Ha ha!

You certainly never know what movie he'll review next!

Monday, 24 November 2014

Burl reviews Chopping Mall! (1985)



Bleep boop, it’s Burl, here to review a robot picture for you! Ha ha, it’s called Chopping Mall, and it’s a picture I’ve always remembered fondly, both because it stood out from the slasher movie pack by virtue of its mechanical antagonists, and because it features a nice little cameo from none other than the great Dick “Apache Woman” Miller!
Watching it again, I can see that, while Miller is as entrancing as ever, the picture is really not very good! Still, it has its pleasures, as we will see! Now, as the title implies, the movie is set in a mall, which places it in the Retail Horror microgenre with pictures like The Initiation and Hide and Go Shriek! The mall (the same one from Commando, ha ha) has security doors like the ones on the Death Star, and a trio of security robots which have somehow become homicidal because of lightning strikes!
And this is the very night that four couples – adults mind you, and not teens – decide to spend the night p*rtying in the department store! Why do they pick the department store to pa*ty in? Don’t they have homes in which they could par*y? It seems a very strange decision, ha ha! Nevertheless, among the ad-hoc impedimenta which make up what looks more like a jumble sale than a furniture store, three of the couples set to w*rk on the beds, while only a few feet away the fourth couple settles in to watch Attack of the Crab Monsters! Ha ha! Meanwhile, the robots have begun their marauding, taking out first the security staff (one of whom is played by Gerrit Graham, an actor we know from pictures like Class Reunion and The Annihilators), then angry janitor Walter Paisley, played by who else but Dick Miller, and working with the dirtiest mopwater ever seen on film!
Soon the younger actors become the targets of robo-rage! Thankfully the constant gum-chewing of John “Secret Admirer” Terlesky is put to a halt by a clanking claw! His false-bust*d ladyfr*end comes next, the victim of a not-bad headsplosion! Then it’s run, chase, zap and rat-tat-tat-tat! Lovely Barbara Crampton, familiar to us from Re-Animator and Fraternity Vacation, is forced by the terrible, derivative script to become irrational and hysterical, and for her trouble is burned to cinders! The hero of the piece is Kelly Maroney, who uses the knowledge of the mall’s layout she gained from appearing in Fast Times at Ridgemont High to outwit the last of the killbots and blast it to flinders! Ha ha, this is after an elevator and a golf cart piloted by Russell Todd from Friday the 13th part 2 help dispatch the others!
So there are robots and b*obs and youngsters running around getting their heads zapped off, but, too, there are cameos! Plenty of Roger Corman alumni make appearances here: Miller of course and Graham, but also Paul “Get Crazy” Bartel and Mary Woronov from Looney Tunes: Back In Action appear as their apparently beloved characters the Blands, which I appreciated even though I’ve never seen Eating Raoul! None other than Mel Welles from Smokey Bites the Dust is on hand as a hideously filthy cook, and Angus Scrimm from Phantasm II appears very briefly as Man Standing Up And Asking A Question!
All of these people and the elements earlier listed, along with a puffpastry of a running time (77 minutes), make a viewing of the picture worth it! But be warned: the script is pretty bad, and the movie happily, but a bit wearyingly, imitative of other things! It has a pretty nice 80s horror look, courtesy of cinematographer Tom “The Malibu Bikini Shop” Richmond, and the acting is mostly not too bad, and it’s generally efficient; but it’s never scary or suspenseful or impactful in any way! Sometimes it’s a little bit funny, but that’s about it! My fondness for it was tested in this most recent viewing!
With all of this said, I’m going to give Chopping Mall one and a half deadly pincings!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Burl reviews Son of Paleface! (1952)



