My recent award-winning entry (hooray for me!) in the excellent Roger Corman Blogathon has garnered me some new followers—WELCOME!
I Love You All!
(And now, OBEY ME!)
Before we plunge into a list of “Best of Ivanlandia” links you simply MUST check out (OBEY ME!),
here’s some brief-ish reviews for you to chew on (like soma), courtesy of The National Film Board of Ivanlandia…
The Brainiac (1961)
A centuries-old curse turns a man into a demonic brain-sucker with a forked silly-straw for a tongue!
There’s an awesome 15 minutes of delicious strange in this flick, but the rest is a snooze.
However, all fans of “The Cinema of Weirdness” need to see this movie—it’s like a trip to Mecca by the Faithful: you have to do it.
The Brainiac (or “El Baron del Terror,” if you watch the original Spanish language version) is “required reading” for a class you’re taking: You might not like it that much, but it will open your eyes to some new forms of crazy knowledge.
Despite my gripes, enough people genuinely like this flick and will defend it—
I like enough crazy, almost-indefensible movies, that I understand their love of The Brainiac, though.
If you're not sure of where you stand, rent this, watch the first 10 minutes to get a “feel” for the film (notice the movie’s pace: like cold molasses!),
and then fast-forward to every scene featuring the Brainiac.
Now there’s an innnnnnnnnnteresting monster!
Well worth checking out: he’s really the stuff of nightmares and the reason The Brainiac has not fallen into that Saragossa Sea of lost B-movies.
Former X-Files writer Glen Morgan’s Willard is really an exquisite B-movie, and a must-see for Crispin Glover fans. (And the flick is actually much better than the 1971 DVD MIA Bruce Davison/Ernest Borgnine/Elsa Lanchester flick that inspired it.)
Perhaps the Willard remake isn’t scary per se, but it’s often genuinely creepy, especially if rodents give you the willies.
But it was exactly what I expected when I rented a Crispin Glover movie about a boy and his rats: a gothic and campy character study that often enters into the macabre and grotesque, sometimes becoming an absolute stone-cold freak show.
I mean, when the rats look cleaner than Willard’s mother – yipes!
And there’s a twisted tribute to the Chinese gorefest Men Behind the Sun that cat lovers will hate.
Meanwhile, around the three-quarter mark, there’s an eerie, supernatural vibe that reminded me of some of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, as well. (Always a plus!)
The film is a totally twisted fairy tale that’s the Faustian-bargain rat movie that Ratatouille should have been.
Not to be contrarian, but I did not like Ratatouille—
Yes, it was beautifully designed and animated, but as an amateur chef, I was dizzzz-GUSTED with the cavalier attitude with which a rat was allowed into a kitchen.
Lemme tell ya, in the past, I’ve had the misfortune of sharing living spaces with rodentia—and it’s not cool.
With that personal bias in mind, there was not enough of a Faustian bargain going on in Ratatouille—
(The Faust legend is one of my favorites—Faust sells his soul for knowledge—
my preferred is the “I’ll burn my books!” ending; I think that’s the one written by Christopher Marlowe—who died when he was stabbed in the head.
I tend to look for elements of Faust in certain films.)
To let a RAT—the chef’s enemy—run the kitchen needs more of an emotional and spiritual weight than it’s given in Ratatouille.
The idiot hero (blander than bland) doesn’t go through enough of a dilemma in my opinion. It should have been the “bad guy” chef that makes the deal with the devil—he’s got more to lose, and is a much more complicated and conflicted character.
(I did like the Peter O’Toole scenes, however.)
And speaking of urban vermin…
Up until the 70-minute mark, Wolfen is a really cool, stoner-friendly, supernatural police procedural, sort of a proto-X-Files/Law & Order: Criminal Intent (even to the dynamic of the male and female leads).
The flick starts off exciting, mysterious and smart, with lots of delightful eyeball kicks.
Then, heh-heh-heh, Wolfen bites off more than it can chew by taking several political and ecological issues too seriously, needing to push earnest lessons to the foreground instead of just being the best horror movie it can be.
For one thing, the wolfen themselves aren’t particularly frightening when you finally get to see them. They are supposedly superwolves, but neighbors’ dogs scared me more.
I was hoping that the wolfen would be like wolf-gremlins, or even better, like lupine versions of the mutant babies from It’s Alive!
But because Wolfen takes itself so seriously, the filmmakers force the issue that the wolfen themselves cannot be gnarly monsters, they have to be the noblest of beasts. Boring!
What Wolfen really needed was a crackpot genius like Larry Cohen to jazz up the action, and subdue the political seriousness a little.
But if you're a fan of “The Cinema of Weirdness,” check this out: it’s a noble failure worth seeing once. And if you do rent Wolfen, go online and read about its tortured history before you watch it.
Long story short, the movie has essentially three directors, with many, many reshoots, and lots of in-fighting. It’s a miracle the flick makes any sense at all.
Recently Seen in Ye Olde Movie Thee-Ate-Her—
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010)
Uncle Werner does 3-D like no one else—with albino alligators and exquisite cave paintings.
But he also makes a fine documentary on an incredible historical/scientific/artistic discovery. Slow and meditatively paced, the flick became really trippy for me, with the floating camera, light-shadow-play, and 3D cognitive scramble.
X-Men: First Class (2011)
Well done flick—I grew up on Kirby and Steranko, so of course Fanboy Ivan would’ve done things differently—
I think this movie might become some sort of Queer Cinema lightning rod—subtextual messages about society are always fun!
I really enjoyed myself in the theater, and the day after, and I do think that XMFC is less hypocritical than director Vaughn’s previous Kick-Ass.
But lots of “SPECTACLE” always makes me happy—and if nothing else XMFC is full of it….
I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)
While I like this one a smidgen more, I guess a review would be similar to one of The Brainiac—
This is a cult phenom—that’s impossible to see except via the gray market, due to legal shenanigans from the widow of James H. Nicholson—that is far from perfect, but with just enough insanity (overacting, foam-spewing wolfman, young jug-ears Michael Landon, hot chick on the parallel bars, “And you call yourself a scientist?!?”), to make a view worth it.
Look, man, The Cramps wrote a song about this flick! What more do you want?
TOP BEST REVISIT
An Index of Reviews from The National Film Board of Ivanlandia is forthcoming, but until then, I’ve tried to come up with a Top 10/“Best of” for y’all to enjoy (or mock—please leave comments—I’ll reply eventually…)
As you may have guessed by now, I -heart-
The Big Biker Movies Article From Hell
Laughing With Chains (a look at Lance Henriksen as the Biker Gang leader in Stone Cold)
Damnation Alley—now that the DVD’s finally out, read about the book (with a mean biker as protagonist; yep, reoccurring themes…)
Bikers? Mercenaries? Mere points of the compass between the two…
Dark of the Sun review (man, I was into this flick before you were!)
Yes, Roger Corman’s Attack of the Crab Monsters is a favorite of mine
As good as “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” and starring Don Knotts—
Jesus, man! Rent this now!
One I Would Have Saved—Nupondi from One Million Years B.C.
The Genius of Onibaba
A Reassessment of Godzilla’s Revenge
Undiscovered Greatness and the Ultimate “Feel-Bad” Movie: More people need to see The Todd Killings
No Lie: Jonathan Demme Starring in “The Incredible Melting Man”
For some odd reason, with 1,312 visitors/viewers, THIS is my most viewed post. Why? HOW?