Ha ha!

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

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Burl reviews Herbie Goes Bananas! (1980)

Beep beep, ha ha, it’s Burl here with a review of another Herbie picture! I sort of already knew Herbie Rides Again would be, or rather remain, my favourite Herbie movie after some recent re-viewings of the series! Watching Herbie Goes Bananas helped confirm this, though I don’t want to give you the idea that I disliked it!
I mean sure, it’s got problems! But what movie doesn’t? I will come right out and tell you what I perceive as the single most crippling deficit this picture possesses: not enough Herbie! But if you like slow disco dancing in costume, this is most certainly the picture for you!
Now, I can’t remember how they left it at the end of Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, but this one begins in Mexico, in Puerto Vallarta, reeba reeba! Two American do*fuses get off the bus and are immediately robbed by a grinning orphan! Their mission is to pick up Herbie, who has been willed to one of them by his uncle or something; and we must suppose that his uncle is Dean Jones! Meanwhile there are smugglers, who are played by the fantastic trio of John “Point Blank” Vernon, Richard “The Dark” Jaeckel and Alex “Gotcha!” Rocco! All of these people get mixed up together and there’s a lot of running around, but nothing much actually happens!
And this is the other major problem with the picture: like almost all the Herbie pictures, it’s overlong! (Herbie Rides Again is of course the marvelous exception!) There’s too much padding, like the disco dancing, or the two guys talking! (One of those two guys is played by the always welcome Charles Martin Smith of Starman!)
Then the action switches to a cruise ship captained by Harvey Korman, ha ha, and among whose passengers are Cloris Leachman and her owlish niece! Of course the orphan is a stowaway, and Herbie creates havoc in the hold! Korman’s Captain Blythe is a psychotic martinet who makes Queeg look like a calm voice of nautical reason! Eventually Herbie’s misbehaviour rouses Korman to an act of high-seas justice: Herbie is shoved over the side in a ceremony with all the pomp and protocol of an Admiral’s funeral!
But from Herbie’s encounter with The Baby himself in the guise of a hippie surfer, we know the little bug is able to swim! Still, it’s a filthy and exhausted Herbie who gets pulled out of a Panama Canal tributary by a burro, some bad hombres and the orphan, miraculously in just the right place! There are some little chases, some menacing from the bad guys and an overextended bullfight scene, and eventually Leachman, Korman and the young folk all end up together in an old bus, on the trail of the orphan and his revitalized auto-pal! Herbie never participates in a race but he does battles a small plane! Herbie rips the tail off and then sucks Alex Rocco out the back like a Junior Mint! Ha ha!
Herbie has a lot less personality in this movie, despite the fact that they have him near-talking with his horn and pressing buttons with his antenna! And though they realized they could never match Keenan Wynn, the bad guy from Herbie Rides Again, so had to break his character in half to share between Korman and Vernon, the movie is still undeniably possessed of really fantastic cast! It has a cheery travelogue feel at times, and the kid, who might easily have been intolerable, is instead tolerable! And in what I suppose is meant to be a complimentary comment, I’ll just say that it doesn’t go as crazily overboard with the faux-Mexican goofiness as they might have!
It could use a little more pep and a lot more Herbie, but there’s nevertheless enjoyment to be had; and Herbie does indeed go bananas, if briefly! Plus it's got some old ringers in it, like Fritz "The Errand Boy" Feld as a chief steward and Vito "Von Ryan's Express" Scotti as a dogsbody! I’m going to give Herbie Goes Bananas one and a half wipers third class!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Burl reviews The Deadly Spawn! (1983)

Ha ha, Burl here to discourse on 80s horror movies! We all know that the best of them, the low-budget ones anyway, have a few particular things in common things which mark them as the cream of the crop, the purest expressions of 1980s B horror! The low-end line for this genre seems to lie between Don “Fiend” Dohler and Bill “Invasion From Inner Earth” Rebane, with those pictures lying on and below the Rebane side of the line being exceptionally regional and cheap! The upper regions wouldn’t extend much above The Power, stuff like that!
One key ingredient to these movies is the welter of blood that splashes against a wall, or better yet a bare lightbulb! Here I’m talking about The Evil Dead, Basket Case, maybe even Night Beast, probably Night of the Demon, and certainly the picture I’m talking about today, The Deadly Spawn! Ha ha, you’ll find no end of pleasures in this fine motion picture if you’re already a fan of this sort of thing, though if you’re a fan of this sort of thing, you’ll no doubt already have seen it!
