Thursday, April 03, 2008

RAPID FIRE DISTILLATION OF RECENT VIEWING. Finally coming to my senses, I took a few days off from work . . . leading to a clutch of DVD watching. What follows is something of a capsule review of same (and stay tuned for part 2).
FRISKY DINGO SEASON ONE: Most deserving of a complete blog entry but FRISKY DINGO only slightly easier to summarize as L'ECLISSE (and you'll notice I haven't tackled THAT one yet either). So, anyway. Boosh! Frisky Dingo is another 15 minute per installment cartoon for grown-ups from the geniuses that brought us one of the greatest of all time: SEALAB 2021. Premise is basically this: superhero Awesome X (secret identity self-centered billionaire Xander Crews) has successfully eliminated all the super villains in his city. So now he's got to actually go run his multi-national company. Meanwhile, bizarre NEW supervillain Killface has built the Annihilatrix: a doomsday weapon that will hurl the Earth into the Sun! In order to terrify the world populace, he embarks on a postcard mass mailing (with a few typos). But this is merely an excuse to populate the screen with a bevy of ridiculous/bizarre/hilarious characters who go through more surreal foolishness per minute than practically any other film or TV series. Frinstance, only about 3 minutes into the very first episode, Killface graphically murders an employee and makes a hand puppet out of him. Voicework by the cast is superlative; much like SEALAB 2021. . .and the cartoon is literally laugh-out-loud brilliant quite often.
CAT BALLOU. The 1965 comedy western which earned Lee Marvin an Academy Award. I found it to be quite enjoyable if a bit silly (in the sometimes tiresome 60's way which seemed to find speeding up the film a la Keystone Kops the height of knowing parody). However, CAT BALLOU is enjoyable if lightweight. It was extremely nice to see the film open with "Greek chorus" Nat King Cole (in his final film appearance) and Stubby Kaye (from GUYS AND DOLLS) playing their banjos and singing "The Ballad of Cat Ballou" as the woman herself (played by a refreshingly un-annoying Jane Fonda) awaits her own hanging. The bulk of the film is told in flashback -- how Cat reached this sorry state. Cat's father (splendidly played by John Marley) is murdered and his ranch taken by away by veteran 30's actor Reginald Denny. Cat hires some gunslingers to take her revenge. Among these we find teenybopper star Dwayne Hickman of Dobie Gillis, Michael Callan (of the 1961 version of MYSTERIOUS ISLAND) and standout Lee Marvin as soused gunslinger Kid Shelleen. Marvin also plays a dual role as no-nosed evil desperado Tim Strawn. The inept comical outlaws undertake the robbing of a train and various other western deeds. A pleasant-enough way to spend an hour and a half.
FEMALE PRISONER No. 701 SCORPION. Here we have a "women in prison" movie with a difference. First of all, it's not a Pam Grier movie but a Japanese film from 1972. This shocked me because, while watching it, it felt more like something from 1992. This is one way of saying it was ahead of its time. Like all other "women in prison" movies, this one is chock full of female nudity and brutality. However, while it does revel in its exploitation genre, director Shunya Ito leavens the proceedings with deliberate artificiality. Ultra-realistic-looking scenes suddenly morph into obviously fake lighting and painted backdrops. In one prison catfight, a hostile murderous woman wielding a shard of broken glass as a weapon suddenly morphs into a maniacal (and very theatrical) harpy (here she is now. . .). Lead character Nami Matsushima (aka Matsu the Scorpion -- played with authority by Meiko Kaji) was recruited by her narcotics officer boyfriend into going undercover for a drug sting. Unfortunately for her, her boyfriend was on the take and serves her up for discovery and a gang rape by the mob. Naturally incensed by all this, Matsu goes berserk, tracks down and attacks her former boyfriend with a knife. More unfortunately, she is captured and sent to prison. A baaaaaaaad prison. Full of very baaaaaaaaaaad women. And even worse guards. Female inmates are constantly paraded around naked for the benefit of sadistic guards. While in solitary, Matsu is tortured by an inmate who brings her food -- at one point pouring ladles of piping hot miso soup on Matsu. While all this might sound vastly unpleasant (and it is), the director defuses things by his deliberately artificial and theatrical inserts. Also, things do turn around as the prisoners riot and take control of the prison. Then it is the female prisoners' turn to rape the male guards! (Touche, I say!). They also threaten to cut their balls off if they don't send in food. While the prison is eventually retaken by the slimeball authorities, Matsu manages to escape and go on a revenge tear straight out of GET CARTER. In fact, I think the comparison with GET CARTER is deliberate as the musical score sounds very much like Roy Budd's famous theme for the Michael Caine movie -- and yes, this too is quite deliberate I believe. After all the horror that has gone down, we are 100% with Matsu as she slices and dices her way through all the slimeballs until her final meeting with her duplicitous ex!
MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000: RING OF TERROR. Trust me, RING OF TERROR is one of the lousiest movies you're ever going to sit through. And trust me. . .the only way you're EVER gonna want to watch it is via the MST3K version. And this one is an above-average outing for Joel and his robot friends with countless funny lines of dialogue at the film's expense. For example, there is the absolute failure of the film to even pretend to bother with the so-called plot. Then there is the cast -- the oldest looking so-called "med school students" you've ever seen (go see some over there...). Joel and the robots riff constantly about the 40-something "22 years olds" populating the dimly-lit screen. All these geriatric "20-somethings" spend a lot of time learning how to perform autopsies. Hence, Joel and the robots spoof an autopsy lecture performing surgery on Mr. Hoover (a vacuum cleaner). Oh, any my favourite quip from this episode? Well, it's not really a quip. When "boy" asks his girlfriend: "Why are you so sore?!?" Joel and the robots just 'ahem ahem" to themselves. Then, after suffering through this awful (but fairly short) film, our prisoners on the Satellite of Love are surprised to find out they have to sit through ANOTHER movie: Chapter 3 of the old Bela Lugosi serial THE PHANTOM CREEPS. As I've always said, as long as you have MST3K on DVD. . .there's ALWAYS something on!
THE DOOR WITH SEVEN LOCKS aka CHAMBER OF HORRORS. This one was covered well by Weaverman over at Fleapit of the Mind and here's the link to it because I really don't have much to add or argue about regarding his conclusions. I was perhaps a little easier on the film than Weaverman: he gave it one star, I'll give it two. It has some nice spooky shots but it does play like a turtle running through peanut butter. I'd probably like to read the original Edgar Wallace novel which might be more entertaining. I will reiterate something Weaverman said about the movie looking MUCH OLDER than it is. The film is from 1940 but it really does look like something from the early 30's; I'm specifically thinking of stuff like THE MONSTER WALKS here. Very creaky. I also agree that the presence of Leslie Banks (the mad Count Zaroff in THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME) lends quite a lot to the proceedings and thank God he's there. But I must put my vote in for the British title "THE DOOR WITH SEVEN LOCKS" is so much better than the generic U.S. title "CHAMBER OF HORRORS".
Well, that's me about halfway through. With any luck, I'll be back a little later with part 2 of my rapid fire recent viewing capsule reviews. And I would like to give special thanks again to Weaverman over at Fleapit of the Mind for sending me DVDs of CAT BALLOU, FEMALE PRISONER NO. 701 SCORPION and THE DOOR WITH SEVEN LOCKS.

2 comments:

Fink Master Flash said...

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BOOOSH!!!

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