Showing posts from May, 2008

Just Inside the Foul Pole: Kill the Umpire! (1950)

Director: Lloyd Bacon
Columbia, 1:17, b/w
Cinema 4 Rating: 6

I am constantly surprised by just how many small, hidden gems there are in the vaults of the major movie studios. They aren’t the films that will have nights devoted to or built around them, nor are many of these films, unless they develop a substantial cult following, likely to appear on DVD in the future. For the most part, they are forgotten except by the hardiest of film historians; for the most part, you will be lucky to run into a showing of one of these films unless you haunt the cable listings, scouring them hour by hour to see what strangeness one can encounter if you are just willing to take a little time and give an unloved, untamed thing a little attention. It also helps to check for these films in the wee, wee hours.

I found Kill the Umpire (which, as it turns out, is on DVD), a William Bendix baseball comedy released by Columbia Pictures in 1950, in just this manner. I’m not a huge Bendix fan, but I’ve found him pl…

Psychotronic Ketchup: Sugar Hill (1974)

Director: Paul Maslansky
AIP, 1:31, color
Cinema 4 Rating: 4

You jive turkeys won't believe this, but I have been seeing a lot of "blaxploitation" films lately. True, ever since I started the Psychotronic Ketchup project, I have been watching films in many genres that I normally avoid, like that passel of generally cruddy biker films I bundled up into one weekend about a year ago. And I've never really avoided "blaxploitation" flicks anyway. I am fairly well-versed on Blacula, Slaughter and the Pam Grier epics -- and even a little Dolemite for good, stupid measure. But recently I have been -- I don't know if "treating" is the correct term, but what the hell -- treating myself to their like far more regularly than I used to do.

This course now brings me to Sugar Hill, a film which I probably would have watched anyway given that it involves zombies. Not the Romero type of living dead, mind you, but the original things -- VOODOO zombies. Not voudou…

Psychotronic Ketchup: The Ups and Downs of Title-ation

Raw Meat [Death Line] (1972)
Director: Gary Sherman
Rank/AIP, 1:27, color
Cinema 4 Rating: 5
If you type the title Raw Meat into the Internet Movie Database, you get five immediate options, known otherwise as "exact matches," to your inquiry. The first, the entry for the actual movie for which I was at the site to gather information (I will get to in just a short moment). But the four following entries, three of which were appended by a (V) which generally stands for "straight to video," were for gay porn flicks. At first I considered the option that perhaps the movie I was looking up, without my being aware of it, had been remade at some point in the 35+ years following its release. But, after clicking on each of the next four entries, and scanning the all-male casts and the genre types, it didn't take long to surmise that if indeed the original Raw Meat had been remade, it surely only did so with a drastic change of plot, and also perhaps with an incredible amo…

An Indiana Jones Movie and Another One and Three-Quarters Hours of Sleep Later...

... And I am back from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Jen and I both realized that this was probably the first time for many years that we were attending a midnight (actually 11:59 pm, Wednesday, though the movie started about 12:15, so who's counting?) movie premiere. We did argue -- or rather, try to work out -- which movie was the last one for which we had bothered to stay up late and risk our jobs or schooling. She mentioned Episode I of Star Wars, which is the correct answer, though I did try to argue for Moulin Rouge!, which we did see at a midnight show on opening night. However, it was on the far ass-end of opening night, so Rouge! was not actually a premiere. (Why did I not go to such showings of the last two Star Wars films? Because of Episode I, I had given up all hope, even though it turned out I liked the last two far better than the first. Still mostly shiite, though...)

We were fortunate enough to have bought our tickets about two weeks ago, so we…

3 Hours of Sleep Later...

... and I am off to the 11:59 p.m. showing of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull! at ya soon...

The Clash of One Titan and Some Also-Rans

Iron Man
Director: Jon Favreau
Marvel Studios/Paramount, 2:06, color
Cinema 4 Rating: 8
My pal Proty informed me a couple of weeks ago that Iron Man was “alright.” Actually, Proty said: “It was eye-ight,” with a more than slight upswing in his tone on the last word of the sentence that imparted to me that it was more than merely O.K. with him, and that Proty either likely enjoyed it or was at least pleasantly surprised, though not liked it quite nearly enough so that his statement could end with some form of emphatic punctuation such as an exclamation point. Of course, Proty just had to add the notion that “it was kinda like Transformers.”

Iron Man is more than “eye-ight.” And no, my pal Proty, except for the heroes in both films sporting metallic armor of some variety, it wasn’t at all like Transformers. Transformers, despite some fairly competent action sequences, sucked beyond belief. Transformers sucked in exactly the same way that was meant by the acne-laden, mouth-breathing, hoodie-w…

Does Fry's Come with That Flying Turtle?

In the past few months, Raw Meat and I have instituted a semi-regular special holiday at work. It only happens on the last day of the work week, and it usually coincides with a paycheck upon which the immediate rendering of the rent money for that month is not a major issue, i.e. it happens in the middle of the month.