But maybe, as was the case for me, it’s been a while! When I first saw this picture I wasn’t much older than the young monster-kid protagonist, and though I could not have matched his devotion to the cause, nor Cory’s in Friday the 13th part 4 (after all I never made masks, or even painted figures), I was fairly enraptured with this highly sympathetic portrayal of One Of Us!
The picture opens on a rainy day in New Jersey, the morning after the arrival of a mysterious meteor! Oh no, the basement is filled with spawn! One by one, the people of the house descend into the depths of the watery cellar, only to have their faces rasped off by the prolapsed gullet of the spawn! Ha ha, the spawn move about on sausage legs or slither through the watery basement, devouring householders and tradespeople alike! They movie upstairs, eating out the eyes of an unctuous uncle in an obvious tribute to The Birds, and, in a nearby house, disrupt a ladies’ luncheon! Watch for the intrepid old lady, the one who made the ratatouille, as she battles the verminous aliens with a ferocity matching that of Ripley from Aliens! I became very fond of that old lady, and she really represents the strongest claim The Deadly Spawn has on a similarity to any of the films in that blockbuster Twentieth Century Fox series!
There are some teenage characters, but they don’t accomplish much aside from becoming victims! Ha ha, one luckless lady, despite her creditable impersonation of a final girl, catches a combination decapitation and defenestration at the pin-hands of the spawn! Another guy, a real Jersey Joey-Jo-Jo, is driven nearly insensible by the spawn, which his brain refuses to accept! And of course it all ends with a giant spawn rearing up like a lost sandworm from Dune, roaring his pleasure at earthly conquest!
There’s entirely too much standing around in basements, and the kid hangs out down there approximately three million times longer than any other human being would, but the movie still keeps its Garden State snare in you all the way through! The monsters are simply delightful, and there’s enough gore for any taste! There’s even some unlikely and awkward semi-nud*ty! Yes, this movie delivers the goods!
I’ve still got a real soft spot for it and probably always will! A great watch on a dour and inclement day, just to see some people having a worse time of it than you! Ha ha, I give The Deadly Spawn three breakfast table issues of Famous Monsters!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Burl reviews Green For Danger! (1946)

A-ha ha, it’s Burl, here to review an English country house mystery story – with a difference! Here the English country house has been requisitioned and repurposed as a hospital “in the emergency of war,” and the mystery is set during the Blitz, with bombs falling unpredictably here and there! And the suspects are all doctors and nurses, ha ha!
The film in question is called Green For Danger, and it’s a terrific pickler of a picture, filled with marvelous voices and entertaining performances, and beautiful inky-black photography and cracking dialogue! The performance I most enjoyed was that of Alastair Sim, playing the detective on the case, Inspector Cockerill, “of Scotland Yard, I’m afraid,” who was also given the best dialogue!
The story tells, in one long, virtually uninterrupted flashback, of a murder done one August day in 1944, when doodlebugs were raining out of the skies and jury-rigged hospitals in expropriated manor houses dotted the land! The victim is a postman, who dies in an operation, and when a lovestruck theatre sister declares his death anything but an accident, she herself is summarily slaughtered in a scene that would not have been out of place in a Brian De Palma picture! Clearly, Inspector Cockerill tells us, the perpetrator is one of the five other people present in the operating room the morning of the postman’s death!
Inspector Cockerill goes about his investigation with an hilarious indelicacy! Sim tries a little physical comedy too, some one-man knockabout, but mainly relies on his marvelous staccato delivery and his constant knowing grin! It’s a highly entertaining performance! Surrounding him, the suspects, are a gallery of good actors, like Leo “Endless Night” Genn, playing a self-satisfied cocksman, and Trevor Howard from Von Ryan’s Express as the tetchy anesthesiologist! There’s a marvelous portly nurse with a marvelous voice, played by the marvelously named Megs Jenkins!
If you think the idea of a murder mystery set in wartime is an interesting idea, well, ha ha, you’re right, and this movie sure won’t disappoint! There was maybe a shade too much soap opera for my liking, and I was unable to perceive Leo Genn as a sex*al object pursued by multitudes, and the ending has some implausiblities involving a hypodermic, and I thought being called ‘sister’ meant you were a nun (or Pam Grier), but I guess not; but those are all small quibbles! It was overall a real cinder-burner!