Git along cowpokes, it’s Burl here! Ha ha, yes, I have another oater to declaim on for you today! Yes, it’s a comedy oater, featuring the old ski-slope nose himself, Bob Hope, whom we all know from his golfing cameo in Spies Like Us, ha ha! The picture is the sequel to The Paleface, which I’ve never seen, and it’s called Son of Paleface!
Now, I couldn’t tell you what went on in The Paleface, though there are clues salted throughout this sequel! Frankly it doesn’t seem to matter much, as this is a Frank Tashlin picture, so what it’s mainly concerned with is crazy absurdist cartoon humour! And of that, believe me, there is plenty!
Hope of course plays the titular offspring, Peter Potter Jr., a Harvard manchild who travels West in his flivver to pick up the fortune allegedly left to him by his blackguard of a father! But when the trunk supposed to contain the gold proves empty, Potter must pretend to be rich anyway, because otherwise the townsfolk of this Old West burg will tear him limb from limb, so eager are they to have all the debts left by Potter pére repaid! Ha ha!
In the meantime, the town is being plagued by robberies! Someone nicknamed “The Torch” is ransacking buggies and then retreating to a fabulous lair hidden beneath a covered bridge; and the culprit turns out to be the inexplicably-named “Mike,” a saloonkeeper and, ha ha, torch singer played by the incomparable Jane Russell! Hot on her trail are two faces familiar from such pictures as Susanna Pass, namely Roy Rogers and Trigger, the Smartest Horse in Movies!
All of this is a framework for songs, a little romance, some action and, more than anything else a rapid-fire selection of jokes and tomfoolery! Things frequently get strange, as when Potter drives his car through a desert, picks up a pair of buzzards who perch on the back, then drives through a so-called mirage of people ice-skating, then finds the buzzards on his car have transmorphed into penguins! And that’s just a taste of the oddballitry!
Trigger again proves worthy of his oats by performing some amazing tricks! At one point he and Hope share a bed, and the chilly horse repeatedly pulls the blankets up over himself! Ha ha, I hope he got a nice carrot or a sugar cube after that one! And I also want to mention the amusing cameos, like Bing Crosby appearing as a nameless “old character actor on the Paramount lot we try to keep working,” and the director of Madame Satan himself, Cecil B. DeMille, appearing as a photographer!
Ha ha, this movie made me say “ha ha” a number of times, and frankly I wasn’t expecting it to! So many of the gags are so outlandish that the movie approaches Hellzapoppin’ territory, and it’s all very colourful and bubbly and marvelous! Hope is funny, and Roy is very straight ahead, except that he prefers horses to ladies! Ha ha! I’m going to give Son of Paleface a rousing three donkey hats!

Monday, 17 November 2014

Burl reviews Exorcist III! (1990)



