Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Horror! The Horror! (Or: Getting the Dr. Phibes Vibe)

The mighty, mighty Dennis Cozzalio of the infinitely awesome—but far too infrequent—Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule has sprung another of his patented magical mystery movie quizzes—this one inspired by the Fab Vinny the P.’s 100th movie, The Abominable Dr. Phibes

And The United Provinces of Ivanlandia has taken the bait!

(Don’t worry, faithful followers, we’ve done this before)
(And NO, we never did find out what happened to Konan the Vegetarian!)
[Meanwhile, not even Dr. Phibes Clockwork Wizards will make me read anybody else’s answers till I’ve completed mine!]
[BTW: Photos are not necessarily genuine representations of films under discussion, but establishers of mood. 10-Q.]

Gentlemen, start your engines!
Favorite Vincent Price/American International Pictures release.

AIP released The Conqueror Worm, but did it produce Witchfinder General?

I’m also a big fan of Price’s turn as the murderous drunken, poverty-stricken undertaker in The Comedy of Terrors.

And while it’s mack-daddy Peter Lorre who steals the show in Corman/Matheson’s Poe-spoof The Raven, Price gives one of my favorite reaction shots in cinema in that flick:
Early in the film,
he’s heading down through subbasements to the crypt, with a raven perched on his upheld arm, when a prop skeleton hanging nearby suddenly falls—
It’s probably a mistake, but cheapskate Corman kept it in—besides,
Price’s reaction, as the skeleton clattered and the startled raven freaks out, is CLASSIC double take hysterics: hair flips, “what the hell” expression, the near-ubiquity of genuine offense being taken—
This pure shock of SOMETHING REAL in the most artificial of presentations—
an obvious film set that lets you know that these are sets that have been used in films before—meta-cinema meltdown.

(In praise of Price, continued: Let us not forget his stellar work with that exploitation goliath William Castle! My fave? The Tingler, especially the scene where Price injects himself full of LSD-25 and has the first cinematic acid trip! Scream for your life, indeed!)

What horror classic (or non-classic) that has not yet been remade would you like to see upgraded for modern audiences?

If you must do a remake, go for
Peter Lorre’s incredible Mad Love (1935), with Paul Giamatti in Lorre’s role; with Steve Buscemi as Colin Clive, and Philip Seymore Hoffman as the wiseguy reporter—and let them overact WILDLY. (Get John Waters to direct? Have him amp up the madness and give zing to the dialog.)
If you really want to keep with one of Mad Love’s themes, a supermodel should be cast as the female love interest—y’know, ’cause she’s gonna be just standing there mainly anyway.
Just rent the film and marvel at the moody weirdness.

I’d love to see a splatterpunk version of 1977’s The Car
I mean more gore, more realistic gore, really show what Satan’s Supersonic Cadillac can do to a human body!
Vroom! Crunch! Splat! Aaargh!

3) Jonathan Frid or Thayer David?
Thayer David, for such an extensive body of work, including Mr. Dragon, the ex-Nazi albino espionage expert from The Eiger Sanction.

4) Name the one horror movie you need to see that has so far eluded you.
I hate to admit that my knowledge is far from encyclopedic—Jeez, I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a Jess Franco flick, or any Italian horror beyond the Bava-Argento-Fulci trinity—
But one flick that I’ve been meaning to catch, and since it’s finally been released some friends have copies and have even invited me over to watch it, but something always keeps me from seeing These Are the Damned.

I’ve known about the flick for years, either from the writings of John Brosnan or Philip Strick—or The Monster Times (the BEST friend a preadolescent monster fan could want)—but it hasn’t been available until recently.

With the exception of The Servant, most of director Joseph Losey’s films have been snoozers, so I don’t feel like rushing it—but this great post at the always awesome Monster Movie Music has piqued my interest in These Are the Damned again.