And again, the best of all is Sim! Take it from me, you’ll be wishing there was a whole series of Inspector Cockerill films, even if his name makes him sound like a character in a high school VD film! I give Green For Danger three and a half resignation letters!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Burl reviews Nightmares! (1983)

Ha ha, Burl here, to review “this year’s sleeper!” That was the little phrase used to sell the omnibus horror movie Nightmares back in 1983, and I know because I had the poster for it hanging in my room for a while, with those eerie eyes and grabby hands! I recall seeing the movie in the theatre too, and thinking “Ha ha! I guess that was all right!”
I had less refined tastes back then, you see! I watched the movie again recently, and let me tell you this: it looks exactly like what it is! And what is it? Ha ha, it’s a made-for-TV movie that was judged by someone to be too good for the small screen, and was released into theatres on the assumption it would be a hit no one could have predicted! I don’t think it was much of a hit, and I don’t think it would have seemed out of place on 1980s TV either, ha ha! As horror anthologies go, it’s certainly many rungs below Dead of Night!
It was made by Joseph Sargent, the fellow who directed, on the one hand, the great Taking of Pelham 1,2,3, and on the other, Jaws: The Revenge! So you just never know what the guy’s going to come up with, ha ha! What he’s come up with here is four stories of largely suburban character, most of them pretty preposterous! The first one, “Terror in Topanga,” is the exception: a lady (Cristina Raines from The Sentinel and Hex) living in the canyon of the title is compelled to leave the house for cig*rettes when she knows perfectly well a maniac killer is stalking the neighborhood! The killer is played by Lee Ving, whom we know from Grave Secrets and Get Crazy, and the redherringsman who plugs him is an uncredited William “Blade Runner” Sanderson!
The second story is the one people remember best: “The Bishop of Battle!” Ha ha, let’s begin! Emilio Estevez, fresh from Repo Man, plays J.J., a youth maniacally addicted to video games, and in particular The Bishop of Battle, a sort of mash-up of Berzerker, Battleground and Asteroids! J.J. listens to the movie’s curiously legit So-Cal punk soundtrack (X, Black Flag, Lee Ving’s group Fear) as he gonzes out to his precious video games! After a video flip-out, on his parents and his little buddy Zonk (played by Billy “Hospital Massacre” Jacoby), J. J. faces the Bishop himself in all his vector-graphic majesty! The Bishop’s placid voice, provided by James Tolkan from Wolfen and Armed and Dangerous, gives him a slightly otherworldly eeriness!
Next comes Lance Henrikson, whom we know best from The Visitor, playing a desert-flower priest who’s lost his faith, and it takes a devilish pick-up truck to settle his hash, ha ha! Robin Gammell, from Skyline and Bells, plays, ha ha, The Cardinal! (I guess “The Bishop” was taken!) And the last story is “Night of the Rat,” in which Veronica Cartwright, whom we recall from The Witches of Eastwick, and her nasty umglaut of a husband, Richard “The Thing” Masur, are plagued by a big giant rat which spooks them and throws cornflakes!
Well, there’s the odd effective moment here and there, and a soupçon of pep, but no more than you might find in any garden-variety TV terror picture! The video game trick effects are pretty good I suppose, but the big giant rat looks like they got Bert I. Gordon to do it! Altogether unmemorable, but worth revisiting if you have fond memories of the Bishop! Ha ha, I’m going to give Nightmares one and a half cabinet-game fritz-outs!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Burl reviews Terror at Tenkiller! (1986)

Ha ha y’all, it’s Burl, here to review a movie of the South! The picture is so Oklahoma it’s got a fringe on top, and the title is Terror at Tenkiller! Now, the first thing I’ve got to tell you about this picture is that, immediately upon watching it with a couple of friends, probably Doug and Dave, on VHS many years ago, the three of us planned a road trip straight down to Lake Tenkiller, where the story takes place! I think we just saw the denizens of this region as so vastly different from ourselves as to feel driven by some anthropological imperative, like James Agee and Walker Evans!
