Saturday, April 20, 2019

SNAPSHOT

An essay I wrote on the 1979 Australian exploitation film SNAPSHOT (aka THE DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN) has now been posted over on the Diabolique website. Click the link below to check it out!




SAY THE MAGIC WORD!

David F. Sandberg's SHAZAM! happily delivered the most fun I have had with a comic book/superhero movie in a long while, bringing a welcome whiff of fresh air to a genre getting burdened by the weight of its own overwrought, grandiose sombreness.
SHAZAM! reminds us of the sheer basic wish-fulfilment that comes with being a superhero. The film certainly follows the standard origin story template, but does so with a real sense of humour and heart, a few genuine surprises and even manages to inject some moments of atmosphere and fright without having to go all serious and dark (as the director of LIGHTS OUT and ANNABELLE: CREATION, Sandberg's horror roots certainly take hold in several spots). Comparisons to Penny Marshall's BIG (1988) and the Spielberg/Amblin' Entertainment films of the 1980s are certainly accurate, it's Christmas-time setting and amusement park action set-piece dripping with classic Americana. Nice performances throughout but especially from Jack Dylan Glazer as Freddy Freeman and Zachary Levi, who brings such an appealing blend of humour, innocence and slowly-developing sense of maturity and responsibility to the character of SHAZAM! (originally called Captain Marvel in the old DC comics before Marvel Comics trademarked the name for one of there own heroes). Will be interesting to see how Levi's Shazam will be incorporated into the larger DC cinematic universe, which is bound to happen sooner rather than later.
A perfect Friday evening date movie with Marneen Lynne, the whole audience broke into spontaneous applause as the end credits rolled, something you don't see enough of these days, where most multiplex moviegoers are desperate to get to their mobile phones and find out what they have missed as soon as the screen fades to black.


Friday, March 15, 2019

CAPTAIN NOT QUITE MARVEL-OUS

Marneen and I took in a Saturday afternoon screening of CAPTAIN MARVEL. Overall I'd probably rank it amongst the lower rung of the Marvel movies, Goose the kitty was one of the genuine highlights and I thought he had more personality than the film's star, Brie Larson, who is OK in the role but rather bland and certainly not as fun or charming as the likes of Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) or Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow). The film does have some nice moments, including Samuel L. Jackson as a much younger Nick Fury (de-aged via CGI) and its 1995 setting gives it the opportunity to not only utilize a soundtrack featuring tracks by Hole, Garbage and No Doubt (as well as Heart and Lita Ford) but reference the likes of Blockbuster Video and slow-speed dial-up. It was also nice to see the late Stan Lee get one of his better and more amusing cameos (I figured this would likely be his last appearance in the Marvel movies but apparently he filmed several cameos prior to his passing that are still yet to be utilized).



AUDIO COMMENTARY ANNOUNCEMENT!

Very excited to announce that fellow Melbourne-based film historian Lee Gambin and myself will be providing the audio commentary for the upcoming Blu-ray release of this infamous 1966 horror western hybrid from the notorious William "One-Shot" Beaudine, one of the most prolific, interesting and misunderstood directors in Hollywood history. Arriving in June from the fine folks at Kino Lorber Studio Classics!





Friday, March 1, 2019

MANSON MOVIES

Now posted over at Diabolique, my look at Ian Cooper's excellent new book, a study of films and television shows directly about, as well as those clearly inspired or influenced by, the infamous Manson Family cult crimes of August 1969.




NIGHTWING

One of the first things I noticed while re-watching NIGHTWING (1979) this afternoon is just how wonderful the film's score by Henry Mancini is - moody, dreamy, melodic and dramatic with haunting wind instruments to make it reflective of the movie's Native American heart. 

Like John Frankenheimer's PROPHECY from the same year, NIGHTWING was a late entry in the 70s "eco-horror" craze that used the issue of Native American land rights as the topical backbone on which to grow their genre ingredients. Interesting to note the different angles they take: in PROPHECY the horror is borne from technology and "progress" (chemicals leaking into the river from a nearby paper mill), while in NIGHTWING it's the more "traditional" curse placed by the aging "Medicine Man" figure, who was usually represented cinematically as possessing some form of supernatural mystique. 

I wish some of the vampire bat sequences were better, many of the effects look pretty rushed, though the climactic image of the burning bats was effectively surreal and beautifully composed. A nice couple of lead performances from Nick Mancuso and Kathryn Harrold and solid support from David Warner (essentially playing a similar character to his one on THE OMEN three years earlier, though swapping his camera for vampire bat detection equipment and suffering not so gruesome a fate). The film also makes good use of the stunning New Mexico desert locations. Watching movies like TARANTULA (1955) and GARGOYLES (1972) on late-night TV when I was a kid definitely helped me develop an appreciation for genre films set in the American desert.



JONESTOWN SINEMA

A sneak peek at my article on Jim Jones-inspired cinema, one of two pieces I wrote for the latest issue of THE SLEAZY READER, a special true crime edition (my other article is on vintage Manson-related tabloids and magazines). THE SLEAZY READER #8 is now out and available from Amazon.



RONDO AWARDS NOMINATIONS 2019

Very happy and excited to see that my recent article on BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970), which appeared in issue #11 of WENG'S CHOP, has been nominated for a 2019 Rondo Award in the Best Article category! Thanks to Tony Strauss, Brian Harris, Tim Paxton and all the others involved in WENG'S CHOP for accepting the article for publication.
In addition, SIN STREET SLEAZE has once again been nominated for a Rondo in the Best Website/Blog category, as has the first volume of the Cinemaniacs Journal, IF ONLY I HAD A BRAIN, for which I contributed chapters on the Batman villain The Scarecrow, as depicted in the 1960s/70s animated cartoons and in BATMAN BEGINS (2005) and its two sequels.

