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Horror Day: Inside June 21, 2008

Posted by Ian W in : DVD Viewing Journal, DVD Reviews , add a comment

Dipa: “Oh my GOD” is the only reaction I can think of right now. I have been ever so proud of having a strong stomach when it comes to gore but this one has changed everything! I don’t think I have EVER seen anything quite like this. I was warned that it was violent and not a film for the weak hearted and I can assure you that a warning is necessary where this film is concerned. What an end to horror day- total madness.  

Ian: I first saw this at the Frighfest Allnighter and was stunned by how violet and unrelenting it was. This second viewing, where I’m slightly more awake than I was then, is even more stunning. Yes it’s violent and there isn’t a whole lot to the story but it’s also extremely well made. There’s style in abundance on display here. I’ve seen the future of horror and it’s French. Off to bed now, although after that I’m not sure I’ll sleep!

Horror Day: Silence of the Lambs

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Ian: More thriller than outright horror this still has a lot of horror elements, not least Anthony Hopkins theatrical take on Hannibal Lector. There’s always been a “who’s the best Lector” debate, Hopkins or Brian Cox, but I love them both. Cox may be the more believable but Hopkins gives us an almost mythic bogeyman, always in control. Jodie Foster is every bit Hopkins equal but for me the unsung hero of Silence of the Lambs is Scott Glenn, who underplays Crawford to perfection. One of the best thrillers of the ‘80s. 

Dipa: Absolute masterpiece. I haven’t seen this film since I was much younger and therefore couldn’t really remember it very well. Having seen the sequels more recently, I must say that The Silence of the Lambs is by far the best. It was extremely engaging all the way through (which helped me stay awake without the aid of caffeine!) and generally captured all the best aspects of a thriller as well as a horror film. Foster and Hopkins’ performances are mesmerizing and made it the classic that it is today.

Horror Day: Brain Damage June 20, 2008

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Dipa: This is another film that Ian has introduced me to which I have strangely enjoyed. I found it both disturbing and amusing at the same time which was a nice contrast. The symbolic and metaphorical value of the film was bizarre and yet creatively presented. I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it before (and may not again!)

Ian: I love Frank Henenlotter’s films and Brain Damage is the best of them. So long as you have a unique and vivid imagination budget doesn’t need to be a constraint and Henenlotter is nothing if not unique. It offers the cheap gore thrills of your standard horror flick but instead of a mindless killer we get an analogy for drug addiction. I’m looking forward to his new film, Bad Biology, sixteen years is too long without a new Henenlotter film!

Horror Day: From Beyond the Grave

Posted by Ian W in : DVD Viewing Journal, DVD Reviews , 1 comment so far

Ian: I Love a good anthology and in the ‘70s Amicus produced some corkers. From Beyond the Grave has some clever little tales and a cast of famous faces all linked by a typically impeccable performance from Peter Cushing. Some are creepy (David Warner’s haunted mirror), others more humorous (Margaret Leighton’s elemental battling medium) and one manages a bit of both (the Pleasence double act of father and daughter). They don’t make them like this anymore, mores the pity.

Dipa: This has been my favourite of the day so far. It had the perfect blend of creepiness and humour as Ian suggested in his comment. I felt that Margaret Leighton’s performance was top notch, she was eccentric and amusing to watch. Although Peter Cushing wasn’t a name I was familiar with his face certainly was and thanks to Ian’s filmic knowledge I’ve now discovered he was in a film I loved as a child, Horror Express (until now I didn’t know what the title of the film was but Ian recognised it from my description).

Horror Day: Night of the Lepus and Night of the Hell Hamsters

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Ian: Two different sorts of funny, one intentional the other not. Lepus features a bunch of Hollywood stars past their prime taking on giant killer rabbits. It’s funny in parts but the joke wears thin and while there’s a surprising amount of gore for its time, it never manages to be remotely scary. Its biggest problem is that rabbits are just too darn cute, even giant killer ones. Hell Hamsters is a silly UK/Australian production about demonic hamsters. It revels in its low budget, using the extremely crap hamsters to get extra laughs. It also references numerous horror classics, not least of which is The Exorcist. A fun 15 minutes.

Dipa: I found Night of the Lepus a tad bit disappointing because I was expecting it to be more of a laugh out loud horror comedy and it seemed like a film that would generally be appreciated by a much younger audience. I agree with Ian that the joke gets worn out very quickly making the rest of the film rather dull. As a hamster owner, I must say that I will never look at my hamsters, Hamsterdam and Piglet, in the same way again! I thought it was 15 minutes of pure genius and would definitely recommend it.