But a flick I’ve been DYING to find is a French short stop-motion animation film from 1968, titled
“Certain Prophecies”
What I remember is: a couple of aliens arrive in a flying saucer—but it’s the size of a makeup compact, and they have landed on a table at a restaurant after a meal has been finished.
The aliens, looking like cute robo-bug-lizards, wander the apocalyptian wreckage of earth’s civilization, or so they think.
Half-empty wine flutes are scanned and thought to be sources of energy, a fly is mistaken for an atomic mutation and is zapped with ray guns; the bones of the fish dinner are regarded in awe…and horror.
A waiter shows up, and the saucer dudes have to make a getaway.

I first—and only—caught it on Chuck Jones’ wonderful Curiosity Shop (which will NEVER be on DVD because of various licensing issues)—probably around 1971 or 1972.

Philip Strick has mentioned "Certain Prophecies" in his collection of essays Science Fiction Films but I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere else--ever.
Do YOU know something? Let me know.

There are also flicks I saw once, a long time ago, usually on some local TV channel, that I’ve never been able to see again—many of which I don’t remember the names of—but some are
The Crawling Eye, Island of Terror, and I’m dying to see The Beginning of the End again: grasshoppers vs. cardboard cutouts! (see question #18)

5) Favorite film director most closely associated with the horror genre.
John Carpenter—LOVE his Apocalypse Trilogy!
(followed by that master trickster, Brian De Palma)

6) Ingrid Pitt or Barbara Steele?

Babs, FTW!

7) Favorite 50’s sci-fi/horror creature.
Go go Godzilla!

8) Favorite/best sequel to an established horror classic.
The Bride of Frankenstein, of course.
But I have a special place in my heart for Larry Cohen’s Island of the Alive, the third of his mutant babies flicks, and the one that expands on the critters and their lives.
Several killer babies get exiled to a deserted island and grow into huge beasts—just add one of Michael Moriarty’s goofiest performances—and you get magic!

9) Name a sequel in a horror series which clearly signaled that the once-vital franchise had run out of gas.
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein

10) John Carradine or Lon Chaney Jr.?
Carradine was the better actor, but I have no memory of him bringing pathos to ANY of his horror perfs, unlike Chaney Jr., who brought deep melancholia to his roles.

11) What was the last horror movie you saw in a theater? On DVD or Blu-ray?
Theater: Insidious (2011)—which kicked ass!
DVD: Mario Bava’s Kill, Baby… Kill! (1966)
Streaming: Paul Morrissey’s Blood for Dracula (1974)

12) Best foreign-language fiend/monster.
Dr. Mabuse

13) Favorite Mario Bava movie.
Black Sunday, natch—

14) Favorite horror actor and actress.
Boris Karloff
Dick Miller
William Shatner

Barbara Steele
PJ Soles
Martine Beswick (in Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde)

15) Name a great horror director’s least effective movie.
John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned

16) Grayson Hall or Joan Bennett?
What’s with the Dark Shadows obsession? For some of us, it never aired in our particular region. Besides, isn’t this post supposed to be centered on Dr. Phibes? Stop mixing metaphors!

17) When did you realize that you were a fan of the horror genre? And if you’re not, when did you realize you weren’t?
I grew up on horror (and sci-fi and fantasy and weirdness in general)—my stepdad was a fan
and horror movies were playing in the house before I could think rationally.

18) Favorite Bert I. Gordon (B.I.G.) movie.
The Mad Bomber
The Beginning of the End
War of the Colossal Beast

19) Name an obscure horror favorite that you wish more people knew about.
Filipino horror movies in general (Go see The Twilight People! Pam Grier’s in it!)

And here are 20 horror movies that I think more people need to know about (in no particular order):

The Horrors of Malformed Men
The Todd Killings
The Hellstrom Chronicle
Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
Tales From the Hood
Herzog’s Nosferatu
Five Million Years to Earth
Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County (1998) Unseen since it was first broadcast, this “found footage” pseudo-documentary scared the CRAP outta me back in the day.

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die
Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare (1968)
Burn Witch Burn!
The Flesh Eaters
The Possession of Joel Delaney
The Call of Cthulhu (2005)
The Amazing Screw-On Head (2006) (horror-comedy animated short from Mike “Hellboy” Mignola—totally brilliant)

SALVAGE (2006)
Turkey Shoot
The Night Stalker—Dan Curtis’ TV movie, scripted by horror grandmaster Richard Matheson, was the most watched TV movie in history when it aired—it was also the first time that the vampire was brought to a contemporary US city: Las Vegas.

