Ha ha!

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

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Burl reviews Interiors! (1978)

Uht uht uht, it’s Burl, here with a movie that is not Woody Allen’s funniest, but turns out to be a pretty accomplished piece of work nevertheless! Ha ha, I wasn’t sure what to expect, because the word on it was (I thought) pretty bad! But most of the contemporary antipathy for it came from, I believe, a Dylan-at-Newport sort of reconfiguring a percentage of the audience felt was being forced on them! There were more than a few resentment-fuelled reviews out there, I think!
But the picture certainly has been reassessed with the wider view offered by the many years that have passed since its summer-of-’78 release! I finally saw it for the first time the other night, and it seemed at once like an earnest, beautifully-appointed drama in the Cheever style! You might call it the Cheever-Ross style, though these characters are as Anglo-Saxon as can be! It’s an extension of the Hall family from Annie Hall – or a regression, given that the family in Interiors is just the sort of family the Hall Family were parodies of!
The family in question is a well-off bunch consisting of three sisters, Renata (Diane Keaton from Harry and Walter Go To New York), Joey (Mary Beth Hurt from D.A.R.Y.L.) and Flyn (Kristin Griffith from King of the Hill)! The parents are Arthur (E.G. Marshall from Creepshow, ha ha) and Eve (Geraldine Page from The Rescuers), but they’re not together for long, as Arthur has decided that he’d like to go off on his own for what he calls a “trial separation!” Ha ha!
This causes shock waves through the family, but none more destructive than to the fragile Eve, whose bland, ascetic interior designs provide the literal half of the title’s meaning! She’s a lady with a past full of emotional turmoil and suicide attempts, and the departure of Arthur, who clearly means it to be permanent, inches her ever closer to the deep end – to the deepest end, in fact! The daughters, who are varying degrees of self-centered, meanwhile deal with their own tribulations: a creative block for poetess Renata; creative unfulfillment for actress Flyn, and a total lack of talent coupled with enough self-awareness to realize that for Joey, who is also the one tasked with keeping a resentful eye on Eve!
Two of the ladies also have husbands, ha ha! Renata is coupled with a bearded novelist who is wrestling with his own creative demons and a monsterous dose of self-pity; this fellow is played by the late Richard Jordan, whom we recall from Dune, The Mean Season and The Hunt for Red October! Joey is married to Sam Waterston from Crimes and Misdemeanors, who seems relatively problem-free aside from the mutual dislike he shares with flaky Eve!
Ha ha, the finality of Eve’s marital crisis is confirmed when Arthur brings home a lady he intends to marry, a bright-eyed widow played by Maureen Stapleton from Summer of ’42 and The Money Pit! This is a fascinating character who could easily, too easily, have been made a caricature, but Stapleton’s performance resists this most impressively! In fact all the acting is excellent, as is Allen’s Ingmar Bergman-like direction and Gordon Willis’s bleak beachside cinematography! The writing, on the other hand, sometimes verges on the edge of parody, or at least some sort of experiment by which a Bergman picture has been transplanted to New York and environs! These are some pretty self-involved people ha ha!
Finally, however, I enjoyed it a great deal more than I expected to! It fits into that category of pictures into which I also placed such salamanders as The Last Married Couple in America and It’s My Turn, though this is altogether better! I give Interiors two and a half signs of strain!

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Burl reviews White of the Eye! (1987)