Ian: I should just add that my brother, Andrew, has been bigging up Night of the Lepus since we were kids and he got to see it as part of the BBC’s horror double bills when, for some reason, I didn’t. It’s not the classic he made it out to be, that’s for sure!

Horror Day: Purana Mandir

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Dipa: I had first seen this film when I was just four years old and it used to scare the crap out me but today, the same effect can be achieved from a spider running across the arm of a sofa (which actually happened while we were watching this film). Watching it again after many years, I find that it’s more funny than scary although it retained some moments of horror towards the end. In places it seemed that there were too many subplots that didn’t essentially connect to the main storyline. However, it was a joy to watch it again and it brought back childhood memories and nightmares!

Ian: I’ve always thought of Bollywood as the McDonalds of the movie world, not just because they’re films are produced really quickly but also because of the songs. The songs are like fries, and, as everyone knows, fries go with everything. When Purana Mandir focused on being a horror film it didn’t do a bad job, but it also wants to be a martial arts flick (with India’s answer to Bruce Lee, or at least he thinks he’s India’s answer to Bruce Lee), a comedy and a love story. It over eggs the pudding a bit but at least the songs gave us time to put the pizzas in the oven. And the spider was by far the scariest thing that happened while we were watching this!

Horror Day: The Wolf Man

Posted by Ian W in : DVD Viewing Journal, DVD Reviews , 2 comments

Ian: One of the characters in The Wolf Man describes Larry Talbot as tragic and that was probably the understatement of 1941. Lon Chaney Jr., along with Karloff’s Monster, taught me how to sympathise with the monster when I was a kid and Chaney’s Larry is still the saddest character I’ve ever seen in a horror film. I just hope next year’s remake can recapture some of the old Universal magic. It’s certainly well cast, I can’t think of anyone other than Benicio Del Toro who could come close to Big Lon’s doom laden performance and Anthony Hopkins should make a perfect stand-in for Claude Rains.

Dipa: Well, considering that this was my first time at watching this horror classic, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Having been made 43 years before I was even born, it has elements of horror that still resonate in an age dominated by big budget special effects.

The darkest day of horror Mine Was Taller has ever known…

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As promised a few weeks ago, today is Horror Day on Mine Was Taller and, from around 12 Noon I, along with my friend Dipa, will be watching a selection of scary movies and blogging about them as we go.

The running order should be something like this –

12pm – The Wolf Man (1941)

1:45pm – Purana Mandir (1984)

4pm – Night of the Lepus (1972) followed by the short film Night of the Hell Hamsters (2006)

6pm – From Beyond the Grave (1973)

7:45pm – Brain Damage (1988)

9:30pm – Silence of the Lambs (1991)

12am – Inside (2007)

Marvellous Marvin June 10, 2008

Posted by Ian W in : DVD Viewing Journal , 2 comments

The Killers
Lee Marvin Vs Ronald Reagan. Deemed too violent for TV when it was made, Don Siegel’s thriller may seem tame by today’s standards but the performances have stood the test of time. Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager are a great double act as two hitmen looking to score some stolen loot, Angie Dickinson hits all the right notes as a duplicitous femme fatale but the surprise is Ronald Reagan. I’ve never been a fan of Reagan but he’s outstanding here, his portrayal of a double-dealing crook is so convincing it’s little wonder he had a successful career in politics.  Siegel was hampered a little by John Cassavetes, who plays the doomed race car driver, because the actor couldn’t drive, even the go-cart race with Angie Dickinson is all rear projection for Cassavetes shots, while Dickinson seems to be having a ball. Siegel transcends his limited budget and delivers a minor classic.

Cat Ballou
Lee Marvin Vs Lee Marvin. This was a favourite of mine as a kid but it’s not stood the test of time too well. The songs from Nat ‘King’ Cole and Stubby Kaye are still fun, Jane Fonda looks great in her pre-serious actress period and Marvin is good value for money in twin roles, essentially playing two aspects of his personality, the tough guy and the drunk. The laughs however are few and far between.

Point Blank
Lee Marvin Vs The Organisation. John Boorman elevates the revenge thriller to an art form with Point Blank. You won’t find any meditations on the deeper motivations of the characters here, Marvin’s Walker is as single minded as Arnie in The Terminator, but you do get style in abundance. The performances are also excellent, with Marvin an obvious standout, but Keenan Wynn, in a role far different from the usual loudmouth parts I associate him with, adding a sinister touch as the man who aims Walker and his targets, while John Vernon would play variations on his part here for the rest of his career, but I don’t think he ever bettered it. It may not be deep but it’s undeniably cool and its influence continues to this day. 

