Film Review: Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)

Also known as: Fanatismo (Italy – alternative title), Voodoo (Greece – alternative title), Paperino (France – alternative title)
Release Date: September 29th, 1972 (Italy)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Written by: Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti, Gianfranco Clerici
Music by: Riz Ortolani
Cast: Florinda Bolkan, Barbara Bouchet, Tomas Milian, Irene Papas, Marc Porel, Georges Wilson

Medusa Distribuzione, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Which would you prefer, a kiss or money?” – Patrizia

This isn’t a giallo that I had seen but being that I like the films I’ve seen from Lucio Fulci, I really had to give this a watch. And man, I’m glad I did, as it is a damn good motion picture and possibly Fulci’s best out of the movies I’ve seen.

It does what the best giallos do and that’s tapping into a noir structured narrative with a grittier, harder edge and elements of horror. Fulci would go on to be one of the best Italian horror directors and this film really shows the guy experimenting with his stylized violence and fairly gory practical effects.

What I liked best about the film is that even if you figure out who the killer is early on, which I did, the movie still throws so many curveballs that the reveal doesn’t matter as much as the journey. This is well structured and well written with several layers that enrich the the larger story and give it a lot of depth.

There’s a lot to take away from this movie and a lot of prime meat to chew on.

I don’t want to get too much into the plot, as I don’t want to spoil anything. However, it does do a lot of taboo things that are designed to make you feel uncomfortable. But it’s those moments of discomfort that really show you how great of a visual storyteller that Fulci is. He conveys pretty stark messages in his moving imagery and not much has to be explained. That’s real talent, especially when compared to many of the films today, which insult their audience’s intelligence and have to spell out everything and usually more than once.

The cinematography is superb, as were the locations used in the film. As an American watching this, it feels otherworldly or like it is set in a time much earlier than when it actually takes place.

The musical score by Riz Ortolani is also one of my favorites of his that I’ve heard. The music really gives a major assist to the visuals and they work in harmony like a perfect marriage: conveying emotion, tone and texture.

Plus, the acting is great. It’s hard not to crush on Barbara Bouchet, let’s be honest, but man, she’s so damn good in this. But then, so is Tomas Milian, who I mostly know from the spaghetti westerns he did in the ’60s and ’70s. They had real chemistry together and both of them enhanced each other’s performances. It’s a pairing I wish I could’ve seen more of in other films.

All in all, this may be the best of Fulci’s pictures that I’ve seen and it makes me want to delve headfirst into his other giallo offerings.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other giallo films, primarily those by Fucli, Argento and Bava.

Film Review: Escape From the Planet of the Apes (1971)

Also known as: Secret of the Planet of the Apes (working title)
Release Date: May 26th, 1971 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Don Taylor
Written by: Paul Dehn
Based on: characters by Peter Boulle
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Bradford Dillman, Natalie Trundy, Eric Braeden, Sal Mineo, Ricardo Montalban, M. Emmet Walsh, Charlton Heston (archive footage)

Twentieth Century Fox, APJAC Productions, 98 Minutes

Review:

“They became alert to the concept of slavery. And, as their numbers grew, to slavery’s antidote which, of course, is unity. At first, they began assembling in small groups. They learned the art of corporate and militant action. They learned to refuse. At first, they just grunted their refusal. But then, on an historic day, which is commemorated by my species and fully documented in the sacred scrolls, there came Aldo. He did not grunt. He articulated. He spoke a word which had been spoken to him time without number by humans. He said ‘No.’ So that’s how it all started.” – Cornelius

I guess I remembered the beginning of this film wrong, as I said in my review of the previous one that the ending kind of didn’t leave it open for the films after it. However, this one starts off in what was then modern times. From memory, I thought that the apes in the picture went back in time at some point midway through the story but they actually start off in 1970s America.