Check out the Rondo Awards website at the link below for a full list of nominees and voting instructions!




Saturday, January 12, 2019

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE Slideshow

For those interested who were unable to attend the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE last night, here's a rundown of the slideshow I presented alongside my talk. I tried to give the slides a suitably grimy 70s grindhouse feel. Will hopefully get a transcript of my intro posted shortly.






















THE SAW IS FAMILY

Had a great night introducing THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) to kick-off the Tobe Hooper retrospective last night. Hopefully my talk went well and was enjoyed by the audience in attendance. I never get tired of seeing this movie, especially in a cinema. The screening was followed by a terrific discussion on Masks in Horror Cinema by Angela Ndalianis and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (author of seminal books on SUSPIRIA, MS. 45 and the Rape-Revenge genre). Attendees were given a paper Leatherface mask upon entry, as well as a fantastic program booklet and there was a stunning Leatherface signed/numbered print by local comic book artist Tristan Jones available. Leatherface was even seen wandering around, thankfully in a more relaxed and jovial mood than usual! Lots of terrific prizes raffled off also, I usually always bomb out in raffles but bought three tix upon entry last night and ended up winning two amazing prizes, a TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 doll (sorry, action figure) from NECA and the Kino Lorber Blu-ray of IRMA LA DUCE (with Kat Ellinger commentary) that I am looking forward to watching asap.
The Tobe Hooper festival continues today with screenings of EATEN ALIVE (1976), THE FUNHOUSE (1981) and the full TV version of SALEM'S LOT (1979) along with talks and introductions by Sally Christie, Emma Westwood and Lee Gambin. I believe there may even be a BBQ going in the parking lot, so if you are in Melbourne and looking for something cool to attend today rock on down to The Backlot, I believe there are a few limited tickets left!







Monday, December 31, 2018

SATAN'S PIT

Last night's viewing. Thanks to film historian and writer Tim Lucas for alerting me to this wonderful film with one of his posts yesterday. HOUSE OF TERRORS is a 1965 Japanese film (originally titled KAIDAN SEMUSHI OTOKO) that has been dubbed into Italian with English subtitles added. The result is a surreal melding of Japanese gothic and Eurohorror, the beautiful B&W photography dripping atmosphere like stalactites. The film starts with a young woman losing her husband after a long and painful mental illness, after which she learns she has inherited the deed to an old property he owned, a mansion invitingly called "Satan's Pit", a place haunted by the ghosts of its previous inhabitants and looked over by a hunchbacked caretaker. The fun starts from the moment it begins and rarely lets up, there's some moments of genuine creepiness and scares and the magnificent spooky sounds and ambient music sounds like it could have come straight off one of those GHOSTLY SOUNDS record LPs later put out by Power Records in the early-70s.
Highly recommended and definitely worth a watch, I don't think the film has been officially released on disc but it can be found on You Tube (apparently the Italian-dubbed print is the only one known to be floating around).




Friday, December 28, 2018

DEATH WISH REDUX

Decided on whatever whim I was having late last night to check out Eli Roth's contentious 2018 remake of Michael's Winner's 1974 revenge thriller DEATH WISH. I didn't hate it but it is certainly a pointless remake that amps up the violence porn but completely dumbs down just about everything else. Bruce Willis has been a great action hero over the years but he is somnambulistic here as Paul Kersey, taking over the role made iconic by Charles Bronson in the original and subsequent films. It's hard to buy Willis as a supposed brilliant surgeon, I think they changed his profession from the original architect purely for plot convenience (ie - to provide the excuse for a drawn-out scene where Kersey uses his medical knowledge to inflict painful torture on a crim to get information out of him, a scene reminiscent of a much more effective one involving Dustin Hoffman's tooth in MARATHON MAN).




AQUA-FUN

I had a lot of fun with James Wan's AQUAMAN, which was pretty much all I went in looking for. In that respect, it certainly delivered. I was particularly taken by Rupert Gregson-Williams's score, one of the film's most pleasant surprises for me. I don't know why they had to change Aquaman's look into that of a scruffy biker and barroom brawler, but thankfully this movie has a big sense of adventure and creates enough stunning underwater vistas (and creatures) to carve out its own place amongst the comic book glut. Elements of BATMAN BEGINS, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and THOR RAGNAROK are clearly there, but thankfully there is much less AVATAR and much more FLASH GORDON to be found, and Wan's horror roots make themselves particularly known during the film's final act (the appearance of a bunch of scary and scaly critters known as The Trench had me thinking I was watching a remake of Sergio Martino's ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN for a moment). A lot of the costume and character designs were also visually cool and paid tribute to the comic book's roots - i.e., Altanteans riding giant seahorses, Black Manta having his big, bulbous helmet, etc. Enjoyed it enough to consider a second theatrical screening, this time in 3D.




Friday, December 21, 2018

PLAYING AROUND IN THE HARRY NOVAK TOY BOX

To get myself into the Christmas spirit this year, I have contributed an essay on several early-70s toy-themed exploitation films gifted to us from master producer/distributor Harry Novak, which has been posted over on the Diabolique website and can be read by clicking on the link below.




R.I. P. SONDRA LOCKE

Was asked by FILMINK to write an obit for Sondra Locke, which has now been posted over on their website. Click on the link below to check it out.

Sondra Locke Obituary