Hell in the Pacific
Lee Marvin Vs Toshirô Mifune. It not have the epic scope of Saving Private Ryan or A Bridge Too Far but you’ll be hard pushed to find a film that better exemplifies the futility and stupidity of war. Marvin and Mifune give powerful performances as their characters, a pair of pilots stranded on a Pacific island, fight their own mini war, and even if they speak different languages you still know what’s going through both their heads. The film has lost none of its power, its message is about war in general, not just the one the story is set in, and thus is as relevant now as it was when it was made. 

Pocket Money
Lee Marvin Vs The Cutting Room Floor. This would seem like a  sure fire winner – Lee Marvin and Paul Newman in a film directed by Stuart Rosenberg (the man who helmed of Cool Han Luke) from a Terrence Malick script – but appearances can be deceiving. Pocket Money is actually pretty dull, with the story meandering along for a hundred minutes or so without anything of importance happening to anyone. Paul Newman is good as the not too bright horse trader but the character fails to hold the attention, while Marvin’s far more interesting Leonard, a man with big ideas and little motivation, is relegated to virtually a supporting role, with (at least according to Marvin) much of his work ending up on the cutting room floor. László Kovács cinematography is probably the best thing about the film, but it’s not nearly enough.

Prime Cut
Lee Marvin Vs Gene Hackman. Hackman’s the man sending mob guys back to their bosses via a meat grinder and Marvin is the enforcer sent to put him straight in Michael Richie’s action thriller. Marvin wins the acting honours but that’s down to Hackman’s character being a little underdeveloped in the script department. Sissy Spacek, in her first film appearance, makes a lasting impression as the innocent orphan drugged into a life of prostitution by evil Hackman. Gregory Walcott’s ‘Weenie’ tops Gene for villainy, turning men in sausages with undeniable relish. A touch over the top and with a nice line in black humour, this is a lean, mean ninety minutes of celluloid.

Emperor of the North
Lee Marvin Vs Ernest Borgnine. Marvin is A No1, the hobo who can ride any train, Borgnine is Shack the guard on the Number 19, and no one gets a free ride on Shack’s train. It’s a cat and mouse game as Marvin, and Keith Carradine (as a young hobo who thinks he knows it all) try to catch a ride and evade the sadistic Shack. Marvin is perfect as the worldly wise A No1, Carradine irritates, but that’s the nature of the character, with his pay off coming at the films climax, but Borgnine steals the film as the vicious, sneering personification of evil that is Shack. It’s a cracking good film that culminates with Marvin and Borgnine going mano-a-mano onboard the speeding train in one on cinemas most memorable showdowns.

The Big Red One
Lee Marvin Vs Nazis. Having Marvin play the same character in the opening sequence set at the end of the First World War as he does in the bulk of the movie which is set in WWII stretches credibility a bit, but this restored version of Sam Fuller’s semi-autobiographical movie is one of the best war films of the ‘80s. Marvin, a real life veteran of the war, gives one of the best performances of his career as the haunted Sergeant. Some of the supporting players could be stronger with Robert Carradine, to my mind always the weakest link in the Carradine brood, seeming ill suited to his role and he just doesn’t have the voice to carry the films narration. Despite its weak points this is still a powerful and affecting movie, with images that stay with you long after the film is over.

Death Hunt
Lee Marvin Vs Charles Bronson. Both Marvin and Bronson ended their careers making dumb action movies, Marvin with Delta Force and a belated and unnecessary Dirty Dozen sequel, Bronson with Family of Cops and its sequels. Death Hunt is no classic but it’s certainly more worthy of their talents. Marvin’s the washed up Mountie who’s more interested in getting drunk than getting his man and Bronson the ex-army man looking to find peace in the snow covered mountains but instead finds himself in conflict with the locals. Both parts fit the actors to a T and they get support from familiar ‘80s faces like Andrew Stevens and Carl Weathers. Angie Dickinson makes another appearance in a Marvin movie (she’s also in The Killers and Point Blank) although it’s a pretty pointless cameo. Still this is a film that’s dominated by its stars and the aptly named Peter Hunt (director of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) keeps the focus on them. A good, well made action movie.

Gorky Park
Lee Marvin Vs William Hurt. Another Bond movie director is behind this Russian set thriller. Michael Apted, the man who directed The World Is Not Enough, brings Martin Cruz Smith’s novel to the screen. William Hurt is the concerned cop looking into three mysterious murders and Lee Marvin the American bigwig and prime suspect. Hurt’s good but he’s never been the most charismatic leading man and the film cries out for someone with a little more star power. Marvin does some good work but doesn’t get much screen time. There’s solid support as well from Brian Dennehy and Ian Bannen. Playwright Dennis Potter seems an odd choice for script writer and the film suffers from a lack of action and pace. It’s also a little strange that all the Russian characters speak with English accents, most played by Englishman but even Hurt adopts one for the film. It’s obviously an intentional, stylistic choice but it’s an odd one and one I personally found a little distracting.