Well howdee and hucklebucks, it’s Burl, here with a movie set in America’s great Southwest! The picture is White of the Eye, and it’s a movie I remember seeing when it was newly out on video, and thinking was very stylish indeed; but I was never quite sure if I really liked it much! Well, looking at it again, as I did just last night, I find a movie that’s occasionally very silly, but is strange and intense and certainly very watchable!
We’re in the sunbleached suburbs of Tucson, where bored, wealthy wives wave their petals back and forth like desert flowers, and a madman killer, whom we see only as a pair of legs and a huge eyeball, is picking them off in ritualistic murders that hearken back to Manhunter! (Ha ha, this movie was shot before the Michael Mann picture came out, so I’m certainly not calling copycat!)
In the meanwhile we get deep into the story of Paul and Joan White, played respctively by David Keith from Firestarter and The Great Santini and Cathy Moriarty from Matinee and Raging Bull! Paul builds and installs audio equipment (Ha ha, I wonder if his business card reads “Paul White, Audio Consultant!”), and, as a series of grainy flashbacks tell us, he and Joan met when Joan and her disco-loving b*yfriend (played by Alan Rosenberg from Stewardess School and Miracle Mile) passed through town on their way from N*w York to Los Angel*s!
Well, the police, led by dogged inspector Art Evans – a familiar face from Fright Night and Die Hard 2 and Class Reunion and Into the Night – start moving in on Paul, believing him to be the killer due to his truck tires, which are so much talked about in the pictures that eventually characters are begging other characters to stop talking about the tires already! Ha ha! And I’m going to drop a spoiler here, so if you don’t want to know the movie’s twist, best stop reading! But it’s a twist so expected that, for me, it hardly even counts as one! (Though that may just have been one of my rare moments of plotguessing prescience!)
Anyway, the upshot is that Paul, despite apparently in possession of a perfect alibi due to his supposed affa*r with l*sty customer Alberta “The Keep” Watson, is in fact the madman killer! The whole last act, where he paints his mouth red and, as his little daughter says, puts on a bunch of hot dogs (ha ha, it’s actually dynamite) and chases his terrified wife around, is pretty crazy, and I would say that David Keith, despite being no Keith David, and despite being the worst actor in Firestarter by a long chalk (and that’s saying something), does a pretty good job being Mr. Loonytunes!
The whole crazy thing was directed by Donald Cammell, a fascinating, tragic figure who only got to make four movies in his whole career, or maybe three and a half because he co-directed Performance; or maybe even just two and a half because he took his name off the last one, Wild Side; and then killed himself about ten years ago! Of course we’ve all seen Demon Seed, and that’s a pretty good picture in its way, but so is this one! It gets goofy, like when Paul uses his mystical moan to determine where the speakers should go in a room, but mostly it’s a strangely realistic portrayal of an extremely unrealistic situation! All the acting is good, and I particularly liked Marc Hayashi, from Chan Is Missing and Angel, in the role of an Asian good-old-boy deputy! A very likeable character, ha ha! In fact all the cops are strangely likeable in this picture!
It looks great and pulls off some marvelous, harrowing sequences, but on the other hand I found the musical score intrusive and unappealing, and there were some slow and repetitive bits! On the whole it felt like a fancypants version of The Ghost Dance! So, not quite a masterpiece, but a very unusual work of 1980s horror! I’ll give White of the Eye two and a half piledrivers!

Monday, 1 February 2016

Burl reviews Doomwatch! (1972)

From a remote island it’s Burl, here to review an early-70s movie about a mainlander travelling in his official capacity to a small, hermetic island off the UK coast in order to solve a mystery involving (among other things) a missing girl, and met by what appears to be a conspiracy among the unsociable residents of that island! Ha ha, no, it’s not The Wicker Man I’m talking about today, but Doomwatch!
Within the world of the movie, “Doomwatch” is the name of an organization mandated to keep tabs on any globe-threatening environmental outrages, and their adventures were chronicled in a BBC television series of that same handle; this movie was their first and only leap to the big screen! I’ve never seen the show, so I’m not sure how run-of-the-mill the situation here is, but if it’s typical then I guess it was an environmentally conscious X Files type of thing!
Ian Bannen from Gorky Park and Ghost Dad plays an investigator sent to Balfe, which I initially heard as “Barf,” and which turned out to be an island off the Cornish coast populated exclusively by the world’s most unfriendliest people! Judy Geeson, who later went bonkus in Horror Planet, lurks in the background as one of the island’s friendlier faces, a schoolteacher of relatively recent arrival! Bannen is there to test the local waters and wildlife for long-term effects from an oil spill, but discovers something else going on: almost everybody on the island is slowly turning into Rondo Hatton! They’re also getting violent, a la Impulse, and all this acromania is because of something in the fish!
Initial suspicion falls upon the Navy, who keep a cordoned-off area nearby and seem lately to have been dumping stuff! Ha ha, but Admiral George Stevens, the celebrated actor known for his role in Endless Night, assures Bannen that it’s nothing to be worried about, just barrels of nuclear waste, perfectly harmless! The wry baritone of Stevens’ great voice is persuasive, so Bannen searches for another culprit, which he eventually finds! Meanwhile he’s forced to spiral his own James Mason-like voice up into increasingly higher registers by way of pleading with the recalcitrant islanders to let him help them! Ha ha, after some close calls with a gang of the resident acromaniacs, there’s a very bittersweet ending indeed!
I do like the “small town of weirdos” situation, and like it better still when it involves a remote, rocky island! So the picture had that going for it! Unfortunately I went into my viewing of the film expecting that movie about the turtle monsters who suck out people’s bones! You know the one, Island of Terror! Anyway, once I realized no bone-sucking turtle monsters were forthcoming, I was pretty b*mmed and didn’t enjoy the picture as much as I might have! That’s not the fault of Doomwatch of course, but, ha ha, what can you do! Anyway, Doomwatch is intelligently done and has its heart in the right place, but it also could have used a bit more pep and a dollop of style! Still, I’m going to give it two sloped brows and eventually forgive it for not being Island of Terror! Ha ha!

