Film Review: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Also known as: Two Thousand and One: A Space Odyssey (alternative title), Journey Beyond the Stars, How the Solar System Was Won (working titles)
Release Date: April 2nd, 1968 (Washington D.C. premiere)
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke
Based on: 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Sentinel by Arthur C. Clarke
Music by: various
Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Douglas Rain (voice), Vivian Kubrick (uncredited)

Stanley Kubrick Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 149 Minutes, 142 Minutes (theatrical release), 161 Minutes (initial release)

Review:

“I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.” – HAL-9000

This is my 2001st film review here on Talking Pulp (formerly Cinespiria) and I held off on reviewing this a few months back because I figured I’d save it for this special occasion. I’m also planning on reviewing its sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, for my 2010th. So look for that one in a little less than a week.

Well, I guess I should start this review by saying that it is one of the three films in my Holy Trinity of Motion Pictures alongside The Good, The Bad & The Ugly and The Dark Knight. So I do have a bias and a bit of favoritism towards this picture but that’s also because it’s a fucking masterpiece of cinematic perfection.

And really, that actually makes this harder to review, as I don’t want to just come across as someone who can’t find flaws in the picture and only sees it through rose colored glasses.

This is cinematic art, however, and it redefined what motion pictures could be forever.

Stanley Kubrick was one of the greatest directors that ever existed and even though I think he’s made multiple masterpieces, one of them has to be the best and in my opinion, it is this film.

The story has multiple parts to it and this is a fairly long movie. Despite that, it plays well and moves at a perfect pace, even if some sequences move slowly. While this isn’t really considered a thriller, one specific part of the film very much is and everything surrounding that is done so well that even if I’ve seen this well over a dozen times, it still works for me, every time I watch this.

The acting is understated but in that, it generates a lot of emotion, dread and this is almost a thinking man’s movie. It explores interesting concepts, presents them in a unique way and it doesn’t insult the intelligence of the viewer.

In fact, it does the stark opposite of that and it relies on the audience to pay attention, follow along and figure out things on their own. While I think that the messages and the story are pretty clear, it does leave the film open for some interpretation and the debates people have had for decades over the “meaning” of this film are just as entertaining as the picture itself.

I’ve debated parts of this movie with other film lovers for years and almost every time, I’m left with something new to think about or a detail that eluded me and makes me want to go back and watch the film again.

I don’t want to spoil the plot for the few who might not have seen this film. And frankly, it’s not all that easy to summarize. Maybe, at some point, I’ll write a multi-part essay series on it. Or I’ll bring people in to talk about it if I ever do something with the YouTube channel again.

2001 is perfect in every way, though. Sure, some may disagree and that’s fine but for me, it’s the greatest thing Kubrick, a true master, has directed. It also features some of the best cinematography and sound in motion picture history. And for the time, this, hands down, had the best special effects ever seen on the big screen. Over fifty years later, this looks so much better than the CGI effects of today.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, as well as other Stanley Kubrick pictures.

Film Review: Planet of the Apes (1968)

Release Date: February 8th, 1968 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner
Written by: Michael Wilson, Rod Sterling
Based on: Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Maurice Evans, Kim Hunter, James Whitmore, James Daly, Linda Harrison, Norman Burton

APJAC Productions, Twentieth Century Fox, 112 Minutes

Review:

“Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” – George Taylor

I’ve been meaning to review the original Planet of the Apes film series for quite awhile but I’ve also been meaning to review a lot of other films too and I can only do so much at a time.

Anyway, I’m here now and I’m glad that I revisited this, as it’s actually been a really long time since I’ve watched the original five films. In fact, it would’ve been before the 2011 reboot series started.

While I’ve always loved the Planet of the Apes concept and I’ve enjoyed all the films in their own way, I never found myself being super nostalgic for them. That’s probably a generational thing, as the first film came out more than ten years before I was born. However, these movies were on television a lot and I grew to really love them but nowhere near as much as the other franchises I loved before I was born like Godzilla, Star Trek, Doctor Who and James Bond.