Ha ha, the power of Burl, limited as it might be, compels you to read this movie review! Yes, today I thought I’d talk about Exorcist III, a famously troubled production that, in its intended version, contained neither an exorcism nor an exorcist until some third-act tampering by its producers!
Now, I would have been just fine with that, and I’ve never understood why it was such a sticking point with these producers that they spent millions of dollars, incurred bad press, alienated their writer/director and, not incidentally, badly compromised their movie, in order to celebrate literal-mindedness by shoehorning these scenes in! They sit within the final product about as comfortably as the hospital scenes do within Bad Meat, ha ha!
But much of Exorcist III is gold! The movie takes place, as the dialogue often reminds us, fifteen years after two key events: the Georgetown exorcism of the original picture and subsequent stairway death of Father Karras; and the capture and execution of the notorious Gemini Killer! Now some very Gemini Killer murders have begun again, and grumpy, rumpled (grumpled?) cop Bill Kinderman, played by the great Lee J. Cobb in the original, and by the great George C. Scott here, finds his lack of faith sorely tested by the increasingly supernatural goings-on!
Ha ha, for me the very heart of the picture is the relationship between Kinderman and his pal, Father Dyer, played by the merry Ed “Salem’s Lot” Flanders! Their scenes together have an appealing, if synthetic, jocularity, and are also very weird and funny! Unfortunately, by the end of the first act Father Dyer has lived up to his name, and the movie suffers for his absence!
Like William Peter Blatty’s earlier directorial effort, The Ninth Configuration, this is an unquestionably oddball picture, and that’s something else I like about it! It’s alternately eccentric, beautiful, eerie and genuinely scary! (Brr, that famous hospital shock scene!) Ha ha, by the second half of the movie, with long scenes of dialogue between Kinderman and the serial killer played by Brad “Dune” Dourif, it becomes something altogether more run-of-the-mill, and fits in nicely with all those other resurrected-killer movies of the period, like The Horror Show, Shocker and The First Power!
The movie successfully weaves an atmosphere in which anything might happen! There’s a dream sequence in which Fabio, Patrick Ewing and Samuel L. “The Avengers” Jackson all appear as angels, and another scene in which the great Viveca Lindfors, known from Silent Madness and many other pictures, tries to cut off a teenage girl’s head with some giant head clippers! There are many gruesome details discussed in the dialogue, and if ever there was a “tell, don’t show” gore movie, this is it! (Until the exorcism scene that is, which gets fairly bloody after poor Father Morning, played by Nicol “Black Widow” Williamson, gets stuck to the ceiling for some reason!)
With its fascinating gallery of actors (all the aforementioned, plus Scott “Blue City” Wilson, Don “The Beast Within” Gordon, Grand L. “Die Hard” Bush, Zohra Lampert from Let’s Scare Jessica To Death and Harry Carey Jr. from UFOria as another ill-fated priest) and marvelous cinematography from one of my favourites, Gerry Fisher (who shot Wolfen, Malpertuis and many others), this remains an appealing, if deeply flawed, movie! I’m going to give Exorcist III two and a half bathtub carps!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Burl reviews Not Safe For Work! (2012)



Well hello everybody – it’s Burl here! You know, sometimes I like to review silly little nonsensical movies I happen to have watched at random, and here I am doing it again with a picture called Not Safe For Work! It’s a little programmer that feels very much part of a tradition of small-scale B-movie programmers of years gone by! That’s a point in its favour as far as ol’ Burl is concerned, ha ha!
It comes to us from Joe Johnston, who made Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, The Rocketeer and, of course, Jurassic Park III! A little thriller like this seems somewhat outside his bailiwick, but defining the precise lineaments of Joe Johnston’s bailiwick is perhaps outside of mine! Ha ha! At any rate, it’s a little thriller about life in a law office, and if it does nothing else, the picture reinforces my strong desire to never work in a law office!
The movie opens with a pretty standard scene of workplace violence, which makes very little sense in the larger context, and retroactively seems to exist simply as a way to start the picture off with a few literal bangs! Then we move to the highrise law office and meet Tom, a paralegal, who is one of those characters meant to be at once smart and ambitious, but also a habitual scr*w-up! He’s on the boss’s radar anyway, which in this case is a bad thing, and the one-two combination of being late for work and attempting a b*llsy maneuver that seemed like a good idea but turned out to be a rookie mistake, gets him canned by the slab-faced senior partner in his firm! (This fellow is ably played by Christian Clemonson from Black Widow, but probably would have been played by J.T. Walsh were he still with us!)
But there are strange things afoot: the big case which has all the office aflutter has attracted a well-dressed killer with a robotic demeanor to the workplace, and suspicious Tom decides to follow him back into the maze of cubicles and hallways, just to see what’s up! Ha ha, for a few moments it seems like one of the robots from Halloween III has blundered into another movie, but regrettably that’s not the case! Anyway, from then on it’s a cat-and-mouse situation with a few scenes of mild suspense, some off-rack cleverness and one or two bon mots!
It’s all delivered with competence and solid craftsmanship, but if this were a train instead of a movie, it would be the Nothing Special! Ha ha! The acting’s fine and the inevitable silly plot points are generally kept within acceptable boundaries; but the story is far simpler than the copious background of the Big Case on offer would suggest! (The credits sequence, for example, is one of those “presenting information through headlines” things that, ha ha, seriously people, simply have to stop happening!) There are also a few dropped threads that, while ongoing, seem to hint at a picture with more on its mind than is actually the case!
Like Passion, this is an attempt at classic Hitchcockiana that embraces modern technology to an overweening and silly degree! Phones and computers are everywhere, but they all seem to work by slightly different rules than those we’re used to here in the real world! Oh well, that’s forgivable I suppose, but it does put the picture into a microgenre that it, and probably most such movies, would rather not be thought a part of!
It’s a fleecy of a movie that falls apart towards the end, and makes little to no impact while it’s on! The idea that large drug corporations are viciously unscrupulous is a solid point, if not exactly breaking news; everything else, from the title on down, is nonsense! I give Not Safe For Work one and a half f*cking iPhones!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Burl reviews Flick! (1970)