The flick inspired a sequel, and the short-lived TV series, where hardboiled, proto-gonzo journalist Carl Kolchak (played by Darrin McGavin, a god!) tangles with the supernatural weekly. I think a lot of people have heard about the show, but haven’t seen it—the must-see episode, “The Horror in the Heights” was written by Hammer Horror vet Jimmy Sangster.

That said, I’m including The Night Stalker on this list because it’s a damn fine horror movie that I think people have forgotten about—mainly because it was overshadowed by the TV show.
And Dan Curtis created Dark Shadows—thus tying us back in to Dennis C.’s sick obsessions.

20) The Human Centipede-- yes or no?
I haven’t seen it, and probably won’t—I hear it’s pretty bad—not the gross stuff, just that it’s stupid and dull.

21) And while we’re in the neighborhood, is there a horror film you can think of that you felt “went too far”?
Since I’m a gorehound, going too far is never about blood & guts, but rather themes:
as such, Frank Darabont really screwed the pooch with the ending of The Mist.
Darabont “tweaked” Stephen King’s original ending, and made it into a sick, awful joke that leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and defies logic as well.

Meanwhile, Mario Bava’s Rabid Dogs (while technically it’s not a horror flick, it was directed by Bava!) is a flick SO mean and nasty that I still haven’t been able to finish watching it.

22) Name a film that is technically outside the horror genre that you might still feel comfortable describing as a horror film.
The Power of Nightmares

The Todd Killings
Night of the Hunter
High Plains Drifter
Dear Zachary
United 93
The Devils
Orson Welles’ Macbeth

23) Lara Parker or Kathryn Leigh Scott?
Kathryn Leigh Scott, because she was on Space: 1999.
Now knock off the Dark Shadows stuff!

24) If you’re a horror fan, at some point in your past your dad, grandmother, teacher or some other disgusted figure of authority probably wagged her/his finger at you and said, “Why do you insist on reading/watching all this morbid monster/horror junk?” How did you reply? And if that reply fell short somehow, how would you have liked to have replied?

This never happened; I was a feral child with few social skills dropped off at the movies routinely from the age of seven, until I turned nine, when, after bugging mom to take me to the movie theater, she gave me some money and told me to take the bus. Nine!

25) Name the critic or Web site you most enjoy reading on the subject of the horror genre.

Vulnavia Morbius
DVD Savant

26) Most frightening image you’ve ever taken away from a horror movie.
Honestly, it’s when the acid-blood splattered the front of Hicks’ armor in Aliens, and he’s freaking out and shrieking “Get it off me! Get it off me!” as the armor is melting into hot slag that’s dripping onto his flesh! Ow-ow-ow-ow!
That scene gets me every time I see it (perhaps due to personal phobias: bad plastic burns on my arm when I was a kid).

27) Your favorite memory associated with watching a horror movie.
Seeing Romero’s Dawn of the Dead when it first came out in 1978—I was either 12 or 13—and the flick so freaked me out, I began laughing uncontrollably, SHRIEKING
(like Vik in Steve Erickson’s Zeroville, when he sees The Exorcist for the first time).

It was like I’d been given some deranged nitrous oxide and LSD cocktail.

28) What would you say is the most important/significant horror movie of the past 20 years (1992-2012)? Why?

Scream brought us self-referential snark (which I hate); The Blair Witch Project popularized “fake found footage” (which I like) and gore made a comeback, like it’s supposed to.

And as such, I want to give a big shout-out to Hostel 2, for its ferocious raw meat look at capitalism: I love that the girl survives because she’s rich—it’s a blatant, heavy-handed message, but in an insane flick with so much bloodletting? Why not.

29) Favorite Dr. Phibes curse (from either film).
From Phibes the First:
The vampire-bat shred is super-creepy, thanks to close-ups of vampire bats, and the green goop on the face, followed by locusts has a certain amount of groinal units,
but it’s the frog-mask murder that rules: it can stand alone as a gruesome little short film.

