Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)

I've had a couple movies in my Netflix queue ready to watch for weeks now, but I've just been too busy to watch and review them for you guys.  Maybe you've seen them already, Kung Fu Panda 3, and True Memoirs of an International Assassin.  Maybe not.  They're both comedies, which are always fun to watch around the holidays.  When you aren't watching horror movies, that is.

Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016) is, obviously, the third movie in the Kung Fu panda series of movies.  This time, Kai the Widow Maker has defeated master Oogway in the spirit realm, and stolen Oogway's chi.  It is enough to transport him back to the realm of the living, where he intends to steal the Chi of all the Kung Fu Masters.  Of course, there is no greater Kung Fu master than Po, the Dragon Warrior.  Wait, what?  Po?  A Kung Fu Master?  What the hell am I saying?  That's ridiculous!  Can Po stop Kai before he destroys everything, in his lust for power?  Probably not.

I got to say, I love all the Kung Fu panda movies.  I think I was a Kung Fu master in my last life, if you believe in that kind of thing, because these stories just seem to resonate with me.  Watching Po's journey through the teachings of martial arts, displayed here in all their beautiful cartoon glory, has been quite the adventure.  I was even thinking of making my very own Tigress doll!  Okay, I really wasn't.  That might be going a little too far.  Besides, I have the carpentry skills of a small child with a dull hatchet.

This last movie seems a bit short, if you ask me, coming in at about an hour and 25 minutes, plus ten minutes of credits.  I guess it does take a lot of people to make this kind of animated movie, but cutting the movie short just so you can afford to pay them all seems a bit harsh.  Can't they, I don't know, work for free, and uncredited, so we can see a good long movie with less credits rolling through the end?  Meh.  I guess that's too much to ask.  I sure wouldn't work for free.  Or uncredited.  Hell, at this point, I'd work for food.

Decent story, good plot, terrific voice acting by all concerned, and hell, I even learned a few things.  I think that's the most important lesson the Kung Fu Panda movies can teach you.  You learn a little about yourself each time you watch them.  This time, I learned I can still belly laugh like a Santa Panda, and the movie reminded me that I can eat like one, too!  Just in time for Thanksgiving!  Perfect timing!  :-D

True Memoirs of an International Assassin (2016) is a Netflix original.  Kevin Smith stars as a writer who pens his first novel, trying to drum up readership by passing his imaginary exploits off as fact.  Unfortunately for him, his exploits hit a little too close to the truth for some, and he's abducted and persuaded to assassinate the president of Venezuela.  Can he pull off the sham of the century, just to sell more of his books?  And just how much more valuable do a writer's works become, after he dies?

This one wasn't bad.  I can't say as it changed my life or anything, but I laughed a couple times.  Acting was passably okay.  An interesting look into the writing process, to be sure, watching Sam whatsisname (Kevin Smith) write and rewrite his way into one hell of a mess.  No nudity, but the chick was reasonably cute, and there were a couple veteran supporting actors.  Nothing exactly surprising, as I had the plot figured out about 8 seconds in, but I don't think anyone would have trouble figuring it out.  The title pretty much gives it all away.

Personally, I think Netflix would be better off spending their time getting hold of all those horror movies made in the 1980's that are rotting in vaults somewhere, turning to dust before they can be brought to all the horror-loving youth of the 2000's.  But, I guess instead of trying to hunt those things down and pay for the film rights, it's just easier for Netflix to churn out crappy movie after crappy movie after crappy movie.  Yes, I guess Netflix has turned into the SyFy of the 2000's.  Though this particular movie wasn't horrible, the rate Netflix is churning these things out, they're right on track to become the Asylum film company of the 2020's.  If only Netflix made just horror movies, that might be okay, but when you start churning out crappy comedies and crappy chick flicks and so on, well, you see the problem.  Or, maybe you don't.  It's pure anarchy, that's all I know.  Anarchy.

Just caught the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special, which is probably my favorite charlie brown holiday special.  Charlie Brown might miss the football in the first 20 seconds, but he does his best to handle fixing an entire impromptu Thanksgiving dinner for all his friends, and then, he takes them to his grandmother's for supper.  The Halloween one is funny, and great, and really kciks off the holiday season for me, but Linus and Sally miss out on the Tricks or Treats, Linus nearly freezes to death in the Pumpkin field waiting for the great pumpkin, and charlie brown messes up his costume and ends up with a bag full of rocks.  And Snoopy gets shot down by the red baron, and has to fight his way back from behind enemy lines!  All the major characters seem to take a hit on Halloween, and the Xmas special is way too preachy, but not on Thanksgiving.

