Ha ha!

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

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Burl reviews Out of Print! (2014)

One please, for Burl! Ha ha, I was just pretending to be a movie patron there, in preparation for reviewing a new picture I just watched – a documentary called Out of Print! Ha ha, now this is a funny sort of movie: pretty much a personal essay in the form of a ninety minute doc! If it was a subject I was uninterested in, it might have been intolerable! But the picture had me from the very beginning and kept me interested all the way through!
Have you ever been to the New Beverly Cinema in L*s Angeles, California? I have, but only once – in fact, that’s where I saw Innerspace! I can tell you that if I lived in L.A., I’d go there all the time! Ha ha, I might well have ended up in this very film, talking about how much I enjoy attending films at the New Beverly! (I did spend a lot of time in London's legendary Scala Cinema, even though I'm not and never have been a Londoner! Ha ha, that was some great place!)
Because that’s what this picture is about: how much people enjoy attending films at the New Beverly! We get some details about how it was started as a reparatory cinema back in 1978, and how the fellow who ran it, Sherman, was a very nice and quirky love hippie; and about how Sherman sadly passed on and the movie theatre was saved from becoming a fast-food restaurant by the quick-thinking action of its clientele (specifically Quentin Tarantino), and management of the place was turned over to Sherman’s son Michael!
Much of the movie is about how great it is to watch movies projected on 35mm film, and how marvelous it is to see a movie with a big audience! I agree heartily, ha ha! And the New Bev is, or was, indeed a wonderful place to see a picture! So a lot of this picture is simply people, be they filmmakers like Joe “Explorers” Dante and John “Into the Night” Landis, or simply celebrities like Kevin Smith and Seth Green! It’s all just a celebration party for a place, and a format, and a social ceremony that everyone who loves these things secretly knows is not going to last forever!
So there’s a certain melancholy hanging over the picture, and a few touching moments in there too, like when New Bev regular Clu “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2” Gulager reveals just how important the place is to him! But really, there was and is more drama surrounding this modest movie palace that’s taken place since the movie was finished! The lady who made it, Julia Marchese, was an employee there, and was briefly made a manager before the powers that be – Tarantino’s assistant, apparently – decided she wasn’t management material!
She may well not be, and she may be right about the wrongheaded approach they’re taking in running the cinema! On the other hand, she may be totally wrong, and I hope she is! I don’t know for sure, but I do know that the picture of the New Bev she paints in this movie is so appealing that I can hardly conceive of any change that would be for the better! The word is that Tarantino will only screen 35mm prints there, and that’s fine, but I sure hope he doesn’t lean as heavily on his own work as it appears he might!
Out of Print itself is not a great documentary – it’s poorly organized, chatty and repetitive! It’s also a sterling example of preaching to the choir, which I don’t mind so much! There are some nice images – at least some of it appears to have been shot on 35, which is grand – and it makes an excellent case for preserving that format! So as a call to arms it’s not bad at all! It also has a nice parade of New Bev regulars, and some good stories! I’m not sure how I’d feel about the movie without knowing the backstory, which certainly gives it an extra dimension! Anyway, you can watch it yourself and see what you think, and then go out to your local independent cinema or rep house and see a movie, ha ha! I give Out of Print two golden Gulager plaques!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Burl reviews The Horror Show! (1989)

Once again, and without prejudice, it’s Burl! Ha ha, yes, this unplanned trek through late-80s horror continues with a picture I think I’ve seen before, many years ago, but all I could remember of it were the stills printed in Fangoria magazine! And, ha ha, the funny thing is that almost none of those moments made it into the heavily cut final version of the picture!
The movie’s called The Horror Show, and it was sort of the poor cousin to that same year’s Wes Craven extravaganza Shocker, or like a grindhousy version of The First Power! It’s got some mainstays in the mix, like Lance “Nightmares” Henrikson in the role of the haunted cop, and of course Brion “Blade Runner” James, well known from his role in Armed and Dangerous, as Max, the cleaver maniac! What happens is that Henrikson and his partner, played by Terry Alexander (whom I didn’t even recognize as being John from Day of the Dead), close in on Max as he’s just hacking his way through the warehouse district or something, and, after the poor partner gets the chop, Max is somehow captured!
