So what’s been watched since the last time we were talking about what we've been watching? Let’s see….
Final Destination 5 (2011; Steven Quale) Almost impossible to criticize as long as the gore and Rube-Goldberg-style deaths keep coming fast and furious. FD2 is still my fave, though, but this is got a nice self-referential air that allows it to kinda mess with the formula—one guy gets all Zen, “We’re all going to die, it’s just when, so relax and enjoy yourself.” Another contemplates murdering someone as a sacrifice instead of themselves— But the FD films really appeal to me on a philosophical level: they say, You Can’t Win. Death Wins, Death Always Wins. And they use copious gore! Some of this shit is nasty! Love it!
20 Million Miles to Earth (1957; Nathan Juran; effects by Ray Harryhausen) Awesome old school stop-motion animation effects and a completely unique and sympathetic monster are almost ruined by the script’s idiotic dialog (jeez, this flick is practically racist to Italians!) and gaping logic holes (unfortunately. decent scripts have always been in short supply with Harryhausen’s flicks). Fast-Forward until you get to stop-motion animation and you’ll be fine.
Song of the South (1946; Harve Foster & Wilfred Jackson, with the shadow of Walt Disney over the whole operation) A pal who works at Walt Dizzy Animation tells me that it’s a certainty that the uncut Song of the South will NEVER be officially released by the company, so seeing it on YouTube is it. The National Film Board of Ivanlandia only watched this for historical relevance— and because who knows when the YouTube account will be pulled?
That said, the film’s depiction of “Smilin’ Darkies” is kind of uncomfortable, and hangs a heavy pall over the whole proceedings. Because stripped of any racial/racist options, the flick is a good tale for pre-adolescents: where an old man (sage or magician? Perhaps) teaches a young boy important life-lessons via fanciful talking animal stories. Well, sure, Joel Chandler Harris, author of the original Uncle Remus stories, was ripping off Aesop, so what can you do? The animation is top-notch, Uncle Remus is lovable, and the flick’s theme song (“Zippidee-do-dah!”) is immortal.
So instead, I checked out… The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2010; Göran Hugo Olsson) Incredible documentary about the rise and fall of the Black Power Movement, presented by outsiders (Swedes), and thus enabling the viewer to see how the rest of the world was responding to the nightmare violence (most of it started by police) running rampant in the streets of the US. If you are interested in alternative views other than vomited out by the Big Propaganda Machine, or have any interest in the history of revolutionary movements, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is a must-see. A new Ivanlandia fave!
However, when you watch it (and it’s available at Nflix Streaming), keep your ears open at the 54 minute: As the footage of a 1970s-era Swedish newscaster unspools, listen— Is that a fart? It also sounds like a balloon squealing when it leaks air. WTF? Is this the FBI still running a cointelpro against the Panthers?
Portions of The Fury (1978; Brian De Palma) I figured The Fury out: It’s De Palma’s sick joke—can he make the worst movie possible, but then at the very end, change everything and make the audience love him? It’s the ultimate abusive relationship! The Fury, indeed.
The flick is 70 minutes of awesome action/sci-fi hijinks absolutely ruined by some molasses-paced, over-coveraged—stop editing so much!, bloatedness. The movie can only be enjoyed in FF. Except— Cassavettes going ka-boom. Nobody doesn’t love that. And if the flick did not have that moment, it would have been completely forgotten. Sure, it’s De Palma doing the Carrie-hand one better, but Carrie is a good film overall. The Fury is not.
Day of the Triffids (1962; Steve Sekely, and Freddie Francis, uncredited) Not available on DVD currently, I caught this on YouTube—which had it letterboxed! I’d seen this movie plenty of times on TV as a kid, and liked it, but never widescreen. That was a novel sensation for me, and made me forgive the flick’s obvious plot holes, and inconsistencies. Killer Plants! Everyone blind from weird meteor showers! The movie has a decent doomsday vibe, although the streets are curiously empty.
But this is the flick M. Night Shamalamalamadingdong ripped off Signs for the “cure” to the invasion: salt water. But it makes more sense in a movie about dumb—if mobile and violent—plants, as opposed to saucer people, who should know better.
The Pit (1981; Lew Lehman) Great, uncomfortable, twisty, fucked-up fairy tale about an incredibly creepy, absolutely unsocialized adolescent boy, Jamie. And as a creepy only-child myself, all I can say is, “There but for the grace of Cthuhlu, go I…”
The flick’s got a groovy/sleazy, sick ’70s vibe, that really jumps the rails around the 40 minute mark and plunges into Bonkersville. Shot in that “flat” but very information-packed style I think of as “Ted Post-like,” Jamie is hardly sympathetic—but no one else is, either. I think Toestubber would really like this flick. Not perfect, but def a must-see.
South Pacific (1958; Joshua Logan) Listened to, really—and the songs are great! But, jeez, if I had to sit in a theater and watch this? I dunno…
Shut Up, Little Man: An Audio Misadventure (2011; Matthew Bate) If you were ever involved with tape trading prank calls and the like back in the day (early 1990s, I miss you!), you must see this. It could very well be a new fave, mainly because it addresses those uncomfortable moral questions—even if some aren’t answered to complete satisfaction…
Masters of Horror: Dario Argento: Jenifer (2006; Dario Argento) Decent adaption of the Bruce Jones’ comic, but hardly an Argento movie! This could have easily have been helmed by any variety of TV movie veterans—and heck, I bet a Buzz Kulik or Boris Sagal could’ve brought a lot more than Dario brung on this outing. Honestly, for the most part, what I’ve seen from the “Masters of Horror” series hasn’t been impressive. I did enjoy John Carpenter’s entries, but Joe Dante’s “Homecoming,” I hated.
The Naked City (1948; Jules Dassin) Movies that show SO MUCH of old NYC get nothing but love from me—but if you’re not so easily swayed, this is a damn good police procedural, one that really sets a template still being followed today. I especially loved Barry Sullivan’s merry leprechaun of a detective. The B&W cinematography is incredible, and I cannot stress how important this film is as a time-capsule of post-WWII NYC. Beautiful film, deserves its reputation as a classic.
Freakonomics (2010; Heidi Ewing, Alex Gibney, Seth Gordon, Rachel Grady, Eugene Jarecki, Morgan Spurlock) Cute adaptation of the book, and a decent intro to what the economists are talking about here. If you’re interested in the subject, worth a look.
The Land That Time Forgot (1975; Kevin Conner) Me heart big phony dinosaur puppets! Especially when augmented by miniature effects by the Ivanlandia fave, UK FX man Derek Meddings.
Fishing Under Water (2011; Juuso Mettälä) incredible short, shot under the frozen ice—and upside-down! Watch and wonder!
That was my original idea for the title of this blog, a sort of summation of nearly everything I'd ever wanted cinematically: regularly playing on the ABC Channel 7 4:30 movie--or on WOR-TV Channel 9's 4 O'Clock Movie--the greatest monster movie in the universe, and incredible combo of miniatures, men in suits and stop motion, with entire continents destroyed!
But then there was a coup d'etat, and Tzar Ivan I of Ivanlandia took charge.