Film Review: The Sender (1982)

Release Date: October 22nd, 1982
Directed by: Roger Christian
Written by: Thomas Baum
Music by: Trevor Jones
Cast: Kathryn Harrold, Željko Ivanek, Shirley Knight, Paul Freeman

Kingsmere Productions Ltd., Paramount Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

Every now and again, I find an ’80s horror movie that somehow slipped through the cracks, even though I used to spend countless hours perusing the aisles of mom and pop video stores in the ’80s. Maybe I saw this at some point and the VHS box art just didn’t grab me. Whatever the reason, it was awesome to discover this now because The Sender is an exceptionally good sci-fi/horror flick that is grossly underappreciated and I guess, kind of lost to time.

The film stars Kathryn Harrold, who is really damn good and probably should’ve been in more than just a handful of movies I’ve seen in much smaller roles. Also, she has a kind of classic old Hollywood beauty to her.

This also stars a pretty young Željko Ivanek, whose work I’m familiar with is all much more recent. Fans of True Blood may recognize him as The Magistrate. He was also more recently in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. It was really cool seeing him in this, so young, as he’s a character actor I’ve grown to enjoy over the last decade or so.

Rounding out the cast is Paul Freeman, most recognized for his role as René Belloq, the primary villain in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Frankly, I love Freeman in everything and he doesn’t disappoint here. And just when you think he’s playing an annoying character trope, he surprises you in this.

The story is about a young man who is institutionalized after trying to drown himself in front of dozens of people at a lake. As the story rolls on, we discover that this young man has exceptional psychic power that he can’t control. He effects everyone around him but the good therapist at the hospital tries her damnedest to save him. As the film progresses things get more and more crazy and the movie really gives us some cool shit.

In fact, the film is damn impressive considering the things they achieved with the special effects. This came out in the heyday of practical effects in horror movies and this really just stands well above what was the standard quality of the time.

Additionally, this is surprisingly really well acted. At least, more so than you’d expect from a forgotten horror flick from 1982.

I don’t want to spoil too much because I’d rather people check this out. It deserves a hell of a lot more love and recognition than it’s gotten over the years.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: The Hidden, Carrie, The Fury and Scanners.

Film Review: Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982)

Release Date: May 4th, 1982 (USA Film Festival)
Directed by: Carl Reiner
Written by: Carl Reiner, George Gipe, Steve Martin
Music by: Miklos Rozsa, Steve Goodman
Cast: Steve Martin, Rachel Ward, Reni Santoni, Carl Reiner, George Gaynes

Aspen Film Society, Universal Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

“I hadn’t seen a body put together like that since I’d solved the case of the Murdered Girl with the Big Tits.” – Rigby Reardon

How is it that this film has existed for nearly forty years but I hadn’t even known of its existence until more recently. Maybe I saw it in video stores, as a kid, and it just didn’t jump out at me. However, being a lover of Steve Martin and classic film-noir, this felt like it could be something that was right up my alley.

In short, it most certainly was and I liked this movie a lot. However, it’s far from perfect and I think that its constant reliance on old film footage that features old film stars was really overused, even if that was the creative direction of the picture.

I loved seeing Steve Martin interact with the greatest stars of the silver screen and I certainly love that Humphrey Bogart’s version of Philip Marlowe was a big part of the story. However, some scenes came off a bit clunky and unnatural. But I guess it’s hard trying to make this feel more organic when Martin rarely has another actor to actually banter with. It’s hard reading a scene as it plays out and nailing that comedic timing.

Still, a lot of the jokes and one-liners in this movie were hilarious and Martin was the real high point of the film, making this much greater than it would’ve otherwise been.

The film looked stupendous, though, and Carl Reiner did a hell of a job behind the camera and managing the overall aesthetic of the picture. It matched with the classic film-noir clips quite well and in modern HD, this really looks crisp and pristine.

All in all, this was a weird but entertaining experiment. I can see why it might not have connected with mainstream audiences in 1982 and fell down most people’s memory holes but it still features a fantastic, memorable performance by Steve Martin in his prime.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Steve Martin comedies of the ’80s and early ’90s.

