Film Review: Curtains (1983)

Release Date: March 4th, 1983
Directed by: Richard Ciupka (as Jonathan Stryker), Peter R. Simpson (uncredited)
Written by: Robert Guza Jr.
Music by: Paul Zaza
Cast: John Vernon, Linda Thorson, Samantha Eggar, Anne Ditchburn, Lynne Griffin, Lesleh Donaldson, Sandee Currie

Simcom Limited, Jensen Farley Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

A lot of people in the Twitterverse, as of late, have been talking up this slasher flick pretty heavily. I guess someone pointed out that it was a hidden gem and a bunch of people agreed.

While I’ve been aware of it for years, I’ve never seen it. But it was streaming on one of my services, so I figured I’d check this Canadian slasher movie out.

I liked it but I don’t think it’s a hidden gem. It’s fairly okay and the killer is creepy as fuck but it’s a slow moving film that’s kind of drab when the slasher isn’t actually slashing.

Granted, this did have some rather good sequences in it, like the dream with the doll in the road and the ice skating kill. But there was a lot of filler and drawn out moments surrounding a plot that I didn’t care about.

Now you need a plot to set these films up but let’s be honest, no one watches slasher movies for the story, as much as they watch them for the kills, tits, gore and general mayhem and young people orgies. Sure, I love my slashers to have great origin stories but that can usually be done in just a few minutes and we just need to see the potential victims arrive at the place where the danger waits.

Curtains was cool to check out but this would come nowhere near my top ten… or top twenty-five, even. Top fifty… maybe.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s slasher flicks.

Film Review: They Call Me Bruce? (1982)

Also known as: A Fistful of Chopsticks (working title)
Release Date: November 12th, 1982
Directed by: Elliott Hong
Written by: David B. Randolph
Music by: Tommy Vig
Cast: Johnny Yune, Margaux Hemingway, Pam Huntington, Ralph Mauro

Gold Pine Productions, 87 Minutes

Review:

“I am a sex object. I always ask women for sex, and they object.” – Bruce

I remember Joe Bob Briggs talking about this movie in one of his …Goes to the Drive-In books. I’ve never seen it but it was always in the back of my mind as something worth checking out because Joe Bob liked it.

Well, I actually didn’t expect that I’d like it as much as I did and it’s a movie that I wish I would’ve known about as a kid because I really would’ve dug it.

The film is full of goofy, absurdist humor and it’s almost slapstick at times. It follows a Korean guy that sucks at martial arts and is pretty much a coward. He idolizes Bruce Lee though, so he tries to follow in the man’s heroic footsteps. The mob bosses he works for also refer to him as “Bruce” due to his “resemblance” to Bruce Lee.

The film stars Johnny Yune and this is the only film I’ve seen him in. He’s actually damn good and carries the film on his own, even though there’s a little bit of help from Margaux Hemingway.

Yune’s charm is pretty infectious though and you can tell that he was enjoying making the film and had no qualms about playing a cowardly but lovable fool.

While the film’s script isn’t one of a high standard, even for ’80s comedies, it still features a good character arc that sees this loser evolve into something closer to what he envisions for himself.

It’s not a memorable film but it is a unique one in that I haven’t really seen anything else like it.

So I guess I should now track down its sequel, which I didn’t know existed until after I watched this film and started reading up on it and Yune.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as other martial arts comedies.

Film Review: Tenebrae (1982)

Also known as: Unsane (US alternative title)
Release Date: October 27th, 1982 (Tortona, Italy premiere)
Directed by: Dario Argento
Written by: Dario Argento
Music by: Goblin (credited as Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Pignatelli, Massimo Morante)
Cast: Anthony Franciosa, John Saxon, Daria Nicolodi, Giuliano Gemma

Sigma Cinematografica Roma, 101 Minutes, 91 Minutes (edited)

Review:

“Let me ask you something? If someone is killed with a Smith & Wesson revolver… Do you go and interview the president of Smith & Wesson?” – Peter Neal

Tenebrae or Unsane, as its also been called, is one of the Dario Argento movies that I’ve seen the least. In fact, it’s probably been twenty years since I last watched it. I kind of regret not revisiting it sooner, though, as my experience with it this time was pretty incredible.

