Film Review: Never Take Candy from A Stranger (1960)

Also known as: Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (UK)
Release Date: March 4th, 1960 (London premiere)
Directed by: Cyril Frankel
Written by: John Hunter
Based on: The Pony Trap (play) by Roger Garis
Music by: Elisabeth Lutyens
Cast: Patrick Allen, Gwen Watford, Felix Aylmer, Janina Faye, Michael Gwynn

Hammer Films, 81 Minutes

Review:

“This isn’t an ordinary crime like burglary or a holdup.” – Martha

Similar to a lot of the other Hammer films I’ve been watching and reviewing lately, courtesy of a sweet, beefy box set I bought, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this movie.

I was pretty shocked and impressed with this, however. So much so, I’m surprised that I never knew about this picture and that it’s seemingly been lost to time.

The film is about a small town with a pedophile that is the old, senile patriarch of the town’s richest family. With that, no one really wants to do anything about this predator, as they don’t want to draw the ire of the family, who have lots of money and connections and essentially own everyone and everything in the region.

This is pretty heavy, serious subject matter for a movie that was made in 1959 but I thought that the material was well handled and even if the film feels like it’s leaning into exploitation, it classily reels itself in just enough to be respectable.

Additionally, this is well crafted, well shot, well acted and the picture’s climax of the elderly pedo chasing two young girls through the woods had similar, creepy vibes to some of the best moments from the exceptional film, The Night of the Hunter. In fact, this movie kept making me think of that classic, Robert Mitchum starring film.

I have to say that the main girl in the movie acted great and handled so many tough scenes like a seasoned pro. Gwen Watford, who played the girl’s mother was also really exceptional in this.

Also, Hammer regular Michael Gwynn had a role in this as the young victim’s lawyer. He was also solid and convincing and really shined in the courtroom scenes.

This is a dark, tragic film that most people will find upsetting. However, it’s also a great piece of work and one of the best things that Hammer Films has ever made outside of their more famous monster movies.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Hammer horror films that are more grounded in reality.

Comic Review: The Amazing Spider-Man – Epic Collection: Cosmic Adventures

Published: July 31st, 2014
Written by: Gerry Conway, Stan Lee, David Michelinie
Art by: Sal Buscema, Steve Ditko, Colleen Doran, Gil Kane, Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane, Alex Saviuk

Marvel Comics, 501 Pages

Review:

When I was a kid and probably because I was a kid, nothing seemed cooler than Spider-Man getting cosmic powers. Basically, seeing him become a hero more akin to Superman was a neat idea and it felt like it upped the ante, as it also brought with it, bigger and badder villains than his typical foes.

However, this also happened during the Acts of Vengeance crossover event, which saw Marvel villains switch which heroes they would fight, thinking that taking on different heroes would give them a tactical advantage and catch the good guys off guard.

So with that, Spider-Man got to tie up with tougher foes anyway. However, these foes were the ones caught off guard by Spidey’s new cosmic abilities, which evolved from issue-to-issue and also surprised Spidey.

One thing that this short era of Spider-Man did was it shook up the series and made it kind of fresh. But sometimes, that isn’t the best thing to do. Especially, if something isn’t broken and Spider-Man comics in the late ’80s weren’t broken.

Reading this now, this saga is really a mixed bag. Some single issues collected within are entertaining while others just seem like they’re just not hitting the typical Spider-Man beats.

Still, this was cool to experience a second time, over three decades later. It’s not my favorite era of Spider-Man comics but it’s strange and different enough that long-standing Spidey fans who haven’t read it, might want to check it out.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Spider-Man stories of the ’80s and early ’90s.

Film Review: Evilspeak (1981)

Also known as: Evilspeaks (alternative title)
Release Date: August 22nd, 1981 (Japan)
Directed by: Eric Weston
Written by: Eric Weston, Joseph Garofalo
Music by: Roger Kellaway
Cast: Clint Howard, R. G. Armstrong, Joseph Cortese, Claude Earl Jones, Haywood Nelson, Don Stark, Charles Tyner, Richard Moll

Leisure Investment Company, Coronet Films, Moreno Films, Warner Bros., 97 Minutes, 92 Minutes (R-rated cut)

Review:

“I command you, Prince of Evil, heed my call. Give life to the instruments of my retribution.” – Stanley Coopersmith

Evilspeak is a cool movie that capitalized on two things that had people worried in the early ’80s: the “Satanic panic” the media and parents groups were raging about, as well as the emergence of personal computers and what such a jump in technology could mean for the common folk.

