COMING SOON...

COMING SOON...

BLACK VENUS, IT, THE NAVIGATOR: A MEDIEVAL ODYSSEY, TIDELAND, THE HOT ROCK, DIAMONDS OF KILAMANDJARO, GOLDEN TEMPLE AMAZONS, THE HIRED HAND, DAY OF THE JACKAL, and DUCKMAN THE COMPLETE SERIES

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

OPEN GRAVE: WHO AM I?

Who am I is the first question asked by Sharlto Copley in the newly release OPEN GRAVE. The film opens with Copley waking to find himself in the middle of the night inside of a large concrete pit surrounded by corpses. Looking around he finds a lighter and a pistol. Luck seems to shine on him when someone up top hears him call for help and tosses down a rope.

Climbing out, he walks through a dark forest in the rain until he comes to a secluded house. Creeping in, he comes across 5 other people. No one trust one another and there seems to be little more than confusion until they calm down and begin to share their stories. The 5 in the group woke to find themselves in the house with no memory of who they are or how they got there. The only clues they have are driver's licenses with their names on them and a set of keys. None of them know who Copley is.

Scouring the house for clues they find little, but as the film progresses they begin to have bits and pieces of their memories return. Eventually they come to know that Copley's name is Jonah. Among the 5 who were in the house, one is a mute young Chinese woman who seems to know more than the rest but has no way of communicating what she knows to them.

Continuing their search for clues they split with a part of the group going out into the surrounding woods the next day to see if they can find any answers. While gone, one of those left behind hears a plea for help and goes to investigate. He comes across a man half naked and trapped among barb wire on a fence. As he goes to aide him get out, the man laughs and proceeds to try and strangle him with the wire, eventually stabbing him in the neck with a piece of wood from the fence. The others come to help but arrive too late. Jonah kills the insane man and they return to the house.

As the film progresses so does the slow and steady decent into madness among the survivors. Each one of them has a feeling that they know the rest but they just can't quite put their finger on how. As the clues mount and bits and pieces of memory return, they're just never quite sure how to view their memories. Taken out of context they could have done bad things as Jonah feels he did. Then again those that think they are the good guys could actually be the worst offenders. Until the end of the film we'll never know for sure.

Various attempts to find help result in their coming across groups of insane people wandering from place to place in the forest. A group of cabins ends up being filled with people all mad with intent to do bodily harm. The danger comes not just from these groups and individuals that they find but from the members of the original group as well as they begin to loose faith in one another. Just what was it that happened? Why are these people the way they are? Who is behind it all? And is Jonah the man who caused it or someone sent to help?

All of these questions are answered by the end of the film. Getting to that point makes for a fascinating journey down a dark road with side trips to the world of insanity along the way. While watching you just can't help but wonder what you would do under the same circumstances. Could you survive and would you want to in a world like this? And is it just this location or is it everywhere?

The entire group of actors pulls off what could have been an ill conceived movie that many will think is little more than just another zombie flick. But I will spoil one thing by telling you that these are not quite zombies here. The actors all bring a tremendous amount of reality to their characters making them believable and not just card board cutouts. The range of emotions from fear to confusion to hope, are displayed by each.

There are scenes in this movie that will stick with you and haunt your nightmares. But in the end the best thing this movie does is entertain. It makes you consider what you would do if places in the same situation. Most of all it tells a story that unveils as it progresses giving you just enough to hold your interest as it moves forward, never revealing anything too soon. What more could you ask for in a movie?

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THE RAID 2: BEST ACTION FILM, HANDS DOWN

If you were one of the many people to see the film THE RAID: REDEMPTION then you'll have some idea of what to expect with the sequel out this week on DVD. If you haven't seen the first film you can do fine with this one but you'll deprive yourself of the set up for what happens here. You'll also be short changing yourself if you're a fan of action films. Both films are tremendous. I would place the both in the top five action movies ever made. This is coming from someone who has seen ENTER THE DRAGON in the double digits too. Ignore the fact that the films were made in Indonesia by a Welsh director. Ignore the fact that they have subtitles (this new one does offer a dubbed version). Just rush to see these movies.

The first film focused on an elite team of 20 special ops police officers raiding a 30 story apartment building housing the criminals who have paid the top crime lord for protection. This crime lord lives on the top floor of that building. Before the team can get to him they're discovered and the crime lord lets it be known that anyone who can take out the team will be granted a life time stay in the building. Now the team is fighting for their lives against a building full of criminals.

THE RAID 2 picks up just hours after the first film. Hero Rama (Iko Uwais) has turned over audio tapes to the only policeman he trusts that will show a connection between the underworld and higher ups in the police force. But he's told it is just hearsay and it will take more. He is recruited to go undercover to get the proof they need to put down those who are deconstructing the police force. With his family put into protective custody Rama beats up a politician's son and is sent to prison. He's done this to get close to Uco, the son of the main crime lord now in charge. It's more than he bargained for, facing 3 years in prison to get the bad guy but he follows through.

While in prison he first ignores Uco. When a riot breaks out in the rain soaked mud drenched prison yard as a cover for Uco's assassination, Rama is the main person standing between the man he is pursuing and those who would have him dead. This is just the first of 19 various fight sequences in the film and is amazing to watch. The choreography used here, and in subsequent fights, rivals the most difficult ballet ever staged.

When he's finally released from prison, Rama is taken in by Uco and his father and given a position in their organization. He basically rides shotgun for Uco, giving him protection and becoming his enforcer. With each passing day he gets more and more information that he can use. At the same time he misses the fact that Uco and his father are not seeing things eye to eye. A rival named Bejo is trying to wedge his way into their organization. Using Uco as his pawn, he does all he can to bring down Uco's father and install Uco by starting a war with the Japanese crime organization.

If you've seen the first film you already recognize that there is more story going on here than in that film. This is not to say that it leaves the film lacking when it comes to action though. Characters like Baseball Bat Boy and Hammer Girl live up to their monikers when it comes to combat. And a final battle between Rama and his main combative rival takes place the grip you'll place on the edge of your seat might leave indentations. The story does move along from this and the film does have an ending but I won't give any more away.

While the violence in this film slides down to the extreme end of the scale it's unlike any action film ever seen. This is not the brightly colored blood spatter seen in classic kung fu movies nor is it the slow moving hand to hand combat seen in most David Carradine films. The gore here isn't put in just for the sake of gore but it's the natural consequence of actions taking place. Trust me when I say that a claw hammer is going to get messy when used as a weapon.