Anyway, it’s been a few decades since I’ve seen this one and memories can do weird things, especially when one has spent a lot of the time between the memory and now, experimenting with several vices. Don’t worry, I barely party anymore because getting old makes you more chill and because amateurs at the local bars and opium dens is a deterrent.

I really dug the hell out of this film though and revisiting it was certainly a worthwhile and entertaining experience. As of now, this is my favorite film of the lot. While I see the first chapter as a better motion picture, overall, I found this one to be more entertaining and more effective at making its point, using the bigotry between apes and humans as a metaphor for xenophobia.

I was also really glad to see Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter move into the main focus of the story, as their arrival on Earth sets in motion a hope for unity but ultimately leads to fear overcoming the masses and eventual tragedy.

Due to the time travel element, this sets the stage for its sequels and it also makes the whole series a time loop. Honestly, after this sets in motion the events that cause the creation of the ape world from the first film, you can watch the five movies in a constant loop or start with whichever chapter you want and then loop back around to it. It’s a pretty unique thing and it’s one of the many factors that make the original Planet of the Apes franchise really damn cool.

The acting in this is also really good and it’s certainly a step up from the second, fairly mundane movie. I’d say the acting is on the same level as the original but with McDowall and Hunter doing most of the heavy lifting, that shouldn’t be a surprise.

Rating: 7.75/10
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: Ben (1972)

Release Date: June 21st, 1972 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Phil Karlson
Written by: Gilbert Ralston
Based on: characters by Stephen Gilbert
Music by: Walter Scharf
Cast: Lee Montgomery, Joseph Campanella, Arthur O’Connell, Rosemary Murphy, Meredith Baxter, Bruce Davison (archive footage)

Bing Crosby Productions, Rysher Entertainment, Cinerama Releasing Corporation, 94 Minutes

Review:

“[singing while showing his Ben marionette to the real rat, Ben] Start the day, oh come along now, Ben. Come on out, before I count to ten. If you stay, you will miss all the fun and there’s room for everyone.” – Danny Garrison

Well, this is a very different movie than its predecessor. But I think a lot of that is due to the main character being a young, sick boy who has a passion for making marionettes and singing his own show tunes.

It’s a weird film in that the tone is completely inconsistent throughout, as on one hand, it feels like a dramatic kids movie about a sad boy that likes being creative and theatrical, while on the other hand, it’s about rats that eat people. These two things can work together but in this film, they don’t.

Also, coming off of how dark the first film ended, this comes off as even stranger and not really sure of what it’s supposed to be building off of.

That being said, I still kind of enjoyed it. Not to the point that I’d probably ever watch it again but it’s such a unique and disjointed picture that it’s hard not to be somewhat lured into it.

Also, the kid is really charming and you do feel for him and his situation, even if there are moments where he show signs of being a totally evil little shit.

This also feels more like a TV movie than an actual theatrical motion picture. It felt like a two-hour pilot to a TV series sequel of the first film. Weirdly, it plays like its trying to appeal to kids.

Anyway, a boy finds Ben, the leader of the rat army from Willard, befriends him and sees him as his only friend because the only other kid in the movie is a bully. The kid lies to his sister and mother about what’s actually going on and he even covers up for the rats when they try to eat the bully kid.

There’s not much to really sink your teeth into with this one and honestly, it’s probably most famous for the theme song Michael Jackson provided and simply because it’s the sequel to a cult classic film. 

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor Willard, as well as the 2003 Willard remake with Crispin Glover.

Film Review: Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

Also known as: Planet of the Man, Planet of the Apes Revisited (working titles)
Release Date: April 23rd, 1970 (Italy)
Directed by: Ted Post
Written by: Paul Dehn, Mort Abrahams
Based on: characters by Pierre Boulle
Music by: Leonard Rosenman
Cast: James Franciscus, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, Linda Harrison, Charlton Heston, Paul Richards, Victor Buono, Gregory Sierra

APJAC Productions, Twentieth Century Fox, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Glory be to the Bomb, and to the Holy Fallout. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen.” – Mendez

From memory, I always considered this to be the worst of the Planet of the Apes movies. I’m pretty sure I’ll still see it that way, once I get done revisiting the original five pictures.