Of course, these people are still a long mile from the swampbillies of Terror in the Swamp, so I’m not sure what fascinated us so about the Tulsans of Tenkiller! (Clearly the people we see acting in the film are locals – the thespian net was not cast too wide, ha ha! ) Anyway, we never went on the road trip, and I must admit I’ve still never been to Oklahoma! Ha ha, hope to get there one day!
Terror at Tenkiller, which is possibly one of the most padding-filled slasher movies ever made, begins with a murder committed by a guy named Tor! Ha ha, Tor disappointed me by never once, through the entire picture, grunting “Me go get fashlite fum patol kaa!” We then meet Leslie, a young lady who, under the guidance of her domineering, occasionally too-interested friend Janna, is taking a few days away from Josh, her possessive, rodent-cheeked b*yfriend! Josh is deeply unpleasant, and anyone can tell he’s a red herring and to be avoided except for this dim lass Leslie! It makes it hard to root for her, frankly, though much screen-time is devoted to discussions of how she became almost inextricably bound to this drawling bozo, and the difficulties of disentanglement!
And of course there are a few murders, committed by Tor, as we have been shown from the very beginning! By day Tor works as an assistant boat rentalsman at Tenkiller Marina, and uses his “Just another pockmarked good ol’ boy” charm to at*ract the young ladies of the parts! Now here’s the surprising thing: all the usual indicators of the direst slashers are here: dim lighting, summer-stock acting, dire mise-en-scene, an intolerable musical score! But in violation of the unwritten rules in producing such atrocious films, there are actual Special Makeup Effects!
Not many, mind you (it's no The Mutilator!), and not innovative in any way, but nevertheless they’re there: a throat-slashing, an arm-hacking and a knife stabbing into (counterfeit) backflesh! They do seem like afterthoughts, filmed and cut in when the horrified investors saw how dry the picture was! (This may be why there is no Special Makeup Effects credit, and if I had to guess, I’d say they were the work of the same duo who did the effects in Tulsa movies like Blood Cult and Revenge, and that one where Tom Savini plays a Jack the Ripper!)
It’s really an awful movie in every way, and the very terrible ending is an even worse purloin from Friday the 13th than we saw in Deep Star Six, but ghosts of that old Tenkiller fascination still linger! Plus, there are those few, brief trick effects and a defiantly regional atmosphere: big plusses in ol' Burl's book! Nevertheless, I can’t muster a rating of higher than one jelly arm, ha ha!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Burl reviews Drive-In! (1976)

Dancing like a hot dog wiener, it’s Burl, here to review a picture for you that exemplifies the 1970s as much as any movie I’ve ever seen in my life! Ha ha, the picture is called Drive-In, and of course much of it takes place at the titular institution, but not all of it!
It’s your basic one-night-in-the-life-of-a-small-town movie, like Hometown U.S.A. or any number of others – the sort of picture, in other words, that probably wouldn’t have been made had it not been for American Graffiti, though this one isn’t a nostalgia piece, or at least wasn’t intended as such when it was made! Now the fact is that I like this sort of picture, so I was predisposed to thinking kindly upon this one; and I like intentionally plotless movies, which is a feature Drive-In has in common with Malibu Beach and other favourites; and on top of this I like the 1970s, perhaps because the decade is so far back in the rear-view mirror!
Let me tell you, Drive-In has one of the densest and most concise collections of Seventiesania I’ve ever seen on film! You’ve got your drive-in, of course (not an exclusively 70s institution, but one which fits very comfortably within that decade); and you have a long scene at a roller rink with plenty of great roller rink details; and we have boogie van culture richly represented; and best of all, the movie playing a the drive-in this night is Disaster ’76, a fine send up of the Airport pictures and The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure and Jaws! (There are several Jaws references in Drive-In, actually, ha ha!)
As mentioned, there’s no plot to tell you about, but there are characters! The most like a protagonist is Orville, an average-guy ginger in the tradition of R. Howard, and strongly anticipating your Gary Hershberger types who would come along later on in pictures like Paradise Motel! Orville’s tubby brother is played by Engelberg himself, from The Bad News Bears! There’s a pair of very small-time crooks played by Trey Wilson (Nathan Arizona from Raising Arizona, don’t you know!) and a guy I thought must be Lou Perryman from Last Night at the Alamo, but turned out to be Gordon Hurst from The Sugarland Express! There’s Glowie, the young lady who’s taken a sh*ne to Orville now that she’s dumped the unpleasant Enoch, the stringy-haired big boss of the Widow Makers, a violence gang with a fondness for orange windbreakers! Ha ha, a run-on sentence is the only way to get all these characters in!