If you think you've witnessed some of the fastest martial arts sequences ever by seeing most Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan films you have another thing coming. How numerous stunt people were not killed just in the fight sequences is beyond belief. When you watch the extras and learn about the work the camera crew did that put themselves in danger it's a wonder anyone survived this film. And yet each and every bit of effort made in this movie shows on the screen. I said earlier both movies belong in the top five action films of all time. Know up front that they belong closer to the top than the bottom.

Don't hem haw around denying yourself the pleasure of this great action flick because it's in a foreign language. If you must, use the dubbing. But by all means make your way to a rental outlet or store and get a copy of this one. For myself I have no doubt that I'll be watching both multiple times. I'm betting you will as well.

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BLACK DYNAMITE THE SERIES: HILARIOUS ADULT CARTOON

There are many who think that just because a movie or show is a cartoon that it was intended for children. That wasn't the case when FRITZ THE CAT showed up. It also changed when the Cartoon Network delivered a new form of late night entertainment called Adult Swim. Cartoons on the network late at night told adult stories, had adult themes and often used adult language. Some were good, some terrible. BLACK DYNAMITE is fantastic.

If you've never seen the live action movie that this series is based on you need to find it quickly. It was one of the funniest films I'd seen in years. Imagine if Mel Brooks, the king of genre parody films, had taken on the blaxploitation films of the seventies. That's exactly what creator/actor Michael Jai White did with that film and he hit every single note to perfection. Fans of the film wanted more. How he decided to turn it into a cartoon I don't know but I'm glad he did. It meant more adventures involving the title character and that means laughs galore.

If you missed the movie let me get you up to speed. Black Dynamite is the lead character's name, an ex-CIA agent who came back to his old neighborhood to save it from The Man who had killed his brother, pumped heroin to kids and flooded the neighborhood with malt liquor. Dynamite was the ultimate blaxploitation hero, a kung fu master and all around bad dude, the only one who could save the day. The cartoon picks up where the movie left off and takes it to further extremes.

The world of Black Dynamite is filled with stereotypes that filled those movies from the seventies. Some concepts might upset a few uptight folks but the makers of this series aren't concerned about that. They just want to make you laugh. After all, the hero himself lives in a business he created called The Whorephanage. Yes, Black Dynamite wants to take care of orphans but he's also a stone cold pimp when he needs to be, complete with his own prostitutes. But that's not the only thing some will find offensive. Know up front that the series features a hero who beds down multiple women, swears, kills bad guys and makes fun of multiple concepts many would call racist that instead proves a joke is a joke. And yet he's a good guy saving numerous people. Coming from the same people behind THE BOONDOCKS you would expect nothing less.

No, this series is not for the faint of heart. It's not for those who feel the need to be offended by every little thing they see or hear. My guess is that even though the entire main production staff behind the film is made of black artists and performers there are even a few in the black community who would be upset with what appears on this series. Those behind it don't care. They understand that there are things to be concerned about when it comes to racism in this country but that at the same time if you claim everything revolves around that you lessen the impact of real racial issues that deserve notice. It embraces the stereotypes from those seventies films and makes them funny rather than offensive. Political correctness has no place in this show.

So what types of stories does the show do? One offers a look into the REAL Michael Jackson and discovers that he had evil plans for this world and the reason why that was to be. Another has one of Black Dynamite's sidekicks become a porn star in an attempt to find a serial killer taking out the biggest and best black male porn stars. Black Dynamite even finds himself forced to avenge his accountant after the IRS kills him while trying to collect back taxes he owes. Nothing is taboo for this group.

Through it all the look and feel of those classic blaxploitation films can be found, even if the series is animated. From the clothing worn by characters to the drawn sets that it takes place in, the show reeks of those movies in the most caring and respectful fashion. They were classic films and deserve to be recognized for the impact that they had. Here a tribute to them can be found and enjoyed, playing off of them but never really making fun of them.

A few words of caution about the series though. First if you are easily offended then by all means pass this by. If you don't mind an off color joke or ten then you'll find plenty to laugh at here. I would suggest you only watch it a few episodes at a time though. Multiple episodes are likely to leave you with stomach pains caused by excessive laughter. BLACK DYNAMITE the series is one of the funniest things I've ever seen. One can only hope that they have more in mind for this urban African-American hero.

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TIM'S VERMEER: DOCUMENTARY DONE RIGHT

I can't begin to tell you how much I loved this movie. It held me in its grip from start to finish, made me wonder just how someone could be so possessed to do what Tim Jenison did and then made me notice that I had just spent 80 minutes never looking at the clock to find out when the movie would end. I just enjoyed it from start to finish.

Narrated by Penn Jillette and directed by Teller (of Penn & Teller fame), the movie tells the story of Penn's friend Tim Jenison, an inventor and electronics whiz who loved the paintings of 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. What intrigued him the most was the fact that Vermeer's paintings had an almost photographic appearance to them, something impossible to be done at that time since photography was years away from being developed. How had Vermeer accomplished this? Jenison set out to discover how.

Using the knowledge that was at hand at the time, Jenison decides that Vermeer must have used a series of mirrors and lenses to discover a way to paint as he did. Jenison constructs a small version of what he envisions Vermeer did and then paints a picture of his father in law from a photograph, even though he'd never painted anything at all in his life. The effect and painting that result is amazing. But that's on a smaller plain here, not near the size of the actual paintings that Vermeer did. So how did he do it?

This becomes the quest that Jenison then begins, a quest that takes him well over a year to finish and be filmed. When attempting to recreate Vermeer's painting "The Music Lesson", he begins by building the entire scene real size from scratch, using as many methods of recreating the actual items as possible. He goes so far as to research the way Vermeer would have made the paint that he used to create this work and follows those same sets of instructions to make his own paints. All of this works toward the single goal of trying to paint his own rendition of Vermeer's work or this time around, Tim's Vermeer.

This is perhaps one of the best made documentaries I've ever seen. It never gets dull, never gets boring no matter if at times you are simply watching someone paint. The entire process that Jenison goes through as he tries to figure out just how it was done and then the patience he uses to accomplish the same thing is mind boggling. While you enjoy each minute of the film it almost takes on a Christmas morning type quality as you wait to see the end product or if it can even be accomplished.

This film was nominated for best documentary last year and it's easy to see why. What's not easy to understand is how it lost. It is an amazing film that you won't want to miss and that you may want to revisit from time to time. That's something most documentaries can not lay claim to, multiple viewings. But this movie deserves that and more. On the downside it leaves you wondering what Jenison has up his sleeve next. It also makes you hope that both Penn and Teller do more items like this. Not only was this movie worth watching once, it is one that deserves a place on the front of your collection shelf.