This is just a really weird film and a major misfire, after its great predecessor and its mostly enjoyable sequels. Plus, this ends in a way that sort of kills the franchise. I’m not sure how they explain away this film’s ending in the next movie because I haven’t seen it in years, but this movie ends with the destruction of Earth.

Anyway, Charlton Heston returns but he’s only in the opening of the film and then in the third act. The lead role was given to James Franciscus, who looks an awfully lot like Heston, even though he’s a new character. However, he eventually meets Heston and works with him in trying to free themselves from the apes.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes is so bizarre, though. And I don’t mean that in a good way.

Apart from the apes, we meet a new group of antagonists, which are humans with psychic powers due to their exposure to radioactivity from Earth being nuked by mankind, earlier in this timeline’s history. The people also wear masks to cover up their disfigured faces. However, their masks are realistic versions of what their faces would look like without being destroyed by radiation. It doesn’t make a lot of sense and it’s just a stupid plot device so that the studio could cheap out and only use makeup effects sparingly.

In the larger Apes mythos, it’s almost best to ignore this picture. It doesn’t really fit with what comes after it and it threw a curveball into the narrative and concept that was so bad, it was never revisited or re-adapted in future remakes.

Apart from that, this is still a good looking film for its time but it’s still pretty obvious that the studio was trying to do things on the cheap: recycling previous set pieces and props while using less makeup effects and diverting away from the apes as the biggest focal point.

Rating: 5.25/10
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: Willard (1971)

Also known as: Ratman’s Notebooks (working title)
Release Date: February 26th, 1971 (Scranton, Pennsylvania)
Directed by: Daniel Mann
Written by: Gilbert Ralston
Based on: Ratman’s Notebooks by Stephen Gilbert
Music by: Alex North
Cast: Bruce Davison, Elsa Lanchester, Ernest Borgnine, Sondra Locke

Bing Crosby Productions, Rysher Entertainment, Cinerama Releasing Corporation, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Tear him up!” – Willard Stiles

Back in 2003, a remake of Willard came out. I had never known about the original film but the remake intrigued me so much that I had always wanted to see its predecessor.

I was glad to discover that from a story standpoint, the two films are almost identical, minus a few tweaks that made the remake darker and slightly more unhinged.

While this isn’t a comedy film, it almost has an innocent charm about it with a few comedic moments thrown in, specifically in how this incarnation of Willard Stiles deals with certain people in his life.

Bruce Davison plays the title character and while he’s not as amazing as Crispin Glover was in the 2003 version, he’s much more likable and you sympathize with him on a deeper level.

Davison is also surrounded by an interesting cast with Elsa Lanchester, the original Bride of Frankenstein, as his overbearing mother and the great Ernest Borgnine as his shithead, borderline evil boss. We also get a very young Sondra Locke as a love interest for Willard.

For those unfamiliar with these movies, the story follows a sort of weak mama’s boy that is bossed around by everyone in his life, all of whom tell him to be more of a man and to be more assertive. He ends up resenting just about everyone and all the while, he befriends some rats that he learns to train to essentially do his bidding. One thing leads to another, the plot and the tension escalates and this turns into a real horror movie.

Ultimately, it’s a cool flick and probably deserving of its cult status but from memory, I actually liked how much darker the remake was. Granted, it’s also the first version of the story that I saw and I could be affected by that. But it’s hard to top what Crispin Glover brought to the table in that picture, notwithstanding how much I also enjoyed Davison, here.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel Ben, as well as the 2003 Willard remake with Crispin Glover.