Burl reviews Die Hard: With A Vengeance! (1995)

Blammo, it’s Burl, here to review a mid-90s action spectacular! Of course it’s Die Hard: With A Vengeance, the third in the series that was theretofore comprised of Die Hard and Die Hard 2, and ought to have stayed that way as far as I’m concerned! I recall seeing this one in the movie theatre, but couldn’t remember if it was any good or not! Well, now I’ve got my answer: not really terrible, but frankly not much good either!
The script was originally something else, not a Die Hard movie at all, and that really shows! Bruce Willis, perhaps best known from The First Deadly Sin and Moonrise Kingdom, once again stars as John McClane, the dipsomaniacal officer of the law previously seen on multiple occasions happening to be in the vicinity of major terrorist/burglar activities! Here he is again, in the middle of it all but for the first time not entirely by coincidence! Ha ha, just mostly!
It seems the stars of Moonlighting, Willis and Jeremy “Dead Ringers” Irons, are together again for the first time, ha ha! Irons plays a Gruber number two, the brother of the fellow Alan Rickman played in the first one, and is pretending to seek revenge for the time Willis tossed his brother off a roof! It all gets started right away, with an explosion in New York, a phone call from the perpetrator, and the bleary-eyed McClane preparing to undertake that caller’s demand! And, ha ha, that task and a bisection-by-wire that takes place later in the story were all that I could remember from my previous viewing!
Anyway, he has to wear a terrible sign in Harlem, and there makes the acquaintance of Samuel L. Jackson from Exorcist III and Django Unchained! The two jolly pals go on a merry adventure masterminded by Irons, which includes more explosions, or threats of explosion that don’t follow through; crashing subway cars; harrowing Central Park cab rides and many narrow escapes! Ha ha, the very last narrow escape our true-blue friends endure is particularly unbelievable, as they hop off a boat that is in the process of exploding with the force of a Nagasaki bomb!
Cops played by actors as varied as Graham Greene from Seattle’s Loch Ness: The Lake Washington Sea Monster and Colleen Camp from Track 29 are backing Willis and Jackson up as best they can, and indeed by the time of the truck-stop anti-climax, they come through!
It’s curiously forgettable as an action picture – somehow the action scenes, as competently handled as they are, just don’t stick! Maybe they’re too silly and unbelievable, like the time McClane outruns a wall of water in his dumptruck and is fired out a manhole like a balding, unshaven jack-in-the-box! Ha ha! But watching it now, the movie seems curiously if pointlessly prescient! The picture’s now all-too-familiar imagery includes buildings blowing up in New York and citizens running from billowing clouds of dust and debris; its themes touch on race relations and the dispiriting likelihood of black people being shot by police! Ha ha, there’s even a Donald Tr*mp reference! It was all very up-to-the-minute, almost disconcertingly so!
As I said though, even with all that and some sharp dialogue and performances, it’s a curiously forgettable movie! It’s much better than the Die Hards that followed it of course, but not a patch on numbers one or two! I give Die Hard: With A Vengeance one and a half toilet bugs!

