Film Review: Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

Also known as: The Passionate People Eater (working title)
Release Date: August 5th, 1960
Directed by: Roger Corman
Written by: Charles B. Griffith
Music by: Fred Katz, Ronald Stein (uncredited)
Cast: Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph, Mel Welles, Dick Miller, Myrtle Vail, Jack Nicholson

Santa Clara Productions, The Filmgroup, American International Pictures, 72 Minutes

Review:

“It’s a finger of speech!” – Mushnick

I often times come across people who don’t realize that there was an “original” version of The Little Shop of Horrors that existed before the ’80s movie and the stage interpretations. And since it was made by the great B-movie king, Roger Corman, it’s always something worth pointing out.

The origin of this movie is kind of cool, as Roger Corman was challenged to beat his previous record of filming a movie quickly and with that, set out to film this entire picture in two days. A big part of that two-day window was that he wanted to re-use sets from his movie Bucket of Blood before they were torn down. He succeeded.

The film features a few Corman regulars, most notably Jonathan Haze, as the film’s lead, as well as Dick Miller and Jack Nicholson, in what was his most bonkers role, early in his career. Nicholson actually plays a dental patient that loves pain, which was the same role that Bill Murray played in the ’80s musical remake.

Now this version isn’t a musical like the ’80s film and the stage productions. However, it features a cool musical score by Fred Katz and an uncredited Ronald Stein. I like the odd score so much that I actually own it on vinyl.

I think that the most impressive thing about the movie is the special effects. The fact that they were able to create Audrey, the giant, man-eating plant and utilize it so well for this quick shoot is pretty astounding. But then, Roger Corman continually astounded with how quickly he shot his films, the sheer volume of them and how he pinched his pennies while getting the most out of them.

The Little Shop of Horrors is really no different than Corman’s other horror and sci-fi productions of this era in his career. And the end result is an enjoyable, quirky picture that is fun to watch or revisit every couple of years.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: its ’80s musical remake, as well as other early Roger Corman pictures.

Film Review: Rock & Rule (1983)

Also known as: Ring of Power, Drats (working titles), Fantasia de Rock (Brazil)
Release Date: April 15th, 1983 (Boston premiere)
Directed by: Clive A. Smith
Written by: John Halfpenny, Peter Sauder, Patrick Loubert
Music by: Patricia Cullen, various
Cast: Don Francks, Susan Roman, Paul Le Mat, Catherine O’Hara, Debbie Harry (singing voice), Lou Reed (singing voice)

Nelvana, Anaguel Films, Canada Trust, Famous Players, United Artists, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 77 Minutes

Review:

“She can sing, or she can scream. But she still pissed me off.” – Mok

While I’d get my mum to rent me adult animated features all the time when I was a kid because she thought they were just cartoons, this is one that I never got to see.

I’m not sure what I would’ve thought about it, as a kid, but seeing it for the first time, as an adult, it’s kind of drab.

Granted, I really liked the music. The bands and musicians that the movie featured were cool and the general concept was interesting too but the story was slow and drab and I just never felt all that invested in it.

Additionally, I liked the character design but the animation came off a bit clunky in places.

I also don’t like leaving reviews that are incredibly short but I don’t know what else to say about this film. It’s not terrible but it’s also not terribly engaging and falls flat in just about every way.

I still can’t call this a bad animated film but I also can’t consider it a good one, either.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other adult animated features of the ’70s and ’80s.

Film Review: Pulp Fiction (1994)

Also known as: Black Mask (working title)
Release Date: May 21st, 1994 (Cannes)
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino, Roger Avery
Music by: various
Cast: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Maria de Medeiros, Ving Rhames, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette, Christopher Walken, Bruce Willis, Phil LaMarr, Frank Whaley, Joseph Pilato, Steve Buscemi, Kathy Griffin, Alexis Arquette, Quentin Tarantino, Julia Sweeney, Lawrence Bender

Jersey Films, A Band Apart, Miramax, 154 Minutes, 178 Minutes (original cut)

Review:

“What now? Let me tell you what now. I’ma call a coupla hard, pipe-hittin’ niggers, who’ll go to work on the homes here with a pair of pliers and a blow torch. You hear me talkin’, hillbilly boy? I ain’t through with you by a damn sight. I’ma get medieval on your ass.” – Marsellus

Where the success of Reservoir Dogs opened the doors of Hollywood to Quentin Tarantino, it was Pulp Fiction, only his second film, that took him mainstream and made him one of the hottest, young directors of the ’90s. With that, he was able to make movies the way that he wanted with minimal interference from the studio system and he’s still considered an absolute maestro today.