While it’s not the best of Argento’s stories, it is one of his best directed films and it has some of the best visuals he’s ever done outside of Suspiria and Inferno.

This isn’t as stylish as his earliest giallo pictures but it feels more fine tuned and refined. It feels like the giallo style actually adapting and moving into a new decade. Now while the style was starting to disappear into the ’80s, this kept it alive for a bit longer and I think that’s because it feels like a more mature film. It certainly shows that Argento had really found his stride and in some regard, it almost plays like an Italian version of an early ’80s Brian De Palma neo-noir picture.

It’s almost uncanny that this was able to look so clean yet be so gritty and raw at the same time.

I think that some people may see this and think of it as watered down when compared to Argento’s earlier work but I think he really just tried to make a more palatable movie for a wider audience. Granted, Argento also doesn’t betray himself, as the finale gets incredibly bloody. However, the more reserved tone actually sets the climax up perfectly, as seeing an immense amount of vibrant red blood spray across a plain, white wall is pretty fucking jarring in an awesome way.

Additionally, this film features amazing camera work. There is a long tracking shot done by crane that is breathtaking to see and it has held up tremendously well. Also, some of the shots during the murder sequences are fantastic. The moment where you see cloth tear to reveal a woman filled with terror just as blood splashes across her face is, hands down, one of the best shots Argento ever captured.

Lastly, the score by three of the four members of regular Argento collaborators, Goblin, is one of their best. The film’s main theme would even be sampled by the French band Justice for two songs on their 2007 album Cross.

While this isn’t my favorite film of Argento’s from a story or even visual standpoint, it’s still a breathtaking experience that hit all the right notes and made me appreciate the director even more. 

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Dario Argento’s other giallo pictures.

Film Review: The Golden Child (1986)

Release Date: December 12th, 1986
Directed by: Michael Ritchie
Written by: Dennis Feldman
Music by: Michel Colombier, John Barry
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Charlotte Lewis, Charles Dance, J. L. Reate, Victor Wong, James Hong, Randall “Tex” Cobb, Tiger Chung Lee, Pons Maar, Frank Welker (voice)

Eddie Murphy Productions, Industrial Light & Magic, Paramount Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Only a man whose heart is pure can wield the knife, and only a man whose ass is narrow can get down these steps. And if mine’s is such an ass, then I shall have it.” – Chandler Jarrell

Well, this didn’t age well.

The Golden Child is one of those movies you used to love when you were a kid but seeing it decades later leads to disappointment, as it doesn’t live up to your memories.

Now that’s not to say that this is a crappy movie, it’s just an overly hokey one that feels immensely outdated where the jokes don’t land in the same way they once did and for the most part, you’re just kind of waiting for it to wrap up.

Sure, Eddie Murphy is enjoyable in the film and I also always dig Charles Dance playing a villain but the story and its pacing were really sloppy.

This was a movie that did a lot of weird shit just to do weird shit. Frankly, I’m not sure why the villain’s henchmen were so goofy. I mean you have a guy that looks like a monkey for no real reason. Just save on some money and cut those facial prosthetic effects out of the film unless they serve some sort of narrative purpose other than creating a quick, bizarre gag that fizzled out almost immediately but then had to be stretched over the duration of the film. I’m also not sure why Randall “Tex” Cobb had to wear weird forehead prosthetics either.

Additionally, even though the effects work was handled by Industrial Light & Magic, the company born out of Star Wars, they aren’t very good, even for the time. I remember, even as a kid, I wasn’t all that impressed with the demon fight at the end. The flaws are also made more apparent by how the effects shots are all obscured by the immense glare of the sun or fake fog that exists in effects shots but then it’s absent when a shot cuts quickly to Eddie Murphy. But I can excuse it, as ILM was really experimenting with a lot of different special effects tech in an effort to get where they did by the time Jurassic Park rolled around seven years later.

