Monday, March 30, 2009

Powderkeg (1971)

A gang of bandits take over a passenger train in north Mexico. They threaten to kill everyone on the train unless the bandit commander's brother is released from a US prison. There's just one problem: the brother is due to be hanged for a bloody raid into a boarder town. And that's if the national guard can prevent the citizens from lynching him. Ordered to write a letter outlining the commander's demands, a law student ("We need someone who can think in Spanish and write in English!") addresses the letter to the only two men who can save the day.
The heroes turn out to be Hank Bracket (Rod Taylor) and Johnny Reach (Dennis Cole), two mercenaries who will only take a blank check in way of payment, since anything less isn't worth their time. Can Bracket and Reach come up with a plan to free the passengers before time runs out? Will the railroad president allow them? And what about the mysterious senora who claims to be the wife of the soon-to-be-executed bandit's brother?
Powderkeg can only be described as Fistful of Dollars meets Mission Impossible. The director created an American response to all the cynical EuroWesterns flooding out of Italy and it worked. The soundtrack deserves it's on special release and the acting is superb. Big bonus points to the late Fenando Lamas for creating one of the most memorable villains of the last century.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Microbudget movie which actually generates some real fear. The movie is told from the webcam's POV, so there's a claustrophobic feel to the entire production. There's very few actors, all of whom do excellent jobs. Basically, this is a ghost story where two people are communicating over long distances and we're watching the result of a webcam session. My only complaint is the background story on the ghost is a little vague. Worth checking out if you have the opportunity.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Schalcken the Painter (1979)

One of the long-lost classics of the BBC has recently resurfaced. I have to admit, everything I heard about this adaptation of the Le Fanu ghost story is true: excellent acting, good direction, superb scenery. Hopefully it will be give a proper release some day.
Schalcken is an up and coming student of a popular Dutch artist during the Renaissance. Taken with his master's niece, he has to hold his toungue when his mentor decides to marry her off to a mysterious stranger. She disappears after the wedding and Schalcken attempts to locate her, but is in for the shock of his life with what he finds.
Narration by Charles Gray, much of the prodution deals with the actual techniques of oil painting. There is one amusing sequence where an old man in a diaper is posed next to a strumpet. The art students are told to paint St. Anthony tempted by lust.
Highly recommended if you can find it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Summerfield (1977)

Moody, atmospheric Australian film about a school teacher in a remote costal town trying to figure out what happened to his predecessor. A cast of mostly unknown actors (at the time) delivers an exceptional job of creating a sense of impending dread. The teacher finds himself ostracized by most of the town folk, who all seem to be in on a cover-up. Or are they?
Plus points for one of the best seduction scenes in the history of film. The teacher, played by buffed actor Nick Tate, catches the eye of his Romanesque boarding house manager. She's pretty obvious about what she wants at the first meeting, just never gets around to vocalizing it. What make this and ever other scene with her brilliant is that she doesn't have to say anything.
The ending is telegraphed and most people will predict it by the final third of the film. The ending is also what caused the poor reception for Summerfield when it was first released. However, if you pay attention to the conclusion, there are signs indicating a lot left unsaid.