(BTW, has anybody ever noticed that Fincher’s Seven is essentially a humorless cop-centric remake of The Abominable Dr. Phibes? Uh-huh, that’s right.)

(Additional BTW: I feel Dr. Phibes is a psychedelic movie—like Barbarella or Silent Running, it is not necessarily about “Hippies,” or “Acid,”
it’s the zeitgeist allowing its production designer and art directors to run wild—to be phantasmagorical!)

30) You are programming an all-night Halloween horror-thon for your favorite old movie palace. What seven (that’s right, Dennis C., I added two more! Bwah-hah-hah-HAH!) movies make up your schedule?

6pm: The 1970s “I smelllll…children!” Double-Feature—
It’s Alive (1974)
The Brood (1979)

10pm—the Rarity Showcase—
A Cold Night’s Death (1973) Totally forgotten because it’s totally unavailable
Altered (2006) I wasn’t just going to put this on question #19’s list! This is the best, goriest Outer Limits episode never made! Ya gotta see it!

Midnight—New Asia GORE—
I Saw the Devil (2010; Korea)
Dream Home (2010; China—splatteriffic socio-economical satire that is very bloody and sickly funny. With really, really, really disgusting sound effects!)

The New Dawn 6am show—“See the Devil Again!” (with free coffee and doughnuts in the lobby, too!):
The Prophecy (1995; with Christopher Walken, and an awesome cameo by Viggo Mortensen as Lucifer)


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The 200th Episode of The United Provinces of Ivanlandia (and a mess o’ movie reviews)

Before we start the festivities, check out above:
the Stupendous Gil Kane rendered a near perfect caricature of me—
as a demon tormenting an artist named… “Gil Kane”!
(Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!)

And he drew this a LONG TIME before I came near looking like that.
That drawing is me at 32! And was done when I was probably--mumble, mumble--12 or 13...?

Meanwhile I love Kane’s superclean pencils—jeez, such purity of line! I never read any of the comics he illustrated regularly, but I always loved it when he’d “guest” pencil for a vacationing regular: his two-issue run early in the publication of Conan the Barbarian is one of my faves (issues #17 & 18, summer 1972), and he had a way with technology—there’s Kirbytech, and then there’s Kanetech.

Therefore, it is with plenty of Gil Kane samples that we illustrate the 200th posting at The United Provinces of Ivanlandia!
The Gil Kane samples will share space with images of the lovely Martha Hyer, star of Pyro, one of the films reviewed in this post.

And to repeat, this is the 200th Edition of The United Provinces of Ivanlandia!
I’m spraining my arm patting myself on the back! Yee-ha!
And thanks to the “followers” and to everyone who leaves comments!

Here’s to 2,000 more!
(I guess to some folks 200 posts would be nothing—I mean, some blogs seem to put out 200 posting a month—and then there are the sites where somebody actually writes something for each of those posts—usually whining and whinging about TV shows, or health, or politics, or mainly morbidly self-involved navel gazing… Not that that’s all of what Maximum Posters do—just some of ’em.)

Hmmm….Well it appears I could have joined in all the 31 days of Halloween celebrations taking place across the blogosphere, but I watched more than 30 movies in September, and there are more day(s) in October.

Yeah, like a lot of nerds, I keep lists, and I noticed that the flicks viewed during September 2011
(whether via DVD or streaming—no theatricals this month—or for a while; the treasury’s short)
tended towards the…eclectic as a group—I find myself saying, how did I wind up watching these flicks in the course of a month?

September Cinema In Random Order

Seven Beauties (1975)
Swept Away (1974)
Yeah, I’m catching up on my Lina Wertmuller flicks—great, smart, cutting socio-political ideas churned up with some major emoting—go, go Giannini!

Pyro (1964)
Martha Hyer! Hubba-hubba!
Often she’s in leather pants (not tight enough, though) or bright red satin high-collared Asian dresses (ditto).
Hyer is fab in all her scenes, but she’s not really in the film enough, as it mainly follows Barry Sullivan’s revenge-driven jerk.