Ha ha, as you North Americans say, it’s Burl! Yes, I’m here with a very peculiar movie to tell you about today, Flick! I’m not sure why it was ever called Flick – probably some attempt at pre-emptive self-effacement! As in “Ha ha, don’t be expecting Citizen Kane here; this is just a simple flick!” Anyway, the movie was quickly retitled Dr. Frankenstein on Campus, a name by which it’s probably better known and which suits it better in any event!
Because it’s about exactly that! We first meet young Viktor Frankenstein as he’s tossed out of his posh European university for dueling! Quickly he relocates to the University of Toronto, where he finds a grumpy, silver-tongued dean, a solicitous but strangely-acting professor, a n*bile young journalism student who can’t keep her bras*iere on, a tae-kwon-do expert who is for some reason Viktor’s friend, and a situation of campus unrest which seems to have been imported from movies made two or three years earlier!
Viktor suffers constant references to the famous character whose name he shares, and faces these jibes down with the same steely-eyed glare he has theretofore kept in reserve merely for pets, l*vers, d*pe-smoking radicals and any other living creatures which cross his path! He’s there working on a program of brain control, which happens to be exactly what his professor is working on too; Frankenstein, however, is convinced the process can be made wireless!
But there’s trouble! Viktor attends a crazy student rumbustification at which flower people don helmets and engage in headbutt parties; where motorized exercise contraptions are put to uses other than for which they were intended; and where mind dr*gs are smoked! Viktor is photographed while peering disdainfully at a foil-wrapped package; this snap and an accompanying article make the front page of the student paper, and Viktor is immediately expelled by Dean Wormer Cantwell on suspicion of being a d*ugs fiend!
Well, it’s vengeance time! Viktor inserts a mind controller in his tae-kwon-do pal Tony, and tony becomes a robotic chopmaniac, punching people to death left and right! The fellows who refused to stand up for Viktor, the photographer who took the picture, the reporter who wrote the story and finally the dean himself all fall victim to bops, bashes and biffs, and some pretty stiff neck-twists in the bargain! Then finally there’s a surprise ending involving a clumsy child, Professor Preston, some radio control boxes and a bunch of unraveling stitches!
Robin Ward, whom we know from Explosion and, later, game shows, plays the sulky, foppish Viktor with maximum haught! (But don't call him uptight - he is very down loose, ha ha!) His would-be mentor, Professor Preston, is essayed by Sean Sullivan, the old bank guard from The Silent Partner and Johnny’s dad in The Dead Zone! The relationship between these two brain scientists, and the dean too, and the campus science atmosphere in general, strongly recalls (or foreshadowed) the great Re-Animator, but almost nothing else does! Ha ha! I’ll tell you, it could sure use some good old Re-Animator gore, but of that it has none!
It’s a weird movie: plenty of setup and then a bizarrely rushed conclusion that makes just no d*rn sense! Ha ha, it’s got one of the baggiest, most amateurish scripts ever written in terms of structure and, well, just about everything else; the dialogue is all crazy gobbledygook and boring declamation; the characters are silly cartoons! It has virtually none of the ingredients commonly thought to make up a good movie!
And yet there’s also a strange innocence to the whole affair, and a great deal of odd detail, and a tiny soupçon of exuberant goofiness; and all of this makes it more palatable, and even enjoyable! If you’re a fan of the band Lighthouse you will surely have some itches scratched as well! (I’ve always found them too moustache-jazzy myself!) Plus it has n*de b*soms, which I wasn’t expecting, though given the generous helpings of same in contemporaneous Canadian films like Homer and Paperback Hero, maybe I should have been!
Anyway, I’ve gone on long enough! I can’t recommend this movie very highly, but at the same time I urge that you watch it! And if you can’t find it, then at least read the fine review of it at Canuxploitation, the excellent website from whence I poached the image seen above! I give Flick, aka Dr. Frankenstein on Campus, one and a half majestic housepet battles!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Burl reviews Passion! (2012)



