Friday, September 14, 2018



You would think by now that crazed scientists meddling with Mother Nature would realize that thing are more than likely not going to turn out as they planned. In the very first film character Ian Malcolm warned them that they were messing with things best left untouched. But no one seems to listen.

As a matter of fact in JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM the film opens with Malcolm (again played by Jeff Goldblum) offering that same warning once more. At the end of the last film, JURASSIC WORLD, the concept of a theme park filled with dinosaurs once again crumbled with the dinosaurs attacking and people dying. Isla Nubar, the island where it took place, was left to the dinosaurs and those that survived left. Here we are a few years later with a volcano about to erupt on the island and activists are trying to save the dinosaurs.

Leading that cause is Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) who worked on the island and survived. Not wanting these creatures to return to extinction she pleads her case to anyone who will listen. That would include Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), a billionaire and ex-friend of the park’s original creator John Hammond. With the help of his right hand man Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) he plans on rescuing the dinosaurs at his expense. He does so to honor his friend and to please his granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon).

They need Claire for two reasons. The first is her handprint for security reasons. The second is to recruit Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). It seems Blue, the velociraptor, has evaded them and they know he is the only one who can bring her in. He argues, relents and the next thing you know the two of them along with two other members of Claire’s group are on a plane headed for Isla Nubar.

When they arrive things aren’t quite what they expected. The team in place is not just scientists but mercenaries led by Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine). Trying to work together his men bypass Owen’s demand to back off when he finds Blue and they tranquilize the dinosaur and Owen as well, leaving him behind for the lava coming down the mountain. Claire and one of her group are left behind as well, only the doctor among them kept on hand to insure Blue survives.

It’s a double cross and the saving of the dinosaurs is not the intent of this group. Their safety is important for one reason only, their survival until they can make it back to the mainland at Lockwood’s mansion. Crosses and double crosses follow and soon the real reason for their rescue is learned. Fortunately Owen, Claire and her friends have survived, made it onboard with the dinosaurs and may be able to save them from the plans in store for them.

Like the films in the series before this one the main eye candy here is the dinosaurs. The ability of CGI has boomed since the first film released in 1993. Not only are the dinosaurs that amazed all of us when first seen on board, like the brontosaurus, the geneticists have once more created a new dinosaur that is more dangerous than the last one they created. Ever notice they only create killing dinosaurs and never a cute little dinosaur? The effects with the dinosaurs aren’t the only ones to witness either. The destruction of Isla Nubar via volcano, the dinosaurs that were left behind and the effects of the flowing lava also create some stunning and disturbing visuals.

Perhaps the only thing skimped on in this film is the lack of character development. Certainly after the last film we know the two leads but what about the rest? They’re given short shrift here and we get to know them in bits and pieces which are few and far between. Even Goldblum in his return to the franchise is only on hand for a brief moment at the beginning and in voice over towards the end. Lockwood is glossed over as well and clues about his granddaughter are nowhere to be seen.

But this is a summer blockbuster type film and the important things are the dinosaurs, explosions and action sequences. Trust me when I say this film has plenty of those. They more than compensate for the lack of character development. The freshness of the movie is beginning to wear thin but it still provides a solid piece of entertainment that many will enjoy. Will I watch it a second or third time? Yeah, I think I will. Maybe a marathon weekend. A theme party. The movie is a lot of fun and will fuel the imaginations and nightmares of children who watch and give parents a good bit of action. I highly recommend this one for watching this week and down the road as well.


In the sixties drive-in theaters were the rage. Teens unwilling to sit at home with the squares wanted to be out on their own rather than watching FATHER KNOWS BEST. The best option they found was the drive-in. They could dance, they could talk to one another, they could socialize and they could see a movie made for their generation all at the same time. Del Tenney was an actor who knew the market well enough as well as how to make a film so he set out to make movies specifically for the drive-ins. One of those was THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH.

The movie features almost every aspect of a drive-in movie from the time you can imagine. To begin with it starts on the beach where teens are dancing away their cares and woes to the local band the Del-Aires, a New Jersey band. With songs like "Joy Ride", "The Zombie Stomp", "You Are Not a Summer Love", “Drag” and "Wigglin' Wobblin'” one of them was sure to be a hit. Granted this wasn’t a beach in California but one in Connecticut but it works out fine.

Then there is the hot rod our hero drives during the opening credits. During those a biker gang tries to cut him off but he zips past them. Which of course leads to a short rumble once they arrive at the beach. The teens on the beach aren’t quite teens but college students this time around. Thank goodness because none could pass for a teenager. All are dancing in trunks and bikinis, shaking whatever body parts they can. What else do we need? Monsters!

Our monsters are those types created by radioactive wastes, a common creator of creatures in the fifties. A tugboat is dumping canisters of radioactive waste into the bay and the lid pops off of one. In what is actually a pretty decent transformation sequence the material mixes with the remains of a few skeletons on board what looks like a sunken treasure ship. Combined with the fish in the water we now have several half man/half fish creatures to terrorize the shores!

The first victim is Tina, the party girl who’s just been dumped by our hero Hank. Clawed to death by the creatures it is a gruesome site indeed, especially when you consider this movie was made in 1963. Being in black and white helps with copious amounts of chocolate syrup standing in for blood though there is plenty of it to be seen.

Rumors abound that this is an attack of monsters and the police call in local scientist Dr. Gavin to help. Hank is his assistant and his daughter Elaine has a crush on Hank. Studying the few clues he has as to what the makeup of these creatures might by his maid Eulabelle tells him it’s voodoo. Of course he ignores her and tells her to go to bed.

