Movie A Day!: Hell’s Creed Hungry Reunion on Wheels!

We managed to not get ourselves into a nuclear war, so I guess it’s movie time.

A real mixed bag with this one. I’ve jumped back into the Herschell Gordon Lewis Shock & Gore set, continue with the Forbidden Hollywood Volume 9 set from Warner’s of Pre-code films, got in a never ending wrestling event and went Hollywood over the weekend with a side of Vinegar Syndrome’s PeekARama series. Something for everyone? Probably not.


084 04/03 Hell’s Highway (1932) 3.5/5   Pre-Code gem starring tough guy Richard Dix as a con on a chain gang. Made to show the brutal treatment of prisoners, chain gangs were still a thing in 1932, it’s hard to watch now and not think of the private prisons still using prisoners as slave labour. I’m a sucker for prison pictures and this one was a pretty good one.


085 04/03 She-Devils on Wheels (1968) 2.5/5   Herschell Gordon Lewis does his take on a biker gang picture with this one about an all girl biker gang that’s running wild. It’s a great premise but Lewis fails to pull it off. It’s too chaste when it should be wild and sleazy, and Lewis is too incompetent to film a biker picture since you can barely hear any dialogue when the bikes are running. More of a curio than a good picture in his catalogue.


086 04/04 The Cabin in the Cotton (1932) 3/5   A not bad pre-code film starring the completely forgotten Richard Barthelmess as a worker growing up on a cotton farm (post-slavery) and torn between loyalties with the “Planters” who own the land and the “Peckerwoods” who work it. Obviously I couldn’t help snickering every time someone was referred to as a “Peckerwood”, but aside from that the only real draw in this one is it’s an early Bette Davis picture. Bette steals every scene she’s in as the owners hot to trot, privileged daughter, because of course she does. Otherwise there’s not much to note. Director Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, to name drop just one absolute classic from his filmography) does a decent job, African Americans are shockingly shown as sympathetic and not too stereotyped for the time, and lead Barthelmess has one dumb expression on his face the whole time and fails to rise to lead the picture, or stand a chance against Queen Bette. Interesting only for Bette, and seeing her take complete control over the picture.


087 04/05 When Ladies Meet (1933) 2.5/5   An overly talky play adaptation about a woman author who has fallen for her married publisher in a very modern way. Not much else happens. Second billed Robert Montgomery and third billed Myrna Loy steal the show as the author and the boy she’s refusing for the publisher. For what it’s worth, with the main problem being Alice Brady as Myrna’s best friend in the comedic role who is the kind of annoying, privileged eccentric you want to strangle. Another case of people being in better things, watch Loy in The Thin Man, and check out Montgomery’s progressive noirs Lady in the Lake (filmed in first person POV!) and Ride The Pink Horse, which he also directed.


088 04/06 Just For The Hell Of It (1968) 2/5   HGL really starts scraping the barrel with this one. Some youth gang is wandering around breaking stuff and basically just being a bunch of assholes for no reason. It’s an attempt at creating a new genre (so claims HGL), but is so completely pointless and inept that it does not work at all. Only good thing was the theme song (written by Lewis) and an extended band performance near the front that is pure filler, but pretty good filler.


089 04/07 Creed (2015) 4/5   I think the last thing any Rocky fan thought they’d see is another Rocky movie. Switching things up and focusing on Apollo Creed’s son is a stroke of genius, and the film really works well as both a character study and a boxing picture. There’s not much to say, it hit’s all the standard plot points of a Rocky picture, it’s just done really well with a touch of class. The boxing scenes are exceptional and allowed to stretch with more artistic touches that works surprisingly well considering how gritty and realistic the rest of the picture is. Worth checking out, especially if you’re a Rocky fan.

Sherlick Holmes / Reunion [DVD]
090 04/07 Sherlick Holmes (1975) 2/5   Harry Reems stars as the title character who creates a time machine that transports Watson and himself to 1970s Times Square where they have to fuck their way back to Victorian England. Nothing too redeeming about this one which is most likely a weekend wonder with the highlights being how poorly made it is. There’s something charming about releasing a film where you can hear the producers feeding the actors lines, but that charm only goes so far. It’s more interesting than good.


091 04/08 Wrestlemania 33 (2017) 2.5/5   I stopped watching WWE last year when it became apparent that Vince McMahon was going to buy his wife a position in the Trump administration. That and the product is so bloated that the amazing performers are largely wasted. This Wrestlemania confirmed my decision. I found pretty near the whole thing dull as dishwater (so dull I nearly forgot to include it on this list). The highlight was the return of the Hardys and the only reason I watched it was to see Undertaker in what may be his last match. I would’ve preferred a better opponent than Roman Reigns, but it was a serviceable last match. I won’t be following it after this. Lucha Underground is a ton more fun without the 7 hour a week time commitment.