We call these days "Fry's Days," because we take off for a slightly elongated lunchtime and go to Fry's Electronics down the road a piece.

I am going to avoid any controversial issues regarding their business practices, and just say this: if you are unlucky enough to not have a Fry's Electronics in your neck of the woods, I feel sorry for you. Fry's can be best described as a sloppier, less corporate-looking version of Best Buy. The place is not what you would call "well-scrubbed," many of the fixtures need serious repair, and the owners are prone to placing some ridiculously out-of-date promotional materials out on the floor, most likel…

Head-Crushed and Proud: The Kids in the Hall @ the L.A. Orpheum, May 9, 2008, 8:00 pm

Let's get this straight. I don't miss the beginnings of shows. I don't miss the ends of shows. I don't go to the bathroom in the middle of a show, and I certainly don't go off to the snack counter to refresh my soda halfway through the proceedings either. This applies mainly to movies, but I don't do any of this nonsense at concerts, speeches, political rallies or plays either.

When I buy a ticket, I am there for the show, not any of the peripherals, and I plot my behavior at that show according to how that show has been planned. If there is an intermission, as at most plays or Lawrence of Arabia, then I use the opportunity should I have need to perform my ablutions. Because of this, I have developed remarkable, shall we say, hold. I sat squirming for the last two hours and ten minutes of Empire of the Sun, needing desperately to use the facilities, but determined to not miss a second of the film. Even if the film, in retrospect, was only so-so (not the case for…

Having A Less-Than-Average Parking Experience: The Kids in the Hall Preshow Debacle

...And so, we went to see The Kids in the Hall.

Here's the lesson, and it's one that we almost learned the hard way. We knew enough when to leave Anaheim to go into L.A. to see a show on a Friday night. We figured on enough time to allow to arrive at our destination properly. Even with the more than likely appearance of the Evil Traffic Wizard, we would get to the show with plenty of time to spare.

What we didn't do was have even a small amount of cash on us for parking.

My friend, if you are going to travel to the far-distant land of Downtown L.A. to see a show at the Orpheum, make sure to at least have a couple of tenners on you. Or a handful of fives. If you are a guy who has a shameful need for a larger wad in your pocket to compensate for a small sense of purpose, a roll of ones. Something, so at least when you pull up to the Orpheum parking lot, you are able to plunk some bills into the attendant's hand so as to enable you to take a parking space.

Otherwise, you wil…

Ends, Means, Justification: All In A Row In Some Semblance of Order...

After three days of desperation, Jen said to me, "You realize we are actually counting on the Bush administration to do something right for a change."

Things have been tight for us lately. Mounting doctor bills for both of us, rent going up, time missed from work... we've had to live relatively low. Not that we are crazy spendaholics. But we have had to take a few more nights in at home lately, and shop more for value than taste as regards the grocery bill, which is something into which one should never be forced. And I had just taken a small vacation -- hotel room, concert ticket, personal shopping -- up in the Monterey Bay area a couple of weeks ago. Right now, things are tight.

So, we had to really justify doling out some more green to see the reunion tour for The Kids in the Hall last Friday. We didn't have to justify it artistically, though. "It's The Kids in the Hall!," Jen practically shrieked. "We have to go!" Jen doesn't shriek a lo…

Recently Rated Movies #62: Extry! Extry! (Just Don't Read Below the Headlines...)

Be warned, movie makers! I am the one (and probably the only one) reading the newspapers within your films.

One of the strangest and exceedingly dumb fetishes that I have picked up in the course of watching movies obsessively for most of my existence is a fondness for reading beyond the headlines anytime there is a frantically spinning blur onscreen that finally settles into an image of a newspaper announcing something of particular importance to the plot of the film. I don’t know when I started doing this. I only know that I have done it for a while now, but only recently did I recognize that it was more than just an accidental thing.

Frankly, it angers me when the filmmakers don’t go beyond merely slapping up some giant letters in a headline to give us the news. In this age of the DVD and the DVR (following the age of the VCR – three media which home audiences are fully capable of pausing and reviewing), it would seem to be a natural thing to give the viewer a little something extr…

Cinema 4 Cel Bloc: Poultry Pirates (1938)

Director: Isadore [Friz] Freleng | MGM, 0:09, b/w
Cinema 4 Rating: 5

Is it all that pent-up frustration over having two highly prolific brats within his household that causes der Captain to go all hellfire crazy on the behinds of a quintet of garden-rustling chickens?

Released from his torturous home life for at least this entry in MGM’s not entirely successful (but not entirely unworthy or uninteresting) series of adventures featuring The Captain and the Kids (also known as the Katzenjammers in their complicated history), 1938’s Poultry Pirates sees der Captain in a solo adventure wherein he must deal with a passel of ornery birds who are trying to overrun his immaculately kept vegetable garden. Naturally, the extremely short-fused Captain will blow his top with every single transgression upon his property or person, and much in the way regarding slapstick inanity will occur.

Directed by Friz Freleng during a brief respite from his Warner Bros. work (and credited here as “Isadore”), Po…