Monday, December 9, 2019

Up to His Ears (1965)

Lopert Pictures
Directed by Philippe de Broca
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Cohen Media Group)

Jean-Paul Belmondo is a bored playboy who travels to Hong Kong. His personal assistant, one Mr. Goh, leads him to believe he has lost his money, and talks him into taking out a life insurance policy so Goh can kill him and get part of the money. This leads to a series of comic misadventures from Hong Kong, to India, Tibet and beyond. Tired slapstick set against stunning backdrops. 

Two Lost Worlds (1951)

Eagle-Lion Classics
Directed by Norman Dawn
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Image Entertainment)

Pirates kidnap the pretty girlfriend of a ship's captain. He goes after her, ending up on an island inhabited by dinosaurs. Poor adventure story, with dinosaur footage recycled from One Million B.C. 

Unknown Island (1948)

Film Classics
Directed by Jack Bernhard
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Image Entertainment)

In Singapore, an adventurer and his fiance convince a reluctant captain to hire his boat for a charter to an island supposedly inhabited by dinosaurs. A local drunk comes along, having previously been to the island and seen the dinosaurs. After a long voyage and near mutiny, they arrive and promptly see the dinosaurs. They fight and bicker among themselves and finally leave. More melodrama than anything else, with a boring romantic triangle. The dinosaurs may be the worst ever committed to film, obvious rubber suits, not even to proper scale next to trees. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Flying Serpent (1946)

Producers Releasing Corporation
Directed by Sam Newfield
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Image Entertainment)

George Zucco plays an archaelogist who has captured the legendary Aztec serpent Quetzalcoatl. He uses a feather from the bird to lure it to intended victims which it promplty kills. These include a rival scientist and another man who is getting to close to the truth. Shoddy special effects, the bird looks more like a turkey than a serpent, ruin what is otherwise a routine mystery programmer from PRC. 

The Gates of Hell (1980)

Motion Picture Marketing
Directed by Lucio Fulci
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Dark Force Entertainment)

Christopher George is a journalist investigating a death at a seance in NYC. While attending the funeral, he hears noises from the casket and rescues the woman before she is buried alive. Together they search for the mysterious town of Dunwich, on no map, where supposedly the gates of hell have been opened by the suicide of a priest. Strange events in Dunwich more or less confirm it. Their search eventually leads them to the town cemetery where they confront the dead priest and his companions. Overplotted, to be sure, but Fulci sustains an atmosphere of dread and horror for just about the entire film. The over-the-top, explicit scenes of gore, including an infamous head drilling, turn out to be a distraction and completely unnecessary. 

Mako: The Jaws of Death (1976)

Cannon Films
Directed by William Grefe
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Bayview Entertainment)

Florida fisherman Richard Jaeckel keeps a shark in a tank underneath his house. He brings over a girl, but she doesn't understand. She performs at the local watering hole in an aquarium with windows inside the bar. The owner and her husband, an obese and disgusting Buffy Dee, talks Jaeckel into selling the shark so they can spice up her act. It doesn't go well. Location shooting in south Florida is about the only thing going for this dated, improbable obscurity from director Grefe. 

Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965)

American International Pictures
Directed by Ishiro Honda
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Tokyo Shock)

Frankenstein's heart was saved by Nazis in Germany and taken to Hiroshima in Japan. After the atomic bomb, a wild boy is seen running around the streets. He is found and captured as a teenager. He starts to grow when fed properly, becoming a giant. He escapes when photographers blind him with their flash bulbs. Meanwhile, and earthquake unleashes a giant monster known as Baragon, who kind of looks like an armadillo with a horn. The giant Frankenstein gets blamed for the death and destruction, but he proves them wrong by beating Baragon in a wrestling match. One of the more ridiculous Japanese monster movies, but cannot deny it is entertaining. 

The Hillside Strangler (2004)

Directed by Chuck Parello
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Tartan Video)

C. Thomas Howell and Nicholas Turturro are lowlife cousins in LA whose budding prostitution enterprise is busted by rivals. They decide to take revenge on the prostitute who exposed them by raping and strangling her. Enthralled, they go on a killing spree that terrorizes southern California, where they are known as the Hillside Stranglers. Based on a true story and following the facts closely, this is an incredibly disturbing film. Howell and especially Turturro give bravura performances as the killers without a conscience. Ranks up there with Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer in intensity, but not nearly as well known. The material is repulsive (particularly the uncut version), but the performances are stunning.

A Return to Salem's Lot (1987)

Warner Bros.
Directed by Larry Cohen
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

Anthropologist Michael Moriarty returns to his hometown with his obnoxious teenage son. They live in a dilapidated house outside of town and try to bond while repairing it. They clash with the locals, and soon discover its inhabitants are really vampires. They come out only at night, naturally, when the kids attend school and are set up for marriages at a very young age. His son becomes entranced by their society and Moriarty is unable to convince him otherwise. Samuel Fuller arrives just in time as a Nazi hunter turned vampire killer to save them both. Ludicrous, mean-spirited follow up to the much superior first film, with nobody to root for. Fuller is fatally miscast. 

Needful Things (1993)

Columbia Pictures
Directed by Fraser C. Heston
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Kino Lorber)

Max von Sydow arrives in a small town in Main and opens an antique shop. He peddles rare merchandise at low prices to the unsuspecting townsfolk, but always demands something extra. He persuades them to escalate petty arguments and feuds with neighbors and family members to violence and murder. Soon, the town is practically rioting, while Sydow watches and smiles. Eventually the sheriff figures out what is happening and confronts Sydow. Good, if unspectacular, adaption of Stephen King, taking small town gossip and paranoia to its logical extremes.