Friday, January 15, 2010

Feck! It's a month since I last blogged. I will do better this year. Promise. Just to start the ball rolling I'm going to clear the decks of...

Roll of drums please...

All The movies I watched in December! Yaaaaay!

Oh come, on it's not that bad.


  1. Sunshine -

  2. The Time Machine (2002) - I didn't mind too much that they had moved the location to New York, I didn't mind too much that our hero was given a love interest (who dies early on in the film thus giving him the Hollywood motivation to invent the Time Machine to go back and rescue her). I didn't mind too much that the innocent, aimless, childlike and docile Eloi are here depicted as an aware and innovative bunch of bronzed, muscled, tattooed hunter-gatherers (though the fact that some of them spoke flawless American English after 80,000 years did make me snort peanuts), I don't even mind that the Morlocks suddenly had a complex, hivelike social structure (grafted on from Wells' The First Men in the Moon) but what I do mind. What I really do mind is the hero jamming a watch into the rapidly spinning components of his time machine, jumping off, out-running a whole bunch of specially bred killer orcs - sorry, 'morlocks' - and then being pulled to safety (just in time!) to avoid the unamed, unexplained, and unexpected deux ex machina temporal explosion light show special effects bonanza he just created which wipes out all signs of badness without touching any of the good guys. "Dunno how to end the movie, guys! So why don't we just throw a shitload of SFX at the screen and get out while everyone is still going 'Oooooh! shiney!'?" "Sounds good to me, it usually works." The author went on to write Star Trek 10 and no-one was surprised.

  1. Feast of Flesh (1965) - The wonderful thing about crap cinema is that it knows no boundaries. Bad cinema,like great music, is truly international. So, made in Argentina in 1965 Feast of Flesh (aka Placer sangriento, and The Deadly Organ) is a weirdly dreamlike tale (I think there was a story) about a homicidal killer dressed in a pac-a-mac, rubber mask and gloves, and wearing a Beatle wig, lurking around a beach hotel, injecting nubile young bikini-clad women with heroin, hypnotising them with weird music (handily available on 45rpm 7" single), and fondling their boobies before killing them. An awful lot of boobies in this film. A lot of nipples too. They do things differently down South America way. Not that I'm complaining. Two inept policemen try to uncover the mystery assassin but when they're on screen it's all very dull - they are very stupid; it takes them two days to think of asking two eye-witnesses what make and colour the killer's car was. "Silver Porche? Hmmmm - make a note of that, sergeant."

    I'm not really a Lesbian you know, I'm a red herring...

    When our masked weirdo and the crumpet is on screen its much more interesting, and very odd. Very odd indeed. Half the time it's a very bad Beach Party type movie with a sketchily drawn predatory lesbian and a couple of gay boys, other times it's hand held arty weirdness with POV shots swapping bodies, long takes in which nothing happens, jump cuts and all very dark, 'One Big Light' lighting. If David Lynch had directed Beach Blanket Bingo with John Alton lighting it (in a hurry), it would have looked like this.

  2. Salvage (1979) - They don't make 'em like this any more - more's the pity. Salvage is a TV movie, it's cheap, it's silly, and it's fun. The story: a rich bored scrap dealer builds a spaceship in his junk yard and salvages all the stuff left behind by one of the Apollo missions. After a couple of almost crises, the gallant crew of two return to a heroes' welcome. That's about all that happens but watching it I was reminded that America used to have (or at least used to sell itself as having) this whole attitude of 'get up and go', 'let's put on the show right here in the barn!', 'we can do it - all we need is a bit of gumption and some Good Old American know how'. What happened to that? I liked it (though I knew it was all bollocks). It was aspirational, it held out the promise of better things. These days everything American seems so self-centred and whiny. Salvage is total nonsense of course - navigating in space using a sextant!? - but jolly nonsense. I enjoyed it. It reminded me more than anything of the sort of short story Robert Heinlein used to write back in the 1940s even before one of the characters name-checked 'Destination Moon!' in the dialogue.

  3. Count Dracula's Great Love (1975)- (aka El gran amor del conde DrĂ¡cula, Cemetery Girls, Cemetery Tramps, Count Dracula's Greatest Love, Dracula's Great Love, Dracula's Virgin Lovers, I diabolici amori di nosferatu, Le grand amour du comte Dracula, The Great Love of Count Dracula, and in Finland: Draculan suuri rakkaus. So know you know.) By 1975 Spanish film-makers had discovered what Italian film-maker had always known. Filling the screen with boobs makes money. Unfortunately they hadn't solved the 'how to make them fit into a coherent story' problem. The story they did come up with here involved the hoary cliche of the coach-full of nubile young women (in different coloured dresses so we can tell them apart) breaking down just outside Dracula's castle and having to spend the night... nail on some guff about reincarnation, the love of a virgin needed to restore Dracula's daughter to life and lots and lots and lots of walking about just to fill up the running time - and that's about it. Oh, one thing makes it stand out. This is possibly the only vampire movie in which Dracula commits suicide by deliberately driving the stake through his own heart - though, it must be said, there was no one else to do it. By the time we got to the final reel everyone in the cast, apart from our no longer virgin heroine, was a vampire. As is usual in this sort of film most of the cast were out acted by their own breasts. Mucho bueno los knockas, si!