This first movie is, hands down, the best of the lot. I like the story of the fourth film best overall and it’s the one I would watch the most but this film is on a different level, as far as being cinematic art.

Also, a lot of this film’s greatness is due to Charlton Heston. While he also appears in the first sequel, from memory, that film was an extreme misfire and surprisingly didn’t wreck the franchise. Granted, I’ll have a clearer view on it after I revisit it and review it in about a week.

This film follows a group of astronauts after an accident, they wind up on a planet ruled by intelligent apes. Heston is the only one to really survive through the whole ordeal and the movie focuses on his captivity and his being immersed in ape culture. Mostly, the film serves as a sort of metaphor for xenophobia and bigotry. I think it was Hollywood’s way of making that message more palatable than trying to be heavy-handed about it. Plus, this was supposed to be entertainment. Maybe modern Hollywood should’ve taken notes from older Hollywood. But the message here isn’t too dissimilar from what Stan Lee tried to convey in his ’60s X-Men comics.

The point is, art doesn’t need to be extremely literal. The message, if presented well, can come across and seep into the minds of the art consuming masses. Planet of the Apes succeeded in that regard and that’s probably why it became such an iconic picture in the science fiction genre, which still was a long way off from reaching full acceptance by the general public.

Low brow entertainment aside, this is a well-crafted film with good pacing and even better cinematography and shot framing. From top-to-bottom, it’s a competent picture. It is also well acted and has some of the best special effects of its time. The ape makeup still looks tremendous in spite of its limitations. I was glad that Tim Burton carried the practical, physical style of effects into his 2001 reboot.

Ultimately, the original Planet of the Apes is a true science fiction classic, deserving of its praise and longevity.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the four other Planet of the Apes movies from the original run, as well as the television show from the ’70s.

Film Review: The Green Slime (1968)

Also known as: Ganmā Daisan Gō: Uchū Daisakusen (original Japanese title), After the Destruction of Space Station Gamma: Big Military Operation, Battle Beyond the Stars, Death and the Green Slime, Gamma #3 Big Military Space Operation, The Battle of Space Station Gamma (alternative titles)
Release Date: July 6th, 1968 (Trieste Sci-Fi Film Festival – Italy)
Directed by: Kinji Fukasaku
Written by: William Finger, Tom Rowe, Charles Sinclair, Ivan Reiner
Music by: Toshiaki Tsushima
Cast: Robert Horton, Richard Jaeckel, Luciana Paluzzi

Lun Film, Ram Films Inc., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Toei, 90 Minutes, 77 Minutes (laserdisc edit)

Review:

“Jack, do you realize that this is the first time that anything living has been found in space? Do you know how terribly important that is?” – Lisa Benson

The Green Slime is a really interesting movie for a multitude of reasons.

To start, it was the first film ever featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, way back before the show was on national cable television and it was just a little show from a local Minneapolis TV station. And, honestly, it is much better than the standard level of schlock that MST3K features.

Additionally, the movie is a co-production between America’s MGM studios and Japan’s Toei studios, a production company primarily known for tokusatsu (Japanese sci-fi). Around the same time, Toei gave us Yongary, Monster From the Deep, Invasion of the Neptune Men and The Magic Serpent. They would also go on to create Super Sentai (a.k.a. Power Rangers), Kamen Rider, VR Troopers, Beetleborgs, as well as developing a major animation studio: Toei Animation.

On top of that, the production was made in Japan and in the Japanese tokusatsu style but it featured a cast of western and Italian actors. The most notable star is probably Luciana Paluzzi, who some might recognize from her role as Fiona Volpe (a.k.a. Number Ten), a member of the villainous SPECTRE in the classic James Bond picture Thunderball.

Now this movie looks just like you would expect, if you’ve watched ’60s tokusatsu films. While Toei wasn’t quite on the level of Toho, the studio behind Godzilla, the miniatures in this film are pretty decent and the sets work really well for what this is. In fact, this is one of the best looking and impressive productions that Toei had done up to this point. MGM co-financing the project may have a lot to do with that though.