Well, it’s Old Sparky for him, ha ha! The putative execution is easily the movie’s best scene, but it turns out that Max has been practicing with a home-built electric chair, and somehow uses the voltage to turn himself into electricity! (Ha ha, great plan, but what if they’d used drugs to kill him?) All of this background comes from the picture’s most unforgivably silly character, a weird young professor played by the weird young professor from Prince of Darkness, Thom Bray! (Was he from Simon & Simon or Riptide? Either way, I always think of him as the Buddy Love to Eddie Deezen’s Julius Kelp!)
The electric Max, whose powers and limitations are never really discussed (though the weird professor suggests a method of stopping him which then is never really used, ha ha), begins a campaign of terror against Detective Henrikson and his family! His realistic-looking wife, played by Rita Taggart from Go For Sisters, inured to strangling simply by being married to him, catches a ghostly chopping from Max, who seems to reside mainly in the family furnace! Deedee Pfeiffer from Moving Violations and Vamp plays the te*nage daughter whose boyfriend gets bisected (material you’ll only see in an old Fango, ha ha), and Matt Clark, a guy who seems very familiar to me every time I see him and, who was in Pocket Money and lots of other pictures, is the ineffective police therapist!
There’s even a very cursory appearance from Lawrence Tierney, well known from Junior and Silver Bullet! So you can’t fault the cast! But the movie, which, like Bad Meat and The Long Ride Home, was a Troubled Production, I gather, ha ha, doesn’t make much sense, and spends a lot of time being one of those Freddy Krueger “anything weird can happen” type of pictures, which have never been my favourites for some reason! But the tone is interesting: it somehow has one foot in grim, but the other straddled way over in cartoonland! It’s an impressive feat of acrobatics at least!
Too bad so much of the gore was cut out, because that might have helped! I’ll tell you, a lot of people think this is a hambone classic, endlessly entertaining, but I got a little bored with it! But it has a weird TV-sitcom ending that keeps threatening to turn into a sting, but rather charmingly never does! Ha ha, I liked that! Still not a very good movie though, and I’m going to give The Horror Show one Jenke-faced turkey!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Burl reviews Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers! (1988)

Ha ha, trick or treat, it’s Burl at the door! Boy, it’s certainly getting close to Halloweentime, and to bring on the spirit a little bit I thought I’d watch one of the Halloween pictures I haven’t seen in years, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers! I was a little confused going in, because I thought this one had lots of goofy backstory and druids running around, and the psychic visions that do their best to ruin any slasher picture, as we know from The Initiation and Sorority House Massacre!
But I think all the weird mythology of this series is packed into episodes five and six! This one is a little more like Halloween and Halloween II: lots of talk about Michael Myers’s inhumanity, but more or less a straight up, relatively dry slasher picture! Halloween III: The Search For Michael Myers is of course ignored, which is too bad because it would have been nice to see those mythologies mixed together; and for those casual fans who maybe haven’t seen the first two pictures in a while, the whole story of Michael to date is blurted out by a nerdy security guard! This prompts the thought “Ha ha, surely there must have been some other way to deliver this information!”
Michael is being transferred somewhere for some senseless reason, but Dr. Michael Pataki, from The Bat People, is glad to get rid of him! Of course he wakes up from his coma, pushes his thumb through a guy’s forehead and begins killing his way toward Haddonfield, with Dr. Loomis waddling close behind! Michael is after a little girl, his niece, and the reasons for this pursuit are treated as though self-evident! Ha ha! But there are plenty of other people to kill, so Michael gets busy with his kitchen knife and some of his best shock-wrestling moves! Soon Loomis and Sheriff Beau “Fletch” Starr are running the masked man all over Haddonfield! Ha ha!