This also stars a very young Clint Howard, playing a teen in a military school that decides to use his computer to summon the devil in an effort to conquer his bullies.

It’s also neat seeing the bully being played by a young Don Stark, who is probably most famous for being the doofus neighbor to Red Foreman on That ’70s Show.

The movie also features legendary, badass character actor R.G. Armstrong, as well as Richard Moll, before he’d go on to greater heights as Bull on the ’80s sitcom Night Court. There’s also Lenny Montana, a former professional wrestler that was most known for playing Luca Brasi in The Godfather and another sitcom star, Haywood Nelson, who was already known for his role as Dwayne on What’s Happening!! and later, What’s Happening Now!!

Man, I dig the hell out of this movie. It’s not just because I love the cast, it’s because this is just a time capsule into a really cool era for horror cinema. Also, it’s not a slasher flick or haunted house movie. Frankly, it’s pretty unique, at least for its time.

Granted, it’s concept would be ripped off and reimagined in several other films but this is the first film I know of where a personal computer was used to create a black mass and call forth the Devil.

Clint Howard really shines here because even if he succumbs to evil and a fucked up revenge plot, you still sympathize with him, as he just has this sort of soft, sad, endearing quality as this character, Stanley. His life sucks, it’s tough as hell and his bully is a real piece of shit. That being said, what the bully does to Stanley’s puppy is unforgivable and as a viewer, you want Stanley to literally raise hell.

I thought that the special effects in this were also pretty great. The big finale was well shot and employed some cool techniques, as a levitating, demonically possessed Stanley unleashes his newfound power on the assholes who tormented him.

Beyond that, I also thought the locations, sets and general visual tone were perfect. The film’s score wasn’t too bad either.

Evilspeak is one of those early ’80s horror movies that seems like it’s mostly forgotten today. However, it’s concept has lived on in countless other things throughout pop culture.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other “Satanic panic” movies of the ’80s, as well as Brainscan, The Gate II: Trespassers, Lawnmower Man and 976-EVIL.

Film Review: The Day of the Beast (1995)

Also known as: El día de la bestia (original Spanish title)
Release Date: September 4th, 1995 (Venice Film Festival – Italy)
Directed by: Álex de la Iglesia
Written by: Jorge Guerricaechevarría, Álex de la Iglesia
Music by: Battista Lena
Cast: Álex Angulo, Armando De Razza, Santiago Segura, Maria Grazia Cucinotta

Canal+ España, Iberoamericana Films Producción, M.G. S.R.L, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Well, it’s fundamental. lt inspired me to see the Apocalypse not as an allegory but as an equation. Each letter has its own number. So, for example… Daleth is worth four, and Synn is worth three hundred, so we can…” – Cura

El Día de la Bestia a.k.a. The Day of the Beast is a film that never popped up on my radar until Joe Bob Briggs featured it on a third season episode of The Last Drive-In. I’m glad he did show it, though, as it was a pretty cool occult horror picture from Spain.

Being that I worked in video stores in the ’90s, I’m surprised that I never came across this. If I did, I may have easily dismissed it due to it being foreign and having VHS box art that didn’t catch my eye.

This is a damn cool movie and it fits well with the rise of biblical and occult horror pictures of the mid-to-late ’90s, which I think was born out of people’s strange fear of approaching the new millennium.

The story is about a priest that believes that Satan is coming, so to take the Devil out, he decides to commit every sin imaginable to earn Satan’s trust and thus, kill him… I guess? The story is a bit nonsensical and deciding to become a sinner with about 24 hours on the clock probably isn’t a great plan.

However, the plan does work in that the priest and his overweight, heavy metal sidekick are able to attract some serious dark power into their lives. There’s a pretty cool scene where an occult ritual delivers a creepy presence but I don’t want to spoil the film.

While you do have to suspend a lot of disbelief due to the wonky story, the film still delivers and is entertaining as hell. Furthermore, all the core characters are really damn good and watching this all play out was a blast.