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FRACKNATION: REAL JOURNALISM

I grew up in a time when true journalism was prevalent though not always the case. People held a certain amount of skepticism when listening to or reading the news. But for the most part journalist were intent of finding the truth of the matter, getting to it by any and all means. The same was true of documentary film makers. Then Watergate happened. It wasn't that Woodward and Bernstein didn't find the truth, but in becoming the center of attention in that scandal journalism went from intrepid reporters seeking the truth to journalists trying to take center stage and become celebrities instead of reporters.

The same thing happened to documentary film makers. Gone were the days of movies that ranged from interesting to completely boring and in their place were films made by people with agendas instead of those seeking the truth. Sure, the Disney nature films we grew up with had set pieces in them but there was no harm or attack being made with those films. Today's documentary's instead follow the example led by Michael Moore where no matter what the reality is you simply cut things to fit your agenda and leave the rest on the cutting room floor. If it doesn't suit your needs, then it is filed away where no one can find it. In essence, the truth is out there but hidden by the very people who claim to want to show you the truth.

That being said I didn't know what to expect when I watched FRACKNATION. I went in wondering if I was going to get yet another movie that claimed to be a documentary while doing nothing more than pushing its agenda. There is still the possibility that this is exactly what we find but with the way the story it tells unfolds, with the facts that can be found these days on the internet, I was left feeling that I was actually getting reality her, getting the truth.

Journalist Philem McAleer sets out after seeing the film GASLAND, a documentary about the dangers of fracking, to discover if what they've shown is true or not. With this country's dependency on oil it would seem that finding other ways to discover fuel sources would be a good thing. The movie GASLAND shows the damage and danger involved with fracking, highlighted by a scene in the film where a family suing over fracking shows the film makers how their tap water catches in fire when a flame is placed near it, a truly astounding sight to see. The movie takes the side of environmentalists who claim that fracking is the most evil of all things in existence.

As McAleer delves deeper into the items presented in that movie, he soon discovers that there are blatant misrepresentations and some out and out lies being told. The biggest one focuses around that ready for viewing video bite which was picked up by so many news outlets, the flaming tap water. It turns out that the tap water of numerous people in the location it was filmed with actually does, on occasion, light up when ignited. The thing is it has been doing it for years, many prior to when fracking was going on. This would mean that fracking had nothing to do with what we were witnessing even though it was being called the villain responsible for it.

McAleer goes to a Q & A session with the director and star of that documentary, Josh Fox. When he gets the chance to ask Fox questions about the validity of the facts he cites in the film, Fox attempts to turn the tables and portray McAleer as being uninformed while at the same time never answering any of the questions put to him. It displays him as being disingenuous at best and a fraud at worst. But this is merely the beginning of the film. There is much more about Mr. Fox that the film brings out as it progresses.

Taking the various items posed in the GASLAND film, McAleer goes through them one at a time and disproves them. In so doing he doesn't necessarily promote fracking, though one could see where it is not near the demon it is portrayed as by environmentalists, but he does show that with some money, a camera and a will to deceive a new generation of journalists and documentary film makers will lie and twist things to the point that what the end product becomes is not a dose of reality but pure propaganda.

The main thing that you should walk away from this film wondering isn't about fracking but about the film makers out there today. The question I was left with was why would someone who was trying to inform me, to present an actual problem to me, feel the need to manipulate the facts, to blatantly lie, to misinform, who would use any and all means necessary to alter those facts to suit their needs to convince me of their cause? If they are willing to lie and change facts then why would I believe anything they had to say? In an overzealous need to push their agenda they instead push me away and cause me to doubt what they have to say.

It goes further than just this movie and the one it focuses on. When you look online for reviews of this film you find that the ones giving it the lowest marks never discuss the facts presented by McAleer. Instead they attempt character assassination by calling him names, try to portray him as a paid employee of big oil companies and ignore the fact that their hero out and out lied about so many things. They display an attitude of the ends justify the means.

This movie, rather than portraying fracking as a cure all (even though in the end it does support it), shows the state of documentary film making and news reporting in this country. Network news programs willing to grab up any video clips that support a story they are doing without delving any deeper than the descriptions given by those who shot the story display shoddy journalism. Documentary film makers who feel it fine to lie and alter facts show that they've stepped away from making documentaries and are more concerned with self promotion and seeking adulation than in making a purely objective film.

FRACKNATION is good in so many ways. It makes its points in compelling fashion while entertaining at the same time. It does take a side of the issue but not to the point of ignoring most facts or using it as an attack piece on groups, even though it does take Mr. Fox to task for the way he does things. At the heart of it what it does is make you hunger for more information. It makes you want to find the absolute truth about the subject of fracking. That is what a good documentary should be doing, seeking the truth.

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OPERATION PETTICOAT: WHO COULD FORGET THE PINK SUB?

One of my favorite things about DVD is that I now have the chance to watch movies that I loved in the past without having to wait for them to appear on TV. For you younger folks, there was a time when you didn't have access to almost any movie via tape, disc or streaming. Instead you had to wait for them to show on TV without the ability to record them, some times only on the late show. I know, it sounds barbaric. And yet in reality it wasn't all that long ago.

Better yet is that there are some companies out there who don't think that classic films of the past should be ignored and are willing to release them to DVD in cleaned up condition worthy of what some would call better films. For fans though it's great to see them released in general. One company bringing back some great movies is Olive Films. I've just watched one of their releases, OPERATION PETTICOAT, and they've done a good job here.

If you've never seen the film, do so and have some fun. It tells the story of Lt. Commander Matt Sherman (Cary Grant), a sub commander who watches his first sub nearly destroyed in an aerial attack while the sub is docked. Pleading with the island's commander, he finagles two weeks to get the sub up and running with a skeleton crew. Willing to take on any extra crew members to be found, the island commander sends along Lt. Nick Holden (Tony Curtis), a somewhat pampered officer more prone to working the social scene than actually being on a war time vessel. But while he doesn't appear to be a part of the crew, his services certainly are.

It seems that Holden has a knack for finding the necessary parts needed to get the sub up and operational. His underhanded abilities tend to slice through the bureaucratic red tape that so many others find themselves tangled in. That being the case the sub suddenly finds itself ready to sail as their deadline approaches...even if it means the island commander suddenly finds his office without a wall.

As the sub makes its way to the nearest island in hopes of picking up some more supplies, they instead find the island airstrip bombed and five female nursing officers stranded. Holden offers them a ride on the sub much to the chagrin of Lt. Cmmdr. Sherman. The obvious problems between men stuck on a sub with a group of women onboard makes for some humorous moments, none of which I will ruin here.

