King Kong (1933)

directed by merian c. cooper & ernest B. Schoedsack
an rko radio picture

I don’t think I’d ever considered this a “horror film” before, but viewing it now, I suppose I can’t think of a more apt genre to which one might consign it. And since the first time I saw it was at a grand old Theater near the house in which I grew up, on the BIG screen, it would have been impossible for me to note the parallels to, say, Jurassic Park, which was around 15 years in the future, or to be reminded of Aguirre: The Wrath of God, because I wouldn’t have seen that for at least a good 20 years. Sure, the big monkey isn’t terribly convincing nowadays, through jaded modern eyes, but it doesn’t strike me as much worse than most CGI, although reminding me of Rankin/Bass productions isn’t necessarily a positive. Given when it was made, it’s pretty astounding, if unintentionally funny at times. It also had me musing about pre-Hays Code Hollywood, for whatever that’s worth – so if nothing else, it was certainly thought-provoking.

why did i watch this movie?

This baby is no. 5 in Johnny Ramone‘s top 10.

should you watch this movie?

I haven’t seen the 2005 version helmed by Peter Jackson, but of course I’ve seen the 1976 Dino De Laurentiis extravaganza … and I avidly saw last year’s largely unnecessary Kong: Skull Island, which I did not until this moment realize was a “reboot.” Uh … how many have YOU seen.

highlight and low point

Carl Denham’s identification of the Stegosaurus the crew encounters on Skull Mountain’s island: “Something from the dinosaur family.” As the crowd awaits the unveiling of Denham’s spectacle, a remark: “Better be worth it after all the ballyhoo.”

(Two tickets cost TWENTY dollars – almost $400 now.) The big ape dies, you know, which isn’t too cool.

rating from outer space: B

The Wolf Man (1941)

directed by George waggner
universal pictures company inc.

Not only is this movie not frightening in the least, this reviewer has no idea how or why it has been lauded through the decades as even a competent endeavor, much less an estimable one. Did I say “not frightening”? It’s completely ridiculous, helped in no way by the laughable attempt at dramatics presented by Lon Chaney, Jr. Let me emphasize the generational suffix; this is not the lauded “Man of a Thousand Faces,” it’s his son, who benefits from this picture’s dime-store makeup disguising his general inability to act naturally. Also not helping: the entire film is very obviously shot on the studio lot. Additionally, it’s dismaying to be treated to no shots of Larry Talbot’s transformations. (Those scenes take place in the various sequels.) A “B” picture through and through, presented such that even the underlying existential crisis isn’t at all provocative.

why did i watch this movie?

The Wolf Man is number eight in Johnny Ramone’s top 10.

should you watch this movie?

When we were small children, my older brother and I played with this ancient “Monster” Old Maid set

Milton Bradley, 1964

and I always gravitated toward the Wolf Man card.

(This one)

(Not this one)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you feel similar nostalgic twinges, I wonder. Maybe you’re a budding film historian. Or a Ramones fan.

highlight and low point

The sets are admittedly impressive. Indeed, it’s hard for me to conceive of how much work and preparation went into this two-month shoot, especially when the script itself is so slipshod. For a running time of barely an hour and 10 minutes, certain lines of dialogue are repeated an astonishing number of times. Endearing touches include some of the el cheapo effects and sly, sardonic details bordering on the self-referential, such as this one:

(click to enlarge)

rating from outer space: D+

Spasms aka Death Bite (1983)

DIRECTED BY WILLIAM FRUET
CINEQUITY CORPORATION/CANADIAN FILM DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
serpent’s theme composed & performed by tangerine dream

For those unfamiliar with the Oliver Reed performance model, particularly in a lurid monster-shouter such as this, picture a brawny, English roughneck version of Wm. Shatner … who happens to be out of his goddamn mind. Reed brings such an intense and palpably amok sense of hyperreality to affairs of the silver screen that I daresay it can buoy even the flimsiest of vessels. (I understand some folks feel much the same about Nicolas Cage.) So pairing that factor with this story about a giant friggin’ serpent that may be a servant of Hell sounds truly special. Unfortunately, this mediocre B-movie can’t deliver on that promise, mainly because as ludicrous as things get, the production team never really casts off the ropes. They also rush through the falling action here, shrugging aside some fanciful notions, haphazardly tossing in unexplained phenomena, and entirely dispensing with an actual conclusion. The supposedly monstrous serpent is good for a laugh when finally shown in its full … glory.