Film Review: The Long Goodbye (1973)

Release Date: March 7th, 1973 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Robert Altman
Written by: Leigh Brackett
Based on: The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Elliott Gould, Nina van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden, Mark Rydell, Henry Gibson, David Arkin, Arnold Schwarzenegger (uncredited)

E-K-Corporation, Lion’s Gate Films, United Artists, 112 Minutes

Review:

“Listen Harry, in case you lose me in traffic, this is the address where I’m going. You look great.” – Philip Marlowe, “Thank you.” – Harry, “I’d straighten your tie a little bit. Harry, I’m proud to have you following me.” – Philip Marlowe

I find it kind of surprising that this is the first movie I’ve reviewed with Elliott Gould in it, considering the guy has done so much and I’ve already reviewed 1914 movies on Talking Pulp. But hey, I guess I’m correcting that by finally watching The Long Goodbye, which has been on my list for a long-time.

My real interest in this is due to it being an adaptation of one of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novels. Also, I’m a big fan of classic film-noir, as well as neo-noir, especially from the ’70s. From what I understand, this is one of the best ones I hadn’t seen yet.

That being said, this did not disappoint, as I was immediately immersed into this version of Marlowe’s world and I enjoyed it immensely.

Elliott Gould is incredible in this and while this statement may come across as really bold, I don’t know if he’s ever been better. On paper, he seems like an odd choice to play the super suave Marlowe but he nails it and gives the character a certain life and panache that we haven’t seen before this. Sure, Humphrey Bogart and Robert Mitchum are masters of their craft but Gould, in this iconic role, shines in a very different way making the character even cooler and more charming. While my assessment of Gould’s Marlowe is certainly subjective and a matter of preference and taste, seeing this film truly made me wish that Gould would’ve played the character more than once.

I love this film’s sense of humor and its wit. Gould really brings all this out in a way that other actors couldn’t. There is just a certain charisma he has that worked perfectly here and the end result is the greatness of this picture, which may be the most entertaining neo-noir of its decade.

Additionally, the rest of the cast was good and I especially loved seeing an older Sterling Hayden in this, as he was involved in some of the best classic film-noir movies ever made. Nina van Pallandt also impressed and it was neat seeing Henry Gibson and an uncredited Arnold Schwarzenegger pop up in this too.

The craftsmanship behind the picture also deserves a lot of credit from Robert Altman’s directing, Vimos Zsigmond’s cinematography and the interesting and instantly iconic score by John Williams.

One thing that really adds a lot to the picture is the locations. Whoever scouted out these places did a stupendous job from Marlowe’s apartment setting, to the beach house to the Mexican locales. It’s just a very unique yet lived-in environment that sort of makes the locations characters within the film.

In the end, I can’t quite call this the best noir-esque movie of the ’70s but it might be my favorite and it’s certainly the one I’ll probably revisit the most, going forward.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other neo-noir films of the ’70s, as well as any movie featuring Philip Marlowe.

Film Review: Sorcerer (1977)

Also known as: The Wages of Fear (alternative title)
Release Date: June 24th, 1977
Directed by: William Friedkin
Written by: Walon Green
Based on: Le Salaire de la peur by Georges Arnaud
Music by: Tangerine Dream
Cast: Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal, Amidou, Ramon Bieri, Karl John, Joe Spinell

Film Properties International N.V., Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, 121 Minutes, 92 Minutes (international cut)

Review:

“He robbed my church, shot my brother. I don’t care where he is or what it costs. I want his ass.” – Carlo Ricci

Sorcerer is a really interesting movie that follows a group of criminals on the run, strangers to one another, who have to transport gallons of volatile nitroglycerin 200 miles through a South American jungle. Along the way, they have to deal with many threats that make their highly explosive cargo, a death trap that must be protected.

My only real problem with the film is that the mission doesn’t start until you’re about halfway through the picture. That’s fine and the first act is very good but there’s this bit between the multiple prologues and the mission that drags for quite awhile. Once the mission starts, however, things pick back up.