You can't really have a better ending to a holiday (or a holiday special) than a fine meal, and Snoopy somehow manages to cook an entire Turkey Dinner (with pumpkin pie!) for himself and Woodstock.  I've heard some people complain about how Woodstock eats Turkey, making him a cannibal, but come on.  One, it's a damn cartoon.  Two, some birds eat other birds.  Woodstock is usually shown hanging out in a nest, and looks yellow, and hardly has any feathers.  I'm pretty sure that's a fair indication that he's a young chick, freshly hatched, not quite out of the nest yet.  Who can say what sort of bird he'll grow into?  Maybe he's a baby Hawk or Falcon, who do, in fact, eat other birds for supper most days.  Three, you don't talk about bird fight club.  You just don't.

In other news, tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I have this annual tradition where I give thanks for stuff.  I am thankful I managed another 31 posts this october, and I am thankful my family is still alive and kicking (knocking on wood (my head) so I don't jinx myself), and thankful that I still have my sense of humor after all these many, many many years.  Geez I sound like I'm retiring, and I haven't even really started my career yet.  Meh.  One of these days, I'll be thankful for figuring out what I want to do when I grow up.  Until then, I'm grateful for what I got.  I appreciate the little things in life.  :-)

That's all for this week!  I'll be stuffing my face with family tomorrow, as usual.  Errr.  Not actually with family.  I mean, I will be with family, and eating, but not eating family.  Because, that's just weird, and disgusting.  Also, probably illegal in some states.  This post has gone down a very dark and lonely road.  :-/  Let's just cut to the end!  Happy Thanksgiving!  :-D

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Throwback Thursday Review - The Fog (1980)

I usually like to watch this one around October, because it has some of the best atmosphere of any horror movie I have ever seen.  And yes, "Atmosphere" is a punny word for The Fog, because it's a weather condition, but it applies in both senses of the word.  This may be one of the best movies of John Carpenter's career, and is chock full of the actors and actresses that show up in many of his other films.

The Fog (1980) is a creepy horror movie with a unique backstory.  One hundred years ago, the founders of Antonio Bay made a deal with a colony of lepers to allow the lepers to settle up the coast from the village.  In exchange, the rich leader of the leper colony would provide enough gold to build a church and found the township of Antonio Bay.  The founders of Antonio Bay, however, couldn't stomach the idea of a Leper Colony just a mile distant, and conspired to murder the lepers and take their gold.  On the night of April 21st, between the hours of midnight and 1 am, they built a roaring fire on the shore.  A thick fog blanketed the shoreline, and the ship carrying the lepers to shore steered towards the fire, aiming for safety.  The cargo ship, the Elizabeth Dane, assumed the fire had been set to show them the way to safe moorings.  It was not.  The Dane smashed upon the rocks and was wrecked.  All passengers and crew were drowned, and the gold was later recovered, and used to build the church and found Antonio Bay.  One hundred years later, The Fog has returned to Antonio Bay, on the eve of its centennial celebration.  In the fog is the crew of the Elizabeth Dane, returned to exact their vengeance upon the descendants of the town's founders.  Six must die, six descendants of the founders, six deaths to pay for the betrayal of one hundred years ago...