In the end, this is a film that only really works because of Eddie Murphy’s charm. It’s strange and somewhat of a mess but if you have the nostalgia bug for this flick, it’ll probably still play okay. For those who have no memories or feelings about this movie, you might want to skip it.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Eddie Murphy comedies from the ’80s and early ’90s.

Film Review: Flash Gordon (1980)

Release Date: September, 1980 (Turkey)
Directed by: Mike Hodges
Written by: Lorenzo Semple Jr., Michael Allin
Based on: characters by Alex Raymond
Music by: Queen, Howard Blake
Cast: Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Ornella Muti, Max von Sydow, Topol, Timothy Dalton, Mariangela Melato, Brian Blessed, Peter Wyngarde, Robbie Coltrane, Deep Roy, Kenny Baker

Starling Films, Dino De Laurentiis Company, Famous Films, 111 Minutes

Review:

“Flash, Flash, I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!” – Dale Arden

Far from great, this is still one of the coolest movies ever made. It’s certainly a product of its time, as it wants to exist on the same level as Star Wars but the rest of Hollywood hadn’t yet caught up to the magic that George Lucas possessed.

Regardless of that, this is still an enthralling motion picture that made the best out of all its parts, creating a one-of-a-kind, pulpy world that really felt like an update of the old school Flash Gordon serials it tried to emulate in many regards.

Also, this has more of a ’70s feel to it than ’80s. But it was technically made and shot in ’79, so there’s that.

Flash Gordon is overly fantastical and I mean that in a good way, as it’s so stylized and unique that it really stands out among a lot of the other epic science fiction space operas of its era.

The sets are incredible, as are the costumes. Sure, some things look ridiculously hokey, even for 1980, but they still work in this strange universe.

I thought that the cast was also solid, despite the lack of experience Sam J. Jones, who plays the film’s title character, had in front of the camera. He still shines and I’m surprised that this didn’t lead to bigger and better things. Although, he is overshadowed by some of the other actors, especially Max von Sydow, a legitimate veteran who seemed to be completely committed to the role of an evil, outer space madman hellbent on ruling the galaxy.

I also really dug Timothy Dalton and Brian Blessed in this. They’ve been two of my favorite British actors over the course of my life and this is actually the first thing that I saw both of them in, way back when I was a young kid that rented this movie quite a lot.

Sadly but also understandably, I think that this film is mostly remembered for its music, as superstar rock band Queen did the film’s theme, as well as some other awesome tracks. Their music in this is spectacular and it makes the film so much cooler than it would have been without their iconic tunes. But really, between these songs and the film’s stupendous style, it’s like a perfect marriage.

All in all, this is a film with some flaws and it’s probably way too hokey for modern audiences but for the time, it worked. I just wish it had as much of a cultural impact as other big budget movies from that incredible era of live-action space operas.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other sci-fi and fantasy films of the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Film Review: Spacehunter: Adventures In the Forbidden Zone (1983)

Also known as: Adventures In the Creep Zone (working title), Spacehunter (short title)
Release Date: May 20th, 1983
Directed by: Lamont Johnson
Written by: David Preston, Edith Rey, Daniel Goldberg, Len Blum, Stewart Harding, Jean LaFluer
Music by: Elmer Bernstein
Cast: Peter Strauss, Molly Ringwald, Ernie Hudson, Michael Ironside, Andrea Marcovicci

Delphi I Productions, Zone Productions, Columbia Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“I lied, nobody goes free! Chemist, prepare the Fusion Tube!” – Overdog

For those of you that always wanted to see Molly Ringwald in a cyberpunk, almost comedy, space western, this is your movie!

For the rest of us, this is a forgettable relic lost to the sands of time but regardless of that, it’s still an enjoyable, mindless movie that’s sort of fun if you like ’80s sci-fi cheese and visually cool practical special effects.