Overall, this is pretty well acted and I thought Roy Scheider did exceptionally well in this and it might be my favorite role of his outside of his two Jaws movies and 2010. The rest of the cast is also good and you even get a small Joe Spinell cameo thrown in.

The story is pretty engaging and this would’ve probably been an incredible film if it didn’t have the pacing issues with the second act. I felt like the actual adventure across the jungle should’ve been a larger part of the story and there is so much more that could’ve been done with that.

Granted, this is also based off of a French novel, so maybe the source material was written the same way, only showcasing the adventure for the second half of the whole story.

That being said, there is also a 92 minute cut of this film and I wonder if that one actually flows better and cuts out some of the duller moments while putting more emphasis on the journey itself.

In the end, I like this movie quite a bit. It definitely needed to pick things up a bit and could’ve used some extra sizzle but it was a worthwhile experience, capped off with a really cool second half.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other late ’70s adventure and crime pictures.

Film Review: Count Dracula (1970)

Also known as: Dracula ’71 (alternative US title), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (complete title), Dracula (working title)
Release Date: April 3rd, 1970 (Germany)
Directed by: Jesus Franco
Written by: Augustino Finocchi, Peter Welbeck (English), Jesus Franco (Spanish), Carlo Fadda (Italian), Milo G. Cuccia (Italian), Dietmar Behnke (German)
Based on: Dracula by Bram Stoker
Music by: Bruno Nicolai
Cast: Christopher Lee, Herbert Lom, Klaus Kinski, Frederick Williams, Maria Rohm, Soledad Miranda, Jack Taylor, Paul Muller, Jesus Puente

Filmar Compagnia Cinematografica, Fénix Cooperativa Cinematográfica, Corona Filmproduktion, 98 Minutes

Review:

“One of my race crossed the Danube and destroyed the Turkish host. Though sometimes beaten back, he came again and again then at the end he came again for he alone could triumph. This was a Dracula indeed.” – Count Dracula

Even though Christopher Lee had already played Dracula a half dozen times by 1970, I think it was hard for him to turn down this alternative take on the role, as Spanish director Jesus Franco wanted to make a film that was the closest version of Bram Stoker’s original literary work.

That being said, this is a pretty spot on adaptation of the novel but that also works against it, as a lot of this is boring, drawn out and more focused on drama, as opposed to horror.

The first act of the film is wonderful, well paced, decently acted and it seems to come off without a hitch. However, after that, the story moves at a snail’s pace and the only things in it that are worthwhile are the few scenes with Klaus Kinski as Renfield and the absolutely stunning beauty of Soledad Miranda, who unfortunately died way too young in real life and just barely scratched the surface of her potential.

Jesus Franco would go on to essentially make films that fit the porn category more than anything else but this one is very light on being sexually exploitative and maybe that’s due to Lee’s involvement.

The film is okay but mostly forgettable other than it existing as a Lee Dracula film that isn’t a part of the Hammer continuity.

It was shot and filmed in Spain and that kind of takes you out of the picture when it’s supposed to be set in Romania and England. Watching characters run through castles and streets full of desert sand is a bizarre thing to see in a Dracula film but I digress.

Ultimately, this was cool to see, as it allowed Lee to get more into the literary Dracula without the ham and cheese of the Hammer sequels. It felt closer to the original Hammer film than any of their sequels, as far as the Dracula character goes. However, it’s completely devoid of that Hammer charm, which made those films much more iconic and memorable.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Christopher Lee’s Dracula films from Hammer, as well as Jesus Franco’s other vampire movies.