There’s a supporting cast of vaguely familiar faces, like Carmen Filpi from Garden of the Dead; Sasha Jensen from Dazed & Confused; Kathleen Kinmont from Fraternity Vacation; and Gene Ross, who faced an iconic slasher before when he appeared in Friday the 13th part 4! So it’s nice to have these people scattered throughout, and just as comforting are the bursts of score from the original picture! The mask looks as creepy as ever, and we also get a very nice opening credit sequence (kudos to the second unit, ha ha!), some pretty good bits with a mob of town louts right out of Silver Bullet, and a genuinely disturbing finale!
Those are the good points! But there are plenty of dull stretches, dumb dialogue and stock characters, so it’s hardly a masterpiece! But on the whole it was a better picture than I remembered, and not a bad pick if you want a bit of autumnal atmosphere! Ha ha, it’s a bit like The Devonsville Terror in that way – a crouton for the most part, but an evocative one! There are even a couple of Special Makeup Trick Effects, which the first Halloween didn’t have, as good a movie as it otherwise is! The thumb in the head is one, and then there’s a bit of a face-ripping, ha ha! The rest is stabbings and suchlike, and a few pretty stiff neck twists! (Of course there’s some putty on Dr. Loomis’s face and on Michael’s hands, and I guess those putties count as Special Makeup Trick Effect too, ha ha!)
It’s an okay picture, I guess, and there’s really not much else to say about it! I enjoyed it while it was on, except the parts where I was bored, and I’m going to give Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers two ponky deputies!

Friday, 10 October 2014

Burl reviews The Blob! (1988)

Blup blup, it’s Burl, here to review a very blobby picture: the 1988 remake of The Blob! Ha ha, I saw this one in the theatre when it was released in August of 1988, and to me it remains the quintessential Late Summer Horror Picture – the kind of movie you could count on seeing as the toasty months wane and school approaches! The tradition has slacked off in recent years, and I count that as a real shame!
Well, ha ha, it’s not the end of the world! But I sure enjoyed The Blob when I first saw it, to the point of including it in alongside The Thing ‘82, The Fly ‘86 and Invasion of the Body Snatchers ‘78 on the list of Remakes Which Justify The Practice; and a recent viewing confirms that it is indeed a pretty enjoyable film, if not on the level of those already-named remakes!
Like all good remakes, it makes One Big Change from its forbear! The Thing reclaimed the shapeshifting premise; The Fly made the metamorphosis gradual; Invasion changed the setting from a small town to a big city; and The Blob makes the titular creature not a random passer-by from space, but a man-made organism gone screwy from space bacteria or something! Ha ha, it’s a pretty good dramatization of the post-Iran Contra cultural cynicism, which itself was an echo of the post-Watergate cultural cynicism from a dozen years earlier!
Filmmaker Chuck “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3” Russell kept all the right things from the 1958 version of the story! We have a small town, a fiery meteor and a fatally curious stewbum (played by the grandpa from Moving Violations, Billy Beck) who figures “Somethin’ fell from space, better poke it with a stick!” The town of course includes a motorcycle hoodlum (Kevin Dillon, fresh from his travails in Remote Control), a cheerleader (Shawnee “Summer School” Smith) and a football hero (Donovan Jr., well known for Cutting Class), all of whom will encounter the pulsating pink menace!
The hoodlum and the hero are kind of like the two sides of Steve McQueen’s persona in the earlier movie, and the picture manages a nice surprise when it dispenses with one half of this dyad early in the action! Another new character is Dr. Meddows, the initially avuncular but ultimately evil government scientist! Ha ha, they really made a great decision in casting Joe “The Evil That Men Do” Seneca in this part, because it’s so unexpected! Also, he’s very good in the role!
The casting in general is strong: the great Del “Next of Kin” Close plays a reverend driven into an apocalyptic mania by his experience with the blob; Mittens himself, Art La Fleur from Cobra and Zone Troopers, plays a grumpy dad; Candy Clark from Q is a sweet diner lady, and Jeffrey “The First Deadly Sin” DeMunn is the sheriff whose efforts to r*mance her would have been successful if not for that darn blob! Plus we get people like Jack “Dune” Nance and Beau “Star Trek Into Darkness” Billingslea in small roles, and Paul McCrane is once again reduced to a jelly, just like he was in Robocop!