There are many more too: a doctor and his wife, a fellow who wants to marry his girl, a nasty theater manager, some other ladies, a whole other gang called the Gear Grinders, a fetching young candy-counter lady, and others upon others, and that’s not even counting the characters in Disaster ‘76! Ha ha, most of these people speak almost entirely in homespun idioms, which is a big part of the movie’s charm! Another part is the great songs, which are over-used perhaps, but well-chosen! You can't beat the Statler Bros.' "Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott?" Ha ha!
Let me tell you, like Last Night at the Alamo, Bottle Rocket and Fandango, this is one of those little pictures that make you think fondly of both Texas and Texans - a mighty achievement! The movie is so easy-going for most of its length that you just want to hug it and thank it for being so kindly! There’s a little too much plot intrusion toward the end – the would-be robbers making their move, the gang warfare heating up and so forth – but for the most part this is one of those pictures you gently absorb rather than watch!
It’s a ten-bug picture as far as ol’ Burl is concerned, and a great watch! You’ll probably be able to find a copy if you try a little bit, and ha ha, I urge you to do so! I’m going to go ahead and give Drive-In three Texas Chainsaw Massacre posters and my most Burlian recommendation! And watch for the scene of the burly Hell's Angels observing a punch-up between Orville and Enoch! "Gang violence," one of them says! "It's frightening," another says mildly! Ha ha!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Burl reviews The Fugitive! (1993)

In pursuit of the one-armed man, it’s Burl, here to review one of those solid, middlebrow action pictures from the 90s! This one is of course The Fugitive, and I place it in the same round basket as In the Line of Fire and Heat!
Of course the picture is an update of that old TV series starring David Janssen, whom we know from movies like Cult of the Cobra, Moon of the Wolf and several Francis pictures too! Ha ha, I’ve got to check out one or two of those Francis movies and see if they’re as good as everyone says!
But anyway! We have Harrison Ford, famed from his role in The Long Ride Home, in the role of Dr. Richard Kimble, famous sawbones, who one night returns home to find his wife (Sela “Steele Justice” Ward) dying from a severe bonking, and a vicious unibracch lurking in the closets! The unibracch gets away and Kimble is accused of the crime, convicted and sent to the pokey! But wouldn’t you know it, on the way there his prison bus crashes and there’s a spectacular train crash sequence, very well pulled off by director Andrew “Above The Law” Davis!
Next thing you know he’s on the run from dogged U.S. Marshall Sam Gerard, played by Tommy Lee Jones, the actor well known for his performance in Black Moon Rising! Kimble uses all his considerable smarts to evade Gerard and his posse (which includes that beret-wearing individual Joe Pantoliano, best known from The Final Terror and The Mean Season), and the film depicts evasion after evasion in an episodic style! Kimble is apparently being helped along the way by his colleague Jeroen “The Living Daylights” Krabbé, but there may be hidden agendas at work! The unibrachh is played by a wild-haired Andreas Katsulas, whom we know from Next of Kin, and I won’t tell for sure, but there may be some connection between Krabbé and Katsulas – the K gang, ha ha!
It’s a fast-moving, entertaining, solidly-made picture with plenty of fine actors and suspenseful setpieces! There are a few memorable moments (the bus crash, the confrontation in a huge dam), but otherwise the movie doesn’t linger long in the old memory banks! As middlebrow Harrison goes, though, it’s more satisfying than Presumed Innocent, ha ha! It’s a good Hollywood production, and I give The Fugitive two and a half fake beards!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Burl reviews Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff! (1949)

Ha ha, numbskulls, it’s Burl! No, I don’t really mean to call you numbskulls! I’m just reviewing an Abbott and Costello picture, that’s all! And you know, I haven’t actually seen too many Abbott and Costello pictures, now that I come to think about it! Oh sure, I’ve seen The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock – ha ha, who hasn’t? – but not very many of the classic, actual movies featuring the two of them doing their routines!
But now I’ve seen this one, ha ha, and with a title like that, who could resist? I’ll watch anything with Boris in it, though his last few pictures are a little depressing, ha ha! But he was a great actor, and, I have it on good authority, a great fellow as well!