But Hyer emotes a storm, and looks good doing it.
My fave Hyer role, however, is her trashiest, as the starlet/whore in The Carpetbaggers—jeez, she’s so hot in that flick, she’s volcanic!

Why she was cast as the prim girl in Some Came Running is beyond me, but she does make the bourgeois life seem desirable.
I’ve seen Hyer in plenty of flicks, but most seemed too scared to let her let go, to really kick out the jams.
But there are still more to see/here’s hoping!

George Wallace (1997)
Only watched this b/c I’m a John Frankenheimer completist. It’s a good TV movie biopic, but nothing genuinely sensational—although Gary Sinise fans should check out his performance, there’s a certain sort of…geometry about it.

Deep Cover (1992)
The Undercover Cop Posing As A Drug Dealer flick that Sam Fuller never got to make—Larry Fishburne is good as the cop, but Jeff Goldblum sends the movie into the stratosphere as the hyper attorney-turned-dope-peddler.
Great script, moral confusion, snappy dialog and unique supporting characters add up to a very recommended B-movie.

Inception (2010)
The most inadvertently funny movie I’ve seen in ages. All the dialog is exposition and nothing but. DeCraprio still looks like a constipated child. I’m sure the effects looked cool in the movie theater, but otherwise, lamesville.
And laughable, so damn laughable.

Of Unknown Origin (1983)
Yuppie Vs. Giant Rat—
Decent B-movie, but it really needed the hand of a Larry Cohen or Roman Polanski or Cronenberg to delve into the socio-psychological issues that this flick only hints at. Verdict? Interesting misfire.

ZPG (1972)
Reviewed HERE

Red (2010)
Reviewed HERE

42nd St. Forever: Exploitation Explosion (2007)
42nd St. Forever: Alamo (2009)
Getting drunk and watching about 100 movie trailers with the Squeekster is always fun—especially when Mike Edison bursts into the room and declares that we’re nerds. Yeah, right, Mike, like you never obsessed about something dumb or geeky!

Run Silent Run Deep (1958)
Reviewed HERE

The Valley of Gwangi (1969)
Jeez, this flick was made at the height of the Vietnam War—I wonder if it was shown on bases overseas?
I guess I should comment more on this Ray Harryhausen effects extravaganza, but I didn’t think this cowboys vs. dinosaurs movie went far enough, y’know?

Ripping Yarns (1975)
Been catching up on a lot of Monty Python lately, as well as the Python’s ancillary projects. Some of these are too… quaint for my tastes, but I still LOVE “Tomkinson's Schooldays”—a brilliant piece of satire that could’ve fit right into Python’s run, alongside more subdued, longer narrative episodes like “The Cycling Tour” or “Michael Ellis.”

Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959)
The movie is almost garbage, but some gross and mysterious scenes saved it. Watch only if you’re an absolute Mario Bava completist. Otherwise, just check out the trailer and Ernest Dickerson’s commentary at Trailers From Hell—that is much better than the actual movie which is, uh, misguided at best.

The Big Cube (1968)
Mexico! A more detailed review of this Lana Turner LSD-murder-thriller is forthcoming, but I will note that it was the latest in a bunch of flicks I’d screened recently (including The Holy Mountain, The Black Scorpion and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia) that had been filmed in Mexico and often used modern Mexican architecture, and I really have been enjoying checking out the scenery—I guess I haven’t seen too many films set in contemporary Mexican cities, and I’m finding it a unique experience. Viva Mexico!

Mr. No Legs (1979)
Reviewed HERE

Microworld (1980)
William Shatner hosts this AT&T industrial film that is fascinating because of HOW MUCH IT GETS RIGHT. These technicians KNOW what they’re doing.

The Naked Prey (1965)
A fave—
Reviewed HERE

Hurry Sundown (1967)
Holy Moly! Michael Caine’s southern accent in this flick is AWFUL!, and must be seen to be believed. It’s borderline incomprehensible, and nearly impossible to imitate: I double-dog dare ya! But Jane Fonda’s saxophone fellatio scene is FUCKING BRILLIANT, and Otto Preminger delivers an entertaining, if colossal and disjointed soap opera, with an all-star cast, and magnificent Panavision vistas.