The picture looks great, with soft pink photography from the portly cinematographer, Mark “Fast Company” Irwin; and the makeup trick effects are superb and frequently gory! The visual effects, however, are not so hot, and are at times on the level of the jam-on-a-picture-postcard effects of the original! Ha ha! Then you've got the physical blob itself, which does resemble a puppet, or at other times, a pile of giblets! Russell’s direction sets up some good stuff, but as often as not misses the opportunity for tasty suspense or scares! And the white shirt worn by Kevin Dillon? Ha ha, it’s horrendous!
Despite its flaws I remain fond of this picture, and although the older one is still scarier, I’ll go to bat for the remake any day! Ha ha, I give The Blob two and a half annoying movie theater talkers who get their comeuppance!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Burl reviews Beach Ball! (1965)

Ha ha, hepcats, it’s Burl, here to b*ogie with you on the beach again! Yes, I can’t seem to help visiting the beach on a pretty regular basis, at least cinematically, ha ha! Because here I am to chat about Beach Ball, another of the non-A.I.P. sun ‘n’ surf-stravaganzas! In fact it shares much with The Girls on the Beach, and would make such an ideal companion piece with the picture that if you double-billed them, you’d have trouble remembering which was which only a few hours later!
Just like GotB, we have a group of fellows and a group of ladies (faux-nerds this time, ha ha), and with the beach (and sundry other locations) as a backdrop, the picture chronicles their inevitable c*ming together! It seems we have a battle of the bands, and our boys are a group called, ha ha, The Wigglers! There are three Wigglers and their manager, the kooky and superannuated Edd Byrnes! Two of the Wigglers are handsome guys: Bango the drummer is played by Robert Logan, well known from Born to Race, Scorpion and Snowbeast, and Jack the guitar player is played by Aron “Cannonball” Kincade! There’s a sax player in this trio too, the goofy one of the group, and he’s played by none other than Don Edmonds, who also appeared in Home Sweet Home and Wild, Wild Winter, but happens to be the director of Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS too! Ha ha, what a strange career he had!
The girls, meanwhile, are so close to the ones from GotB that I suspect it might actually be the same quartet, ha ha! The plot is all the kids getting together to help the Wigglers keep their instruments from being repossessed by the persistent Mr. Wolf, so that they can play in the big Best Band Contest! Lots of terrific performances pop up at the flimsiest excuse, from people like The Righteous Brothers (whose hits I’ve never liked, but I liked them here!), The Four Seasons, The Hondells and the terrific Walker Brothers! And of course the grand climax to the music is The Supremes, featuring a truly amazing hairdo on Diana Ross! Of course, ha ha, somehow The Wigglers come out on top of them all in the contest!
The running gag involving Mr. Wolf is that he keeps getting caught up in all the fun fun fun, or else is dosed with nitrous oxide, and always ends up in some mildly compromising position in the morning, being frowned at by cops! The cops in this case are one guy I didn’t recognize, and the great Dick “Smokey Bites the Dust” Miller! Ha ha, he’s as terrific as ever here, taking it smooth and easy and grinning as if st*ned!
After a great scene where a beatnik mechanic turns the boys’ car into a spacemobile, there’s a speed chase! Then come endless scenes of farce, filmed on the sly at a car show, and then, as in GotB, the lads end up dressed as ladies! It’s a silly picture, but it has many, many scenes of pretty ladies shaking their b*ttoms to the beat, and lots of fine music, and many activities (car racing, skydiving, skindiving, and even a little surfing, ha ha!); and of course it has Dick Miller, which automatically makes it a must see! I’m going to go ahead and give Beach Ball two and a half wigglers!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Burl reviews Silver Bullet! (1985)

Aroooo, it’s Burl with another werewolf picture for you! This one’s not quite up to the standard set by An American Werewolf in London, but it’s no Howling II either, ha ha!