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Burl reviews Luis Luis, Folger of Men! (1957)

¡Hoy! ¡Hoy! It’s Burl! Today I’ve got an obscure Mexican picture, though one curiously multinational in its cast and crew, as though Mexico decided to try out every co-production deal it had at the same time! In the blurred and dodgy subtitled version I found, the movie goes by the title Luis Luis, Folger of Men! I was lucky enough to get a scan of the original poster from my pal Alejandro, and I present it here for your delight! Ha ha, I do enjoy presenting odd and obscure artifacts!
Anyway, Luis Luis, Folger of Men appears to have been equally inspired by two other shot-in-Mexico movies, Simon of the Desert and The Sin of Adam and Eve; or at least it would appear so if it didn’t predate both of those pictures! Luis Luis, essayed in one of his only starring roles by perpetual bit player and hairstylist Cosmo “The Errand Boy” Sardo, is a humble, middle-aged clerk who is obsessed with long-dead actress Florita de la Cruz, played in repurposed silent film footage by long-dead actress C├ęcile Guyon! But, in a fascinating gambit that comes of as a cross between Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid and The Purple Rose of Cairo, a number of other silent-film starlets (or would-be starlets) begin competing for Luis Luis’s attention! (All this old footage alone makes the picture worth a viewing, ha ha!)
An increasingly befuddled Luis Luis finally can’t take it anymore and, at about the midpoint of the film, decides to become a lonely desert anchorite! But this is easier said than done, and poor Luis Luis encounters resistance from his lawyer (played, I think, by a brought-out-of-retirement Bert Roach from Dr. Renault’s Secret) and his ex-wife! Ha ha, to have an ex-wife at all seems oddly progressive in a Mexican film of the 1950s, but there are so many separate influences in this strange brew that almost nothing can truly be out of place! It was all apparently based on an old screenplay by Jules Furthman, who wrote The Big Sleep and Rio Bravo, but I'm not sure how much of his work actually made it into the film!
Things go downhill for poor Luis Luis after that, but of course I don’t want to give away the ending! Suffice to say that it gets a bit racy, a bit horrific, and finally a bit surreal! No, strike that, a lot surreal! Luis Bunuel doesn’t seem to have been involved in any direct way, but from the title on down his spirit hovers over it all! It's a fascinating work, overheated and baroque in places, remote and ascetic in others! Does Luis Luis ever really become a folger of men? And, perhaps more crucially, what is a folger of men? Ha ha, with the ambiguous ending we get, it’s impossible to say, but endlessly fascinating to speculate upon!
It’s a nice-looking picture, with even the muddy transfer I saw implying some crisp and inventive monochrome photography! Perhaps one day the movie will be remastered and reissued – we can only hope! I found it quite compelling: an exotic curio of the first order, of particular interest to students of cinema, and maybe a head-scratcher for everyone else but at least a highly entertaining one! I’m pleased to give Luis Luis, Folger of Men three life-sized effigies of St. Sebastian!

Monday, 25 January 2016

Burl reviews Night Warning! (1982)

By Strindberg, it’s Burl! Yes, not only do I have another movie to talk about, but it’s another movie with bodies in the cellar! There are an awful lot of those, aren’t there, ha ha! This particular one is called Night Warning (it’s also known as Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker), and it’s a batty-dame extravaganza more along the line of Funeral Home than Whatever Happened to Baby Jane!
The whole thing begins with a couple driving off and leaving their little son with his aunt Cheryl! But before they get too far on their journey, the brakes fail, right there on a busy mountain road, and we get a fairly spectacular road accident featuring a truck crash, a messy decapitation and some impressive stunt work! Soon the boy has grown into Jimmy McNichol from Smokey Bites the Dust, and Aunt Cheryl has become a scenery-chewing madwoman! She’s played by Susan Tyrell from Motorama, Fat City and Tapeheads, and what a performance this is, ha ha!
Her relationship with Jimmy is, ha ha, highly uno*thodox, and there’s no way she’s letting this strapping lad out of her crazylady’s grasp! Then one day a repairman happens by and Aunt Cheryl puts her m*ves on him, but he’s not buying, so Cheryl gives him a poking! Bo Svenson, from Snowbeast and Primal Rage, plays a cop so blinded by his h*mophobia that he can’t see straight, or mount an effective investigation! He’s convinced that Jimmy is gay and is moreover having an affair with his basketball coach, played by Steve Eastin from A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and Gotcha!
Bill Paxton from Mortuary, Impulse and Weird Science pops up as another jerk that Jimmy has to deal with! And when Aunt Cheryl starts spiking his milk with relaxant, Jimmy’s world takes a turn for the even stranger! His g*rlfriend, played by the blonde lady from Newhart, does her best to help, but when Aunt Cheryl goes fully bats, there’s not much anyone can do! Ha ha, she gives the chop to most of the cast, and helps provide this strange slasher/drama hybrid the opportunity to showcase a few subtle Special Makeup Effects!
The picture was directed, weirdly, by William “Fireball 500” Asher, whose specialty was of course beach parties! There are no beach parties to be found here, but there is plenty of skeevy behavior, along with an admirable-for-the-time refusal to do gay caricaturing of any discernable kind! It’s got some dull patches, and some pretty humdrum performances, and Jimmy Mac’s character seems more than a little bit of a blockhead, but on the other hand it’s always nice to see a different approach to the slasher genre! There was a patch during which a dowdy neighbor-lady looked like becoming the hero of the piece that I was particularly pleased, but that section ended in a vicious poking, ha ha! I’m going to go ahead and give Night Warning one and a half missed free throws!