Let me just break down the obscene number of veteran actors and actresses in this movie.  John Houseman plays old Mr. Machen, who spends the first 5 minutes of the story doing a cameo appearance (he doesn't show up anywhere else in the entire film), while he tells a ghost story to a bunch of kids around a campfire that explains most of the backstory that happened 100 years ago.  One of the kids by the fire belongs to Stevie Wayne, the owner of the local radio station, KAB, who is played by Adrienne Barbeau.  Adrienne Barbeau was actually married to John Carpenter for a while, and is gorgeous in this movie.  Tom Atkins plays Nick Castle, one of the crew of the Seagrass, returning from a trip up the coast.  Tom Atkins also played the hero in Halloween 3, a couple years after he appeared in The Fog, and was also the Detective in Night of the Creeps (another of my personal favorites) some years after that.  One of the other crew members of the Seagrass is Tommy Wallace, played by George "Buck" Flower, who has probably played an extra in every horror movie ever made, since the beginning of time (along with Dick Miller, who does not appear in the Fog, as far as I know).  Nick Castle (Tom Atkins) picks up a hitchhiker named Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis, of Halloween fame, another John Carpenter horror movie favorite) on his way back into Antonio Bay.  Janet Leigh (of Psycho shower scene fame) plays Kathy Williams, a member of the town council organizing the 100-year celebration for Antonio Bay, and the wife of one of the crew of the Seagrass (probably George "Buck" Flower, from how old they both appear to be).  The Fog, as far as I know, is the only movie in which Jamie Lee Curtis appeared with her real-life mother, Janet Leigh.  The Medical Examiner is played by Darwin "Got a Smoke?" Jostin, of Assault on Precinct 13 fame, also made by John Carpenter.  The weatherman that Stevie Wayne talks to through part of the movie is played by Charles Cyphers, who was also Sheriff Brackett in the first two Halloween movies.  Sandy Fadel is Kathy Williams' (Janet Leigh's) assistant, played by Nancy Loomis/Kyes, also known as "Annie," Laurie Strode's babysitter friend from the Halloween movies.  Jim Haynie (the sheriff from Sleepwalkers) plays the unconcerned Dockmaster who Nick Castle goes to, to elucidate his worries about the missing Seagrass.  And of course, Hal Holbrook plays Father Malone, one of the final descendants of the original conspirators.  Is that a crazy number of veteran horror actors, or what?  :-o

Usually, such a phenomenal cast of veteran actors results in the most-godawful movie ever made, because they spend all the money on the actors, and not enough on the screen-writing.  In this case, the exact opposite is true.  All the actors are just perfect for their roles, making the overall atmosphere of the movie just drip with the blood of the six victims that the crew of the Elizabeth Dane has come to claim.  The music is excellent, the cast is perfect, and the special effects may be dated, but most of the movie happens in the dark, so it's hard to tell.  Interesting twist to the ending, Stevie Wayne broadcasts a warning to beware of the Fog, similar to the radio warning at the end of The Thing from Another World (1954), which John Carpenter would remake into The Thing (1982), just two years later.

Sure, this is essentially just a ghost/zombie tale, depending on how you think of the leprous spirits of the Elizabeth Dane, but it's also a Flying Dutchman reference, and damned if it doesn't just work together perfectly!  Just about everything that happens in this movie is creepy, from the town falling apart at the "Witching Hour" between 12 midnight and 1 am, to the washed up boards of the Elizabeth Dane dripping seawater and bursting into flame, to the slain corpse of one of the Seagrass rising from the dead to mark down the number of people already dead, or those left to die.  Even the daylight hours are creepy.  In one scene, Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau) drives along the coast on her way to work, passing an old steel washtub in a field of grass, sitting behind a barbed-wire fence.  There's nothing particularly spooky about this scene or the washtub, and the view of the landscape and the coast are beautiful.  I can't quite recall where the movie was filmed right now, but I was looking at pictures of the area on the internet years later (just for the scenic beauty and the views of the lighthouse, featured in the movie as the radio station KAB), and damned if that old steel washtub wasn't still there, sitting behind the barbed-wire fence in a field of grass.  Looking at the pictures decades after the movie was filmed, I thought I was having flashbacks to The Fog, and was totally creeped out!  By an old washtub!  Crazy shit.  I caught The Fog on Sundance Channel, but I'm sure it's available in other places too, if you want to be creeped out by an old washtub that hasn't moved in a hundred years.

That's it for throwback Thursday!  Catch you guys soon for another review, but if I don't post before December, enjoy the crisp autumn weather, the smell of drying fallen leaves, and enjoy your turkey.  Thanksgiving is only two short weeks away, and they are already playing Xmas music on the radio, which is fine.  After the last two years of election coverage spamming every TV network on the air, a little levity and peace on earth is a welcome change.  And one I am eternally thankful for.  :-)

Sunday, October 30, 2016

#30 - Holidays (2016), #31 - Poltergeist (2015)

Holy crap I am going to finish up my OHMRAT (October Hallween Horror Movie Review-A-Thon) early this year!  31 movies reviewed (at least 31, closer to 33 or so) in 30 days!!  It's a new WORLD RECORD (for me, anyway)!!!  I'll have all Halloween free to PAAAR TAAAYYY!!!  WOOOHOOOOOOO!!!  (pant, pant, gasp)  Sorry.  Got a little excited.  I'll be okay.

Holidays (2016) is a horror anthology!  I hate anthologies.  This one covers just about every holiday that one can have in a year, except Independence Day (which has its own movie, or 2 now, about invading aliens).  If I recall them all correctly, there's Valentine's Day, St. patrick's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Halloween, Christmas, and maybe some other ones I missed.  All of the holidays are horror stories, so, for instance, the Easter tale is not a happy anecdote about Peter Cottontail...  or is it?