In fact, it’s Silver Bullet, a movie I’ve been a little fond of, but not very fond of really, for years, ever since I saw it in the theater as a young lad! It is of course a Stephen King picture, made around the same time as, and with much the same crew as, Maximum Overdrive! Except that King didn’t direct this one – it was directed by a guy with a fairly TV style, who, immediately after this picture, went into TV directing and never came back!
For some reason the picture is set in the mid-70s, in Tarker's Mills, which I suppose must be one of those little Maine towns so dear to the author! James Gammon, the hard-a*sed coach from The Pom Pom Girls, appears as a comic drunk who gets his melon removed with one swipe of a paw that might have been borrowed from Grizzly! “Ha ha, thus was the beginning of our little town’s long nightmare,” intones posh-sounding lady narrator Tovah “Brewster’s Millions” Feldshuh!
Then we meet little wheelchair-bound Marty, played by Corey “Watchers” Haim, and his sister Megan Follows, who have a thorny relationship! The murders continue on a menstrual cycle, and pretty soon boozy old Uncle Red, which is to say Gary “Eye of the Tiger” Busey, gets involved! Uncle Red is the sort of fellow who’ll sit around telling obn•xious jokes and swigging from a bottle of Wild Turkey on the one hand, and construct fabulously unlikely mechanized conveyances for his disabled nephew on the other!
But who is the townsperson with the hirsute double life? Ha ha, could it be Uncle Red, who, we are told, visits Tarker's Mills on a monthly basis? Could it be mom or dad, or the touque-wearing bartender played by Lawrence “Tough Guys Don’t Dance” Tierney? Or the gas station guy who looks halfway like a werewolf already? Or could it be Reverend ‘Bout Town, the town’s brooding holy man, played by Everett McGill from Dune? Well, it’s one of them, that’s for sure! The kids’ suspicions settle on Reverend ‘Bout Town, and with Uncle Red’s help they decide to set a werewolf trap!
It’s a watchable enough picture, though not a very scary one! King’s script is full of his grotesque small-town caricatures and clunky dialogue! “Ha ha, you gonna make lem*nade in your pants?” demands one character of another! But occasionally the dialogue works: “Ha ha, I’m too old to play The Hardy Boys Meet Reverend Werewolf,” grouses Uncle Red! But for all its faults – including, but not limited to, a baggy structure, unconvincing nighttime cinematography, a general silliness – the worst of them all is the rubbery werewolves themselves, which look a little like the one in WolfCop crossed with a honey bear!
Altogether the picture could use a bit more pep – there’s some gore and some suspense, but a certain liveliness is sadly absent! It still occupies a place in my heart, but I’m going to give Silver Bullet one and a half de-occulations by bottle rocket!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Burl reviews The Girls on the Beach! (1965)

Ha ha, it’s all so wiggy! Yes, it’s Burl here with another beach party movie to review – no, not The Beach Girls again, but one called The Girls on the Beach! Ha ha, this is one from back in the genre’s heyday, or at least shortly after, and it’s not an AIP one with Frankie and Annette and all that, but a copycat released by another studio!
And I’ll freely admit that, although the AIP beach pictures have their charms, they usually get too silly for ol’ Burl, and I tend to prefer the outsider ones more: pictures like Ride the Wild Surf, Palm Springs Weekend, and even drab little numbers like Wild on the Beach! The Girls on the Beach is another that, I must say, I would choose over, say, Beach Blanket Bingo, if I were for some reason given a choice!
The Girls on the Beach begins as it means to go on, with some fine music from the Beach Boys laid over shots of bik*ni-girls running hither and yon up and down the sand! Then we repair to a club, where the Boys are actually singing, and there we not only meet the quartet of sorority sisters who will be our protagonists and the trio of lads who will pursue them by unethical means, but the duo of waiters played by none other than little Dick “Get Crazy” Miller and big Leo “Bog” Gordon!
Dick Miller, who sure does appear in a lot of the movies I review, ha ha, plays a character with an inexplicable hate for the Beatles! “I wish they’d go back to where they came from,” he grouses! “England?” asks Leo, but Dick shouts “No, under a rock!” But too bad Dick, because everyone else in the movie loves those boys from Liverpool, and that love figures prominently in the plot, or at least in what this picture offers up in place of a plot, ha ha!