Another problem rises later in the film, and if you've seen it before you'll recall it easily. When a base coat of primer is needed at their island stop they find they don't have enough of one color to coat it all. Instead they have to combine the red primer with white primer before painting it. You can guess what follows. When the island is attacked before they can paint over the primer, well, they end up with a reputation they'd rather do without.

The movie has some truly hilarious moments involving each featured character on board this sub. There is not a bad performance from any of the actors here with Grant proving he was still a viable leading man in the 60s when this movie was made. Curtis is at his good looking best here playing the affable con-man Holden to the hilt.

The transfer of this film doesn't have that far too clean look that some classic films have these days, instead looking much like it would if it were simply seen on TV. And that's actually a good thing. Movies like these don't need the over-polished look. Instead give us what we have here, a great looking movie that actually looks like it was made when it was made. Videophiles will have one complaint about the film since there are no extras. But with so much to watch being released this just means you can get on to your next movie rather than watch 3 hours of extras on a movie that is only 2 hours long.

In the end this movie is one that offers some great entertainment. It makes me long for these kinds of movies again, movies that were made about the war without having to take a side or political stance. Instead it showed sailors who were there to do their job plain and simple. It's a movie that offers entertainment instead of propaganda. It's fun to watch and I know that I'll do so with this movie again and again. This is one worth adding to your collection.

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SOUTHERN COMFORT: BAYOU BATTLE

I've been a fan of Walter Hill for as long as I can remember. While some of the movies of his I've loved never became the hits they should have (STREETS OF FIRE) others have shown that he is quite the bankable director (48 HOURS). His movies often depicted a world where men were men and weren't afraid to be what they were in a world where people seemed to want to soften them instead. It made his films ones that guys loved and revere to this day. A testosterone fueled battle was at the core of his film SOUTHERN COMFORT.

The movie revolves around a weekend training exercise for the Louisiana National Guard. This gathering of weekend warriors is set to travel from point A to point B over that weekend. The problems come from the combination of characters in the group. Their leader is Poole (Peter Coyote), a no nonsense ex-military man destined to be a leader. His second in command is Casper (Les Lannom), a man who follows orders. While this pair seems to understand the need for their group to follow commands it is the rest of the crew that forms a band of misfits and screwballs that will lead to nothing but problems.

Reece and Stuckey (Fred Ward and Lewis Smith) are two stereotypical rednecks with little desire to rise above the life they've chosen. Simms and Cribbs (Franklyn Seals and T.K. Carter) are two black soldiers in the group with completely different personalities, the first always on edge and the latter far too laid back. Bowden (Alan Autry) offers that intensely gung ho attitude up front but crumbles in a clinch. Spencer (Keith Carradine) is the calm and collected guy who knows the best path to take but since he seems a smooth operator rarely is listened to. And at the end is Hardin (Powers Boothe), a transfer from Texas who just wants to get his time in the Guard over with so he can move on with his life.

As this rag tag group sets out they discover their map is out of date and the waters have risen where they need to cross. Finding a set of boats and trapped animals they decide to borrow the boats from the Cajun trappers and leave a note explaining this. As they cross the trappers return and while watching them Stuckey fires his machine gun, loaded with blanks, in their direction thinking how funny it is. In return, the Cajuns shoot and kill Poole. Bowden tips all the boats and the group is left with a few less needed items (like the map), a dead body and a fear that the men will be tracking them down now.

What follows is a combination of stories, one being the Cajuns trying to get to the men and take them all down for what they consider an opening salvo in their direction. The second story is the bigger one as we watch the group implode with some characters trying to become the dominant male, the alpha dog, the leader of the pack while the actual men who have that ability to lead lay back and don't show that skill until push comes to shove. Not only do these men have to worry about the trappers following them, they have to worry about what one of their own might do to jeopardize their lives as well.

As the group gets picked off one at a time you begin to wonder if any of them will survive this weekend. With no way to contact their home base and several days before anyone will find them missing, they trek through the dangerous bayou that's unfamiliar terrain for them but home for the trappers. Their attempt to physically find their way out to civilization is one harrowing journey but it's the search for being civilized that makes for a more interesting story.

Shout Factory has done a fantastic job of offering a great print of this movie that is sure to please those waiting for a blu-ray edition of this film. While many were angered by Fox's treatment of PREDATOR for making the film appear too clean filled with altered images, this film offers the graininess of film from that time in parts while offering as sharp an image as one would have expected from those days. Eighties film fans will rejoice.

There are no bad performances in this film and stand outs are offered from Carradine and Boothe in the main leads. The rest of the cast is up to the standards set by these two and make their characters believable as well. Perhaps the only noticeable flaw in the film is that at times the characters seem a bit dated but then again as I've told people before, you must always try and place yourself in the time period when a movie was made rather than watch it from through the eyes of the time period you live in. It may only be 30 odd years since the film came out but that's a lot of change.

In the end what you have here is a dynamite action film with more meat surrounding the bone in terms of story that these films are used to. It's a Walter Hill film at its best and isn't one that you will want to just watch but will probably want to add to your collection.

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JODOROWSKY'S DUNE: WHAT IF...

My guess is that most people have never heard of Alejandro Jodorowsky. The acclaimed director broke into notoriety in 1970 with his film EL TOPO, a movie that didn't play the normal film circuit but became one of the first major midnight movies to play across the country. Not sticking to the usual ways movies were made or told, Jodorowsky's fans grew with each film he made. It's surprising that he only directed 9 films total. But the story of what happened after he made his second major success (THE HOLY MOUNTAIN) and started on his next picture may explain that. The name of the movie he was set to make? DUNE.

Yes, we all know that the movie version of DUNE was made by David Lynch, but the truth of the matter is that Jodorowsky was set to direct it before that was ever considered. This documentary tells the story of what happened from start to finish, how a French investor told Jodorowsky he would finance his next picture and when asked what he wanted to do was told DUNE. It progresses with how he hired this person or that person to help tell this grand epic. And eventually it tells the story of how corporate studios run by businessmen rather than film lovers never gave him the chance to make his movie.

Most of this is pretty well known. Going into this film you already know the beginning and the end. But that's not what makes the film so great or so interesting. What makes it that way is Jodorowsky himself. At 85 years old we're given a glimpse at a man who seems far younger than his years, filled with a zest for life and a love of film that few movie makers have. As he talks about his plans for his version of DUNE, Jodorowsky explains that he felt it was a mission, a spiritual goal that he set for himself and expected those who worked with him on the project to share. Indeed, that commitment he sought prevented several top names in the business from being selected to join him on his crusade.