Burl saying hello! Ha ha, there seem to be plenty of people who hate Brian De Palma and his movies, and I suppose there might be people who are kind of hem-haw about them; and then there are people who really have a thing for the beardsman’s go-for-baroque style, ha ha! I’m one of these latter nutcases! By garr, I can say without hesitation that De Palma movies have given me a lot of enjoyment over the years!
Fond memories include hearing my father wax rhapsodic about Phantom of the Paradise, and being excused from chores because it was coming on afternoon television! Another time mother spoke in hushed tones about Dressed To Kill, a film she’d just returned from seeing with her girlfriends! Thus was bated the De Palma hook before I even knew the man’s name, or what a movie director did! Later I had marvelous theatrical experiences with The Untouchables, Mission Impossible, Raising Cain, Carlito’s Way and The Black Dahlia, among others! I saw Blow Out in a big old wonderful rep house, and that was a real treat!
Ah, De Palma! Well, though it may seem so, I’m not avoiding talking about Passion, the movie ostensibly under review here! Ha ha, of course there was no opportunity to see it in a theatre, but I’ll bet it might have played pretty well in one, with the right audience at least! The picture features Rachel McAdams, from Midnight in Paris and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows as Christine, a blonde executive at a Berlin ad agency! Ha ha, one day she’ll wear hamburger-sized crimson lipstick; on another she’ll dress like a diabolist! You just never know what stylecrime this wacky woman will pull next! Her underling is Isabelle, played by Noomi Rapace, from Prometheus and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows! A fellow who seems to have an er*tic connection to both is Dirk, played by Paul Anderson from, yes, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows!
There’s workplace cutthroatery galore in the first half of the movie, and that sort of thing has never interested me much, so I was a little bored! But the movie, and the Pino Donaggio score, turn more recognizably De Palmian by the second hour, with some split screen, a murder, some dreams and a number of dumb plot turns! But recognizably DePalma doesn’t necessarily mean good DePalma, and I’m sad to say it’s not, really! There are moments, to be sure, but once you get to the very climax, with a suspense scene involving some pretty laughable cellphone technology and a police inspector clutching a bouquet of posy flowers, you have to say to yourself “Ha ha!”
After apparently casting his film simply by watching Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, De Palma demonstrates a general sort of laziness that pervades the whole picture! The climactic scene already mentioned feels as though DePalma thought to himself “Hmm, wonder what Hitch would have done if he’d lived in a world of portable data storage!” No one else has really wondered that, though of course modern technology (cell phones especially) have undercut so many traditional suspense devices that maybe it’s laudable for DePalma to have embraced it here!
All he’s really done is repurposed it though, and set it within a goofy plot involving ladies fighting ladies! But hey, it’s still the SubMaster at work, and there’s much to be said for that! I look forward to DePalma making more movies before he hangs it up for good, and I hope they’re wild and crazy thrillers like he’s always done! Meanwhile I should revisit some of his older works and review them for you here, and maybe finally catch up with Wise Guys, which, can you believe it, I’ve never even seen! Ha ha! Anyway, I give Passion one and a half ladykisses, which is only a fraction of the amount we get in the picture!