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Burl reviews The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane! (1976)

Ha ha, I’m Burl and this is my house! So, welcome! Yes, today I wanted to tell you about The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane – no, not a real little girl living down an actual lane, but the movie by that name featuring a young Jodie Foster as the little girl of the title!
Foster, whom we know from her one-two punch that is Taxi Driver and Freaky Friday (both released the same year as this one – what a year!) plays Rynn, the preternaturally assured 13 year-old who lives in a big house with her father – but whenever people drop by the house, and they do so frequently, the father is always out, or working, or having his nap!
Droppers-by include the nasty lady who owns the house (Rynn and her absent father have it on a three-year lease), and, separately, her son, a slimy m*lester type played by Martin Sheen from The Dead Zone! A friendly cop played by Viva Las Vegas co-songwriter Mort Shuman is a frequent, increasingly suspicious visitor, and his nephew, Mario the Magician, played by Scott Jacoby from The Supernaturals, pops by as well, but becomes a friend, ally and, eventually, l*ver to the just-barely-teenaged girl!
So just what’s going on with all this mystery and malarkey? Well, Rynn is extremely disinclined to allow anybody down cellar, so that should give you a clue! Is daddy down there? Well, maybe and maybe not! Someone certainly is, and slowly but surely, more people go down there to join them! Ha ha, we ourselves never get a look at the cellar, except for a few quick glimpses down the hatchway!
The movie is largely made up of scenes in which Rynn fends off the inquiries of these visitors, and while they’re effective and well-acted (particularly on the part of the extraordinary Foster), they’re also repetitive and stagy! Never has a movie not based on a play seemed more like a movie based on a play, ha ha; or at least never since the heyday of Roger Corman three-day wonders like A Bucket of Blood!
It’s nevertheless compelling and atmospheric! The setting is a small Maine village in late autumn/early winter, so the atmospherics are mostly built in! It’s not a horror movie, though horrific things happen and there is one genuinely spooky scene! (So, ha ha, maybe it is a horror movie after all!) Those expecting a murder-fest, or eventfulness, or pep, or conclusive endings, will come away disappointed; but devotees of highly controlled child performances will be quite satisfied! A warning to hamster lovers, however: you will be truly shocked and dismayed!
It’s a strange little chamber piece, and if you watch it in the right company, you’ll have a good time! The holes in Rynn's plan quickly become apparent, and it does appear that her poet father might have been a bit damaged himself, but the situation takes on a certain elegance when viewed in its totality, and that, along with Foster, mght be the picture's greatest asset! Ha ha! It takes a while for the child molest*r/hamster killer to get his, but be patient, because eventually he does and it’s quite satisfying! I give The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane two bumping trapdoors!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Burl reviews Endangered Species! (1982)