The choices he did make were relatively new to the business at the time and he chose them because he saw something in their art, in the things they had already done, that he thought he could apply to this film. Along with cartoonist/illustrator Moebius he put together an incredibly huge collection of drawings, shot by shot what he intended to put on the screen. Over 3,000 drawings were done, something few had ever done before. He discovered a German artist named H.R. Giger and thought the things he was creating with his art could be applied to this film. He hired Dan O'Bannon to handle the special effects based on the film he and John Carpenter had done, DARK STAR. And with all this talent on hand the film still didn't get made.

The people he hired did go on to some spectacular things though. Moebius continued to be a noted illustrator and cartoonist. Giger went on to create the now famous alien from the movie of the same name. And O'Bannon went on to write ALIEN, LIFEFORCE and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. Many of the others involved moved forward into blossoming careers as well.

All of these tidbits come into play as the movie progresses and Jodorowsky tells the story of how it all went down. In the way he describes things, the passion that he displays while talking about a failed movie production, you wish more and more that he had been allowed to make his film. It truly would have been something unseen before. While many directors these days make movies based solely on the amount of money they'll get paid or with the hope of turning one film into a franchise, Jodorowsky wanted to make art. As he gets exciting in telling his tale you'll find yourself excited as well.

While Jodorowsky's DUNE was never made, this may be as close as we'll ever get to seeing that film. Filled with the illustrations that were done, some animated for this film, hearing him discuss his plans and listening to him talk about who he tried to cast in the film makes for great story telling. In the end what I left with after watching this was a desire to see the earlier films he was noted for. They might not end up being anything I will appreciate but at the same time I will know that there was a man filled with passion when it came to the films he created. It's nice to see that on hand these days.

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THE UNKNOWN KNOWN: DETERMINED BY YOUR POINT OF VIEW

I had no idea what to expect with this movie, the latest from director Errol Morris. Well regarded as one of the best documentary film makers ever, Morris began with films like GATES OF HEAVEN, VERNON FLORIDA and THE THIN BLUE LINE. Of the movies he's done in the past I was fortunate enough to see, Morris has always seemed to offer an unbiased presentation of the subject matter he chooses. With THE UNKNOWN KNOWN I think he continues that practice, even though in the extras he seems to have had an opinion of the subject on hand here.

That subject is ex-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The movie consists mainly of interviews with Rumsfeld as he discusses his life and times in the world of politics. While it could have focused solely on his time serving under George W. Bush, the film goes far back to his early years in D.C. instead. We see Rumsfeld working for various other politicians, all of which would groom him for the role of Secretary of Defense in his later years.

The title of the film comes from a comment made during a press briefing while the war in Iraq was going on. Rumsfeld said at that time "There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns - there are things we do not know we don't know." While it might be confusing to some if you actually read what he said it makes sense. It was a time when we had conflicting information at best, out and out lies at worst and a world where terrorist considered flying planes into targets on American soil as something worth doing.

What is fascinating to watch here is the way Rumsfeld speaks, how he firmly holds on to the beliefs he had at the time and how he can defend any and all actions that were taken then. He is an eloquent speaker and it's amazing that he wasn't allowed to do so more throughout his career. One can imagine that if he were to appear at a lecture nearby you would want to be there to hear what he had to say based on this film.

Even more interesting than the film itself is the reaction that people have to the film. When you read reviews you find that those who lean left feel that he traps himself in his beliefs and statements and should be condemned for what he says. Those that lean right will see Rumsfeld here saying the things that need to be said, taking a stand and showing that the decisions that were made were the correct ones. My guess is that depending on which direction you follow you will leave with your mind unchained after watching this film. That's actually sad because love him or hate him, there is much to learn from this man.

My suggestion to all who choose to watch this film is to go and read numerous reviews before doing so. Don't worry about spoilers because this man's life has been on display from the first moment he walked onto the streets of Washington. Read the reviews and try to glean from them the bent of the person writing. Try to find views from both sides. Then watch this movie and see if you agree or disagree. This isn't how I did it, I went in with no real idea what to expect.

For myself I honestly tend to lean right with a more libertarian bent. I found that many of the things Rumsfeld presented here seemed intelligent and well thought out. I found his charm to be genuine while reviews have stated that he is a master of covering his innermost demons, never allowing them to be seen. Rarely do those on the left consider the fact that he might actually be a nice guy and not the monster they want to portray him as.

As I said, my guess is most won't walk away with their conception of Rumsfeld changed after viewing this film. Any who push the start button after putting this disc in and attempt to watch it with an open mind might though. Love him or hate him, Rumsfeld is a historical figure that will long be remembered. Myself I'm glad we had someone willing to make the hard decisions at the time he was in Washington. Disagree if you like, but at least attempt to watch with an objective mind when viewing this film.

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VINYL: THE REAL ROCK AND ROLL SWINDLE

One thing you have to give credit to when it comes to punk rock fans. They are truly die hard fans in every sense of the word. To this day there fans of the genre continue to listen to their heroes while embracing new acts that continue in the tradition. At the same time marketing executives pay more attention to polls and profits and those old bands don't get the same respect they once did. VINYL, just out from Shout Factory, presents that to the extreme.

Based on a true story VINYL tells the tale of Johnny Jones (Phil Daniels), the lead singer/guitarist of the non defunct punk band called Weapons of Happiness. One of the biggest and best in their heyday the group disbanded for reasons unknown years ago. Now Jones lives with his wife in a trailer dreaming of the good old days. When a common friend passes away, the band comes together for the first time at the funeral.

The members have taken different paths since their split. Only Robbie (Perry Benson) seems to have become a success now owning several retirement homes. They all raise a glass to their fallen comrade...several glasses actually...until they're rip roaring drunk and retire to Robbie's new home. Together in his music room they each pick up the instruments they once played and jam together creating a new song which Robbie records on his laptop. The next morning when they wake they hear it playing, think it's a great song and wonder who it is. When Robbie tells them it's them, Johnny thinks they have a chance to reclaim once lost glory.

Taking the demo to the old company they once recorded for Johnny meets with a young exec who talks about how his dad listened to their music. He refuses to listen to the disc though. Why? Because the group is now a bunch of old guys and the buying public is only interested in young groups.

Incensed by this attitude Johnny decides to beat them at their own game. Getting the rest of the band on board, he comes up with the greatest rock and roll swindle of all time. The band will recruit a group of young people with no talent to lip synch their song in a music video they will make. They'll then pass that along to the recording company and when a live gig is announced, they'll step out and take credit for the hit and show the record company to be the soulless money grabbers they are.

The band sets out and does just that. They find the right kids for the group and bring them together, teaching them enough about the instruments they have to fake to get by. They figure out just what clothes they should wear, how they should look, shoot the video and pass it along to stations everywhere. Soon the song is the hit they predicted as is the band. The recording company comes calling. But all does not go according to plan.