092 04/08 The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part 2 (2015) 3/5   I found this one to be the weakest of them all. Main problem is it felt padded to hit a two hour running time. There’s nothing wrong with it, it just plods along which weakens the later moments that are supposed to hit harder. On a whole, I’d give the series a 4 out of 5.

093 04/08 Reunion (1976) 2.5/5   This one see’s some high school classmates being invited to a island estate for a reunion that takes a darker turn. If this one committed more to the dark turn instead of the sex it would of really elevated this one to being something special. As it is, it’s pretty typical low budget porn for the era.

It feels like I’m never going to finish that Shock & Gore set. I’m averaging a disc a week. they’re so packed with special features, and I watch them late at night before bed, I’m going to be glad to finish it and move onto other things. Don’t get me wrong, they’re fun as hell even if they aren’t very good. It might be too much of a good thing. Aside from that, a pretty big week! It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten in 10 films in one week.

Until next time.

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Movie A Day! 121-125: Lightnin’ Vermeer Burns

It’s late and I need to go to bed. So not much of an intro this post. It’s a Thursday night, the wind is trying to bring in the rain. Saturday is Record Store Day, a typical day of panic for me but this year I’m not feeling it. I’ll probably go, but I’m not sure I’m going to line up before the store opens in an obsessed fever. I’ll see how I feel on the day.

Another weird mix, but I feel a documentary film jag coming on, so that should balance the odd porno review that typically sully the blog and keeps readers away.


121 04-12 The 2015 MTV Movie Awards (2015) 3/5
A bunch of people I never heard of from movies I haven’t seen won some awards I don’t care about. It was hosted by Amy Schumer, and she’s the best and as good a reason to watch anything.


122 04-15 Powder Burns (1971) 2/5
Vinegar Syndrome dug deep on their latest Peekarma release of Alex deRenzy films. This one, billed as a “Meta-Western”, was so rare I think it was once disputed to exist at all. Anyway, I believe this one is future porn auteur deRenzy’s first attempt at a narrative film after concentrating on documentaries and loops. It’s a total mess. It want’s to be a wonky Russ Meyer romp, but it never get’s going with the amateur acting and what not. Plus it does go hardcore right at the end, so it was never going to play like a Russ Meyers film. Which is too bad, because despite the heavy print damage, the thing is actually made really good. Some of the shots of the cowboys out on their horses look really good and the idea isn’t a bad one, it just never quite works despite how much you might wish it did.


123 04-15 Tim’s Vermeer (2013) 4/5
Such a simple premise for a documentary. Johannes Vermeer was one of the Dutch Masters and known for painting photo realistic paintings. Penn & Teller’s inventor friend Tim is interested in figuring out how he did it. To say Tim is mildly obsessed is being polite, but he’s just the right amount of bonkers to be pleasant to watch on his journey to see if he can replicate the techniques, with no background in oil painting. It makes for a great documentary that reminded me of the smaller pictures that Errol Morris made focusing on individuals. The biggest surprise is that there are no tricks, with Penn & Teller attached, it’s directed by Teller, I kept expecting an Orson Welle’s type hoax to pop up and thankfully it never does. Good stuff, and worth your time.


124 04-16 The Blues Accordin’ To Lightnin’ Hopkins (1969) 4/5
125 04-16 The Suns Going to Shine (1969) 3.5
This is a pair of documentary short films by Les Blank featuring blues legend Lightnin’ Hopkins. They’re quite brilliant. The first is the main film, and mostly captures Hopkins in his hometown in Texas playing the blues and capturing the community around him. It’s spellbinding. There’s a long sequence where Hopkins “explains the blues” via a song he’s making up on the spot. You wish the movie was three hours long, the less than 40 minute running time isn’t long enough. THE SUNS GOING TO SHINE is a second film made at the same time (probably an outtake), detailing the story of Hopkins leaving home at the age of eight to escape the cotton fields to become a musician. This is part of the Criterion Collection’s LES BLANK: ALWAYS FOR PLEASURE, so there are actually a couple more little shorts included on Hopkins, and it’s STILL NOT ENOUGH! (Also, watch the movie LOUIE BLUIE while you’re at it.)

One of the weird things that struck me watching Lightnin’ Hopkins tonight is the realization that the form of country blues he played is pretty much a dead form now. Anyone playing like that now would probably be labeled a poseur, and as far as a Black cultural thing, Hip Hop has taken it’s place as a form of speaking of the current Black experience. What Chuck D called “The News” for Black America. It makes one appreciate films like this even more. It’s truly a record of what is now lost. I’m sure there are people paying tribute to this music, but that seems different than creating it. Watching Hopkins play, the music flows out of him, the art being as effortless as breathing. A sign of the time and the years he put into it’s craft, art isn’t effortless to anyone if they care about it. Not a tribute of what others did, but the only music he is capable of creating. It’s a blessing that Blank was able to capture a piece of it. Hopkins didn’t want to do the film, Blank won him over finally over a card game. Hopkins made up a song about beating Blank at cards as a joke. Natural brilliance that can’t be helped.