About the only good things I can say about Holidays is that the female constable from Grabbers (2012, and an excellent movie) had a brief stint as a teacher in merry ole Ireland for St Patrick's Day, and Seth Green played a brief stint as a dad looking for a late present on Xmas Eve.  Other than that, none of the stories were particularly memorable, and none of the actors or actresses seemed exceptional or interesting.  Special effects were passably okay, I guess?  Catch this movie on Netflix, if you're bored, or sleepy.  I'm not going to watch it again, and you can't make me.  :-P

Poltergeist (2015) is obviously the remake/sequel of the 1982 movie of the same name.  HBO was kind enough to play the original right before this on Sunday night, so you could compare the two, side by side!  Probably a bad idea, considering how great the first one was, but let's recap the story of the 2015 version.  An out of work bum and an aspiring writer/housemom move to a new house in a suburb (though how they can afford a new house with both of them out of work is beyond me).  There's a brief dinner with a family who mentions how the area they are living in used to be a cemetery (a quick reference to the 1982 movie, I guess they are related to Craig T. Nelson?) and then their youngest daughter vanishes.  Obviously, it's not your typical kidnapping case, so the family chooses not to go to the police, but to a parapsychology department at the local college.  And then, uhh... all hell breaks loose?  YES, of course it does!  Good answer!  Good answer.

You know, Hollywood, I have an idea.  Instead of doing all your remakes with the same title, the same story, and different actors, try this on for size...  The same title, the same ACTORS, and a different STORY!  No really, just go with me on this.  It'll WORK!  Trust me.  Have I ever lied to you before?  EXACTLY!  No, never, not once.  Look how much free advertising the not-live remake of the Rocky Horror Picture show just got, and that only had Tim Curry doing a brief cameo!  Think about it, that's all I'm asking!  Just think about it.

The 2015 version of Poltergeist has Sam Rockwell filling in for Craig T. Nelson (and, he's not as good, sorry), Rosemary Dewitt filling in for JoBeth Williams (not nearly as sexy, sorry) and Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris) filling in for Tangina (and he's definitely no Zelda Rubinstein, that's for damn sure).  The acting and special effects are passably okay, but instead of trying to make this a sequel (which it should have been), they tried to hit all the major plot points of the 1982 version in a shorter time frame, making the whole movie feel rushed and re-hashed.  They even re-used the same joke at the dinner before the daughter disappears.  When the family finds out they are living on an old graveyard, the guy who tells them, says "Hey, it's not like it's an ancient indian burial ground, hah ha hah!"  Come on, that line was delivered with much more panache by Mr. Teague (James Karen, of the original Poltergeist, and also of Return of the Living Dead (1985), and about a hundred other roles...  the man's been acting since 1948, fer chrissakes), Craig T. Nelson's boss, in the original movie.  Also, the youngest daughter Maddison (Kennedi Clements) might be as cute as the original Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke), but she certainly isn't as creepy.  Otherwise, I suppose the movie isn't a bad watch, though not worth more than a view or two at most.  Poltergeist is on HBO, as I may have mentioned.

R.I.P., Zelda Rubinstein and Heather O' Rourke, and it's a shame you couldn't be around to partake in the 2015 version of Poltergeist, to make it better.  :-)  Huh, I just found out that Dominique Dunne (the teenage sister in the 1982 version) is also dead, choked to death at 22 years old by an abusive boyfriend.  R.I.P. to you too, Dominique.  And of course, R.I.P.  Beatrice Straight (Dr. Lesh), who died of pneumonia, at the ripe old age of 86.  Keep on truckin, James Karen!  Still making horror movies at 93 years old!  Yeah!  Seriously, check out his IMDB profile.  The man is 93 years old.