Now of course this picture belongs not to Boris “The Man They Could Not Hang” Karloff, but to Abbott and Costello! And these two jokesters do it up pretty well, I must say, especially Costello! He’s really pretty funny in his role as an accident-prone bumbler of a hotel porter! Abbott plays the house dick, and that makes me wonder if hotels still have detectives like they used to! Anyway, the two fellows work at the Lost Caverns Hotel, and when eminent attorney Amos Strickland comes in one night on the eve of the release of his memoirs, has Costello fired and then gets murdered, the stage is set for all manner of slamming-door shenanigans!
There are plenty of murders, and all the corpses pop up in Costello’s closet, so it looks pretty bad for him, ha ha! Karloff is lurking about as a menacing swami, and the scene everybody mentions is when Karloff tries to hypnotize Costello into committing suicide, but the tubby bellboy is simply too stupid to accomplish the task! But, ha ha, there are funnier scenes than that, or at least I thought so! I did enjoy when they finally made it into the caverns below the hotel (for what seems like forever, ha ha!) and Costello became a human drain-plug! You’ll have to see it to know what I mean, and it’s a pretty impressive feat of floor effects!
Costello’s delivery is often hilarious, particularly whenever he underplays! Abbott is pretty much the ideal of the straight man! On the other hand, the movie is pretty repetitive, and lots of the jokes are flat bananas! Costello is on the border of being a character like Bill or Sam or Radio, and I can’t say that his slow-wittedness didn’t get annoying!
I got some laughs, and the foreground matted caverns are really impressive and beautiful! Great stuff! But it goes on a little long and doesn’t make quite as much sense as it should! I’m going to give Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff two coffin-shaped laundry trollies!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Burl reviews Night Moves! (1975)

Workin on a' night moves, dum dum dum, working on a' crazy downtown moves… it’s Burl! Ha ha, yes, I’m here to review one of my very favourite 1970s private eye pictures! This is a group of pretty marvelous pictures – movies like The Long Goodbye, Chinatown and The Late Show, ha ha – but the one I’m going to review today is Night Moves!
Now this is a real pistol-packer if you ask me! There’s a lot going on in the picture, and not all of it is clear, but the easy-but-effective visual metaphor in the movie’s closing shot assures us that if we don’t quite understand what we’ve just seen, well, neither does the protagonist!
The protagonist in this case—ha ha, “case!”—is Harry Moseby, who once was a championship f*otball player before becoming a private eye, and is played with perfection by Gene “The Quick and the Dead” Hackman! He’s one of your small-office dicks, the fellows who do the seedy, sniffing-around kind of work! Like all movie private eyes, he quietly revels in his status as anachronism! But his lady wife, played by Susan Clark from Porky’s, is not faithf*l to him (her unlikely b*yfriend is the judge from Ghostbusters II!), and as a result he immerses himself in his current missing-persons case rather more profoundly than he should!
He’s looking for a peppy teenage girl, the daughter of a Hollywood semi-starlet, and the trail takes him first to a movie set and thence to Florida, where it’s all going down! There he meets Jennifer Warren from Mutant, a glib and sassy blond with a gift for badinage; and a salty fellow who is the missing girl’s stepdad; and then the missing girl herself, played by a sixteen year-old Melanie “Fear City” Griffith!
From there things get complicated and opaque, and people are killed, and the mystery that Hackman thinks he’s uncovering is never quite where his focus should actually be! The plot is in the end not so much impenetrable as open to interpretation!
To me the big clue Harry misses is that everybody he talks to seems to know everyone else he wants to talk to, and that the connections are never hidden, but still remain murky! Harry himself is easily able to ingratiate himself with all these people, due to his charm and his footb*ll celebrity, but he should be suspicious of their instant affability! “Knowing people” is really the dominant theme in this picture, as the other thread of plot involves Harry and his wife, who’ve been married for years but still don’t really know one another!
The movie works many wonders, and one of them is that it feels blessedly like one of those quietly marvelous, low-incident character studies the 70s filmmakers were so good at, while at the same time containing fistfights, n*dity and plane crashes galore!