The alien creatures are also pretty cool and while they look like normal tokusatsu-type monsters, they seem a little more refined and built with a greater emphasis on detail. They’re not fantastic alien creatures but they’re still damn cool and were effective as the threat in this picture.

I’m not sure why this has a 4.8 on IMDb but most people don’t enjoy the finer things in life like the tokusatsu aesthetic.

Out of all the movies that have been riffed on MST3KThe Green Slime is one of the best and shouldn’t be viewed as a film that belongs to be in the same company as something like Red Zone Cuba.

In fact, I’d say that this was around the same level as This Island Earth.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other tokusatsu movies that featured western actors, as well as ’60s non-kaiju tokusatsu in general.

Documentary Review: Portrait: Orson Welles (1968)

Release Date: June, 1968
Directed by: François Reichenbach, Frédéric Rossif
Written by: Maurice Bessy, François Reichenbach, Frédéric Rossif
Cast: Orson Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Pierre Vaneck (narrator)

41 Minutes

Review:

Orson Welles has always fascinated me. Well, at least since I learned about him extensively in my high school film studies course.

Luckily, there are a ton of biographies and documentaries about the man and his work.

This documentary is unique though, as it was made for French television in the ’60s. I guess it didn’t actually air and was sort of lost to time and only resurfaced after being included in a Criterion Collection featuring some of Welles’ work.

The short film doesn’t play like a standard biographical documentary, though. It really just follows Welles around a bit, talking about his struggles in getting his art made, while also editing in some clips of Welles interviews.

This is a pretty up close and personal peek into Welles’ life at the time that this was made and honestly, it feels kind of like a time capsule.

While I wouldn’t call this a spectacular piece or the best of the many Welles documentaries, it is still worth a look for those who feel like they may want to see the man, as himself, more intimately.

I also couldn’t find a trailer for this short ’60s documentary, probably because one doesn’t exist, so I instead posted one of my favorite Welles scenes of all-time.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other Orson Welles documentaries, which there are plenty of.

Film Review: The Living Skeleton (1968)

Also known as: Kyûketsu dokuro-sen (original title)
Release Date: November 9th, 1968 (Japan)
Directed by: Hiroshi Matsuno
Written by: Kikuma Shimoiizaka, Kyūzō Kobayashi
Music by: Noboru Nishiyama
Cast: Kikko Matsuoka, Yasunori Irikawa, Masumi Okada, Nobuo Kaneko, Kō Nishimura

Shochiku, 80 Minutes

Review:

The Living Skeleton is two things: eerie and atmospheric. It also reminds me of the darker episodes of the Japanese TV show Ultra Q, which was like a Japanese X-Files, three decades before that show even existed.

But it is darker and more haunting than that show, as this isn’t geared towards a younger audience. And in fact, the opening scene is pretty violent stuff.

The film opens with modern pirates taking over a ship off the coast of Japan. The pirates murder the crew and passengers before getting away. As the film rolls on, we see that this incident has caused a lot of spiritual unrest in the afterlife and a balance must be restored.

The story is a mixture of a traditional ghost story and Japanese folklore tales. There are skeletons underwater, a girl possessed by her dead sister and a few other surprises throughout the film.

The effects are really good. Especially considering the time that this was made and for the fact that it was a Japanese picture with a modest budget. And while some moments look a bit hokey by today’s standards, it all still works and the chilling atmosphere wraps around you like a thick blanket on a wet, cold day.

I really enjoyed this and while a lot of the events in the film seem almost random, for those more clued in to Japanese folklore, it’s a really cool experience. The Japanese have always been extremely creative with the monsters that have cemented themselves in their culture. I’ve read a lot of books on the subject matter and they have so many ghosts, spirits and “yōkai” that are just really damn cool.