I didn’t even know about this film until I stumbled across it while working in a video store. I fired it up in the store and thought it was pretty cool. I ended up taking it home and giving it a proper watch and found myself intrigued over the sets, the style and the more complicated effects like the villain’s body harness and cyborg appendages.

I also really loved the matte paintings and how well-crafted the larger world was for a film that had a pretty small budget.

In a lot of ways, this has a Mad Max vibe to it, as well, in its use of post-apocalyptic motor vehicles, as well as the characters’ style of dress.

Michael Ironside was the best part about the film, as his Overdog character was just a site to behold whenever he came onscreen. His costume was incredible and Ironside seemed to be really enjoying the role, hamming it up to the nth degree and putting in a performance that I can only assume eventually led to his villain role in the much more modern but very retro Turbo Kid.

Overall, there are much worse ways to spend 90 minutes. If you’re into campy sci-fi from the best decade for campy movies, you’ll probably like this weird, obscure flick.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other campy and cool sci-fi films of the ’80s like The Ice Pirates, Cherry 2000, Battle Beyond the Stars, etc.

Film Review: 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)

Also known as: 2010 (original title), 2010: Odyssey Two (original script title)
Release Date: December 7th, 1984
Directed by: Peter Hyams
Written by: Peter Hyams
Based on: 2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke
Music by: David Shire
Cast: Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, Bob Balaban, Keir Dullea, Douglas Rain (voice), Madolyn Smith, Dana Elcar, Elya Baskin

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 116 Minutes

Review:

“[message relayed from monolith] All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there. Use them together. Use them in peace.” – HAL-9000

Since I did 2001: A Space Odyssey as my 2001st film review, I figured that I’d also revisit 2010: The Year We Make Contact for my 2010th. Both are great films: the first being an absolute masterpiece and this one being one of the best science fiction films of its decade, as well as one of my favorite of all-time.

Unfortunately, 2010 gets compared to 2001, which really isn’t fair, as there was no way that this movie was going to live up to the hype that a 2001 sequel would’ve gotten, even back in the early ’80s. As its own film, though, it’s exceptional even if it wasn’t necessary.

Now there were four Odyssey books written by Arthur C. Clarke, two at the time of this film’s release, so I don’t see why further movies couldn’t have been made, as the story already existed and for fans of the novels, this was probably something they wanted to see. Hell, I’m still hoping that someone eventually adapts 2061: Odyssey Three and 3001: The Final Odyssey. Tom Hanks was going to do them about twenty years ago and there were rumors that Syfy was going to take a crack at it as well but neither of those really materialized.

From what I remember from the novel, this is a pretty good adaptation that takes some liberties but tells the gist of the story. It also changes the location of the monolith from being near Saturn to being near Jupiter for some reason. But I also kind of see this as existing in its own continuity, as it’s really hard to envision what could’ve even come after the 2001 movie despite this story trying to follow it up. As far as it being a movie sequel to the first book, as it is written, it works. The Kubrick 2001 film was much more mystical and fantastical than the book and it left a lot open for interpretation where the novel was more clear cut and explained things better.

Like the books, this film tries to define the strange things that are happening within the plot, unlike it’s cinematic predecessor. In fact, this film starts with an opening recap of the first movie with actual explanations of plot details to try and ground the story and set certain events in stone. I actually really like that, as it immediately shows that this movie is indeed different in its style and how it is going to present its fantastical journey.

Additionally, I really liked the casting of Roy Scheider as Heywood Floyd, as he felt like a better version of the character than what we got in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001. Granted, he was more of a minor character in the first film and we needed someone with more presence and gravitas, as he becomes the main character in this story.

Scheider was a great choice, though, as he had just come off of the first two Jaws movies and was one of the top actors of his era. He had a certain panache and a good level of manliness but also came across as a smart guy that would think before reacting and usually had a clear head and felt like a natural leader.