Friday, 7 November 2014

Burl reviews In A World...! (2013)



Ha ha, Burl here with a quick review of another of the quirky contemporary indie comedy-dramas I sometimes find myself watching! You know, like Jack Goes Boating or Our Idiot Brother! Usually some pleasures can be wrung from these pictures, though none of them ever become My New Favourite Movie or anything, ha ha! No, not even close!
I was interested in seeing this one, In A World…, because it appeared to take place within the tight universe of voiceover actors, and anytime a movie peers into some highly specialized society, ol’ Burl is interested! On that front In A World… does not disappoint! It instead provides all manner of anthropological detail about the inner workings of this community, of its rituals and its hierarchies and its desperate competitions!
 The lead character, Carol, is played by a pretty lady called Lake Bell, who also wrote and directed the picture! Carol’s dad, Sam, is a monstrous egotist who happens to be one of the premier voiceover fellows in the business! Ha ha! Carol works with her voice too, but is limited in what she can do since the voiceover world is about the most male-dominated bastion outside the priesthood – and much less ch*ste, ha ha!
The plot is pretty loose, but it involves a search for a new voiceover person to narrate the trailer of a big new youth action picture! Don LaFontaine, the master of using the words “In a world…” to open his trailers, is dead, yet the producers (led by Geena “Fletch” Davis in a cameo) want to use this opportunity to bring the phrase back! So it’s a big deal in the community, and both Sam and his protégé, the slimy Gustav, have reasonable expectations of snagging the job!
Meanwhile other things happen! There’s a subplot involving relationship troubles between Carol’s sister and her husband, who’s played by Rob Corddry from The Way Way Back! There’s a budding romance between Carol and a shellheaded comedian! And the picture spends a lot of (quite welcome) time documenting Carol’s eccentricities, and her habit of taping people with interesting voices! This habit proves useful in the later moments of the film!
It’s an interesting world, as I say, and there are appealing characters galore and plenty of funny moments; but like so many of these pictures, it ultimately comes off as just a slightly refined, mildly more hip version of a laugh-track sitcom from the 90s! I’m not sure what it is – I enjoy the films while they’re on, or at least I don’t mind watching them, but at the end I’m all “Hm! Ha ha!” They don’t linger in the memory the way many far worse movies often do!
Perhaps this is my problem and not the film’s, but, ha ha, this is my movie review, so it can go throw sticks! I hope that doesn’t sound mean! I want to be fair, and there was a lot I liked about the picture, after all! I think Lake Bell is talented and will probably make more movies, and in that she has my goodwill! Meanwhile, I give In A World… two tips, tips as in gratuities! Ha ha!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Burl reviews The Prowler! (1981)