Now that we've said goodbye to all of our old friends from the first, best Poltergeist, it's time to move on.  My OHMRAT (October Halloween Horror Movie Review A Thon) is complete!  I've done it!  Wooohoooo!  It's been an awesome month, I saw a lot of old favorites, and a bunch of decent new ones, and I still had time to pop out and catch some pictures of the leaves changing color.  Autumn in the Northeast is a beautiful time of year.  I hope everyone reading along enjoyed the autumn colors, and the horror movies, too.  And, now for a word from our sponsor, who isn't actually sponsoring me for shit, but I like watching the Halloween movie series on AMC every year around this time.  It's an old favorite, though I will try and catch Trick R' Treat (2007) tomorrow (on DVD) at least once, if I can.  I do love my horror movie favorites.  :-)

Happy Halloween, everyone!  I'll probably take a week off to recuperate from my frenzied posting schedule, and then find a good fantasy or Sci-fi movie to review, if possible.  Catch you guys in November, and until then, enjoy the horror movies while they last!  Soon, the Xmas movies will start, and then it's all happy feelings and fluffy bunnies until Easter.  Ugh.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

#28 - Silent Night (2012), #29 - Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

Almost done with my October Horror Movie Review-A-Thon 2016!  Otherwise known as OHMRAT, which is also my death metal ballad band name.  Just a few more reviews, and it'll all be over for another year.  I know, you guys have been through hell this month, having to read reviews of all these crappy, Z-grade horror movies I watch, but what are friends for?  :-D

Silent Night (2012) is more of a Christmas story than a horror story, sort of a combination of the Charlie Brown Christmas, and Friday the 13th.  A female cop is called in to work on Christmas Eve, only to find that a rogue Santa Claus has run amok, slaughtering the innocent, and punishing the guilty.  In a town filled with hundreds of Salvation Army Santas, can our rookie heroine cop find the bad santa amongst all the good santas in time to save Christmas?  Or is it already too late?

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly:  It seems they start the Christmas season earlier and earlier every year, and every year, Halloween draws the line, and pushes back.  Thanksgiving has already been overrun, but Halloween will not fall, not whilst I draw breath!  Errr....  yea.  Ahem.  Got a little excited, there.  This wasn't a terribly awesome movie, but it wasn't bad, either.  The rogue santa has the unstoppability of Michael Myers, and the moral compass of Krampus.  Unfortunately for our heroine cop, all she seems to have to fight with is a pretty face.  Will it be enough?  Check it out on Starz Edge to find out.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016) seems to be another entry into the zombie love story genre.  I didn't think there were that many, but it seems everyone wants to capitalize on the success of that pioneering blockbuster, Return of the Living Dead 3, the very first and best zombie love story, and the only one involving actual zombies.  Which makes all the other zombie love story movies, FAKES AND PRETENDERS.  That's right.  I went there.  Ahem.  Seriously, this movie is about Victorian-era England being overrun by a zombie apocalypse, and how one family of girls trains to fight them, and how one girl from that family lives and loves...

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly:  There's a lot of heaving bosoms and tight bodices in this movie, and not a whole shitload of zombies.  Mainly, the story revolves around Elizabeth Bennett, who isn't that interesting, and her future lover, who isn't that interesting, and how they temporarily avoid the zombie apocalypse, a story which really isn't that interesting.  There's a bit of fighting, shooting, and zombie killing, interspersed with polite scenes of people eating scones.  Honestly, any zombie movie that ends in a double wedding can't be good, can it?  This movie is on Starz if you want to see it, but why?  Why would you do that to yourself?  Shouldn't you be out getting drunk on Wild Turkey in an alley somewhere?  Surely, that would be better than watching this movie.

In other news, I have other horror movies to watch, and I've talked too much as it is.  You guys must be totally sick of hearing me blab by now.  Just two more reviews to go!  :-D

Thursday, October 27, 2016

#27 - Scars of Dracula (1970), Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)

Another two-for-one double-feature review, for your reading pleasure!  The last of the Hammer Studios Dracula movies, DVR'd from TCM on Monday.  Without further ado, let's get to the reviews.

Scars of Dracula (1970), as every other movie in the Dracula films by Hammer studios, begins with Dracula rising once again from the grave.  This time, Dracula is dust and a cape in his castle (how his remains got back to Castle Dracula, who knows, maybe a servant?), when a bat flies in and vomits blood onto his ashes.  Dracula rises again, and begins hunting vixens anew.  A local mob of villagers decides to put an end to his reign of terror by burning down his castle, but while they're doing that, Dracula sends his bats to kill all their womenfolk.  Meanwhile, a charming rogue is chased out of town after an ill-advised fling with the Burgomeister's daughter, and ends up fleeing to castle Dracula in the dead of night.  Dracula, who has survived the fire, welcomes him with open arms, playing the concerned host.  Meanwhile, the man's brother and female friend are trying to track him down, and are hot on his trail to the castle...

