Friday, January 25, 2013

Dead Cert (2010): Jay's Move of the Week #4

First off, this is not the posh 1974 DEAD CERT, a Tony Richardson adaptation of a Dick Francis mystery staring Dame Judi Dench. Nope. This is a more a chav,“Guy Ritchie's FROM DUSK TILL DAWN,” a shot-on-video mash-up of Boxers, British Gangsters, and a competing gang who happen to be Vampires. They just happen to be Cockney instead of sparkly.

Freddy Frankham is a nice, wholesome London Gangster trying to start a family with his girlfriend while managing her boxer brother. Opening a small Gentlemen's Club in an old warehouse, he's a bad man making good and no one understands him like his woman. During the rather sad opening night, Dante Livienko shows up with his sociopathic crew. They aren't messing around (except for with the dancers), as they want to take over the bar, the local drug trade, and are vampires, to boot. Settling things over boxing doesn't do it, so will a fully-fanged defense of the club do it when the good guys come to take it back?

There really is nothing more to this than half a London Gangster movie mated with the FROM DUSK movies. Smushed together, they actually cancel out each-others crackle. Know the old adage “when you show a gun in the first act, it has to go off in the third?” Well, they do that here early on in a manner that should become thuddingly obvious to, if not the attentive viewer, at least me. It makes the build to the climax more of a “oh, hurry up already” than a “well, isn't that clever” when you know from the git-go what'll stop the Vamps.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Decoys (2004): Jay's Movie of the Week #3

I always feel that the sublime pleasures of a good "bad" movie should not be discounted. The creativity and energy that comes from those making the film enjoying their work will always supersede a silly concept or low budget. That feeling comes through in the college-set horror flick Decoys, which makes no bones about being a silly goof aimed at a discerning audience of the undiscerning. I mean, it's a movie about hot sorority chicks who're actually space aliens with tentacles who really, really want to have sex with college guys. The fact that they freeze them to death while doing it is almost immaterial. Conveniently, these girls also really like the cold, so for winter in Canada there's an awful lot of exposed navels.

Sexually aggressive blondes (of the kind that only exist in movies), Lily and Constance-of-the-oral-fixation come on to virgins Luke and Roger like a house afire. We waste no time in getting Luke stuck in the closet of the girls' dorm room where he can find out they hose each other's nude nubiles down with Liquid Nitrogen to keep their inner man-eating space-octopussies cool. Will he be trying to convince the world of an alien invasion a la Invaders From Mars or, being both uneducated and distracted by the implied lesbianism, will he get a little distracted. If you guessed the latter, you'd be spot-on. Luke also does a lovely Matthew Lillard impression the entire movie and also has an eight-pack and what looks like 1% body fat. Buying him as a virgin is, frankly, a bit of a stretch.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Jay's Movie of the Week #2: The Tell-Tale Heart (1960) and The Oval Portrait (1972)

Second week of 2013 means it's time for a double-feature that's only a half-stinker...

This double-feature of The Tell-Tale Heart (1960) and The Oval Portrait (1972, aka One Minute Before Death) is a no-frills DVD with two truly awful prints, constantly damaged with holes and scratches, and some liner notes by Tim Lucas that actually elevate this package to "worth considering." One of these movies is worth a watch, the other you shouldn't press play on without being in an altered state. It should be easy to guess which is which...

The Tell-Tale Heart

First off, a racy-for-1960 British adaptation of the far-too-often-filmed old chestnut, The Tell-Tale Heart, which turns the story about guilt into a turgid little love triangle with the coke-snorting Edgar in love with Betty, who prefers his buddy Carl. These are some of the most blandly-named characters in history. No offense to you, dear reader, if your name is one of those... or you're in a love triangle with two of those. If you are, I definitely hope for your sake that it's spicier than the one in this movie.)

What is spicy here is Edgar's collection of naughty prints that he comes home and looks at after striking out at the local pub. He's also a peeper, hanging out and watching Betty (Adrienne Corri) in the window across the way, brushing her hair in her underthings. Boy's got some issues. He's a bit of a perv, though, in his defense, she's got some ridiculously complicated foundation garments for a flower shop gal. They take a crack at dating but he's just too awkward. He also makes the mistake of introducing her to his cock-blocking buddy, Carl. He's much suaver than Edgar, so you really can't blame her... though Edgar's so obviously so off-kilter you figure she'd be a little more wary of setting him off. Also, the fact that he all but shoves her into Carl's arms doesn't help, either, and Edgar's very presence becomes torturous. However, Carl does steal his buddy's girl, so for that he has to die.

Of course, this racy first half is followed by a bit of a turgid slog through the second as guilt overtakes Edgar and he hears "the beating of his hideous heart," which we even get to see at one point. All in all, it's all tame and tortured, but this isn't bad for a night in if you want to watch something explicitly old-fashioned. Just do it more for the simple pleasure than the hipster irony of that act.

The Oval Portrait (One Minute Before Death) is a seriously overripe, pot-boiling pile of piffle and nonsense. It feels like an Andy Milligan movie filled with bad period costumes and degraded, damaged film stock. Two ornately dressed, dubbed actresses are dropped off at a country manse in the middle of a storm and then it's 20 minutes before anything happen that even remotely resembles making sense. This is followed by a portrait, oddly enough oval, that we get to see fade into a decayed body, and then be the subject of some of the worst rack zooms in the history of making films, so we know this painting must be important... and this movie must be crap.

Lisa, the middle-aged daughter and her elderly mother rattle around a Civil War era mansion belonging to Lisa's brother. He's evidently died, but relationships and reasons make little sense in this flick. Lisa immediately runs into an odd man trying to work out relationship issues with a wig in a chair that's standing in for the ghost we saw earlier. He was obsessed with Rebecca, the former lady of the house. (Evidently, this must be Manderlay.) Lisa winds up possessed by the good lady ghost while characters who make no sense come and go, including her!

Silly effects, a sillier story, performances that are not so much overcooked as parboiled and poached, and some truly annoying editing make The Oval Portrait a downright pain in the ass to watch.

Originally reviewed for Exploitation Retrospect.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Jay's Movie of the Week #1: Thunderbirds are GO

So I wrote this last week but somehow dragged my feet on my own Editorial Calendar. This lead to a tardy 1st review for 2013. However, as you shouldn't necessarily be climbing over one another to press play on this one (you'll want to get loaded first), I think we can forgive a day or two of delay...

Reading about the death of Gerry Anderson, the king of his own mini-genre of British Sci-Fi Marionette movies, I realized I actually knew little of his work. While generations have grown up on his adventures, my American childhood was only vaguely aware of them. I'd seen a little Space: 1999 (I still have one of the storybook albums) and had only seen the puppets in passing. So, fire up the Netflix, because it's time for Thunderbirds are GO.

From the opening credits' pop-art slashes of color to the announcement of Supermarionation, Technicolor, and Techniscope, you know you're in for a Sixties treat. Everything here is a model custom-constructed and then shot to fill a vast cinema screen. The Thunderbird future is future-retro, all super-vehicles and tecnho-gadgetry.

Opening with the launch of the Zero-X , a space vehicle so massive its hangar retracts from it rather than have it roll out to the tarmac/ The behemoth's wings are then added by a giant robot arm. While dazed by the oddly ponderous energy and creativity shown here, you're not too surprised when this aerodynamic impossibility has a failed first mission. Surprisingly, instead of basic mechanics, it takes inadvertent sabotage to take it down. After investigating, the Space Exploration Center call in International Rescue, who seem to be colloquially known as The Thunderbirds.