Japanese horror is a breed all its own. The classic stuff is really cool and very different than what America or Europe has pumped out for decades.

The Living Skeleton is a rather short motion picture but it does a great job of showcasing Japanese terror and fears in a variety of ways.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Japanese fantasy horror of the ’60s and ’70s: House, Kwaidan, Onibaba and Attack of the Mushroom People, to name a few.

Film Review: Girl In Gold Boots (1968)

Release Date: April 25th, 1968
Directed by: Ted V. Mikels
Written by: Art Names, Leighton J. Peatman, John T. Wilson
Music by: Nicholas Carras, Chris Howard
Cast: Jody Daniels, Leslie McRae, Tom Pace, Chris Howard

Geneni Film Distributors, 94 Minutes, 108 Minutes (original cut)

Review:

“I see you’ve been promoted from Yak Boy to Mop Boy.” – Buz Nichols

GIrl In Gold Boots is a film about the seedy side of the go-go dancing world, as told by the man behind The Corpse Grinders and The Black Klansman. And as should be expected, it is of poor quality with bad acting and an insane nonsensical plot full of unlikable characters.

But hey, it’s got hot dancers in it and there is a version you can watch that is riffed by Mike and the ‘Bots courtesy of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Watch that version, as it is actually one of my favorite Mike Nelson MST3K episodes.

In this film, we meet this waitress in some shithole diner in the middle of nowhere. Her father is the cook and he’s a drunk shithead that smacks her around. Some swindler from Hollywood named Buz with just one “z”, convinces her to go back to La La Land with him where he can help make her a go-go dancing sensation. Yes, this is a real plot.

Once things initially work out for this girl, she soon finds herself in a seedy world where everyone is a drug addicted maniac and go-go dancing isn’t the only sexy activity on the menu.

This film is full of terrible scenes but at least the actors got to film that segment on the beach, driving a cool plastic dune buggy thing through the sand. I would have signed up to be in this movie just to drive the dune buggy thing. Well, and to hangout with go-go dancers day and night.

Out of the three Ted V. Mikels films I have seen, this one was the least engaging and pretty damn boring.

You get some musical numbers with cute girls and their jiggly bits but then you get atrocious musical numbers like the proto-emo dude singing in the rain while the female lead’s face is superimposed in the background.

This movie is full of severe cringe. Sometimes I like that though. It’s just that the cringe never seems to lead anywhere worthwhile.

I’m not sure if there is an unrated version of this where you get to see some boobs but there should be. This film was like a big tease and no breasties saw the light of day. It’s like a nudie cutie picture with no nudie. I’d much rather watch Ed Wood’s Orgy of the Dead.

Leslie McRae, the female lead, didn’t have a great career but she did go on to play Cleopatra in Roger Corman and Paul Bartel’s Death Race 2000. She was also in Coffy.

This, like all films of a similar quality, must be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 4 Stool: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft.”

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: The Wild World of BatwomanOrgy of the Dead and Eegah.

Film Review: Hellish Spiders (1968)

Also known as: Arañas Infernales (original Spanish title), Cerebros diabolicos (alternate Spanish title), Blue Demon vs. the Hellish Spiders (alternate title)
Release Date: May 31st, 1968 (Mexico)
Directed by: Federico Curiel
Written by: Adolfo Torres Portillo, Luis Enrique Vergara
Music by: Jorge Perez
Cast: Blue Demon, Blanca Sanchez, Martha Elena Cervantes, Ramon Bugarini, Sergio Virel

Filmica Vergara S.A., 85 Minutes

Review:

I’m not a fluent Spanish speaker by any means but I took Spanish for two years in high school and Duolingo says I’m 41 percent fluent. Still, I have always loved lucha libre and lucha libre movies of the ’60s and ’70s. Blue Demon was always a favorite of mine, even though El Santo was pretty much the lucha king of Mexico. But since it has been a while since I’ve watched one of these crazy pictures, I figured I’d fire up a Blue Demon one.