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:  Hey, there's nudity in this movie!  I'm not sure if I've seen this movie before, but it looked kind of familiar.  Not sure what a Burgomeister is (some sort of town mayor?), but his daughter was hot.  This movie returns to the old formula, Dracula waiting at his castle for wandering travelers, terrorizing the countryside, and so on.  There's a conspicuous absence of knowledgeable foes for Dracula to fight in this one.  The local priest is a bit of a twit, and Peter Cushing's Van Helsing hasn't shown up since the 1958 movie.  The overall quality of the movies seem to be dropping a bit, sadly, but the movie was at least mildly enjoyable.  I saw the ending coming a mile away, though.

Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) opens up with one final climactic battle between Dracula and Van Helsing.  Dracula and Van Helsing are fighting atop a carriage, and Dracula throws Van Helsing off, only to crash into a tree.  Dracula is impaled through the heart by one of the wooden spokes of the wagon wheel, and Van Helsing lives just long enough to drive the spoke deep into the Count's heart.  Count Dracula is dead again, but a servant arrives in time to scoop up his ashes, and buries them near Van Helsing's own grave.  One hundred years later, in 1972 London, a satan-worshipper named Johnny Alucard (heh, Alucard, that's Dracula backwards, geddit?) manages to summon up Dracula's remains...

The Good, the Bad, The Ugly:  I wish there had been more to that climactic battle between Dracula and Van Helsing at the beginning of this movie.  If it was the end of some other movie, I don't recall ever seeing that movie, and if it wasn't, it should have been.  Peter Cushing returns as Van Helsing, and then again as Lawrence van Helsing, a professor of Archaeology in 1972, one of Van Helsing's descendants.  This movie seems closer to the plot of Taste the Blood of Dracula, where a bunch of (now-younger, 1972-style) thrill-seekers get ahold of Dracula's remains, and succeed in bringing him back to life.  Or Undeath, whatever.  Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and as far as I know, the last great Hammer-Studios epic battle between Dracula and Van Helsing...  What's not to like?  There's even supposed to be some nudity in there somewhere, but I think I missed it.  Fun to watch, anyway, and good to see Peter Cushing getting back into the Vampire-killing business.

This movie departs from the normal sequence of events for Hammer Dracula films.  Usually, Dracula is dead when the movie opens, having been slain at the end of the last movie, though they usually show the last few scenes of the previous movie, just to make sure you know how Dracula died.  This time, he was alive, then died at the hands of Van Helsing, then was brought back to life again, and then finally dies by the hand of Van Helsing's descendant.  Yea, minor spoiler, but come on.  Dracula dies at the end of EVERY hammer horror film, so it's not like you didn't see that one coming, huh?  As if to denote that it was the very last time, it even says REST IN FINAL PEACE at the end of the film, although Christopher Lee did return to the role one final time in 1973.

I wonder if Roddy McDowell was supposed to be playing a Peter Cushing-like character, in Fright Night (1985)?  Seems like Roddy Mcdowell had to get the inspiration for his character from somewhere.  Hmmmm.  I guess we'll never know.

That's it for the Hammer Dracula films for this week.  Hopefully I'll be able to find something a bit different for tomorrow night, and we'll see what the weekend brings.  Did I mention I friggin' love horror movies?  Monsters, monsters everywhere this weekend, and costumed candy-seekers due to arrive monday night by the dozens!  I am sure AMC (or one of the other channels) will be playing Halloween (1978) and the entire Halloween series all weekend, or at least on Monday night, and I can't think of a better way to cap off the month than watching Michael Myers slash his way through Haddonfield, deep into the wee hours of Halloween evening, while riding a chocolate-induced sugar high!  Wheeeeeee!  Have fun at the Halloween parties this weekend, but don't forget to DVR the horror flicks!  You'll need something to watch while recovering from the hangovers.  :-)

Til tomorrow evening, horror movie fans.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

#26 - Dracula has Risen from the Grave (1969), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)

As it's getting so close to Halloween, and I freakin' love Horror movies, you guys are getting a two-for-one deal tonight.  I DVR'd these two movies late Monday night (or early tuesday morning, depending on your point of view), and I've decided to watch and review two movies a night until they are done with.  Since there are only 6 of them, that means I finish up tomorrow night.  :-)

Dracula has Risen from the Grave (1969) is the 3rd Hammer Studios Dracula film starring Christopher Lee as the title character.  It's been a year since Dracula drowned in the river near his castle (at the end of the last movie), but the shadow of Dracula's castle falls upon a nearby church at sunset.  The castle's shadow instills a dread fear of its own, and everyone in town has stopped attending Sunday Mass at the Church.  The local Monsignor decides to visit the town and see the priest, to check on the parish a year after the death of Dracula, to make sure everything is going well.  When the local Priest explains the problem, the Monsignor decides to plant a golden cross from the church at the castle door, and read a prayer of Exorcism, to show the townsfolk that Count Dracula is well and truly dead.  The Priest and Monsignor travel up the mountain, but the Priest's spirit fails him near the top.  The Monsignor continues on to plant the cross and read the prayer, but the Priest falls and lands near the frozen corpse of Dracula, breaking the ice encasing him, and dripping fresh blood onto Dracula's eager lips.  Dracula has Risen from the Grave...