Ha ha, Burl here to review another one of what some call the Classic-Era slasher movies! This one has a bit of a pedigree to it, or at least a retroactive pedigree if you follow me! It’s called The Prowler, and was directed by the same fellow who later made Friday the 13th part 4! It also features some gruesome trick effects by Tom “The Burning” Savini!
It’s a pretty typical slasher picture in many ways, though the inciting incident takes place a little farther back in history than most! World War II has just ended, and here we are at a college dance being attended by Rosemary Chatham and her new b*yfriend! Her former boyf*iend was a GI whom she broke up with by that time-tested method, the Dear John letter! Only this John isn’t so dear, and he uses a pitchfork on poor Rosemary and her toffeenosed beau!
Thirty-five years after this horrific incident it’s time to bring back the dance! Ha ha! Pam, a blond newshound, is our main character, and her b*yfriend, The Deputy, is meanwhile put in charge of public safety as the sheriff is goin’ fishin’! Ha ha! The crazy kids go ahead with their dance preparations with the same single-minded devotion as the kids in My Bloody Valentine, and pretty soon the prowler of the title, brandishing his trusty pitchfork and a sharp bayonet, goes on a one-by-one rampage of brutal pokings!
There’s meanwhile a gallery of middle-aged men available to suspect of being the killer, including but not limited to an irritable shopkeeper, a lumbering oaf, and old Major Chatham, played by Lawrence Tierney from Silver Bullet and The Horror Show! Ha ha, the Major is mute and wheelchairbound, but he keeps popping up in all sorts of places, no matter the terrain, just to show that he can get around when he needs to! Ha ha!
In so many and varied ways, this picture is a goofnugget! The pokings are particularly vicious, particularly a pitchfork poking that takes place in a sh*wer; but at the same time, potential victims like Thom Bray (the bicycle nerd from Prince of Darkness) and his ladyfr*end, appear to be in some sort of basement peril while on a search for a mak*out cavern, but then they just disappear! Ha ha, I suppose they were next on the list, but there was no time to shoot their death scenes!
And this has got to be the worst picture on record for dumb decisions made by the characters! What do a policeman and his intrepid lady sidekick do the moment they realize a madman killer is loose? Why, head over to visit old Major Chatham of course, and wander around in the dark! And of course The Deputy, evidently no brain wizard, immediately suggests they split up! On top of this, there’s a long sequence in which The Deputy, phoning the Sheriff's fishing lodge in an attempt to ask him what to do about the local madman, is foozled by a tubby desk clerk on the other end of the line, who only pretends to go look for the vacationing lawman! This twenty minute scene is pointless and unbearable!
Even with all of this, the picture has that cozy familiarity that early 80s slasher films can sometimes gin up! I like the blue cinematography that comes courtesy of Joao Fernandes (working under a pseudonym for some reason, just as he did on Children of the Corn); why, this must be the bluest slasher movie outside of Madman! And though the ringers – Tierney and Farley Granger, mainly – are wasted, one is glad to see them at all! It’s by far not the best of the so-called Classic Era slashers, but it’s far from the worst either! It sits right about in the middle, so I’m going to give it two turned-up eyeballs!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Burl reviews Halloween H2O! (1998)



Trick or treat, Burl’s on your doorstep! Ha ha, no, just here in my usual spot! Yes, it’s time already for another Halloween series movie review, and I’m kind of relieved that this one, Halloween H2O, is meant to follow Halloween and Halloween II directly, while ignoring all the stuff set up by Halloween 4, Halloween 5 and Halloween 6! Though, the ending of 4 was pretty effective, and its implications intriguing; but these were apparently dispensed of by 5 and 6, neither of which I can remember all that well, ha ha, so this one, the seventh in the series, had little choice but to make itself a reboot avant la lettre!
Of course, Halloween H2O is a silly title, because it makes us think it takes place in the water, or perhaps on a boat like Friday the 13th part 8! Ha ha, but there’s no water here, just a tony private school in Northern California at which Jamie Lee Curtis, playing Laurie Strode but with a new identity, is the dean! At such a setting we miss the old neighborhood feel of some of the earlier installments, but the filmmakers try to redress this with a lengthy neighborhood-set prologue in which Michael Myers kills the nurse from the first picture along with two youngsters (one of whom is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt from Looper), who get killed by hockey equipment!
At the school, Laurie Strode is a competent administrator but a mess behind the scenes: alch*holic, jumpy, overprotective of her teenage son (Josh “The Faculty” Hartnett), and seeing phantom Michael Myerses everywhere! So when the real Michael shows up to exercise his inexplicable desire to put a poking on his kinfolk, she thinks he’s just another hallucination! Ha ha! But pretty soon we get some pretty garden-variety stalking and slashing, with Laurie’s boyfriend Adam “Full Moon High” Arkin, young Michelle “Species” Williams, and a few others on the Shatner-masked madman’s kill list!
LL Cool J, well-known from Wildcats, plays the romance novel-writing school security guard, and, of all people, Janet “Psycho” Leigh appears in a small role as the school secretary! She escapes a poking this time, though! We also get see Beau Billingslea from The Blob, whose purpose is simply to explain to viewers that Michael Myers is still young enough to be a formidable slasher!
Michael has always had some pretty sadistic tendencies – recall the hot tub incident in the second picture, for example – but they seem a little ramped up here! He doesn’t poke or slice many people, but several of these deaths are uncomfortably protracted by director Steve “Friday the 13th part 2” Miner!
I recall being a little excited when this picture came out (in the summer for some reason), because the word was it would be good – almost as good as the first one! Ha ha! Well, it turned out to be just okay, and this time around when I watched it, I didn’t care too much for it! It had a couple of effective scenes, and Jamie Lee is always good, and the supporting cast of up-and-comers is pretty strong too; but there’s just something a little flat about it, and I think it was just the wrong characters, the wrong story, the wrong location for this movie! That’s why the neighborhood scenes are better, maybe! They’re almost a mini-movie of their own, appended to the head of this picture like The Crimson Permanent Assurance Company is to The Meaning of Life!
Well, in the end I have to award Halloween H2O a measly one and a half headchops, which the next, and worst, installment informs us was of the wrong guy’s melon anyway! Ha ha! Happy Halloween everybody!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Burl reviews The Devil Doll! (1936)