Where the Money Is (2000)
Linda Fiorentino has been in far too few films
. She’s good in this cute, unassuming fable for grown-ups about a nurse meeting a bank robber—who’s faking a stroke to get out of prison. Pleasant diversion for a rainy afternoon.

Stuart Saves His Family (1995)
Too much 12-Step humor for the average sane person “to get,” but for Friends of Bill and their friends, this pic is a comedy bonanza. I especially like Vincent D’Onofrio’s angry stoner brother.

Ragtime (1981)
Doesn’t hold up; nope.

El Topo (1970)
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s breakout movie, and still supremely weird—but to me, also very dated.
I much prefer the director’s later magnum opus, The Holy Mountain (followed by his Santa Sangre).

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
Albert R. Broccoli tries to bust out another Ian Fleming-inspired franchise, but let’s CCBB get overloaded. It’s much too long, and not action-packed enough, feeling slow and lugubrious often.
Several songs are unnecessary, but on the other hand, I was shocked to see how many songs I remembered (CCBB was on TV all the time when I was a kid)—and the flick wound up having a great nostalgic appeal for me.

Gamera Vs. Guiron (1969)
Giant atomic turtle vs. knife-head lizard—GENIUS!

Gamera Vs. Jiger (1970)
So the bad guy monster, Jiger, injects something into Gamera’s neck from the stinger in its tail. Paralyzed, Gamera collapses in Osaka harbor. The two young boys (because the Gamera flicks from this time weren’t kaiju so much as “boys adventure” movies) take their miniature submarine and maneuver through Gamera’s mouth, down his throat, into his lungs, where they encounter dry “land.”
Inside the lung, the boys find that Jiger has injected an egg into Gamera (eewwww!) and that the egg has hatched a baby Jiger, presumably to feed on Gamera.
What the filmmakers have done is use the same Jiger monster suit they used to fight Gamera and smash the city, but at a different scale—normal human scale; hence the boys are actually larger than the Jiger suit—but they are inside a monster-turtle’s lung: mega-scale shift.
Let these things mess with your head: it’s fun.

Skidoo (1968)
One of the greatest films ever made, longer review in the works….

Red Cartoons: Animated Films From East Germany (2007)
Don’t bother—very dated humor, mediocre animation and watered-down social commentary (pretty much what you’d expect from Stasi-era East Germany).

Paul (2011)
Made me laugh a lot, but only after the alien enters the picture—and I am routinely annoyed by any comedy that automatically makes every church-going Christian as a loony, with cheap jokes. Mocking them so simplistically only makes them stronger.

Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
Beautiful, beautiful super-weirdness: I’m a better person for having seen it.

The League of Gentlemen (1960)
The mediocre heist flick that gave the great, sick humor group its name.
I’ll assume that if you grew up in the UK at a certain time, that this flick was an action movie that everybody watched at one time or another and had become really familiar with, even though it’s quality is not necessarily top-notch—like Von Ryan’s Express, to anybody familiar with NYC’s "The 4:30 Movie."

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
Classic, still funny—survives multiple viewings, and is even more relevant today.

Deadlier Than the Male (1967)
Low-budget James Bond rip-off that is goofy and groovy enough (that chessboard!), with plenty of foxy broads.

The Holy Mountain (1973)
Pure fucking genius.

Ganja & Hess (1973)
Had I discovered this in 1987 on my own at the Thalia (RIP), I’d probably have loved it. But after hearing about this flick for years, it could never live up to the hype.

Must-See Triple Feature at the Ivanlandia Expanding Consciousness Drive-In?
Last Year at Marienbad, The Holy Mountain and Skidoo

BTW, I’m not sure I remember where I borrowed many of the Gil Kane jpegs illustrating this post, but I’m sure many of them came from the always awesome Diversions of the Groovy Kind. Thanks! And bookmark them today!