Thursday, August 6, 2020

Oh, Mickey, You're so Fine

Film: Bloody Pit of Horror (Il Boia Scarlatto)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

I’ve watched a lot of movies for this site. I’ve seen some things I can’t unsee, I’ve been introduced to movies I have loved that I would never have watched, and I have seen some terrible cinema. That said, it’s been a long time since I have seen a movie as powerfully stupid as Bloody Pit of Horror (or Il Boia Scarlatto, if you prefer the Italian). This movie is kind of an Italian version of a “roughie”; it exists so that Mickey Hargitay can perform weird tortures on scantily clad women.

Bloody Pit of Horror has the thinnest veneer of a plot to string it together. A writer named Rick (Walter Brandi), his publisher Daniel (Alfredo Rizzo), his secretary Edith (Luisa Baratto), and a number of other people are driving through the countryside looking for a place to take pictures to serve as the covers for Rick’s horror novels. They come across a castle that appears to be uninhabited, so they break in to take pictures of scantily clad women being harassed by ghouls and skeletons.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Barber vs. Barber

Film: Marriage Story
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on the new internet machine.

I’m not going to pull any punches at the start of this review so that you’re not left in any suspense. If you’ve seen Kramer vs. Kramer, there’s not a lot of new territory for you when it comes to Marriage Story. At one point in the movie, a divorce lawyer says something along the lines of criminal lawyers see bad people at their best and divorce lawyers see good people at their worst. This is a movie about a divorce, so the audience gets to fill in for the role of the divorce lawyers in this case. Worse, I’m not so sure that these are good people.

So yes, this is a story of divorce. It’s worth noting that one of the last times Noah Baumbach (who wrote and directed this) delved into the topic of divorce, the movie we got was the absolutely gutting The Squid and the Whale. It’s more of the same this time, only this time, there’s only one child, he’s younger, and the story is going to move between New York and L.A. At its heart, though, this is a story about two people doing everything they can to hurt each other emotionally and mentally. It’s unappealing at best. There’s a reason I’ve waited this long to watch it, and there’s a reason I saved one movie from last year’s Oscars to watch after this, so I didn’t end my 2019 Oscar watching on something that made me want to pull out my own spine.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Because "Train Car of Horrors" Wouldn't Sell

Film: Dr. Terror’s House of Horror
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

Anthology movies seem to be horror movies almost by default. I think that’s because you can tell a quick horror story and get people to care at least a little bit about the characters quickly. There’s a natural empathy for people put in danger, and that’s what horror is all about. Still, I prefer movies that have one main story rather than watching anthologies. Anthology films always seem to offer short shrift on the good stories and have too many stories that aren’t that interesting clogging things up. Even one that has a lot of heft behind it, like the awesomely-named Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors doesn’t have the heft it should based on the cast.

Our framing story takes place on a train. Half a dozen men end up sitting in the same train car. It turns out that one of these men is Dr. Schreck (Peter Cushing), which he tells the other men means “terror” in German. Dr. Schreck has a tarot deck with him that he claims will tell the future of each of the other five men, should they wish it. If you guessed that we’re going to get five stories, each one being the future of one of these men, well, you’ve seen the set up to an anthology film before.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Nic Cage Has Always Been Nic Cage

Film: Vampire’s Kiss
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on basement television.

There is an entire online cottage industry of meme makers creating memes of Nicolas Cage in his various weird roles. Several of these—the crazy eyes Nic Cage, the Nic Cage with a cigarette and pointing—come from Vampire’s Kiss, a bizarre late-80s kind of horror movie/drug trip. Based on his career, Cage clearly has the ability to be engaging in a role and fantastic on camera. Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation attest to that at the very least. But anyone who thinks his slide into the more sewer-y and bizarre end of the Hollywood kiddie pool is something new has never seen Vampire’s Kiss.

Seriosly, Cage had been unhinged multiple times in movie roles in the past, but I don’t know that he’s ever been quite as unhinged as he is in this. I honestly don’t know if Vampire’s Kiss was conceived of as a comedy, but it certainly became one based on the way that Cage acts in many a scene.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Imagine the Bachelor Party

Film: Bride of Re-Animator
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

When someone is cast perfectly, it’s a thing of beauty. You know what I mean; you can’t think of anyone else in the role, like Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson. There are few castings more appropriate than Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West. I tend to like Jeffrey Combs in whatever he’s in, but he has never been as perfect for a role as he is for Lovecraft’s obsessive doctor who is desperate to dive deeply into the world of Dr. Victor Frankenstein. He was perfect in the role in Re-Animator, and he hasn’t lost a step for the sequel, Bride of Re-Animator.

We pick up eight months after the end of the first film. Dr. Herbert West (Combs) and his roommate/assistant/partner Dr. Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) have fled Miskatonic University for the revolutionary battlefields of Peru, where they are working as medics. Why? Because the battlefield allows them plenty of raw material for West’s experiments regarding the source of life. What we learned in the first film is that West’s glowing green reagent works…kind of. It does reanimate dead tissue, but doesn’t really reanimate it correctly. Despite the problems caused by the war, West has discovered that a local iguana might be the secret to improving his reagent. As their camp falls to the enemy, Herbert and Dan flee, returning to Miskatonic to work in the hospital and continue their work. How do they get their jobs back? Don’t worry about it.