There isn’t a dull moment in the film and it flies by pretty quickly.

In the end, this has made me want to check out more from director Álex de la Iglesia.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other “raise the devil” or biblical horror movies of the ’90s, as well as the other films directed by Álex de la Iglesia.

Film Review: The Princess Bride (1987)

Release Date: September 18th, 1987 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: Rob Reiner
Written by: William Goldman
Based on: The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Music by: Mark Knopfler
Cast: Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant, Robin Wright, Peter Falk, Fred Savage, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane

Act III Communications, Buttercup Films Ltd., The Princess Bride Ltd., Vestron Pictures, 20th Century Fox, 98 Minutes

Review:

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” – Inigo Montoya

I’m going to be honest, this wasn’t a film that captivated me in my childhood like it did most people from my generation. However, I have still always liked it and it’s one of those things I’d leave on if I was flipping the channels in my teen years.

This was the first time I had seen this, though, since probably the ’90s. At least, in its entirety. So revisiting it was kind of a treat and I actually think I’m more fond of it now, simply because they don’t make movies like this anymore.

At its core, this is just a wholesome fairytale. But it’s also full of several characters who have become iconic over the three and a half decades since this was released.

I think that these characters became so iconic because this movie was so well cast, from top-to-bottom.

I also really underappreciated the swashbuckling bits and the camaraderie between the characters, which was so good and natural that one would have to assume that all these people genuinely clicked and enjoyed working together.

As a big wrestling fan, especially the ’80s era, I love seeing Andre the Giant in this. He’s absolutely superb and it makes me wish that he got to do more films before he died, shortly after this.

The Princess Bride is just a really entertaining and fun movie that should work for anyone, regardless of age, gender or generation. It’s kind of perfect in its wholesomeness and its adventurous spirit.

While it’s not what I personally consider a classic, I can see why so many people are immensely fond of it.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s family friendly fantasy movies.

Comic Review: Catwoman: When In Rome

Published: June 18th, 2013
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Tim Sale

DC Comics, 147 Pages

Review:

Being that I love the Batman comics that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did years ago, as well as their multiple Marvel miniseries, I’m not sure why I hadn’t picked up Catwoman: When In Rome until now.

It’s a pretty good solo story that sees Selina Kyle go off to Rome to get away from Gotham and her on again/off again relationship with Batman. Granted, he does have a very strong presence in the story, which I don’t want to spoil. However, this really shows you how the Bat has a tremendous emotional impact on Catwoman.

It should probably go without saying that I am a big fan of Tim Sale’s art. Mixing it in with a Jeph Loeb story somehow always brings the best effort out of Sale and this is no different.

Now I don’t consider this to be as good as Loeb and Sale’s Batman work but it still fits well within their version of the larger Batman universe. This is really a neat accent to their specific pocket of the mythos and honestly, I’d read anything they crafted that fit within the style and tone that they first created with The Long Halloween.

When In Rome is a much smaller and personal story than their Batman story arcs, however. And I guess that’s what I like about this, as it shows that they can tell smaller, more personally focused tales, where their Batman arcs involved lots of villains and characters.

Fans of the Catwoman character should probably love this and fans of the work of Loeb and Sale should probably love it too. It’s just a well-written and beautiful piece of work.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s other collaborations for DC Comics.

Video Game Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara (Arcade)

I really dug the hell out of the Dungeons & Dragons arcade game, Tower of Doom. That one felt like it was greatly inspired by the awesome Golden Axe series, except they really expanded on what those games did and created something with more diverse enemies, great looking levels and multiple paths to reach the end.

This game, Shadow Over Mystara, is a direct sequel to Tower of Doom and with that, was created in the same style on what I would assume was the same engine. It reuses elements of the previous game but also expands further, making this one hell of a fun experience to play.

Additionally, there are so many character choices you can play as in this game. Even just experimenting with them all as you progress is a lot of fun. Each character has its own set of pros and cons like a regular table top Dungeons & Dragons campaign should.

Furthermore, the game is chock full of so many baddies of various types. The boss battles are also a lot of fun and simply progressing through this game gives you a good sense of accomplishment.

This is just a really great game and while it does take a good amount of time to beat for an arcade beat’em up, the time flies by pretty swiftly.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as the Golden Axe games and Altered Beast.