From 1994 till about ten or so years ago, this was a picture I watched at least once per year. Hell, in the ’90s, I probably watched this, Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown almost monthly. I had them on VHS until the tapes either snapped or got warped to shit.

However, it’s now been several years since I’ve watched this. At least five, as that’s about how long it’s been since I first started Talking Pulp under its original name, Cinespiria. Seeing this again, though, was like coming home after a really, really long absence.

Everything about this film still feels right and man, it’s aged tremendously well and makes me yearn for a time where 99 percent of the films coming out weren’t dog shit.

Pulp Fiction is also a movie that birthed its own subgenre of of crime film. Many imitators emerged and dialogue in film changed around the mid-’90s due to this picture and Reservoir Dogs’ influence. For a film to really have that sort of impact on the entire American film industry is astounding but this did and dialogue is one of those things that really drives Tarantino’s work and many directors that followed and were inspired by it, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

The film is sort of an anthology but not fully. It has multiple stories going on but there is so much overlap with common characters that I can’t see it as a true anthology. It’s also told out of sequence, which isn’t a bad thing but I do remember the older generation being confused by the story when the movie came out. But ultimately, I like that there are these multiple plot threads, all of them very good, and none of them really being the main story.

Tarantino also pulled the very best performances out of his cast. This is incredibly well acted, so much so, that it revitalized John Travolta’s crumbling career and established Samuel Jackson as a long-term mainstay in Hollywood. Hell, that guy has been in so many damn pictures since Pulp Fiction, I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to reviewing them all and I review movies, sometimes multiple, daily.

The real breakout star for me in this movie was Uma Thurman, as she was able to show how skilled of an actress she is and thus, cemented herself as one of the top leading ladies of the ’90s and beyond.

The film also did great things for Ving Rhames’ career. He had some notable roles before this but it really opened a lot of doors for him too. Had he not done this film, he might not have gotten to be a big part of the Mission: Impossible film franchise alongside Tom Cruise and later, Simon Pegg.

Pulp Fiction is just a great film and one of the best of the ’90s, hands down. For Tarantino’s work, this along with the Kill Bill films are my favorites. It’s hard to choose between them but then again, the man’s worst work is still lightyears ahead of most directors’ best. He doesn’t have a bad movie, even if some of them don’t resonate for me on the same level as Pulp Fiction.

Anyway, you’ve probably already seen this movie and love it, so I’m not stating much of what you don’t already know. If you haven’t seen the movie, I’m not sure what sort of rock you live under and if you have seen it and don’t love it, you need to see a veterinarian because you’re not human.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Quentin Tarantino’s other crime films.

Comic Review: The Sword of Solomon Kane

Published: 1985-1986
Written by: Ralph Macchio
Art by: Bret Blevins, Steve Carr, Mike Mignola, John Bogdanove, John Ridgway
Based on: Solomon Kane by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 157 Pages

Review:

The Sword of Solomon Kane was a six-issue miniseries that Marvel Comics released from 1985 to 1986. All of the stories were written by Ralph Macchio and adapted from the original Robert E. Howard stories.

Each of the issues had a different artist but they featured some of the best up and coming artists of that era, most notably Mike Mignola. One of the covers was also done by Bill Sienkiewicz.

I had a lot of fun reading these. I already knew the stories from their source material but it was really neat seeing them come to life in a different medium. Some of these stories are ones that I had hoped would’ve been adapted if there were ever more Solomon Kane films after that first, solid one with James Purefoy. But alas, it wasn’t a hit despite it being good.