WHY DID I WATCH THIS MOVIE?

I would have watched it regardless, given its astounding nomenclature, but with O. Reed heading the cast there was no question.

SHOUlD YOU WATCH THIS MOVIE?

If you wish to see killings happening, in B&W, through the vision of a man with a telepathic link to a giant snake (instead of, say, that of Laura Mars), sure. As noted, however, this film does not live up to its potential. The credit “Based on the novel by Michael Maryk & Brent Monahan” certainly must lend one some hope, though. 

HIGHLIGHT AND LOW POINT

(To the police chief) “I woulda thought you’d seen everything by now.”

(The chief) “Hm. Monsters from Hell is something new.”

RATING FROM OUTER SPACE: C−

The Boogens (1981)

directed by james l. conway
taft international pictures

Boy howdy, what a terrible name for a movie. That didn’t prevent me from enjoying, say, The Babadook, however, so I took the plunge and watched this classic ’80s silliness. You know the drill: two young couples, some questionable activity (in this case, reopening an old silver mine), funny dog, mysterious character creeping around, forgotten lore that possibly holds key information, and so forth. Oh, and – of course – a ridiculous creature. And lemmy tell ya, you’d have to walk a good mile to find a more ridiculous creature than the poorly named ridiculous creature that gives this movie its lousy title. (At one point, I believe I discerned that part of the creature was a vacuum cleaner hose.) One interesting thing about this flick, though, is that all of the thespians are fully invested, providing much better acting than the script probably warranted. Lightweight and enjoyable fare from early in the Reagan Era.

why did i watch this movie?

The cast list is headed by Rebecca Balding, who of course played “Carol David” on Soap, and since I watched that other movie she was in, I felt obliged.

should you watch this movie?

It would be a good fit for a themed horror nite or festival at some friendly neighborhood venue.

highlight and low point

The second female lead is played by “Sgt. Doreau” from Sledge Hammer! but to be completely honest, the funny dog (one of two Bichon Frises) has the best role in the film, and does a terrific job with it. The utterly fake mine interiors are also splendid. The hilarious terrifying title creature(s), however, cannot be topped. (Allegedly, only one was made; once it’s revealed, one surmises this is possibly because it was constructed of whatever was lying around and no additional materials were on hand.)

rating from outer space: B−

He TRIED to warn them

Wildling (2018)

directed by fritz bÖhm
maven pictures/film i vÄst/filmgate films

This goofy little B-movie is a good example of what kinds of films this site’s proprietor often prefers. (Why is a different subject.) By rights, it SHOULD be hampered by various difficulties, not the least of which is its ridiculous story, and among which are occasionally lax production values, unconvincing acting and the overall feeling that it’s a made-for-TV affair. Nonetheless, it mostly succeeds, even if it doesn’t quite fulfill any variety of promises suggested when it shifts into the present tense. Coincidences and improbabilities propel the plot, highlighted by the irrepressible Brad Dourif emoting another weirdo and basically causing all the trouble. I didn’t even mention the stirring title anthem that you will probably immediately identify, as I did, as being written and performed by Linda Perry. So what, exactly, works here then, one may well be wondering. Call it pathos; within the outlandish framework resides the tale of a girl searching for family.

why did i watch this movie?

The plot concerns a young girl kept locked in her room ostensibly for her own protection … AND WOULD YOU BELIEVE –

should you watch this movie?