Off to bed.

Movie A Day! 086-090 : Don’t

A blurb on the news just now showed a 30 year old cat. 30 years old. It was a cat, not a puddle of cat fur, but a live cat. I thought my old cat Dickie did good getting to 18-19. 30? I can’t get my head around it. Wouldn’t that be like living to 200? Who wants to live that long? I’m going to have nightmares.


086 03-08 Broken Oath (1977) 3.5/5
It’s international women’s day, so what better film to watch than one starring Angela Mao kicking the shit out of a bunch of guys? This one starts off pretty grim, with a woman having her husband killed, then sent to prison for his murder after she takes the eye out of one of the murderers while he tries to rape her. She ends up giving birth to a baby daughter while in jail, and that daughter grows up to vengeance obsessed Mao who learns martial arts and befriends scorpions as pets to poison those who get in her way. It’s a gonzo kung-fu flick, but a good one. My only complaint is they seem to lessen Mao’s role as it gets later in the picture when they don’t need to, she’s awesome.


087 03-09 Strangers May Kiss (1931) 3/5
Another Pre-Code classic, this one stars Norma Shearer as a forward thinking woman of the jazz age looking for love. It’s a melodrama, and soapy as hell, but delicious all the same. Not much else to say since plot wise, it’s pretty typical; woman throws away everything for a swaggering playboy, suffers for it. Shearer does a great job in the lead, showing both strength and vulnerability as the woman who can’t seem to get a break. It’s worth checking out if you like these kind of things.


088 03-12 Hi, Nellie! (1934) 4/5
This one is the third film in the latest pre-code set from Warner Archive, but it’s not much of a pre-code film. That said, it’s a hell of a newsroom type detective story. Paul Muni plays the managing editor of a newspaper who get’s busted down to writing the Heartthrob column (writing under the pseudonym “Nellie”) after miss-calling a story in which it appeared that a bank founder ran off with $500,000. It’s part daffy comedy, part investigative detective story, and one hell of a whirlwind. Paul Muni was one of the greatest actors to grace the screen, and there is nothing old fashioned about his performance here. Muni is easily ground zero for the type of performance that would be carried on by Marlon Brando, James Dean, Robert De Niro, and others. Really great stuff, this one gets a solid recommend.

Creature from the Black Lagoon
089 03-13 The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) 4/5
Monster movies were out by the fifties, replaced by Sci-fi terror for the atomic age. Giant bugs, alien invaders, and the king of them all Godzilla would debut the year that Creature came out. The Creature was the last of the Universal Monsters, the last iconic character to get it’s own series of films. Archaeologists find a weird fossil of a claw sticking out of a rock, and go in search of the skeleton. This leads them to the black lagoon off the amazon, and they discover that the creature behind that claw is actually kicking around. For a rubber suit, the Creature is amazing! Tons of under water action, and the actor/stuntman playing the creature do a great job giving him character. Lots of great set pieces, goofy scientific explanations, and a pair of leads trying to outdo each other, one pulling an odd Chuck Heston vibe, the other a ruthless not quite Kirk Douglas. Well worth watching, just like all the other monster movies from Universal.

 
090 03-14 Don’t Go In The Woods… Alone (1981) 3/5
This one won’t be for everyone, or possibly anyone reading this blog. A super cheap slasher about a group of kids getting killed by a maniac in the woods. That’s the whole plot too, 4 youg people, wandering around in the woods, getting attacked. Other people, also wandering around in the woods, get attacked as well. There’s no character development, mystery, nothing, just people getting killed. The kill scenes are more ambitious than they could handle, so they throw fake blood all over the place to compensate. Hence this one became an official “Video Nasty” back in the 80’s, despite being pretty terrible. That said, if you’re a fan of the genre, this one is so completely shit that it manages to be oddly dreamlike and “good” to watch. It’s not good, it’s not so bad it’s good, it’s mostly just bad. Bad on all levels, from acting, to the effects, to pacing, to flare from the film being loaded into the camera wrong. So I don’t know why I “liked” it. The Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray is as good as this film is likely to ever look.

Some good movies in this batch. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Creature at this point. It always entertains. Beautifully filmed. I finished Patton Oswalt’s new book, SILVER SCREEN FIEND a couple days ago. It’s a memoir detailing a 4-5 year period where he was hooked, bad, going to the movies. Racking up my kind of numbers. It’s a cautionary tale. I wanted to check off the films he lists in the back. I’m in deep, the movies will be the death of me.