Friday, September 8, 2017

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977)


American International Pictures
Directed by Don Taylor
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Kino Lorber)

Michael York and another man, lost at sea after their ship sinks, end up on a remote Pacific island where scientist Bur Lancaster is conducting experiments on animals. He slowly discovers that Lancaster is trying to turn them into humans, with decidedly mixed results. Some of his failures live in caves on the outskirts of the island, which is where York finds himself surrounded by some unfriendly mutants. The godlike Lancaster has laid down several laws in an attempt to make them more human, the first of which is not to kill. When he breaks it himself, it turns the human animals against him. Somewhat of a missed opportunity for the ending, but the blu ray contains the final image from a network showing that should have been used for the theatrical release as well. York and Lancaster give standout performances in this interesting story of a scientist who has lost his way, much like Victor Frankenstein. Makeup designer Thomas Burman creates realistic effects, echoing his earlier work as an assistant on Planet of the Apes. Soundtrack by Laurence Rosenthal completes the mood. Somewhat underrated gem from AIP's later period.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Terror (1963)


American International Pictures
Directed by Roger Corman
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, HD Cinema Classics)

Jack Nicholson is a lost French soldier who is befriended by a beautiful girl on a beach (played by Mrs. Jack Nicholson). She turns out to be a phantom, so Jack goes to the nearby castle to find her. There he finds Boris Karloff and his servant, who reluctantly let him stay the night. Karloff eventually admits to murdering his wife decades earlier and being tormented by her ghost. Driven to suicide, Karloff tries to flood the castle and everyone in it, but Jack manages to save himself and the girl. Their final kiss is quite memorable. Low budget Corman has potential, but is ruined by Nicholson's stiff, emotionless performance. Some of the Gothic atmosphere manages to slip through, but it's tough sledding.

Cat's Eye (1985)


MGM/UA
Directed by Lewis Teague
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Warner Bros)

Horror anthology based on three Stephen King stories. In the first, James Woods hires a company to help him quit smoking. Their extreme measures including torturing his wife, or worse, if he lights up again. In the second story, a tennis pro is kidnapped by the jealous husband of his girlfriend. The man, a wealthy mobster and casino owner, strikes a bargain with him: if he can walk around the narrow ledge of his penthouse apartment he will grant his wife a divorce. Much to his surprise, and constant distractions, the man makes it around, but there is a cruel twist waiting at the end. In the third story, a "troll" is tormenting poor little Drew Barrymore in her bedroom. Her parents don't believe her, until the troll almost kills her and her pet cat in an epic battle. Juvenile, comic-book level King, not even good for a few laughs. Littered with obvious references to/promotion of other King works.

Hardware (1990)


Miramax
Directed by Richard Stanley
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Severn)

In a bleak post-nuclear future, a scavenger finds a robot buried in the sand. He brings it to the city and sells it for scrap, ending up in the hands of an soldier and his buddy. The soldier gives it to his artist girlfriend who works it into her latest sculpture. The robot turns out to be a secret government prototype that can repair itself, which it promptly does. Soon, it is on the rampage in her apartment. A stylish but over-the-top alien clone, with kinky sex and gore to match.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Face of the Screaming Werewolf (1964)


A.D.P. Pictures
Directed by Jerry Warren
My rating: BOMB
IMDb Wikipedia
(YouTube)

Scientists experimenting with regression hypnotize a patient, causing her to remember her past life as an Indian in Mexico participating in a human sacrifice ritual in a pyramid. Once awakened, she leads an expedition to the pyramid, where they awaken a mummy and a werewolf. The two monsters terrorize local residents. The most effective scenes involve Lon Chaney, Jr as the werewolf. However, this is the only redeeming value in an otherwise confusing mish mash of two old Mexican films edited together with new footage.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Oliver & Company (1988)


Buena Vista Pictures
Directed by George Scribner
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Walt Disney)

A stray kitten on the streets of New York City is befriended by a carefree mongrel and taken to a barge where he lives with a thief and other dogs. The thief owes money to loan shark and has only a few days to come up with it. During an attempted robbery, the kitten gets adopted by a wealthy little girl ignored by her parents. Thinking the cat has been kidnapped, the dogs stage a rescue. The thief hatches the idea to ransom the kitten to pay off his debts, but it falls apart when he realizes the owner is the little girl. She ends up getting kidnapped instead by the loan shark, and it is up to Oliver and company to rescue her. Entertaining reworking of Oliver Twist, with stylish animation from George Scribner. However, the music badly dates it (Huey Lewis and Billy Joel), getting in the way rather than complementing the story. Cheech Marin steals every scene as the voice of a feisty Chihuahua.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Get Mean (1975)


Cinemation Industries
Directed by Ferdinando Baldi
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Blue Underground)

The fourth and final entry of The Stranger series (unless you count Comin' At Ya) finds Tony Tony heading to Spain with a princess. He goes for the reward money, but instead gets caught up in a war between Vikings and Moors. Failing to get paid, he sets his sights on a treasure instead, competing with everyone else to find it. Less spaghetti western and more absurd period piece, with offensive characters, poor acting and explosions, lots and lots of explosions.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Silent Stranger (1968)


United Artists
Directed by Luigi Vanzi
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

Tony Tony gets a scroll from a dying man in the Klondike and is told he will be given a large reward for it in Japan. He travels there with his horse only to get involved with two rival clans. One has a large machine gun manned by an American which gives them a huge advantage over the sword-wielding other clan. Tony gets swindled for his scroll, and decides to pit the two clans against each other. It works for awhile, but he still has to survive seemingly endless foes. He gets help from an experienced samurai, and an antique, large gun. The Japanese location works for awhile, as does the perpetual rain, but the extra does of humor drag it down from previous Stranger films. Even Stelvio Cipriani's soundtrack falls short.

The Stranger Returns (1967)


MGM
Directed by Luigi Vanzi
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

Tony Tony wanders into another dusty western town, this time finding bandits collaborating with a corrupt town official to steal a gold shipment. He gets out of a tricky situation at the beginning of the film and borrows the identity of a dead postal official to infiltrate the gang. He gets beat up and dragged behind a coach, but escapes. With the help of a slightly deranged preacher, he tracks down the gang for revenge, and the gold, which is hidden in plain sight. Just as entertaining as the first film, with Tony's easy-going persona and slight touches of humor offsetting the frequent violence on display. Another outstanding soundtrack from Stelvio Cipriani.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Stranger in Town (1967)


MGM
Directed by Luigi Vanzi
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

A gunfighter rides into a dusty western town, apparently abandoned. Bandits have taken over and soon appear, along with Mexican troops which they massacre in the town square. He approaches the leader of the gang with a plan to steal gold from American troops heading to the town. They agree and the plan succeeds. However, when he demands half for payment they scoff and try to kill him. He steals the gold and saves a local girl whom the bandits had taken hostage. The bandits pursue and he is taken hostage himself, but later escapes. Just when it looks like he is home free, the bandits appear for one last shootout. Entertaining if typical spaghetti western, helped by a twangy Benedetto Ghiglia soundtrack and some inventively lit scenes. Lead actor Tony Anthony, though, lacks the charisma to carry the film.