as with the government’s ‘cleaner’ who carries a case of sulphuric acid around to help tidy up the corpses… 7/10.
Sex Androide (Alain Braud/Marina Weingarten) – French, low-budget, sex ‘n’ death film in several segments, of greatly varying quality. The first takes voodoo as it’s theme, with a man stripping and abusing a Barbie doll, while a woman in a bar suffers the effects – it’s neatly handled, with nice camerawork. In the most effective one, which after a slow start is the best bit of low-budget nastiness I’ve seen, a zombie mutilates, bends, folds and tears a victim (female and without much clothing, naturally!). Eye gouging, breast slicing and tongue piercing are among the delights on offer, and provide a highly dubious 20 minutes with the unsynched sound and cheap video working to provide a grimly realistic feel.
The zombie make-up gradually started to look like an executioner’s mask: it was a great relief when the corpse of the victim sat up at the end, and the two zombies wandered off arm in arm. Unfortunately the following piece is just stupid – a grieving widow at her husband’s coffin is attacked by his vampiric corpse, has her clothes ripped off and is bitten in the neck. She then becomes a vampire (or at least, gets some white makeup on her face) and does a sexy dance to two Tina Turner songs. Absolutely pointless, though after the preceding segment anything would be an anti-climax. 2-10/10 for the varying segments.
Stripped to Kill (Katt Shea Ruben) – Take your pick, this is either a murder thriller with gratuitous strip-tease sequences, or a soft-porn video with “subliminal plot” [phrase courtesy D.Drake]. Even if they stop before things get too steamy, it’s probably better to concentrate on the nekkid ladies since the identity of the murderer is obvious from the video box. Average thriller with nothing to recommend it beyond the bimbos. 5/10.
Zombie 90 (Andreas Schnaar) – ‘Zombie 90’, subtitled ‘Extreme Pestilence’, is no ‘Nekromantik’ – it’s not even ‘Rabid Grannies’ – yet as an exercise in Euro-excess it has some cheap & cheerful charm and thankfully lacks the misogynistic feel of their earlier ‘Violent Shit’. Undead on the rampage is a full plot description, and the movie is very nearly sunk early on by the worst dubbed soundtrack I’ve ever seen, which tries to be funny and fails miserably. Fortunately, after about 30 minutes, nearly all the dialogue stops and the rest of the film is a series of set pieces of effects work, of varying effectiveness from laughable to impressive, all of which use a lot, and I mean a lot, of arterial spurting. The camerawork is shaky, with things and people getting in the way too often, but hell, it’s heart’s in the right place – right out in the open being waved at the camera and chewed on by zombies. Don’t expect ‘Total Recall’ and you’ll quite possibly enjoy it. 7/10.