The rest of the cast is also good with Helen Mirren, John Lithgow, Bob Balaban, the return of Keir Dullea as Bowman and the rest of the Russian crew. I especially liked Elya Baskin as Brailovsky, as his chemistry with Lithgow’s Curnow was superb. Some of you may know Baskin from his role as Peter Parker’s landlord in Spider-Man 2 and 3.

I also love that the story is anti-Cold War, as it forces the Americans and Russian astronauts and scientists to work together, despite their countries being on the cusp of war. In fact, the countries do go to war while the crew is on their mission and what they may return home to is a somber, dark cloud over the rest of the story. Late into the story, the crews are forced to separate by the orders of their feuding governments but in spite of this, the two crews still end up working together to complete the mission and attempt to solve the universe’s greatest mystery.

Some people have said that the ending was underwhelming but I don’t think that’s true at all. It kind of felt like the ending to a really good classic Star Trek episode where the crew must solve a cosmic mystery. The reward for doing so is actually quite profound, as it forever changes the solar system and man’s place in it.

The movie also has incredible special effects and I especially liked how well they did in recreating the Discovery. It really pulls you back into the iconic ship and it just adds an extra level of legitimacy to this film, marrying it to the original one, aesthetically. Having the same voice for HAL-9000 was also a nice touch, as the character wouldn’t have been the same with someone else doing the performance.

Ultimately, this isn’t on the level of 2001: A Space Odyssey but what is in the science fiction genre? As it’s own motion picture, it’s cool, imaginative and it expands upon the greater work before it while also entertaining and boasting some solid acting performances across the board.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as the Odyssey series of books by Arthur C. Clarke.

 

Film Review: The Monster Club (1981)

Release Date: April 2nd, 1981 (UK)
Directed by: Roy Ward Baker
Written by: Edward Abraham, Valerie Abraham
Based on: the works of R. Chetwynd-Hayes
Music by: Douglas Gamley, various
Cast: Vincent Price, John Carradine, Donald Pleasence, Patrick Magee, Stuart Whitman, Britt Ekland, Richard Johnson, Barbara Kellerman, Simon Ward

Chips Productions, Sword & Sorcery, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Can we truly call this a monster club if we do not boast amongst our membership a single member of the human race?” – Eramus

This used to be one of my favorite anthology horror movies when I was a kid and while it wasn’t my first Vincent Price movie, it’s one that I had on VHS and would watch more than any person probably should have.

The film is really a mixed bag, as anthology horror movies tend to go, but most of the stuff contained within is good and amusing. Even if the disintegrating woman at the end of the first story scared the living shit out of me every time I saw it with young eyes. Frankly, it’s still effective and the best special effects shot in the entire film.

This is incredibly low budget but it also makes the best out of its limited resources and I actually like how bad the monster costumes are in the nightclub scenes, which are sprinkled throughout the film as the narrative bookends.

A lot of this film felt overly hokey and I’m not sure if they were specifically aiming for that but it worked and gave it a charm that it wouldn’t have had if it was more serious or had a budget that better hid its flaws. I love that the movie sort of wears its cheapness and absurdity on its sleeve.

My favorite parts of the movie are the bookend bits, mainly because I like the music, the performances and the banter between Vincent Price and John Carradine. I especially love the scene where Price goes on a diatribe about how The Monster Club needs to open up to humans, the best monster that ever lived.

As far as the actual short horror stories go, I like the first one the best. It was actually effective, emotionally and I liked the characters and the simple story. The vampire chapter was the worst one and it’s really just meh. The final story with the village of ghouls was decent and I liked Patrick Magee in it but it’s still far from great and watching it, you just want to get back to the Monster Club scenes.

Overall, I can’t say that this aged well but it will most definitely excite the nostalgia bug for those who loved the horror and music of this era.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’70s and ’80s horror anthologies.