You know, it can be hard to differentiate these days what type of film one is watching, what with VOD being its own estimable category or genre. I mean, it’s not really the equivalent of a movie being “straight to video” BITD. That being said, when you’re in the mood for a streaming original or whatever, you may as well opt for this one.

highlight and low point

The part of the story that concerns the girl’s journey into normal society is interesting and handled differently than one may expect, but after a certain transformative point it becomes kind of mawkish, and then the budget makeup and/or FX department(s) take/s over. The film often feels oddly restrained throughout, and somewhat surreal. And I’ve mentioned Brad Dourif.

rating from outer space: C+

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

directed by j. a. bayona
universal pictures

When was the last time you saw a really dumb Hollywood spectacle? I mean D-U-M-B like Armageddon (renegades fly into space to save the Earth by landing on an asteroid and blowing it up), the 1991 Point Break (Keanu plays FBI agent Johnny Utah infiltrating a gang of bank-robbing Zen surfers), Over the Top (long-haul trucker Sly wins his son’s custody by arm wrestling) … and this one, as should be obvious from this introduction. But how does it rank in the Jurassic hierarchy, you want to know. Well, hmm, let’s see:

  1. The original, obviously.
  2. J-World (2015), which was a pretty honorable reboot of the franchise, even with the podracers gyrospheres and the invention of yet another new dinosaur.
  3. — 5. You decide! The Lost World (1997) was a dispiriting cash-in, a prototypical sequel with superfluous kids and giant invisible dinosaurs; JPIII (2001) was only barely related, an actioner that could’ve been adapted to any series; and there’s this one … which you will probably not be too surprised to hear features yet another new dinosaur created by Science and a whole lotta subplots and setups liberally borrowed from other stupid action flicks.

Yes, it’s true: This picture about cloning and genetically engineering dinosaurs and [REDACTED] doesn’t have an original bone in its body. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) Don’t despair, however, because JW: F’in’ Kidding still could be redeemed. If the planned 2021 sequel follows up properly, it could be tremendous – like 28 Days Later, only with dinosaurs! Hell, someone remade Point Break.

why did i watch this movie?

My local MLB team had a day off.

should you watch this movie?

Don’t you have anything better to do?

highlight and low point

The baroque pomposity of the score during a particular “climactic” scene really illuminates the claptrap on display, and the [REDACTED] offers a tantalizing hope for the future of this ridiculous franchise.

rating from outer space: D
Note: Some details omitted because film currently is in theaters

Wild Beasts (1984)

directed by franco e. prosperi
shumba international corporation

When was the last time you saw a cinematic character killed by a rampaging elephant? Like, by strangling. Yeah, that’s what I thought. Wild Beasts is the kind of dubbed foreign flick that makes me wonder what the original dialogue was, although I’d be willing to bet not a whole lot of nuance is lost with translation yielding “She’s not crazy, she’s being chased by a cheetah!” and “What the hell is that! Elephants!” The production did a pretty good job with the scenes involving people being mauled by various wildlife, given obvious limitations. I’m glad I watched a murky VHS upload, however. That made the scenes featuring animal cruelty a bit easier to handle. The one in which a cat is ravaged by rats I could even believe was faked. Others, such as when lions and hyenas attack cattle and pigs inside a stockyard? No such luck. The film ends abruptly, without explaining how the zoo animals and a group of children – but apparently no one else – got dosed with PCP, despite wrapping up with a screenful of gibberish.

why did i watch this movie?

Well, I somehow didn’t even consider the implications of inhumane practices given when, where and by whom it was made.

should you watch this movie?

Despite the many unintentionally funny moments – there’s a “Stop the presses!” scene, the runaway elephants cause a plane crash and resultant blackout, and so on – and the absurd pseudo-ecological message, it’s hard for me to recommend a picture that claims circus animals and trainers among its cast and crew.

highlight and low point

Some intriguing orchestration accompanying the animal attacks is unexpected … as is the animal control officer wielding a flamethrower against hordes of rats, exemplifying this picture’s major problem.

rating from outer space: c−