“God will forgive them. He’ll forgive them and allow them into Heaven. I can’t live with that.” June 2, 2008

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That line from Dead Man’s Shoes pretty well sums up the feelings on many of the lead characters in this weeks DVD viewing round-up.

Dead Man’s Shoes
Very violent yet intensely moral at its core, Shane Meadows film is as good an exploration of vigilante justice as you’ll probably ever see. It’s hard not to sympathise with Paddy Considine’s ex-soldier as he hunts down the people who victimised his brother (shades of Get Carter) but the film doesn’t make him out to be a hero. The twist towards the end won’t come as much of a surprise but this isn’t a film that relies on cinematic sleight of hand for its power.

Thriller: A Cruel Picture
A bit of Swedish sleaze as Christina Lindberg, after being hooked on drugs and forced into a life of prostitution, wreaks vengeance on the people responsible. The slow-motion violence isn’t exactly a Sam Peckinpah-style bullet fest, coming across as overly static and staged and the addition of hardcore footage adds nothing to the film, particularly as it isn’t even Lindberg in the inserted shots. The movies biggest claim to fame is that it was a big influence on Tarantino’s Kill Bill, and it’s the sort of film only QT could love.

The ‘80s produced a lot of vigilante movies and Vigilante was one of the better ones. That’s not to say it’s a great film but it is well put together and Robert Forster and Fred Williamson offer good value for money, with Forster playing a bereaved father whose son is murdered by a vicious street gang and Williamson…well playing Williamson really, the ultimate Black badass we all know and love. The problem with Vigilante is it stops just as the story starts getting interesting, with Forster punishing not just the people who committed the crime but the judge who let them go free. It’s a shame they never made a sequel.

Falling Down
Michael Douglas does his bit not just to cut down crime but for consumer rights as well. Director Joel Schumacher’s career has been a bit hit and miss but this is a contender for his best film, with Douglas and Robert Duvall both giving great performances, even if some of the supporting players do go a little over the top (Frederic Forrest being the most obvious but not the only culprit).

Death Wish
Probably the first film most people would think of if asked to name a vigilante movie. Michael Winner is, somewhat unfairly to my mind, often referred to as a talentless hack, the Seventies/Eighties answer to Paul W. S. Anderson or Uwe Boll, but Death Wish is a well made film, with strong performances and a decent script. It even has something to say, even if much of what it says it politically incorrect and a little heavy handed. Charles Bronson isn’t the one man army he would become in subsequent films in the series, after his first outing as a vigilante he’s in need of a stiff drink and following his first ‘execution’ he’s barfing down the toilet. The film also scores points for not having Bronson find his wife’s killers, it makes his quest for justice indiscriminate and never ending.

Death Wish II
This lacks the finer qualities of the first film, being an exercise in pure exploitation. The faceless evil of Death Wish is gone, this time Bronson sees what the killers look like and sets about hunting them down, going to absurd lengths to dish out his own brand of justice. Everything is overdone, even the rape scene tries to out-shock the first films, it’s a prime example of Eighties excess. Bronson is now a killing machine, no matter where you are, he’ll find you, no matter how big you are, he’ll kill you. It’s stupid but still entertaining, and Jimmy Page’s pounding score fits it perfectly. Of course the film’s worst crime is one it shares with many of Charlie’s later pictures – Jill Ireland.

Last House on the Left
The men behind those modern day titans of terror Freddy and Jason, Wes Craven and Sean Cunningham, made this nasty little revenge movie at the start of their careers. It’s a simple tale of two young girls, a murderous gang of escaped cons, and one of the girl’s parents who exact some chainsaw wielding, penis chomping retribution for the murder of their child. It’s a film that sets out to shock and achieves its aim, although the most shocking element it that Craven could write such a contrived story (the killers, having left the big city with the girls in the trunk of the car, manage to break down on the same country road where one of the girls lives) and expect people to buy it. David Hess is convincingly unpleasant as the main villain and the film pretty much gave him a career playing similar roles, good job really as his songs, featured on the soundtrack, are pretty awful.

Sympathy for Mr Vengeance
Violence begets violence in a spiral of destruction. Chan-wook Park’s film has character’s you can empathise with, which makes their inevitable downfall all the more powerful. Violent and very stylish but with the focus firmly on the characters, this isn’t exploitation but rather a serious (and at times blackly comic) look at the repercussions of man’s primal urge for vengeance. A tie with Dead Man’s Shoes for the most intelligent film of the week.

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