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:  Typical Dracula Horror offering from Hammer Studios, with the usual old-school special effects and typical amounts of gore.  The most interesting part of this whole tale is the Priest, who must be one of the most tortured souls in the history of horror movies.  Firstly, the Priest seems like a good man, begging God to free them of Dracula's evil, and caring for a mute altar boy.  A year after Dracula's death, the shadow of the castle has taken a toll upon the man.  He goes through the motions of giving Mass on Sundays, because there is no one in attendance, and drinks alone at the local Pub afterwards.  After Dracula rises once again, the Priest becomes enthralled by Dracula, and is forced to follow through on Dracula's evil plan to revenge himself on the Monsignor.  The Priest fights both Dracula's will, the Monsignor's influence, and his own intermittent faith throughout the movie, until finally regaining his faith long enough at the end to recite another Exorcism over Dracula's impaled and dying body.

This was easily the most religious of the Hammer Dracula horror films, and is apparently the source of some contention over the vampire mythology.  The main protagonist in this movie is an atheist (atheists weren't too popular back in Victorian-era England, but this movie was made in 1969, so they tried to reflect the times, I suppose), and he can't recite a prayer over Dracula's impaled body because he doesn't believe in God.  Christopher Lee himself said that a stake through the heart should be enough to kill a vampire without a prayer, but perhaps it's only Dracula's near-unslayable corpse that requires a prayer to put it to final rest, and that a stake through the heart is enough to dispatch of most other vampires?  Just a thought.  Moving on.

Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) begins as the last movie ends (a common feature of the Dracula films from hammer studios), with Dracula's body impaled upon a golden cross.  A wandering merchant chances upon Dracula's last moments, and retrieves the Count's cloak, his broach and his ring, as the Count dissolves in the morning sunlight.  As Dracula's blood turns to powder in the daylight, the merchant scoops up what he can, saving it in a large glass vial.  Elsewhere in England, a group of elderly thrill-seekers is getting bored of playing with prostitutes, and it's only a matter of time before they find the merchant, and purchase his most prized possession, the Blood of Dracula...

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:  Holy Crap, I've found a Hammer Horror flick I haven't seen before! :-o  Well, I've seen it NOW, of course, but not before tonight!  I was shocked.  I thought I had seen them all.  Man, this is like finding a lost Picasso painting!  Well, if I was an art-lover, which I'm not.  Art is great and all, but I couldn't tell a Rembrandt from a Renoir, and I barely know who those guys are.  This movie is a little different from the standard Dracula tale, in that the main characters drop like flies, and Christopher Lee only pops up here and there to speak some ominous lines.  The plot is also a little different, but not bad, and seems to add more drama to the typical vampire vs knowledgeable clergy story line.  I won't give away the end, in case you can find it to watch somewheres, but this one also apparently has some nudity in it.  I didn't notice anything obvious, so the nudity must have been a brief glimpse of breast or something, somewhere along the way.

I was a little confused by the ending in this movie, as Dracula seems to fall prey to something I can only refer to as Religious Vertigo?  Everything up to that point was pretty good, but the ending was a little bleh.  Or "Blah, Blah Blah," as Dracula would say.  And yes, I know, he doesn't say that.  Sorry, I've seen Hotel Transylvania one too many times.  :-)  Oh, and, as you may have noticed, I'm counting each of these reviews tonight as a half, so there's technically only one review tonight.  TWO FOR ONE DEAL ON THE HORROR MOVIE REVIEW A THON!  THERE IS A GOD AFTER ALL!

In other news, there is no other news tonight.  Five more days to Halloween!  I hope everyone is having as much fun as I am!  Although I'm not sure you guys can handle the amount of fun I am having, without looking like the Joker, after he's blown Batman to teensy bitty bits.  Maybe you should have slightly less fun than that, so you don't overdose.  A fun overdose is a scary thing to behold, trust me.  I've seen it, and I still have nightmares.  Til tomorrow, then.

