Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Goke - Bodysnatcher From Hell (1968)

Vivid, psychdelic Japanese movie about a group of stranded airline passangers who are being taken over by alien beings. I've heard good things about this flick for years and everything was right. Produced by the same company which unleashed War of the Insects (which I won't review until I see a copy with English subtitles).
So many Japanese movies from this time destroyed the world with rubber monsters, but the island was producing plenty of other good fantasy films. There's no Godzilla clones here, just an alien in jelly form who turns people into blood-sucking vampires. The flying saucer used by the invaders remains one of the most colorful effects in cinema.
This has been showing up on Turner Classic Movies recently. Do watch it if you have this cable TV channel when it's scheduled again.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Love Machine (1971)

Totally tacky, unintentionally hilarious, version of Jacqueline Susan's book. The author herself has a bit role as a newscaster when hunk Robin Stone (John Phillip Law) is watching a newscast about an ex-girlfriend's suicide. To adequately describe the plot of this movie would be to deny you the viewing pleasure, so I won't even make an attempt. Suffice it to say it involves Law's ruthless climb to the top of a network TV studio by sleeping with every woman who throws herself at him.
Where this film shines is in its time capsule depiction of America on the verge of the Me Decade. It's not enough that Stone watches four TV's at the same time, he does so in a kitchen painted in a striped color pattern. And what does his rival propose as a means to win ratings? Why Shecky Green in a variety show! But wait, it even features Dyan Cannon in a corset!

Monday, January 5, 2009

God's Cartoonist: The Comic Crusade of Jack T. Chick

I've been waiting for this documentary for a long time. Jack Chick, artist, activist, conspiracy theorist, evangelist, and underground sensation, has been in my background every since I can remember. I found a copy of his The Beast tract at a Christian bookstore when I was 12 and it seriously creeped me out. Over the years, I would find his illustrated literature everywhere. His comic books could be seen in high school lockers, airport terminals, on college campuses. The man seemed to be everywhere at once. Even comic book stores began carrying his literature for their artistic value. And now we have a documentary which tries to look at him in an objective manner as possible.
A detailed analysis of Jack Chick's religious beliefs is outside the scope of this article. Probably to do it would condemn me to hell.
But little is known about Jack Chick the man. There are only two known photographs of him, both dating from the 1940's. He may have hit the one billion mark when it comes to publications, but mainstream culture has ignored him. There don't seem to have been many Hollywood directors trying to adapt A Demon's Nightmare or The Gay Blade for the big screen.
God's Cartoonist features several lengthy interviews with people who either work for JTC publications or collect their publications. Most of the collectors have the "we take him seriously, but not his views seriously" point of view. There's even a minister who says: "Jack Chick said it, I believe it, and that settles it." The best is a lengthy talk with the "Rev." Ivan Stang, founder of The Church of the Subgenius, who speaks movingly of how much Chick's work has affected his own creations.
The documentary even animates several of Chick's tracts with the use of computer imaging. This is my one big gripe about the film. Jack Chick's illustrations are so detailed that they cry out for animation with traditional pen and ink methods.
It seems that Jack Chick had incorporated several conspiracy theorist in his organization as "experts". One, is currently serving jail time, another was a MD who believed demons are actively and visually influencing our lives. A third. Alberto Rivera, was supposedly a former Jesuit priest who believed the Roman Catholic Church was controlled by Satan. You can actually trace the time line of Chick's artwork from the years he spent with these people.
There's also a very nice interview with a Black American artist who has spent years working with Chick on the publications. Several of the Chick aficionados point out the differences in their drawing styles.
This is an excellent documentary, even if shot on video. But somehow, I don't think it'll be on the short list at the Oscars. Go here to order it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Mystery Science Theater 3000: 20th Anniversary Edition

My fave Christmas present this year was this little gem. It comes complete with four episodes (one Joel, three Mikes) of classic MST3K episodes, lobby cards, new art work for the DVDs, interviews with the show creators, and a little robot. All handsomely encases in a tin box. God, I love the yuletide! Wassail!
My only complaint is that they only have one "Joel" episode. Joel Hodgson was the original host of the show when it was a low-power UHF broadcast from the Midwest. He always had that flair for the bizarre which could turn any godawful movie into a laugh fest. His replacement, Mike Nelson, just seemed too "nice" to me. My favourite Joel episode had him trying to fix some odd machine while lecturing to the robots about the nature of evil, using Yahoo Serious as a prime example.
Also, two of the episodes are from the final SciFi Channel days, when the show seemed to have lost a lot of its original flair. The sets may have been more impressive, but not as amusing. Also, they'd lost the mad scientist co-host and the invention exchange by that point.
The four movies in the pack include: First Spaceship to Venus (Joel-Comedy Channel), Laserblast (Mike-Comedy Channel), Future War (Mike-SciFi Channel), Werewolf (Mike-SciFi Channel). I would've preferred their hysterical riff on Manos: Hands of Fate (Joel-Comedy Channel), but you can't have everything.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gamma Ray - Hell Yeah!!! The Awesome Foursome: Live In Montreal (2008)

And one of my other interests is Heavy Metal.
Received this Gamma Ray DVD for Christmas from one of my kids. Good boys; they know what dad wants for the holidays. No mufflers and ties for me!
The band shows themselves to be at top form with this performance, but to tell you the truth, I prefer the live at Wacken supplements in the extras disc. As I sincerely doubt I'll ever get to see these gents live, this may be the closest I'll ever get.
And remember: The Gods made heavy metal.

Friday, January 2, 2009

David Lynch on iPhone

Preach on, David!
Can I get a witness?

Then Came Bronson (1969)

Pilot for the wunderlust TV show that many people remember, but not enough watched to keep on the air more than one season.Michale Parks plays a reporter (Jim Bronson) who witnesses his best friend leap off a building. After having a fight with his editor, he hops on a motorcycle and sets out in search of America. He runs into Bonnie Bedelia as an angry bride throwing her wedding ring into the sea and gives her a lift.
There's not a lot of conversation in this movie. You never really find out why the "bride" tossed her ring into the sea. But the real reason for the movie is the long trip Bronson in on, one which will occupy him for one hour a week on TV.
Amazing that a movie which didn't spawned a short-lived TV show has such a fan base today.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Day The Earth Stood Still (2008)

Hollywood never fails to let me down. I was absolutely sure this remake of the classic film would be a dog and, by golly, I was right. How bad is this film? It's so bad I'm actually writing a negative review of it. Why? Because I don't usually write negative reviews (what's the point?), but in this case I want to warn people to stay away and not waste your money. Don't even buy the DVD when it hits the stores. Better yet, don't even download the thing.
All it does is make the 1951 Robert Wise original look that much more polished. There was no way in God's green earth that this remake was going to out-do the 1951 version. If nothing else, more people will make an effort to see the brilliant original.
Enough! I will say no more of this atrocity! I've wasted enough time as is!