Based on the true life tale of Mike Peters, the driving force behind the band The Alarm, this is an interesting and entertaining film that holds you from start to finish. Peters actually did what we see here in the film which makes it just that much more entertaining. It certainly shines a light on the youth oriented recording industry that took from so many bands when they were young only to ignore them when they attempted to return to their rock roots.

Everyone in the film does a fantastic job without a false note in their performances as old time rockers and new kids on the block. Whether it's portraying a rocker with a long festering grudge or a youngster with stars in their eyes, all of the actors involved make this a believable tale. Since his role is center stage actor Phil Daniels perhaps deserve extra notice as Johnny. Not only does he carry the weight of making the film seem real, his character is one that wants to grasp that golden goose of fame once more living the dream of a rock star while at the same time trying to roll with the fact that he's not the kid he once was and has responsibilities that he might not realize until too late.

The music, something that has to come across as real for the movie to be taken seriously, does a fine job of capturing the music of the time. What's interesting to note is the change most of us take with punk music. At one time it might have seemed like just a bunch of chords smashed onto a guitar with no sense at all. Now punk music is much more accepted to the point where perhaps those who started the genre, if doing so today, would have been forced to come up with something else more anti-acceptable.

The movie is a fun film that touches at times, makes you laugh at times and in general provides a great entertainment value while telling a story of growing up, both for the young and old in the story. It's a movie that can be watched more than once and enjoyed each time. I can only assume it didn't play wider in theaters because the names involved weren't the big box office stars people flock to. Don't let that deter you from watching a movie that is worth watching.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

THE MONKEY'S PAW: CLASSIC RETELLING

One would think that there isn't a soul on this planet over 30 who hasn't heard the story of the monkey's paw or some form of that story. The original story involved a couple whose son had just died and then wished that come back to life only to be horrified when his corpse arrives at their door. The motto of the story was be careful what you wish for. With the movie THE MONKEY'S PAW, that story is given a new twists that entertains and yet never turns off its audience.

Jake (C.J. Thomason) works in a safety equipment plant in New Orleans. He's having a rough go of things with his mother dealing with cancer, his ex-girlfriend now the wife of the plant's owner and Gillespie (David Hugh Kelly), his supervisor, giving him a hard time about the job he's doing. Jake's friend Cobb (Stephen Lang) is a goof off and trouble maker who tells him not to worry. When a shipment is light his supervisor is fired and he blames Jake.

That night at the local bar Jake first runs into Cobb and complains about the problems he's facing. Cobb in turn tells him about having a son he is not allowed to see do to a restraining order and to stop feeling sorry for himself. The pair runs into Gillespie sitting alone drinking and as they discuss their problems Gillespie shows Jake a trinket, a mummified monkey's paw that his father left him. He then tells him the story of how the paw is supposed to grant a person 3 wishes and can't be passed on to someone else until all 3 have been taken. Jake thinks this is a joke and wishes for the hot car parked out front. When Cobb tries to take the paw for himself Gillespie stops him and reminds him that until Jake finishes all of his wishes it can't be passed to another.

Now completely intoxicate, Jake and Cobb find the car still parked out front unlocked and with the keys still in it after the bar closes. They take off in the care and stop by their boss' house where Jake hopes to talk to his ex with the hope of her helping get Gillespie his job back. That doesn't work and they leave. Driving down the road they swerve to avoid an alligator in the road. The car crashes into a tree throwing Cobb through the front window and apparently killing him. Jake then wishes he were alive again and vacates the scene of the accident before he can be associated with it.

Of course Cobb rises, acting quite differently than he has in the past. He begins leaving behind a trail of bodies as he attempts to force Jake to use his last wish to reunite him with his son. As the victims of his attack become friends and family close to Jake, Jake must locate the trinket he tossed aside earlier and try to placate Cobb. If not, all will be lost.

The thing that makes this film the most interesting revolves around the accident and the results of that accident. As the movie progresses you at first think that perhaps the paw worked and Cobb was actually risen from the dead. But with each passing moment and due to several other items you see, you then begin to consider the possibility that Cobb didn't actually die but that a part of him inside did. How else to explain the actions that he goes through after the accident? Whether or not he is or isn't dead makes for an interesting story.

The movie was made for Chiller, the horror channel offered via cable. It offers a few gruesome scenes but nothing near as graphic as that seen on shows like THE WALKING DEAD. Because of that this movie might make a great horror film for younger viewers though perhaps not too young. Sure there are a few gore scenes but they are pretty tame.

The acting seen here isn't the best with the weakest performance coming from Michelle Pierce as Olivia, Jake's ex. The best performance comes from Lang as Cobb displaying what we perceive early on as a soul that's dark to start with but who changes to a more evil person once the accident takes place. Lang ties together that dangerous feeling with sympathy for a man in pain from being taken from his son. It's a more in depth character than seen on the surface and he brings that character to life.

Some might not think this movie goes far enough but for me the end product was fine. It offered a good horror story, put that new twist of is he or isn't he to a classic tale and was done in such a way that didn't showed you didn't have to go to extremes to get the job done. If you like a good horror story then this film is worth watching.

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SON OF GOD: THE STORY OF CHRIST

It's difficult to write about a movie that focuses on the life of Christ without bringing your own personal beliefs into it. How can you claim to be offering an unbiased review if you believe in Christ to begin with? I do and always have, but I intend to try and hold my personal beliefs in check while writing about SON OF GOD, new on DVD.

If you haven't heard about this film then you've not been paying attention. In 2013 producer Jeff Burnett and his wife Roma Downey put together a TV series that no one expected anyone to watch. What happened surprised the doubters when THE BIBLE went on to become one of the most watched min-series of that year. With that triumph the pair decided to focus on the life of Jesus and made this film which was released to theaters. Once more some were surprised when the film did well financially.

The film opens with Jesus birth but then moves fast forward to his gathering the apostles starting with Peter. As he moves forward the film doesn't stay too long on any given moment but puts together bits and pieces from Jesus life in the order they happened. Given the subject matter and amount of time allotted for a feature film there is no way that the entire story of Jesus could include everything from start to finish. What the makers of this film have done is touch on many of the momentous items and miracles that happened in that time.

While the first hour of the film touches on his earlier life, teachings and miracles, the second hour begins by setting up his crucifixion. The political ploys between the Romans and the heads of the Jewish religion at the time to insure stability of their personal power is covered here showing that they had no belief in Jesus' teachings and feared him more than anything. He was a disruption to the same old same old, putting their control in jeopardy. As this second hour begins we see them maneuvering him into an arrest which culminates in his conviction and then crucifixion. While painful to watch there is no way it compares to what we saw in Mel Gibson's film THE PASSION. In truth, we don't need to.