#24 - Horror of Dracula (1958), #25 - Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966)

Just about everyone's favorite portrayal of Dracula is done by Christopher Lee, in the Hammer film series of Dracula movies.  His longtime friend Peter Cushing usually played Van Helsing, Dracula's constant arch enemy and frequent hero of the films.  I have two of those movies for review tonight, and I must say, the Hammer films are some of my favorites.

Horror of Dracula (1958) was Hammer studio's first foray into the Dracula story.  We encounter Johnathan Harker on his way to visit Dracula.  Dracula thinks Harker is here to catalog some books from Dracula's library.  In secret, Harker is there to kill Dracula, as he writes in his journal.  Honestly, I don't see the point in trying to keep a secret by writing it in your journal, but they didn't have Facebook or blogs back then, so they had to make do.  Harker's plan, whatever it was, goes quickly by the wayside, as he is bitten by one of Dracula's vampiric mistresses.  Unfortunately for Dracula, Harker wasn't working alone, and as Dracula tracks down Harker's wife, so he too is being tracked by Van Helsing...

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly:  This is a classic Hammer Studios horror flick, starring Christopher Lee as Dracula, and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing.  If you've seen the Bram Stoker version of the Dracula movies, you know that Harker's wife Mina is Dracula's main target, though her friend Lucy is one of his first victims, and that Van Helsing opposes him throughout the movie.  As I understand it, Hammer studios had to improvise the plot, but all the major characters show up, and it's a fun watch.  For you kids, the special effects are old school, because there wasn't such a thing as CGI graphics back in 1958.  No nudity, lots of blood and corpses, hellaciously good atmosphere.  Watch for Christopher Lee's Dracula, if nothing else.  Certainly rewatchable, as people have been watching and re-watching it since 1958, though I myself didn't actually become aware of the Hammer horror flicks until the late 70's.  Christopher Lee was actually my first experience with the Dracula legend, because I didn't have access to the Bram Stoker novel, or the black and white Dracula movies from the 1930's in my youth.  For me, Dracula will always have the scary face of Christopher Lee.  :-)

Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966) is Hammer's second movie in the Dracula series of movies, and the official sequel to the 1958 film.  I'm sure I'm not giving away any spoilers (the original movie is almost 60 years old by now) by telling you that Van Helsing successfully dispatched Dracula (with the help of some sunlight) at the end of the 1958 movie.  One of the coolest features of the Hammer films is that Dracula is damn near unkillable, and always seems to find some way to rise from the grave at the beginning of each new movie.  In this movie, 4 European travelers find their way into Dracula's castle, are greeted by a helpful servant, and given dinner and shelter for the night.  During the night, one of the Travelers goes missing, his blood drained by Count Dracula's faithful servant to aid in the revival of his undead master...

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly:  Peter Cushing doesn't show up as Van Helsing for this movie, and Christopher Lee almost didn't, either.  Mr. Lee was afraid of being typecast as Dracula, and it took him 8 years to return to the role.  Mr. Lee also had no dialog in this movie, not because it wasn't in the script, but because he just didn't like the lines he was given.  Andrew Keir appears as Father Sandor, an Abbott from a nearby monastery, who does the work of informing the travelers of Dracula's history and finds a means of again dispatching him into temporary incorporeality, at least until the start of the next movie.  Renfield also makes an appearance, renamed "Ludwig" in this movie, but it's obvious who he's supposed to be.  Barbara Shelley (Hammer Studio's favorite "scream queen") appears as Helen, one of the wives of the travelers.  The lack of Peter Cushing as a foil for Dracula is conspicuous, but Andrew Keir's Father Sandor does an admirable job of filling in, at least until the next movie, when Dracula rises again.

Both of these Hammer horror Dracula films played on Monday night on TCM, along with the entire Dracula Hammer horror film series..  I DVR'd them, and if I can't find anything else to watch, I'm going to review the rest of them all week, one film per night, until Halloween weekend comes around.  Christopher Lee is TCM's featured actor this month, and though their featured movie monster is actually Frankenstein (the Frankenstein movies played last week, and I'm not as fond of them as I am of the Dracula movies), the Dracula movies are much better, in my opinion.  I'm sure an avid horror movie fan has either already seen these movies, or would have little trouble tracking down a way to view them.  TCM may even play them again, before the end of the month, who knows?

In other news, it's late, and the sugar rush from my pre-Halloween candy binge is wearing off.  Talk to you guys tomorrow night.  :-)