Film Review: Summer Rental (1985)

Release Date: August 9th, 1985
Directed by: Carl Reiner
Written by: Mark Reisman, Jeremy Stevens
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: John Candy, Karen Austin, Kerri Green, Joey Lawrence, Rip Torn, Richard Crenna, John Larroquette, Richard Herd, Lois Hamilton

St. Petersburg Clearwater Film Commission, Paramount Pictures, 87 Minutes

Review:

“I love you Scully. That’s not the booze talkin’ either.” – Jack Chester

This was one of those movies I used to watch a lot as a kid. I hadn’t seen it in years though but after recently revisiting The Great Outdoors, I wanted to give this similar movie some love.

Sadly, it’s nowhere near as good as I remembered it being. But that’s not to say that it isn’t amusing and funny. It is, but that’s mainly due to how charming and lovable John Candy is regardless of the quality of the production he finds himself in.

The story follows a guy who is forced to take a vacation so he packs up the family and heads to Florida for the summer. Once there, a series of mishaps happen and the vacation is turned into a bit of a nightmare but ultimately, he has to come to look at the silver lining and reconnect with those he loves most while also challenging himself in a new way in an effort to succeed at something important to him.

This is a lighthearted positive film and it feels like a relic because there are few movies like this anymore, which is kind of sad. But even with all the shit that is thrown at John Candy’s Jack Chester, he tends to find a way to get over it and be optimistic.

Apart from Candy, I really liked Rip Torn as his buddy that teaches him how to sail and helps inspire him to win a sailing race against the town’s rich asshole.

That asshole is played by Richard Crenna, who I also liked a lot in this, as he isn’t playing his typical tough guy role but is instead playing a pompous old yuppie that gets to ham it up and have fun. In fact, he and Candy made such good rivals in this, I’m surprised Crenna didn’t get more similar roles following this film. But then again, this just did okay in theaters and was critically panned at the time.

Summer Rental isn’t the best John Candy movie, by any means, but it still showcases the guy’s magnetic charm and it makes you want to root for him and his family.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other vacation comedies of the ’80s, most notably The Great Outdoors, also with John Candy.

Film Review: My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Release Date: February 11th, 1981
Directed by: George Mihalka
Written by: John Beaird, Stephen Miller
Music by: Paul Zaza
Cast: Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck, Don Francks, Cynthia Dale, Alf Humphreys, Keith Knight, Patricia Hamilton

Canadian Film Development Corporation (CFDC), Famous Players, Secret Films, Paramount Pictures, 90 Minutes, 93 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“[reading a Valentine note] Roses are red, violets are blue, one is dead, and so are you.” – Mabel Osborne

This is a better slasher film than people give it credit for. I’ve heard it catch a lot of shit over the years but it has some sequences in it that are really good and the third act is cool and takes the slasher formula into a unique environment, as opposed to just the woods, a suburban neighborhood or a campus full of young people.

It obviously tried to tap into Halloween‘s success by taking place on another holiday but apart from that and it being a slasher flick, it’s still very much its own thing.

Most of the characters in this are actually likable and I thought it was a better cast than what we get with most films like it. I also liked that the cutest chick in the movie was with the mustachioed fat dude. But he had charisma and was usually the voice of reason within this group of twentysomethings.

The story takes place around a mining town and the slasher wears mining gear. The monster just has a cool look that I thought worked really well. Additionally, having the killer stalk his prey through the mines in the last third of the film was refreshing and neat.

Now the big reveal at the end wasn’t all that shocking but I really liked that the slasher survives and mocks the good people of the town, as he retreats into the darkness of the mine tunnels.

With that, this was left open for a sequel but unfortunately, we never got one. We would get a remake in 2009 but I’ve never actually watched it because it came out in an era where every ’80s horror flick was being remade with bad results. Maybe I’ll check it out and review it in the near future, though.

Anyway, this is a better than average slasher movie from the height of the era. It could’ve used more gore and brutality but it still plays well.

Also, the scene where the girl is stalked in the room with the miner uniforms dropping from the ceiling is one of my favorite slasher kill scenes of all-time. There’s something spooky, primal and terrifying about it that really makes it stand out.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other slasher films from the late ’70s and early ’80s.