Sure, I don’t understand most of the dialogue and these things don’t typically come with subtitles on YouTube, where you can find many of them, but it doesn’t take extreme proficiency in español to understand what’s happening in these movies.

You see, Blue Demon is a total badass. He rules the rings of Mexico and is basically a superhero in the minds of his fans. So when a race of alien spiders decide to take over the Earth, he rushes to action to stop their evil plan.

There are two big highlights in the film. The biggest though is during a lucha libre match when one of the luchadores “spiders out” in the ring like some sort of were-spider. His hand becomes a mutant spider fist that starts biting people and injecting them with venom for instant kills. The other highlight is the big finale that pits Blue Demon against the spider aliens in their webby lair.

The action isn’t great but the wrestling is fair. Also, the cinematography is pretty terrible, the effects are acceptable for the time and regardless of my language barrier, the acting left a lot to be desired. But Blue Demon still shined, which is really all that matters.

Lucha libre films aren’t good movies by any stretch of the imagination but they are at least ridiculous and entertaining, especially this older stuff.

Despite the below average rating, because I can’t give it anything higher and keep a straight face, I do like this picture. It’s a relic of a bygone era that was cooler than the one we live in now. Plus, it’s about a famous luchador fighting alien spiders! Seriously, what’s cooler than that?

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: Other Blue Demon movies, as well as any other lucha libre films from the era.

 

Film Review: Superargo and the Faceless Giants (1968)

Also known as: L’invincibile Superman (original), Superargo the Giant, The King of Criminals, Superargo (UK)
Release Date: January 26th, 1968 (Italy)
Directed by: Paolo Bianchini
Written by: Julio Buchs
Music by: Berto Pisano
Cast: Giovanni Cianfriglia, Guy Madison, Luisa Baratto

G. V. Cinematografica, Societa Europea Cinematografica, Izaro Films, 102 Minutes

Review:

This film is actually a sequel to an earlier Superargo film. I’ve been trying to track that one down to no avail. But since this one is readily available on a few streaming services, I figured that I’d check it out, as it’s a film that has been mentioned a lot in some of my circles over the years.

It is an Italian film that features a superhero detective similar to Batman. In fact, Superargo looks like a mixture of Batman and The Phantom. He is actually an ex-professional wrestler and he wears his wrestling costume because it gave him good luck in the ring. I guess it didn’t give him good luck though when the girl in the film was kidnapped while under his care.

The film is cheesy and over the top. It is colorful but not quite as colorful as an Italian giallo film. The action is pretty decent for what you can expect from an old school Italian action bonanza. But the film is so hokey that you kind of dismiss some of its faults. Really, it is exciting and has a lot of energy.

The movie is fairly nonsensical and strange but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t an entertaining ride. It has a coolness about it and almost feels like the Italian version of the ’60s Batman show, as well as having strong similarities to those Mexican movies featuring the lucha libre legend El Santo.

Superargo and the Faceless Giants makes me wish I had access to the first film. However, when and if it does pop up somewhere I can check it out, I am much more motivated after having experienced this chapter in the two film series.

Rating: 6/10

Film Review: Destroy All Monsters (1968)

Also known as: Kaijū Sōshingeki (Japan), All Monsters Attack (alternate), Monster Attack March (alternate), Operation Monsterland (UK alternate)
Release Date: August 1st, 1968 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Takeshi Kimura, Ishirō Honda
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Akira Kubo, Jun Tazaki, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Kenji Sahara

Toho, 88 Minutes

Review:

This was the Shōwa era Godzilla film that literally had it all. It was jam packed full of kaiju, had aliens and a ton of kaiju action and really good action sequences that didn’t even involve monsters. It isn’t the best Godzilla film of its era but it is probably the film that is the most fun. And when I am introducing friends to the Shōwa era and old school kaiju pictures, this is usually the one I pop on just for the non-stop action and overabundance of giant monsters.