What separates this movie apart from so many others is the final 18 minutes of the movie. Where THE PASSION showed the death of Christ, SON OF GOD shows his resurrection and appearance before the apostles after rising from the tomb. This was a complaint many religious leaders had with Gibson's film so they should be satisfied with the presentation of it here.

All of that being said, a short description of what the movie is about, the question becomes is it worth watching? Was it entertaining? To answer honestly I'd have to say for the most part no. It moves along at a slow pace and uses dramatic music in the background too much. Things that happened in Jesus' life seem to be pushed out and then moved aside to get to the next thing and yet the pace drags. The acting is solid for all involved but no one stands out here. The story for most of us is well known and with the exception of the resurrection offers little that we haven't seen before.

That being said, there is a reason to watch the movie. While it may not be a whiz bang movie that holds you by the throat, it does offer an introductory presentation of the life of Christ. If you have children that can't seem to focus on reading the Bible, or if you have problems sticking with it, this movie might offer some insight as to what you'll find there. For some it will give them a glimpse into what Christianity is all about. If nothing else, it could be a good conversation starter that will make people either defend their convictions or defend why they don't have them.

I'm glad I watched the film. I'm glad that it was made and that it was successful. I would guess that a number of people will add it to their collections so that they can watch and remember what they should already know if they believe. Perhaps it will cause a few people to reconsider what they should be doing with their Sunday mornings, perhaps not. In the end the determining factor of whether to watch this movie or not, and if you will enjoy it or not, depends mostly on your own personal beliefs. For me it was a nice reminder of what I hear every week at church.

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HELIX SEASON ONE: BIOLOGICAL ATTACK!

I've often said that one of the benefits of DVDs is that we now have the opportunity to view and entire season of a series we found interesting all at once. Perhaps you missed an episode or two, maybe you missed the beginning and came in after others discussed it, but with DVD on hand you can now watch anything start to finish. Binge watching has become a phrase that many have begun to use.

If you missed the series HELIX on the SyFy network then you missed an interesting and exciting new show. The story takes place in the arctic at a secret research facility. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been called and alerted to a possible infectious outbreak at the station. Specifically requested is Dr. Allan Farragut (Billy Campbell). He's been asked to come because the main person infected is his brother, Peter. Along with Allan is his assistant Dr. Sarah Jordan and several other specialized team members.

Once they arrive at the facility Allan learns that not only was his brother working there, his ex-wife Julia is there as well. This adds some dramatic tension to the show as it slowly reveals that Julia had an affair with Peter which led to the break up between her and Allan. But with Peter's life on the line that's set aside as they try to discover just what the actual problem is.

This won't be near as easy to do as they think at first. Whereas Peter was supposedly near death as the story opens he suddenly has superior strength and has escaped a secured outbreak type cell through the air ducts over top. Just exactly what it was that was going on in this facility is at the heart of the show as it begins. Eventually it twists a bit into who is involved and eventually it falls into the category of can this be stopped and the world saved.

One thing we witness as the story progresses is an attempt to somewhat cash in on the current zombie craze in movies and TV. Those infected with the virus in that's been released suddenly begin to look like the living dead. Fast zombies, not slow ones. But the real fear factor involved in the series is less about those infected and whether or not the entire planet might succumb to this disease. Containment is the answer but will those behind it all want to keep it localized or are they forming plans to weaponize it?  Those answers aren't coming quickly and not fully addressed with this season. It's more about trying to discover just what it is and how it came to be.

Many have compared this series to THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN and it's easy to see why. We have a possible outbreak of a deadly virus that mutates or kills those it touches. Scientists are attempting to control that outbreak at all costs but at the same time someone among them may have an ulterior motive when it comes to the virus. It makes for a combination of science fiction and thriller that works well combined this way.

There are times the show moves along a bit slowly but when binge watching that's easily placated by being able to advance to the next episode in a short amount of time rather than having to wait a week. The acting is well played by all involved with perhaps the exception of one person who I will kindly not reveal. If you watch you'll know who I'm talking about. In the end what we are presented with here is a solid science fiction story that holds keeps you guessing from moment to moment. It's science fiction that doesn't take you beyond the stars to find and enemy but right here in your own back yard. Well if your back yard was the arctic. In the end you'll find yourself entertained and wondering what will happen next. That's a good sign for any series.

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COMPOUND FRACTURE: TYLER MANE DOES GOOD



There are some who may know the name Tyler Mane. If not then my guess is you've seen him without realizing it. At one time a professional wrestler, Mane made his big break in films playing Sabretooth in the first X-MEN movie. That led to his getting parts in numerous horror and action films over the past 14 years as well as tons of appearances at conventions across the country. Now he steps into as one of the writers and producers of COMPOUND FRACTURE.

Mane stars as Michael, a no nonsense father on his way to visit his ailing father Gary (Muse Watson). Along for the ride are Michael's girlfriend Juliette (Renae Geerlings) and his nephew Brandon, a stereotypical brooding teen. It's been years since Michael has been home and the resentment he feels for his father is palpable. But with the death of his sister earlier and a call from his stepmother he decides the time is right to come home and try to make amends.

When they arrive at his father's house the first thing they notice is the overabundance of security cameras covering the house. When Gary comes out to greet them he seems to keep a wary eye out and later acts a bit strange. Annabelle (Leslie Easterbrook), Gary's wife, has reached a point where his violent nature has taken its toll on her. She still loves him but can't deal with him any longer. She relates this to Michael, apologizing for leaving, but hoping for the best.

As the story progresses we learn that things are not exactly what they seem. Isn't it always that way? Just what happened to Chloe and how she was killed is the centerpiece of the story. A combination of ghost story and cult-like activity join together to make an interesting tale. It seems Chloe's husband and Brandon's father William was heavily involved in the occult, enough so that when he died his ghost lived on and has come to seek retribution and spill evil over the family he left behind. Just who will survive this battle makes for a great story.

William is played here by Derek Mears, another horror film regular these days who makes the convention circuit as well. Mears has a menacing appearance when he wants and uses it to full advantage here. One of the few actors able to stand eye to eye with Mane, the face off between these two as they battle for the lives of Mane's loved ones makes for an interesting confrontation.

For me, while the entire cast did a great job, the stand out was Mane. With his angry appearance and bad guy wrestler build Mane has been subjected to always playing the heavy in most films he's made. He even played the new Michael Meyers for goodness sake. Here he is given the chance to show that he does indeed have some acting ability and can play the good guy if given the chance. He does a great job of it but at the same time come on Tyler, smile a little more.