Eh bonjour, c’est Burl! Hà hà, the picture I wanted to tell you about today is The Devil Doll, which is to say the old Tod Browning one, not that spooky British cheapie from the early 60s! This one is typically eccentric for a Browning picture, featuring as it does a vengeance-crazed Devil’s Island escapee donning old lady drag in an absolutely batty plan to get satisfaction from the bankster blackguards who lied and killed to put him behind bars!
The murderous ex-banker is played by Lionel Barrymore, who was also in Browning’s Mark of the Vampire! Ha ha, his Hal Holbrookian voice is not very Parisian (which all the characters are supposed to be), but his performance is a cured-ham delight, particularly when he’s dressed up as old Mme. Mandelip!
Let me back up a bit: Barrymore’s character, Paul Lavond, busts out of Devil’s Island with a chum: an ailing old scientist with a bonkers idea to save the world from the hassles of overpopulation: shrink everybody to one-sixth their size! Ha ha, the idea is that there’s a lot more food for us! But the plan neglects to take into account the problems of raising and slaughtering, say, a cow as big as a double-decker bus! Or how to fish for a tuna the size of a small submarine! Ha ha, what about all the houses? The clothes? The machines? The cost involved in replacing all of this, even if smaller, would be astronomical! And who goes into the shrinking machine first, and who last? Wouldn’t there be gangs of stubborn giants roaming the world? Or is everyone compelled to be miniaturized? That sounds unworkable!
Ha ha, you can see I’ve put some thought into this! But this bizarre plan is only a small part of the picture – the real crux is Barrymore’s revenge against the confederacy of bunces he blames (correctly) for ruining his life! When he sees that the old scientist can create doll people controllable by mental impulses, he gets an idea that’s only slightly less bonkers: assume the persona of Mme. Mandelip, an old lady who makes hyper-realistic dolls; sell a doll person to his enemies, then have the doll person poison the enemy during the night! Robert Greig from Tower of London plays the chief enemy, and he gets a poking whilst in his bed – a poking from which he’ll never recover!
Meanwhile there’s drama with the now-deceased scientist’s wife, who is a sort of cross between the Bride of Frankenstein and Igor, and who wants Barrymore to help continue her husband’s kookywork! Barrymore, however, only wants revenge, and then he’ll have nothing to do with miniaturizing the world! And of course there’s Barrymore’s daughter, played by Maureen O’Sullivan from Too Scared to Scream, and who believes her father to have been a crook and a murderer and hates him for it; and her romance with a penurious cab driver! There’s a marvelously melodramatic ending to cap it all!
That’s a lot packed into a short running time, and, perhaps as a result of this there’s a lot of weird atmosphere in the movie; very indistinct, though! Hard to pin down! But one thing worth pointing out are the excellent special effects, and in particular the amazing oversized sets built to show the homunculi in close-ups! Wow, ha ha! Maybe the movie could have used a few cigar-chomping midgets disguised as babies, but you could say that about most movies! I give The Devil Doll three stricken bankers!