And what is this “plot?” Well, the sorority sisters, who are the executive of their chapter, are called back to their beautiful beach sorority house – yes, ha ha, you heard that right! – by the house mother, who reveals that, first, a rich and vengeful sorority sister, along the line of Sabra from Sorority Girl, who was kicked out at some point in the past and whom we never meet in this picture, has bought the house’s mortgage and plans to foreclose on it unless the sisters can come up with ten thousand dollars in two weeks! Secondly, the house mother admits, she spent the ten thousand dollar nest egg the house had banked for just such an eventuality! But because she spent it on humanitarian causes, the girls forgive her and set to raising the money by entering contests and such! After all, enthuses one of the girls, “a daily newspaper can be the greatest treasure map of all!”
The lads, meanwhile, want to make time with the ladies, and concoct a fabrication! They’re personal friends of the Beatles, they claim, and can get the four superstars to come and play a benefit concert for the sorority house! A fake phone call from Ringo – that is, from one of the boys doing the worst Ringo impression ever – seals the deal! The boys realize things have gone too far, but, after the girls have sold a bunch of tickets to this chimeric gala, they fail to figure out how to fix it, and simply confess their wrongdoing! It’s up to the girls to dress in Beatles dr*g and warble some Fab Four-style tunes of their own, including one called “I Want To Marry A Beatle!”
Ha ha, all of this must have seemed absurdly square in 1965! But it has lots of funny moments today! There’s a great scene where one of the shirtless lads, as part of their gambit to impress the gals with their superstar connections, bellows out “Fellas, I’m telling you, next time we come down here, we gotta bring Rock!” Only a few scenes later, the fellows get trapped in the sorority house and must dress as ladies, then endure the groping hands of the frat brothers before they're able to escape!
It’s a lovely little picture with plenty of attract*ve ladies and fine music from the Beach Boys, the Crickets and cute little Lesley Gore! We also get Bruno Ve Sota from Attack of the Giant Leeches as a telegram man named Pops! Sure, the movie is dumb and silly, and the way the ladies seem to instantly forgive the boys after their subterfuge is a little south of realistic, but it still works as a fine little document of the times! I enjoyed it, so I’m going to give The Girls on the Beach two and a half phone calls from “somebody named Ringo?” Ha ha!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Burl reviews Grizzly! (1976)

Grawww, it’s Burl! Ha ha, hope I didn’t scare you there – I was just doing my famous bear growl in honour of the movie I’m reviewing for you today, Grizzly! This was one of the very first Jaws rip-offs to appear in cinemas (it predated Attack of the Killer Squirrel by many years, at least) and the most cheerfully shameless of them all – Great White and Jaws II included! Ha ha, I’d have loved to see it in the drive-in, which is where this picture was meant, with every silver halide grain of its being, to be viewed!
Like Jaws (a phrase you’ll be reading plenty through this review), the movie concerns an unusually large predator moving through a tourist-heavy area in search of, or at least happy to find, human meat! The threat here is of course ursine rather than carcharadonic; and, though the movie was filmed in Georgia by the late William “The Manitou” Girdler, it’s supposed (I think) to take place in Yellowstone Park instead of Martha's Vinyard! Anyway, the mountains aren’t quite so tall as they should be if so, but certainly it’s implied that this is a particularly vast national park!
The grizzle-bear, which never seems as large as everyone says it is, roams the woods and sends limbs flying with every dubbed roar and swipe of its fur-coat paw! It seems to have a preference for ladies – and bux*m twentysomething ladies, in this picture, possess as a cohort a mania for off-season camping that I’ve never seen manifest in real life! Ha ha!
A motley team of three men band together to hunt the grizz, of course! There’s Kelly, the always-grinning Mr. Ranger of the park, played by Christopher George from Mortuary and City of the Living Dead; the Mark Trail-ish Scott, as essayed by Richard Jaeckel from The Dark and Herbie Goes Bananas; and Don, a laconic helicopter pilot played by Andrew Prine from The Evil and Simon, King of the Witches, who apparently once survived a mass grizzly attack on his native village despite not being aboriginal at all! Ha ha!