Usually these sort of films get convoluted by trying to wedge in too much. Look at the modern Avengers movies versus the solo Marvel films. Destroy All Monsters throws a dozen kaiju at you but they all mostly get to shine without stepping on anyone’s toes or complicating the plot. Granted, a few were used minimally but that was due to their rubber suits being in bad condition due to age and the effects of previous films.

While the story here is decent for a kaiju picture, it really doesn’t matter. This is the Royal Rumble of Godzilla movies and all these fantastic creatures come together. Initially, they are controlled by evil aliens and attack different parts of the world. Godzilla even takes out the United Nations building in New York City. Eventually, the monsters are free from alien control, which brings in King Ghidorah because every sinister alien group seems to have a Batphone to King Ghidorah’s study in his stately manor.

The highlight of the film is when all the good monsters gang up on Ghidorah and just kick the living shit out of him. I love Ghidorah but the mud hole stomping finale is friggin’ glorious! Then the film is capped off by our Earth heroes in a cool ship fighting a phoenix. I mean, really? How cool is this movie?

Eiji Tsuburaya handled the special effects, Ishirō Honda returned as director and Akira Ifukube returned to score the film. Honda and Ifukube took a hiatus from the series, after being instrumental in giving it life and longevity. The reason for their return, is that this was initially planned to be the final picture for Godzilla. However, Toho didn’t even make it a year before they were working on All Monsters Attack a.k.a. Godzilla’s Revenge, a universally panned sequel but probably gets a worse rap than it deserves.

This film is set in the future, at least at the time of its release, so the chronology is a bit confusing after this movie but I’ve always seen this as the real final chapter and the Shōwa films that came out after this one as events that happened before this picture. So when King Ghidorah dies here, he really dies and his return later in the series in Godzilla vs. Gigan was set before Destroy All Monsters.

I love Destroy All Monsters. It is not my favorite Godzilla picture but it is exciting for old school kaiju fans.

Rating: 7.75/10

Film Review: Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968)

Also known as: The Crimson Cult (US)
Release Date: December, 1968 (UK)
Directed by: Vernon Sewell
Written by: Mervyn Haisman, Henry Lincoln
Music by: Peter Knight
Cast: Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff, Barbara Steele, Mark Eden, Michael Gough, Rupert Davies

Tigon Films, American International Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

“It’s like a house from one of those old horror films.” – Eve Morley, “It’s like Boris Karloff is going to pop up at any moment.” – Robert Manning

The only thing that this movie really has going for it is its great cast of horror legends. It boasts the talents of Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff and Barbara Steele. It also features Michael Gough, most famous to American audiences as Alfred from the Tim Burton Batman films. Rupert Davies even pops up in a small role.

I also have to give props to John Coquillon’s cinematography. His use of vivid and colorful lighting was effective, as were the sets and the colorful costumes he captured and brought to life. The film, in its best visual parts, looks like living art.

Unfortunately, the story is weak and there isn’t much of anything that is surprising. Barbara Steele often times distracts from the frail and inadequate script with her alluring beauty and her piercing gaze but even with the help from Karloff and Lee, the film is still pretty flat and uninteresting.

However, anytime that you can see legends like this come together, it is an affair worth checking out. I always like seeing Michael Gough in old British horror flicks too, considering how good he was for Hammer Studios in Horror of Dracula and The Phantom of the Opera.

Karloff and Lee look like they were having fun working together but neither of them gave anything close to their greatest performances. Barbara Steele was really good but she just didn’t have a lot to do and her character was fairly one dimensional. She looked stunning in her body paint and costume and really embodied the part of the demigod witch that she was supposed to be.

The main characters of the film were Mark Eden and Virginia Wetherell but they were completely overshadowed by the legends packed into this picture. They still did decent with the material. Wetherell was very pretty and had a great body, which is obviously why she was selected to play the Stage Actress in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

Curse of the Crimson Altar is just average. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it just exists. The positives are cancelled out by the negatives but at least the stars make it a worthwhile experience for those who are fans of their work.

Rating: 6/10