  1. Critters (1986) - It took it's time setting things up and, though it was cheesy and the SFX clunky, the acting and script were well above the level I was expecting. Above average 80s popcorn trash.

  1. Journey to Middle Earth ( 2008 ) - Holy mother of crap! What a piece of shit! Okay, here's the premise - and please remember while you are reading this, that this is supposed to be based on a book by Jules Verne. The US military/industrial combine is about to do its first test run of a matter transmitter. They have a base in the US and one in Stuttgart (which is, as far as I recall, in Germany). So, wanting to test out this ground-breaking new piece of ultratech, does the combined intelligence of the US military combine (played by four actors - one of whom has a lip piercing) test the device with a guinea pig? or a white mouse? or even something totally inert like a house brick? (If you answered yes to any of those you really haven't been paying attention to the level of 'logic' in the movies I watch, have you?) No. The combined intelligences send through six - not one but SIX! - fit, young, busty women wearing combat trousers, and those tight grey vests that show up sweat very well. Just in case Stuttgart (which I'm still pretty sure is in Germany) wasn't civilised enough for our Amazons they carried with them binoculars, water canteens, radio communication equipment, rucksacks full of gear, and even automatic rifles! Needless to say they don't get to Stuttgart and end up being chased around a subterranean world populated by dinosaurs and giant spiders until some of them are rescued by the chief scientist in a giant atomic-powered, laser cannon firing, earth boring machine developed in the lab next door by - wait for it - his estranged wife. And you could see how that plot line is going to end before the end of the sentence can't you? The acting in this is god awful. Almost porn movie bad. The sort of acting where you can tell people are supposed to be worried because they chew their bottom lip.

    As a graduate of the Joey Tribbiani school of acting she has deliberately not learned her next line and is trying to read her script which she placed upside down on the floor next to her before the shot began.

    A straight to ex-rental bin movie that amazingly had a 'limited' release in the US.

    Woweee! The production company responsible for this piece of poo, the bandwagon-jumping, rip-off artists: The Asylum, are making a version of Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars with Tracy Lords as Dejah Thoris! Fucking priceless! (The fact there is another, more expensive version of this, out of copyright, work in the pipeline is a mere coincidence.)

  1. Nuns on the Run - pretty terrible but after 30 minutes of Nacho Libre ( one of my few abandoned films this year) anything would be funny.

  1. Circuitry Man - having been bemused to bits by the sequel which I watched back in June, I finally got to see the first one thanks to internet buddy Kubla Kraus who loaned me his copy in return for a candy bar. (Isn't the Internet wonderful!?) I was slightly less bemused by Circuitry Man than I was hoping to be. It dragged in places, spending far too long on the beauty shots but it had some really inventive low budget tricks - including one fight sequence which took place off camera and still managed to be very funny. It was odd enough to make me want to hunt up the only other film the director has done; Mix (2004). This might prove to be a bit more of a challenge as it only seems to have been shown in Hungary and not yet released anywhere on DVD. I'll have to email the director...

  1. Car Wash - I like Car Wash. I have no idea why, it's not exactly action-packed, the characters a quickly sketched in and don't really develop much during the course of the show, in fact nothing much happens at all but it works.

  1. Curse of the Swamp Creature - Not sure how many John Agar films I've seen this year but this has to be the worst. As an added bonus it was directed by Larry Buchanan, a director so inept he elevated anything he touches into fever-dream territory. This, as far as I am concerned, and I'm sure you know, is a good thing. Curse of the Swamp Creature is one of a small group of films he made for television by reworking old American International pictures. His movies are almost delirious, people moving between tiny sets with very little, or sometimes no, rhyme or reason via the medium of long sequences of people just walking about. The films of his that I have seen also have an absurdly high people just walking about in longshot to dialogue ratio. Walk. Walk. Walk. Cross-fade to more walking. The character arrives at a house we have never seen before and walks in through the front door. We hold on the front door. And hold on the door... and hold... the character finishes whatever they were doing in the house (we often never find out) comes out... and starts to walk back the way they came...