At least one of these fellows won’t make it of course, but not before Don sets his jaw grimly and delivers his grizzly bear village massacre story! The bear itself, a heavy brown number, delivers his killer hugs with abandon! Finally, after a massive helicopter hunt, the big artillery is hauled out and Commando-style bazooka tactics employed!
Ha ha, even though he clearly must be killed, you feel kind of bad for the bruin! He does cause some damage, I will admit, and the aforementioned limbs and plenty of gouting blood must have pushed the boundaries of the PG rating! (As did Jaws!) But that was the 70s for you, and this is most definitely a movie of the 70s! Ha ha, like wines that only reveal their full spectrum of subtle aromas after time has passed, so many of these pictures (Bug, The Car, The Sentinel, the aforementioned Manitou) seem almost to enjoy the simple fact of their vintage, almost to revel in it!
The tough guy acting is pretty good all around, and other familiar faces, like Joe Dorsey from Club Paradise and the mysterious Kermit Echols, spice the concoction still further! Ha ha! There’s what usually gets called “attractive location photography” too, and an alarmist score that gets kind of jazzy when the mood strikes it! All of these things are credits!
The purloined story you might think would be a debit, but it doesn’t rest completely in that column; nor really in any column! It’s just there! It’s got a reasonable amount of pep and lots of bicentennial flavor, and my natural instincts tell me to give Grizzly two and a half legendary-but-almost-certainly-not-worth-tracking-down sequels!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Burl reviews Homer! (1970)

Ha ha, it’s time to think about a real Canuck obscurity, Homer! Never heard of Homer? Neither had I! But it seemed to be in the same category as the very enjoyable Rip-Off, and it even had the same actor, Don “Squirm” Scardino!
Initially it is very similar to Rip-Off, appearing to be a precursor to the “losin’ it” subset of the teen s*x comedy genre just as much as Rip-Off foreshadows a different kind of teen s*x comedy, the “four guys” template! And Homer himself, and the actor who plays him, very much anticipate the ginger heroes we find as essayed by Glenn Morshower in Drive-In, Stuart Goetz in The Van, Dennis Bowen in Van Nuys Blvd. and Gary Hershberger in Paradise Motel! Not to mention Ron Howard in American Graffiti, which this picture also predates!
The movie is indeed very Canadian, but it’s set in Wisconsin so that the Vietnam W*r can intrude on the narrative! For a long time it does not, and we get to know young Homer, who is trying to escape the town by hitchhiking out of it, guitar in hand! But the only ride he gets is from Bob “Starship Invasions” Warner, playing the fed-up town sheriff, who takes Homer straight back home! Along the way the young lad plays and warbles one of his original compositions, a faux-Dylan tune about shellacking hair!
Homer’s farmer dad is not very happy about this, but then farmer dad is not happy about much! He sure does hate Homer’s music, both the stuff he likes to listen to and the tunes he composes and sings! Homer hangs out with his buddies, particularly one who’s a soldier, and who’s just returned on a furlough before off heading to ‘Nam! Our redheaded hero also spends some quality time with his quasi-girlfriend, played by Mia Farrow’s sister Tisa “Zombie” Farrow! He treats her pretty shabbily I’m sorry to say!
Tensions between Homer and his farmer dad continue to ratchet up, and the relationship hits a new low when a drunken Homer crashes the family car! Homer’s stuff is taken away from him, and there’s a long montage showing him working hard on the farm! Within that, there’s an interval showing the farmer dad fixing up the motorbike Homer’s buddy left behind, and then riding it joyfully through the fields! He and his son seem to have reconciled!