While I wasn’t as blown away by this as I was the collection of black and white Solomon Kane comics that appeared in The Savage Sword of Conan magazine, this was still a hell of a fun read, had the right energy and felt pretty close to the source material.

Even though the art changes from issue-to-issue, I liked all of it and the general tone and visual aesthetic worked unlike a lot of modern comics that switch art styles frequently, which can be a bit jarring when reading a collection or larger story arc.

It would’ve been cool if this opened the door for a regular Solomon Kane series like other Robert E. Howard properties the first time they were at Marvel. Sadly, it didn’t but the stuff we did get between this series and the character’s stories from Savage Sword were all top quality.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Solomon Kane comics, as well as other comics adapted from the works of Robert E. Howard.

Film Review: The Philadelphia Experiment (1984)

Release Date: August 3rd, 1984
Directed by: Stewart Raffill
Written by: Wallace C. Bennett, William Gray, Don Jakoby, Michael Janover
Based on: The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility by Charles Berlitz, William L. Moore
Music by: Kenneth Wannberg
Cast: Michael Paré, Nancy Allen, Eric Christmas, Bobby Di Cicco, Stephen Tobolowsky, Michael Currie

New Pictures, Cinema Group Ventures, New World Pictures, 102 Minutes

Review:

“You know, I got it all figured out… Navy owes me 40 years back pay.” – David Herdeg

In my mind, I thought that I had seen this movie once or twice, as a kid. I was wrong. I have never seen this until now and my memory played tricks on me by conflating images of other movies that may not even be remotely accurate. Hey, I’ve done some drugs at different points in my life.

Anyway, I thought that this was a really weird movie, even for ’80s standards and the story was pretty wonky. Still, I did enjoy it and I really liked the bond that developed between the leads: Michael Paré and Nancy Allen.

The story is about these two Navy seamen that were aboard a ship during a strange experiment where the Navy were trying to make the vessel invisible to give them a tactical advantage during World War II. This experiment made the ship vanish but with that, the two seamen were transported through time to 1984. The time travel also gave them some weird sci-fi side effects and one of the men keeps having seizures and electrical phenomenon happening to his body until he eventually explodes into pure energy and disappears. The rest of the film is a race against time, as Michael Paré’s character is trying to solve his dilemma before the same fate happens to him.

This is also an “on the run”/road trip movie similar to Starman and other films where a protagonist is trying to outrun and outwit authorities in an effort to reach their goal.

I liked Paré a lot in this and I always thought that he was an underutilized actor that should’ve reached bigger heights in the ’80s. I also liked Nancy Allen too but she’s been a favorite of mine ever since I saw the original RoboCop, as a wee li’l lad.

The film is entertaining and it was a cool picture in spite of its hokiness and strange premise. It is slow in a few parts and the climax is a bit weird but it’s still a worthwhile experience. Granted, I don’t know if it’s something I’ll ever go out of my way to watch again.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other early ’80s sci-fi and “on the run” movies.

Documentary Review: Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys (2014)

Release Date: January 14th, 2014
Directed by: Brian Stillman
Written by: Brian Stillman
Music by: Chris Ianuzzi
Cast: various

X-Ray Films, 70 Minutes

Review:

Plastic Galaxy is a documentary about the people who have a bit of an obsession with collecting Star Wars toys. It mainly focuses on the original line of toys from the original trilogy of movies and it also goes into their history and development.

I was initially excited to check this out back when it was a new film. However, it’s kind of light, if I’m being honest and suffers from some clunky editing, too much reliance on talking head interviews and, at times, being a bit overly dramatic.

That being said, I think that the Star Wars episode of Netflix’s The Toys That Made Us is a much better watch and a more professional production.

Still, this was neat to revisit and it’s engaging enough. But the 70 minute running time seems scant and I feel like this really needed to delve into the history more and provide more backstory.

All in all, this is okay but it could’ve been a lot better than what it was.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on toys, video games, table top gaming, collecting and specific niche fandoms.