The body count rises as the sea monsters scramble on land for new victims. On one rampage through town they see mannequins in a store and mistake them for women. One of the monsters attacks and cuts his arm off while smashing through the glass window. This arm becomes the first real evidence Gavin comes across and he accidentally discovers a means of destroying the monsters. Before he can return with the chemicals needed Elaine is off looking to find the monster’s lair and is almost killed. Will Gavin and Hank return in time to save her and the rest of the beach partiers?

Okay so obviously this film is not Shakespeare, not even close. But it fill the bill for a drive-in double feature and does so admirably. It’s made the list of worst movies ever made and found itself on MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 but I honestly found it to be a decent little low budget horror flick. This was the stuff drive-ins and later late night horror hots dreamed of featuring.

Compared to some of the worst movies made (most notably those of Ed Wood) the film looks quite good for being shot in black and white. The acting is not near as wooden as one would expect, perhaps in part due to the fact Tenney used a number of fellow actors he was friends with in the film. The effects that I once thought were laughable are better than I’d been led to believe from the stills I’d seen of the film. I often referred to the monsters as the “hot dog monsters” because of what looks like a full package of wieners sticking out of their mouths. Seeing them in motion though they present a frightful enough creature that I would think could induce nightmares in small children.

Severin Films has rescued this movie from obscurity or just as a movie to deride via that MST3000 episode. The film has been restored with a 2k scan from the original negative. The extras are a good mix considering the type of movie we have here as well as the fact it was made so long ago. They include RETURN TO THE PARTY BEACH a retrospective documentary on the film, IT’S THE LIVING END: AN ENCOUNTER WITH THE DEL-AIRES featuring a short current interview with band members Bobby Osborne and Ronnie Linares, SHOCK & ROLL a short with filmmaker Tim Sullivan discussing rock & roll in horror movies, an archival interview with director Del Tenney and the original trailer for the film.

I’ve always said that studios that take a chance on rescuing and releasing films like this, movies that might not be mainstream but that have a solid fan base, should be applauded for their efforts. And I’ll keep saying that. When a company like Severin releases a movie like this one they deserve praise for their efforts. So if you love a good drive-in movie or a horror movie that’s not quite the greatest film ever then I suggest you pick up a copy of THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH. Slip on your bikini, dance a bit around the set and have some fun. 



It’s hard to imagine a time when Fred Rogers wasn’t around or as most called him Mr. Rogers. There’s been more than one generation that has grown up with his programs on the air. And while there have been some successful children’s programming on PBS nothing was quite like his show. The new documentary WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? gives us a look at the man behind the TV screen. It’s an entertaining and informative film.

The movie uses plenty of footage of Rogers as we learn about where he came from and how he got where he ended up. From a well to do family he was studying to be a pastor when something new came along, an invention called television. Already seeing the potential of the TV he ended up abandoning his first career and pursuing what became his passion.

Having seen children’s programming on TV he thought something more than pratfalls and pies in the face would do more good. He learned his craft first and then went about creating a show he thought would do more good. Using free film footage to fill some of the time a mishap led to one of his most beloved creations. One day a film broke and thinking fast on his feet Rogers popped on a hand puppet and thus was introduced Daniel Striped Tiger. It was so popular it became a regular character.

And it was through Daniel that Rogers found a way to communicate with children. While an adult might be intimidating the world of imagination in the mind of a child allowed children to talk to the puppet as if he actually existed unto himself. Rogers describes an encounter with a group of children while crafting the show where a question from one child and a response from Daniel opened up the doorway of communication between Rogers ala Daniel and the entire group of children.

Any documentary could have focused on what went on behind the scenes at MR. ROGER’S NEIGHBORHOOD and those moments are included here. But rather than focus on just that we get a glimpse at the man himself and what he brought to the table. It is that concept that makes this movie come alive in both interviews with him and the many people who worked with him.

It wasn’t enough for Rogers just to entertain children he wanted to help them. He wanted to focus on the issues that children face from their point of view rather than from the point of view of adults. It also becomes apparent while watching that he had a certain amount of disdain for most children’s programming feeling they had zero concerns about what children were watching and instead were more concerned with selling a product. As years passed that meant selling not just the show but the tie ins with toys, cereal and more.

Rogers also found a way to incorporate those issues that children would face in the most subtle of ways possible. It was never about getting in your face but about helping children to cope with the things they were being exposed to. A great example is racism. He didn’t tackle it using the words of going overboard. Instead while soaking his feet in a kiddie pool on a hot day in the neighborhood he invited Officer Clemmons to join him. Clemmons was played by Francois Clemmons, an African American. Here we had a white man and a black man sharing the same pool and later a towel as well. While you might think yeah, so what today at the time it was groundbreaking. It allowed children to see that while we might look different we are all the same.

As the movie progresses we get to see Rogers appearing before congress battling for funding for public television. He was passionate on the subject and through his efforts it was saved. The same holds true for other topics he was passionate about, all revolving around children and trying to help them cope with the real world.

Watching Mr. Rogers through the eyes of an adult I know we’ve all thought he was quaint and I have little doubt most of us were bored with his slow speech and oversimplified choice of words. Now, look through the eyes of a child and see how he seems. He’s not threatening. He’s safe. He’s calm. He’s talking how you talk. It was using this method, so easy and yet so ignored by anyone else, that he reached children for years and years and taught them so much.

This documentary was a joy to watch and it’s easy to see why it’s been talked about by so many. It’s played festivals and been highlighted on a number of shows. Rogers may have passed on but his legacy remains. Some have learned the techniques he used and applied them while others have completely missed the boat. But at one time we had him and his neighborhood. And those shows are as relevant today as they were when first aired.

As public broadcasting stations ask for donations on a regular basis many tend to tire of the constant requests. They tire of the politicization of some shows. If they truly wanted to bring in money perhaps their best bet would be to run this film. Remembering what Rogers brought would be the way to recruit people to donate there is.