But this d├ętente is merely temporary! Homer’s buddy comes back from Vietnam in a box, and a devastated Homer takes it on himself to demonstrate against the war on the main street of the town, playing protest songs and chaining himself to the local statuary! Farmer dad is enraged and humiliated and puts a bit of a slapping on Homer! Things come to a head the next morning when Homer plays some Zeppelin at high volume, and then farmer dad angrily stomps his stereo into flinders! Homer has finally had enough, and we last see him hitching once again, this time getting a ride from a hippie van! Ha ha, it could be a smooth segue into the beginning of Loving & Laughing!
If you’re in the mood for it, Homer is a pretty good slice of faux-Americana, and it has a rock n’ roll soundtrack I'd have thought would be way beyond the resources of such a low-budget movie! We get the Zep already mentioned, and the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Cream, the Lovin' Spoonful, so forth! Scardino’s own songs are salted in there too, and some of them are okay! I particularly liked his opening tune, and sure would like to have a copy of it! I wonder if it ever got released as a single or anything!
Other virtues include several of the performances – Scardino is fine, and his farmer dad, played by Alex “Bloody Mama” Nicol, is really good - and the realistically shifting relationships between the characters! The photography is attractively pastoral, which is another big plus! It’s a trifle, but I both enjoyed it and respected its historical importance! I’d happily recommend Homer, and I give this picture two and a half unexpected sleepovers!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Burl reviews A New Life! (1988)

I say, ha ha! It’s Burl, and I’m here to review a picture about a real New York div*rce! Ha ha, no, I’m not talking about Husbands & Wives, though I sort of wish I was! (Hey, ha ha, the style seemed pretty novel at the time, and Woody was all over the news!) Anyway, this is a picture by sometime Woody cohort, Alan Alda, and I watched it recently precisely because it appeared by every indication to be the least interesting movie ever made!
Turns out I wasn’t far wrong! But I kept watching right to the end, because this was an after-the-fact example of a genre that fascinates me: the late 70s-early 80s adult comedy-drama! It’s My Turn and The Last Married Couple in America are both paragons of the form, and Alda’s first feature as a writer-director, The Four Seasons, is practically the epitome! So I stuck with A New Life, because it seemed like an extension of the same movie a decade on!
It begins as Alda is resentfully agreeing to a divorce from his wife, Ann-Margret, whom we know from Grumpy Old Men of course! Alda’s a shouty, type-A sort of fellow (he’s a Wall Street trader and wears a lab coat to work for some reason), and is resolutely old-fashioned in his understanding of the world! He seems to have almost pathologically ignored his wife through their marriage! His best buddy, meanwhile, on and off the trading room floor, is Barney Miller himself, Hal Linden, playing a chauvinistic silver fox!
So Alda and Linden hit the scene! Alda colours his beard and hair and purchases an all-new lifestyle suit! Ha ha, he looks as ridiculous as you can imagine! Thankfully a tr*nssexual robs him of these garments at the first opportunity! After a while he meets a lady doctor (Veronica “Cannonball” Hamel) whose mere t*uch makes his heart race, and from then on he’s in hot pursuit! Meanwhile Ann-Margaret meets a dashing but weird young sculptor (whose movie art was bland but not egregiously bad for once) played by John “Windy City” Shea!
Of course there are troubles! Shea turns out to be exactly as weird as he first appears, and Alda turns cartoonishly squeamish when Hamel becomes pr*gnant and he has to do gross things like be in the room while she’s having an ultrasound! Ha ha, I suppose the joke is that he’s such a nance after so many years of playing a doctor and doing meatball surgery (ha ha, yum yum!), but the squeamishness is so extreme and pathetic as to be unbelievable!
It’s all very bland and TV-like, thanks to the TV cast and the colourless directorial stylings of Alda! I recall his earlier movies (The Four Seasons and Sweet Liberty) as at least seeming like movies, but it’s been a while and I could be wrong! The picture at least comes to a relatively sweet and true-to-life close, with Ann-Margaret zooming around on her scooter, free, free, free! and Alda pushing a baby carriage around the park! Largely, however, it was as smooth and unexciting as I’d assumed it would be all these years, and I can’t recommend it with very much enthusiasm, or at all, really! Ha ha! I give A New Life one use of the F word as granted by a PG-13 rating!