The picture looks good, being well-shot by Bruce “Out of Bounds” Surtees; and Arthur Penn does a commendable job directing it! You know, Penn made plenty of great pictures, but this might be my favourite! Ha ha, I certainly prefer it to Target! The script by Alan Sharp (who also, believe it or not, helped with the script of Damnation Alley!) is just that, sharp, and the supporting cast includes many fine performers, from James “Videodrome” Woods to Kenneth “For Keeps?” Mars, to even Rags himself, Max Gail from Curse of the Black Widow!
It’s a movie both shaggy and sharp, and maybe that’s one of its great accomplishments too! (And one it shares with The Long Goodbye!) I think you ought to have a look at this fine movie if you haven’t already seen it! I’m going to give Night Moves four bonks with a conch, ha ha!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Burl reviews Sorcerer! (1977)

Careful… careful… careful… it’s Burl! Ha ha! Yes, today I’m reviewing a movie that will have you handling things very carefully for several days after watching it! It’s called Sorcerer, and it’s William “To Live And Die in L.A.” Friedkin’s remake of the Henri Georges Clouzot classic The Wages of Fear!
Now, if you’ve never seen The Wages of Fear, by garr, run out and find it! Great picture! It’s a classic, and a superior film to Sorcerer, but not by that much! I saw the Friedkin version years ago and liked it, but I was affected by the general impression that it was bad, so for years never made any effort to see it again! Until recently, ha ha! And let me tell you, I enjoyed it!
It’s really the type of picture that could only have been made in the 1970s and by someone coming off of two massive hits, which in Friedkin’s case were The French Connection and The Exorcist! And I do tend to like that sort of picture, the ones that beat the odds, that could not have been made but under extremely specific circumstances! As you all know, I also like fugitive expat pictures, movies in which a group of desperate strangers from around the globe are exiled in some dingy, purgatorial backwater! The Lost Continent was such a picture, in spirit at least, and this one is too, in spades! On top of this it’s a very manly picture, with lots of guys sweating and working hard and acting tough, and virtually no ladies to be seen! That it gets from Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a movie to which this one is certainly indebted!
You all know the story, ha ha, but it takes a while to get to! First we meet our characters: Roy “Jaws” Scheider is Jackie Scanlon, a functionary in the Irish mob fleeing from a New Jersey church heist gone wrong! Bruno Cremer plays Victor Manzon, an investment banker from Paris whose shady deal went just as wrong! Francisco Rabal, whom we know from Treasure of the Four Crowns, is Nilo, a hit man, whose latest hit doesn’t seem to have gone wrong, but from which he flees anyway! And Amidou, a one-name-only actor whom we know from Ronin, plays Kassem, a Palestinian whose Jerusalem bomb-blast plot very definitely goes wrong!
All of these fellows end up in some unnamed South American jungle town where an oil company is plying its trade! A well blows up and suddenly they need explosives to blast it out, but the only explosives around are dynamite sticks which have leaked and become terribly unstable! The slightest jolt can set it all off, ha ha! Why they can’t order some explosives in from somewhere else is a mystery, but the upshot is that these four desperate fellows must drive two big trucks many miles through the jungle to the well site, and they will be amply rewarded for their efforts—if they survive!
What follows is all sorts of sweaty suspense, with all of these fellows demonstrating what I assume are previously untapped wells of resourcefulness, mechanical knowledge and driving prowess! The cooler-looking of the two trucks is named ‘Sorcerer,’ so I guess that’s where the movie got its rather misleading title! (I think people back in the day were expecting another blood-and-thunder horror picture like The Exorcist, and when they heard it wasn’t that, they just went to see Star Wars again instead!)
But the movie’s great, and it gets as violent as any horror movie in parts! It looks marvelous of course, all electric jungle green and burnished charcoal grey, and the pillar of orange-red flame that is the oil well fire; and the supporting cast, all playing very realistically, includes ringers like Ramon Bieri from Grandview U.S.A. and Joe Spinell from The First Deadly Sin! The performers are terrific and Friedkin does a terrific job with the suspense and the physical details! (Pity about all that fake superimposed rain in the one scene, though, ha ha!)
There are some explosions and some gunshots, and a crazy scene on a lunar landscape, and it can’t wrap up without the most nihilistic 1970s ending since The Parallax View! All of it is scored with thumpy, frowny Tangerine Dream music, which really works for the picture! There might be better meditations on the caprices of fate out there, but Sorcerer is still utterly unique, which is high praise for a remake! I give it three and a half of the unluckiest blown tires in memory!