In the end what we have here is an enjoyable horror film that offers an original story with some great acting to take you on the trip it offers. It's rare that a horror film offers something new these days. Take advantage of the trip this one presents and you just might have a good time.

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HOUSE OF DUST: NICE INDY HORROR FLICK

There has been a glut of horror films released over the past decade. It seems like everyone has realized that the lowest budgeted film that can be made is a horror film and that it makes for an easy entry into the world of film making. Coupled with a legion of horror fans who have adored so many films they want to emulate and you find an overabundance of horror movies coming out, most of them bad. So it's nice to see one every once in a while that might not have a big name starring in it and might use bits and pieces of other movies but that entertains at the same time. Movies like HOUSE OF DUST.

The movie focuses on a group of college students beginning a their year. New to the group is Emma, a young girl with some serious issues relating to her mental stability. Shy and withdrawn, Emma is egged on by her roommate Gabby to join in at the party some students are having that first night there. Gabby's boyfriend Dylan is on hand as well as his roommate, Kolt. Emma has caught Kolt's eye and he attempts to win her trust that night.

The group heads back to the dorm from the party and while walking across campus they go past a building covered in ivy and sealed to all students. The abandoned building was once and asylum that housed numerous patients including one notorious serial killer. While these students don't know it, in the opening sequence of the film we witnessed him killing some of the staff as well as his incineration in the oven in the basement. Seeing a building like this how can you expect kids not to try and break in? They do so, eventually finding the oven and accidentally knocking over a container of ashes. Guess whose ashes they were? Suddenly things begin to happen the kids.

Emma begins seeing things and worries that it is her mental problems come back to plague her. Students start to turn up murdered or missing. Kolt begins to change his behavior, becoming more anti-social and violent. With each passing day the hold that the spirit of the serial killer begins to take hold. Whether the kids in the film will survive or not is a toss up until the end. What's really nice here is that rather than do what's become far too typical in most horror films, leaving it open ended for a possible sequel, this one actually does offer a closing.

The scares here are not too intense and the acting is surprisingly well done by all involved. That is not to say that it's surprising because they don't possess any talent but surprising because it's rare to find someone with actual acting ability in most low budget horror films these days. While perhaps not Oscar worthy, each and every member does a believable job here.

While the die hard horror fans out there will probably not find this movie gory enough or will feel that it's been done before, it still offers a fairly fresh take on the subject matter while at the same time not portraying the kids involved as total idiots. I don't recall any scenes that had that "look a trail of blood, let's separate and find out where the killer is" moments. Instead we get a decent story, a few chills and enough horror for the non-fan to enjoy the movie.

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BLOOD OF THE VIRGINS: LUSTFUL VAMPIRE ON THE LOOSE

There are certainly some bad movies made out there, a large number of which were made in the sixties and specifically in European countries. This is not to say that the U.S. made the best pictures without their own share of turkeys. Indeed, the bad movie is not limited to any one country. At the same time some of those bad movies weren't as bad during the time period they were released. Viewed now though it takes some stamina to get through one.

That being said, there is a market for many of these movies. Collectors are fascinated by the films of directors who were more noted for infamy than for a celebration of art. And yet on occasion those same directors actually did create some artistic films. The names Jess Franco and Paul Naschy come to mind. As fans are drawn to their films they begin to discover other directors from Europe as well and clamor to pick up everything they can. This has opened a market for those films, one that companies like Cheezy Flicks has tapped into.

The company has found that there is money to be made in repackaging and in some cases putting out for the first time various movies that their original studios have decided to ignore or films that have a niche market that they are willing to tap. The great thing about this is that movies once unavailable can now be found for a reasonable price. The only problem is that videophiles will gripe about the lack of extras, something I've never let stop me from picking up a movie I was looking for. All this being said, Cheezy Flicks has just released another European horror flick in their series called Erotomania. The movie is BLOOD OF THE VIRGINS, and actually it's not all that bad though quite dated. While not really a European film (it was made in Argentina) it does feature those sensibilities.

The movie opens around the turn of the century somewhere in Spain. Ofelia is in love with Gustavo but is being forced to marry Eduardo at her parent's insistence. Gustavo swears that he will not allow it to happen, that he will never let Ofelia go. Marrying for societal stature instead of love, she goes through with the wedding. On their wedding night, Gustavo shows up as they are about to consummate their wedding, kills Eduardo and turns Ofelia into a vampire. Yes, Gustavo was a vampire, the reason he refused to meet her family.

Fast forward to the swinging sixties (the movie was made in 1967). Three young couples and their goofy guide are on a tour of the country, going from nightclubs to ski slopes and more. Call me surprised to find that it was nothing for dating couples to undress at the local club while dancing. As they travel from one town to the next one night, they discover they've run out of gas. Too far to walk to the next town and too late to flag down a passing car, they walk to an abandoned lodge to spend the night ignoring the guide's tale that the place is haunted. Of course this is the same lodge where our earlier story took place.

They start a fire, find food left out for them on a table and after drinking drugged wine, all fall asleep with the exception of one of the men. While searching through the home he comes across Ofelia who jumps into the sack with. The next morning the girls are nowhere to be found and the police are alerted. Eventually they begin showing up but each one is pale and ill, suffering from an unknown malady. As the young man begins to look into the lore of the place with the help of his girlfriend's brother, they find out about the story of Gustav and Ofelia. But will it be in time to save everyone?

The story seems pretty standard by horror film fare with few changes in vampire folklore to be seen. Most notable is that these vampires seem to be able to walk in daylight but then again perhaps that was a budgetary choice rather than one for folklore. The photography seems to be standard European sixties style with little flare but not all that bad. The transfer is acceptable so don't worry that this is just a VHS to DVD transfer. The movie hasn't been given a refurbishing as many blu-ray films are these days, but it's fine anyway.

As with any foreign film that comes this way there is possibly a few things lost in translation. That's something that can't be avoided and for the most part doesn't affect the story being told. The same holds true for the acting which seems fine but since you're reading the dialogue rather than hearing the words actually spoken, it loses something. Still, the cast seems to do a decent job of it all. Then again you can tell that their acting skills weren't always what the film maker here was going for. Susana Beltran as Ofelia seems hired more for her physical presence than for her acting ability. Again, though, not knowing the language on it's own you won't know for sure.

On the whole this is not the worst European styled vampire movie to enter the U.S. but not the best either. For fans looking to fill out there collection it's worth adding. If you love European horror then you'll want to pick it up. Also fans of director Emilio Vieyra, the man behind THE CURIOUS DR. HUMP and NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES, will want to add it to your collection as well.

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