Alerting you from ranch country, it’s Burl, here with a review of that very oddball Alan Rudolph picture about cattle mutilations, Endangered Species! Now, Alan Rudolph, ha ha, there’s a director with a curious career! He’s a Robert Altman acolyte: this is well known, and pictures like Welcome to L.A., Choose Me, Trouble in Mind, The Moderns and Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle – the “real” Alan Rudolph movies – all attest to it! Then there are the director-for-hire movies he made, like Songwriter, Made in Heaven and Mortal Thoughts, the little romantic-comedy-genre movies like Love at Large and Afterglow; and he also has a number of genre pictures to his credit, like Barn of the Naked Dead, Premonition, and this one!
So I admire Rudolph for mostly doing what he wants, or else trying weird things that he must have known would be commercially dead in the water! It’s hard to know what attracted him to this story in particular, but it’s an interesting one because, despite the picture being a product of the Reagan era, it has a defiantly 70s sensibility: anti-authoritarianism (despite its cop heroes), paranoia, unconventional storytelling methods, a refusal to engage with thriller material in the expected fashion! All of this seems to me admirable, but nevertheless, ha ha, the movie doesn’t quite pull it off!
There are two stories happening in parallel through the first act! We have an abrasive, alc*holic New York cop played by Robert Urich from Turk 182, and his teenage daughter, decamping from the big city and heading west, their relationship a minefield of fractiousness and resentment! They’re pulling a big camper-trailer, but initial hopes that this will be a Winnebago Movie are soon dashed, as I don’t recall that we ever even see the thing’s interior!
Meanwhile, new sheriff JoBeth Williams, well-known from Poltergeist II, has her hands full with moocow mutilations! Her initial suspicion, that the dead beeves are the work of coyotes, is closer to the truth than she could possibly know, ha ha! Hoyt Axton, the great songwriter who was in Gremlins, plays a local big wheel who seems to know more than he’s telling! This is borne out when, later in the movie, he has a meeting with the big bad guy, a quasi military-man played by Peter Coyote, who has flown in by whispercopter, and still later when a fatal toothbrushing incident leads to Hoyt’s belly exploding in blood and sausages! Ha ha, graphic!
Paul Dooley from Last Rites appears as a small-town crusading newspaperman (one of my favourite archetypes, I must admit!), and the story also features Harry Carey Jr. from UFOria and Exorcist III as the local veterinarian whose nosebleeds are getting worse; Dan Hedaya from Commando and Wise Guys as the chief cowsnatcher, and Gaillard Sartain from All of Me as The Mayor! It’s a pretty solid cast! We even get the first-ever film appearance from Bill Mosely, whom we would later see in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2, The Blob and The First Power!
All this bovine mystery and bellybusting is set to a musical score that sounds borrowed from a Don Dohler movie, and seems intent on lending the proceedings a cartoonish, B-movie aspect! Despite this, the revelations, when they come and such as they are, have a generally plausible feel! Scenes are short, almost to the point of feeling cut away from a little prematurely! On the other hand, Urich’s unpleasant personality, his alcoholism and his desultory romance with the sheriff are all dwelt upon a little too much!
So it’s a weird and flawed film, but I’m glad I gave it a look! It’s full of treats! For example, the actress who plays Urich’s daughter, despite being much too old for the part, holds an enormous appeal! She should have appeared in more movies if you ask me! Anyway, Endangered Species has been a movie I’ve long been curious about, and now that my curiosity has been satisfied, I give it two and a half cowcatching contraptions!

Monday, 18 January 2016

Burl reviews Tarantula! (1955)