Film Review: Cannonball! (1976)

Also known as: Carquake! (UK)
Release Date: July 6th, 1976
Directed by: Paul Bartel
Written by: Paul Bartel, Donald C. Simpson
Music by: David A. Axelrod
Cast: David Carradine, Bill McKinney, Veronica Hamel, Gerrit Graham, Robert Carradine, Belinda Balaski, Mary Woronov, James Keach, Dick Miller, Paul Bartel, Joe Dante, Allan Arkush, Jonathan Kaplan, Roger Corman, Don Simpson, Martin Scorsese (uncredited), Sylvester Stallone (uncredited)

Cross Country Productions, Harbor Productions, New World Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“I thought this car could beat anything on the road.” – Linda Maxwell, “This car’s a winner.” – Coy ‘Cannonball’ Buckman

A year after Paul Bartel directed the cult classic Death Race 2000, he made a very similar film with a lot of the same core cast members, as well as producer and B-movie legend, Roger Corman.

In this film, take the Death Race 2000 concept and strip away the futuristic sci-fi setting, the slapstick uber violence and the plot to assassinate a corrupt president and you’ve essentially got the same film.

Granted, Cannonball! isn’t as good and I kind of blame that on stripping away the things that made Death Race 2000 so unique. This is still really enjoyable, though, and fans of that more beloved flick will probably dig this one too.

The race car driving hero is still David Carradine and he’s re-joined in the cast by Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel (the director), Sylvester Stallone in an uncredited cameo, as well as some of the other bit players.

Like Death Race, the film follows a cross-country auto race, all the wacky characters involved and all the crazy shenanigans of racers trying to sabotage and outperform one another.

I like a lot of the new additions to the cast like the always great Gerrit Graham, Robert Carradine, Bill McKinney, Belinda Balaski and the inclusion of Dick Miller, Joe Dante, Allan Arkush, Jonathan Kaplan, Roger Corman (the producer), Don Simpson and Martin Scorsese, who is also uncredited for his appearance here.

The action is good, the comedy still works and this film has that unique Paul Bartel charm.

In the end, this isn’t quite a classic but it did help pave the way for all the other movies like it that followed for years to come.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Paul Bartel’s Death Race 2000, as well as other cross-country racing movies of the ’70s and ’80s like the Cannonball Run films, The Gumball Rally and Speed Zone.

Film Review: Scream and Scream Again (1970)

Also known as: Doctor Diabolic (France – video title), Screamer (Germany – alternative title)
Release Date: January, 1970 (UK)
Directed by: Gordon Hessler
Written by: Christopher Wicking
Based on: The Disorientated Man by Peter Saxon
Music by: David Whitaker
Cast: Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Alfred Marks, Michael Gothard, Judy Huxtable, Yutte Stensgaard

Amicus Productions, American International Pictures, Warner Pathe, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Fastest transition in the world: from human to corpse. It doesn’t do to get the two confused, or you’ll never be successful.” – Professor Kingsmill

While I’ve always seen Amicus as the poor man’s Hammer, I’ve still found most of their films to be really enjoyable, especially those starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee or Vincent Price. Now throw any two of those guys together and it’s usually going to make the picture much cooler. Throw all three of them into the mix, however, and you might break my classic horror-loving mind.

Sadly, this does not cut the mustard, whatever that even means. I don’t know, it’s an old adage people say.

Despite this having the Holy Trinity of Price, Lee and Cushing, it’s a really bad movie that just barely keeps its head above water simply because it has these three great actors in it, hamming it up and looking like they’re enjoying what they had to know was a terrible picture.

One problem with the film is that the three legends are barely in it. Cushing is in it the least while Price and Lee are sort of just there for the added star power. Their roles are really just glorified cameos. But you do get an interesting finale that features Lee and Price together.

This is a really weird film and the middle act is bogged down by an overly extensive car chase and manhunt sequence. While I kind of enjoyed that part of the film, I just don’t see how it will connect with people that don’t already love this sort of schlock.

For a film about a mad scientist and super soldiers, this is pretty boring. I still weirdly like it but when I think about popping on a film starring any of these legends, this one is usually pretty damn low on the list. In fact, I only watched it this time to review it and because I hadn’t seen it in about twenty years.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other films featuring Vincent Price with either Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing or both. Also, other Amicus horror movies.