FIVE DISCS OF DEATH #1

Martin (1977)
Dir: George A. Romero
Cinema 4 Rating:
7
The third Romero film that I ever saw, after the opening two Dead films, and while it is not on a par with those two classic walking-dead fests, it is certainly a most unique film of its own right. Look past the sometimes amateurish acting, a common factor of many of Romero's homegrown films, and get into the strange story of a young, very disturbed man who might or might not be a vampire: are his blood-drinking ways proof that he is a modern Dracula? If he is, why is he not susceptible to the things that normally spell a vampire's ruin: the sun, garlic, crosses, holy water? Is he really having this much difficulty acquiring blood, or is everything in his head? With an opening sequence that made me fall off the couch, literally, the first time I watched it; it's well-filmed, but that wasn't the reason, but rather the fact that I was still a relative neophyte in the world of the psychotronic, and really wasn't prepared for such a scene. And of course, acting, recognizable stuntwork and makeup effects by Tom Savini; a triple bonus. And is that a vibrator in the glove compartment?

Darkman (1990)
Dir: Sam Raimi

Cinema 4 Rating: 7
Some people say that this is Sam Raimi's first shot at the superhero genre, but then I ask: what the hell is Ash? Sure, he has no superpowers, but neither does Batman, the Punisher or a host of other "superheroes". He fights the Evil Dead -- sometimes becoming them, true -- but he always rallies to fight the threat of soul-swallowing evil off. He also uses gadgets to fight the evil, too, just like Batman, and you can't tell me that Ash hasn't taken on the iconic persona of a true superhero. Of course, it was the film after Darkman that truly sealed that deal, Army of Darkness. But, in Darkman, Raimi had all the moves of a comic book down already; a true fan obviously, and one who wasn't afraid to dabble in the silliness inherent in the genre, while still paying obeisance to its serious side, as well. Liam Neeson is fine as the obsessed and quite mad hero, though he seems to be mad already before his accident, but it is Larry Drake who makes the biggest impression as the evil Robert G. Durant, he of the finger-chopping cigar-cutter. Also: gratuitous Ted Raimi, cameos by Jenny Agutter, John Landis, and in a big surprise, that Ash guy... uh, Bruce something... "Take the fucking elephant!" Nuff said!

Dark City (1998)
Dir: Alex Proyas

Cinema 4 Rating: 8
I loved this movie so much when it came out. It became one of those films that I would drag more and more people to see just so I have an excuse to go again. (Most of my friends like to do the "40 people at a time" version of film-going; that has its moments, but I prefer my way, just in case I run into a film that I just have to share. Again and again, that is...) Strangely, I purchased the DVD when it was first released years ago, and after that initial home viewing, I haven't watched it since. Perhaps the time is ripe for a revisiting. Rufus Sewell is one of those guys that I just knew was going to become a huge movie star, and it never really happened, though he does get some ripe villainous work here and there. (He is English, after all...) And why Richard O'Brien doesn't work more is beyond me. Mr. Hand is so devilishly creepy, which O'Brien has specialized since he brought the beloved Riff-Raff into the world in Rocky Horror. It also affords the viewer one of the last decent looks at Jennifer Connelly before she got too freakishly thin (i.e., unattractive). Time for a fresh viewing...

The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (2001)
Dir: Larry Blamire
Cinema 4 Rating: 7
Sure, it's cheaply filmed, and seems to be one-take on many scenes... that's the point, people! How I wish that this film were around when I were young; it would probably be my favorite film by this point. Proof of its brilliance? Watch the American Cinematheque Q&A session with director/writer/star Larry Blamire and see him unblinkingly describe the plot to his now-in-production followup, Trail of the Screaming Forehead, in an almost deadpan fashion, as if a film about an invasion of crawling alien foreheads was such an obvious, natural choice for a film. Watch for the stultifyingly pitch-perfect faux 50's sci-fi dialogue; aliens who face a life-and-death struggle ascending a simple set of stairs; a peachy dance sequence with aliens Kro-bar and Lattis; the sultry four-animal mash-up Animala, who makes me have many illicit thoughts; the cutest killer monster in the last forty years of bad monster costumes; and the phoniest and funniest villainous laugh in eons. (Note: Still need to get Jen to watch this, even though we first saw the trailer together when we flew to Seattle from Anchorage to see Bubba Ho-Tep. That's right: we flew thousands of miles to see it...)

La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast) (1946)
Dir: Jean Cocteau

Cinema 4 Rating: 9
THE CRITERION COLLECTION #006

If not the best, then one of the best film adaptations of a classic fairy tale, and certainly tops in the Beauty and the Beast race. (Sorry, Disney nuts. That film is fun, but this one is true art.) A painterly (unsurprising, given the background of groundbreaking artist Cocteau) vision of impossible romance, lush in design, cinematography, costuming, choreography, and film technique; and painfully enacted by leads Jean Marais and Josette Day in a love story for the ages. For the horror-minded: technically, a lycanthopy film, as are all versions, but the thrust in this story is on the romance and the magic in the Beast's castle, not on the supernatural aspect of Avenant's transformation into the Beast. (I've actually read people who counted this as a borderline werewolf film.) Every step of the way reveals more and more wonders, but a caveat: the transformed prince is a schlub. Garbo famously dismissed the ending as disappointing, and it is to a certain degree. But what a journey to that ending! Essential for anyone interested in film history, not just fairy tales. And if you like human-hand light fixtures...

Comments

Matt Fosberg said…
Oh the memories!

I remember us seeing the Cadavra trailer at Bubba Ho Tep. It was awesome! And so was the film.

Hope all is going well!

Matt
I'm just now finding the time to read through the past month worth of posts, and althought I haven't finished this one yet(i have to leave now), I have to give you a digital high-five for giving props to Martin. I've been singing it's praises to friends for years, and usually getting nothing but anger back for it. But hell, I love this film,and the bad acting is actually quite charming to me.

Anyway, good to read your posts again(last month has been primarily away from computers with internet access), and I look forward to catching up on the rest of them.

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