    Agar was probably on set for a maximum of two days on this one. Most of his scenes are silent, walking about shots with only a few moments where he gets to speak. At the 'climax' of the film, the mad doctor releases his Swamp Creature from his lab. "Kill them! Kill them!" he shrieks, pointing at the sullen mob of bemused off-screen extras. (They're supposed to be a vengeful mob whipped up into a fever pitch by a Voodoo priest but they just stand there in a row looking badly-dressed and bemused.) "Kill them!" shrieks the mad doc. The swamp creature ambles off in the oposite direction and into the outdoor covered swimming pool full of alligators the doc has been using to dispose of the bodies. Agar releases the doc's wife from her cell and the two of them also amble over to the pool where the wife pleads with the Monster. The Monster writhes with inner turmoil, the doc screams with maniacal fervour, and Agar, the star of the movie, just stands there. He doesn't even move his head. Just stands there waiting to go home. This must have been a real fun shoot*. Anyway, the Monster grabs the doc, throws him to the 'gators then jumps in as well.
    The end.

    I need to see Buchanan's Mars Needs Women.

    *On reflection I think his silence was more to do with the lack of on-location sound recording. Most of the outdoor stuff in this flick seems to have been shot MOS and Agar obviously wasn't available (or affordable) to do the ADR.

  1. Creature of Destruction - More Larry Buchanan fever dream stuff, this time concerning a stage psychic, his beautiful assistant and a series of motiveless murders committed by a man in a rubber monster suit who, in the end, turns out to be some sort of manifestation of the beautiful assistant's inner bestial nature - I think. Anyway the monster just vanishes when she is shot dead so I guess that is what we are supposed to think. But after 80 minutes contending with dialogue like this it's a bit difficult to think anything:

    Capt. Dell:
    Lieutenant Blake...

    Lt. Blake:

    Capt. Dell:
    Lieutenant, I'd like to point something
    out to you. Now - I saw those bodies
    and whoever mutilated them has a very
    special problem

    Lt. Blake:
    Yes, I realise that; tell me
    something new, captain.

    Capt. Dell:
    I am a psychologist.

    Lt. Blake:
    Well, as a psychologist what is your
    opinion of this 'doctor' Basso and
    his monster theory?

    Lt. Capt. Dell:
    That anything is possible? As a
    scientist I keep an open mind.

    Yes Captain, anything is possible...
    I've worked out the Larry Buchanan shooting technique. If I work this up, I could end up with a Dogma 95-like manifesto for crappy movie makers the world over:

    • Shoot it once, without sound and loop in the dialogue in the 'studio' afterwards. Shooting without sound is cheap. If the actor fluffs his line - so what? As long as everyone else keeps going, whole scenes can be covered in two or three takes. One wide shot and then a close-up of the more reliable actor in the scene - and "Thank you! on to the next set-up, guys! Come on, let's pick up the pace here - we've only got four days to shoot this turkey!".

    • Don't record any Wild Track or Atmos - techy terms for ambient room tone - ie the sound that a room makes when there's nobody making any noise in it. I know that sounds a bit Zen but different kinds of silence are very useful in the editing process. But you don't need it. Not if the whole sound track will be laid down by actors standing around a microphone and library music will be played under every scene. Spot sound effects will be needed from time to time but there's no need to try and match the acoustic of your sound effect to the supposed acoustic of the location. In Creature of Destruction seventeen people applauding on a beach sounds exactly the same as a hundred people applauding in a busy night club.

    • Fade out or cross-fade at the end of every scene - with all the money you saved not doing synch sound you've got a few dollars in the budget for opticals. (Always a good general rule of thumb in film editing: Not sure how to get out of a scene? Fade to black.)

    • Don't squander a penny more than you have to on hiring anything for longer than you have to - I did spend a chunk of this movie wondering why the lead sometimes wore an Air Force uniform, and sometimes didn't, until I realised he only wore it indoors. By the time they got round to shooting all the outdoor, daytime, stuff it had been sent back to the hire company. (Or the guy they had blagged it from went back on duty.)

    • Another good no-budget trick of the day was to get some poor wannabe pop singer and his band to contribute one of his 'swinging numbers' and fill the screen with gyrating tits and hips for five minutes as middle-aged teenagers Watusi their way to utter obscurity... And I just spent 45 minutes editing the example of this from the movie to show you and my editing program just went and crashed. Had I saved? Had I buggery. Grrrrrrrrr. -

      No... Hang on! I just found it, sorry:

Missing CD? Contact vendor

Free CD
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in removing from cover.

Copyright (c) 2004-2007 by me, Liam Baldwin. That's real copyright, not any 'creative commons' internet hippy type thing.

(this copyright notice stolen from

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