Fss fss fss, it’s Burl, here to review a big bug picture for you! Ha ha, Tarantula may not be the best of the big bug films, but it might be second best, or in the running for that position anyway! (Them is of course the best such film, but The Black Scorpion, with its Willis O’Brien trick effects, has always been a dark horse contender for second as far as I’m concerned!)
Jack Arnold, director of Black Eye, is in charge here, and his great feel for desert atmosphere and landscape is much in evidence! We begin with a pajamaman staggering through the sage, and when we see his face he looks like the guy from Goonies, only worse! It’s a real mystery, and the local sawbones, a dashing fellow played by John Agar of The Mole People, investigates matters by speaking with Professor Deemer, the reclusive scientist conducting his research in a lonely desert mansion!
Professor Deemer is of course played by Leo G. Carroll from North By Northwest, and it’s a canny performance because, without resorting to obvious actor tricks, Carroll is able to subtly undercut his natural avuncularity and show us hints of the driven scientist beneath! This effect, in concert with his lumpen physiognomy, offers prodromal hints of the drastic changes to come, ha ha!
Looks like Deemer and his motley gang of monkeyfaced assistants are working on a plan to make animals really big! Ha ha, but there’s a fire, and sadly all the animals are wiped out except the monkey and, of course, the tarantula! When it leaves the house it’s about the size of a coffee table, but later, when sheep and cows and horses and even people begin to disappear, or at least everything but their bones disappears, we realize that it must have grown substantially larger! The town sheriff, played by a grinning Nestor “Creature From the Black Lagoon” Paiva, is baffled by the craziness that has beset his community, but through it all he never stops grinning! Pools of white goo are discovered, and ol' Doc Agar barely hesitates before tasting the stuff! And a pretty scientific assistant, played by Mara Corday from The Giant Claw, arrives in town just in time to be menaced by a spider the size of the Taj Mahal!
Eventually the money shots begin in earnest: the truly huge tarantula stalking the windswept deserts! The trick effects are pretty good, and I particularly liked the scene where that big old arachnid peeks in the window where the lady scientist is sitting! He gives her a pretty good scare, ha ha! But popguns and dynamite fail to stop the beast, and finally it’s up to Clint “In The Line Of Fire” Eastwood to put things aright with napalm drops from his jetplane! Then it’s quickly reduced to a pile of enormous burning pipecleaners, which must have been fairly unpleasant for any towns downwind of it!
I’ll tell you this: I like Tarantula, but it never quite overcomes its one major problem, which is that the monster is just too darn big! Ha ha, this isn’t Godzilla after all! If it was maybe the size of the crab in Island Claws, now, that would be scary! But it’s still a really enjoyable picture, and a solid addition to the big bug cycle we all love so well! I give Tarantula two and a half desperate ranchers!

Friday, 15 January 2016

Burl reviews The Prey! (1984)

Ha ha, it’s Burl, friends! It was not so very long ago that I sat down to watch a little film, by name The Prey! This was the tale of a group of youngsters from California, or maybe Utah, who decided to make a hike into the mountains, with their ultimate plan being to climb down, not up, a cliff! Ha ha, but the viewer is presented with information denied the characters until it is too late: namely, that a very tall man with a monkeyface is stalking the woods, ready to mete out a dire punishment! This he does to a middle-aged couple near the beginning of the film!
There are six youngsters, with each s*x equally represented! As the picture progresses, and amid much footage of woodland creatures, they are punished by the very tall man in a variety of ways! One man is whipped with a brutal face rake, and a lady is put in her sleeping bag the wrong way around!
Later, a man’s head is twisted around so that he looks the other way! Ha ha, a fake buttocks was used to achieve this effect! Another man is dropped down the cliff he had so lately yearned to climb, and a lady is bumped into a tree by one of the hideous lunatic’s forest traps! A helpful park ranger is also among the fatally injured, crosseyed and gurgling tomato paste with a pair of huge monkeyhands around his neck! In the final minute of the film, the madman’s plan is revealed to the last remaining lady: he would like to start a family of his own in the woods!
But it was not the heartwarming narrative of The Prey which so held my attention! It was, rather, the many sequences showing birds, animals and insects in their natural habitat! From the fearsome hoot owl to the lowly centipede (who makes marching sounds like a North Korean military parade!), all of the forest fauna are represented! Ha ha, are they ever – it’s like a slasher movie directed by Terence Malick!
Many odd things happen in the picture! The forest ranger tells a joke to his friend the deer, and this is a scene you will not soon forget! As for where this film fits in my loose slasher taxonomy, I will note that, as in The Burning, we have a heavily disfigured manic; like Madman and The Prowler, the photography can at times look a little blue; and there are on occasion one or two Special Makeup Effects!
The cast is fairly lackluster, but they do okay! Steve Bond from Massacre at Central High is in there, and Lori Lehin from Bloody Birthday; we have Jackson Bostwick from Tron and The Outing as the park ranger, and none other than Uncle Fester himself, Jackie Coogan, from The Kid and Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype, as the park ranger’s other friend! No, ha ha, the manic does not get Jackie, but this was his final film role after a long and storied career! Finally, big tall Carel Struycken, well-known from The Witches of Eastwick, plays the gooper-faced manic himself!
There are quite a few points of mild interest scattered throughout, and the ending is effectively horrific. but it’s ultimately a picture seriously lacking in the sort of pep such stories require! I give The Prey one and a half wide-mouthed frogs!