Film Review: The New York Ripper (1982)

Also known as: Psycho Ripper, The Ripper (alternative titles)
Release Date: March 4th, 1982 (Italy)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Written by: Gianfranco Clerici, Lucio Fulci, Vincenzo Mannino, Dardano Sacchetti
Music by: Francesco De Masi
Cast: Jack Hedley, Paolo Malco, Almanta Suska, Alexandra Delli Colli, Michele Soavi

Silent Warrior Productions, Fulvia Film, 91 Minutes, 93 Minutes (Director’s Cut), 80 Minutes (VHS cut)

Review:

“But you won’t understand me, you’ll never understand me! You’re too stupid! Quack! Quack! Quack!” – The Ripper

Not all Lucio Fulci movies are created equal. Some are very good and some are not so good. This one falls somewhere in the middle but actually gets some extra credit points for its ending, as I thought it was a good double twist that I didn’t see coming.

Anyway, this is pretty much a perfect marriage between giallo and slasher but it’s much grittier than a standard, vividly colored giallo. Maybe that has to do with it taking place in New York City and Fulci was trying for a Martin Scorsese aesthetic. But honestly, his giallos have never been as colorful as Argento’s or either Bava’s.

This is a really violent film that mixes gore and sexploitation in a way that only an Italian director can properly do. It has some seriously gruesome moments akin to that infamous eye scene from Fulci’s Zombi 2. One in particular sees the mysterious killer cut and torture a naked woman while laughing at the police over the phone, as they fell for his ruse and failed to stop him.

The killer is also interesting in how his serial killer personality talks like Donald Duck. He boisterously quacks between his threats like a sadistic, evil cartoon character and while that may sound kind of hokey, it’s actually effective and pretty unsettling.

Overall, this is pretty straightforward for a giallo or an urban slasher flick. It adds in a lot more sex stuff than average but I wouldn’t call any of that shocking. The only thing really shocking and pretty unnerving is the gruesomeness of some of the kills.

For whatever reason, this film is pretty highly regarded by die hard Fulci fans. I don’t think it’s a classic of the genre like many do but it’s certainly worthwhile for fans of similar films.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Lucio Fulci horror movies, as well as Maniac and The Last Horror Film.

Film Review: The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

Also known as: Don’t Open the Door, The Overnight Massacre (working titles), The Slumber Party Murders (UK), Slumber Party (France), O Massacre (Brazil), Sleepless Nights (alternative title)
Release Date: September 10th, 1982 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Amy Holden Brown
Written by: Rita Mae Brown
Music by: Ralph Jones
Cast: Michele Michaels, Robin Stille, Michael Villella

Santa Fe Productions, New World Pictures, 77 Minutes

Review:

“Y’know, I think your tits are getting bigger.” – Diane, “Mine?!” – various girls

Man, this is just about as bare bones as a slasher film can get. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, as this does stick pretty close to the core of what made these films great in their heyday. But on the flipside of that, this isn’t as great as the better offerings from this subgenre of horror.

I do like this film, though, as it gets down to the nitty gritty and doesn’t waste a lot of time getting to the gruesome point. Although, the version that I’ve seen over the years, cuts away before you get to see any real gore. Which is pretty weak, considering that the killer’s weapon of choice is a very large power drill.

The weapon isn’t all that original, as the more over-the-top and violent Driller Killer was released in 1979. But it’s certainly a better weapon that just having the guy use some big, generic knife. Also, the drill became the instrument of death in this film series and this is actually a better movie than Driller Killer.

I actually found the simplicity of this film to be refreshing, as many slasher movies get bogged down by trying to make you care about the teens and by trying to make a memorable monster with a cool look. This film just says, “Fuck it!” and gives you normal, kind of generic teens, as well as a killer that’s just some normal dude that escaped a mental hospital. And really, that’s all you need to know. Dude’s crazy, chicks are hot, crazy dude wants to kill hot chicks because he’s crazy.

In its simplicity, it actually works well for the characters because it kind of lets the actresses’ personalities come out, as they’re pretty much just versions of themselves. And with that, you strangely care about them more than them simply playing a trope.

In fact, there’s this part of you that feels bad when one of the heroines actually has to fight back and kill the driller creep because you don’t want them to end up permanently damaged from the ordeal. It’s weird how that worked but I felt legitimately sad that the girls had to go there when typically, in a slasher film, this is just accepted as part of the narrative.

The Slumber Party Massacre is a better film than it should be and that’s really what I like about it. As I’ve said, it’s bare bones but it is damn effective.

Being that this was put out by New World Pictures, also means that it could’ve just had that magical Roger Corman touch. Also, the films in this series are all written and directed by women and maybe that perspective made for a better final product in regards to the final girl formula.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: its sequels, as well as 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, Chuck Mitchell

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: Cat People (1982)

Release Date: April 2nd, 1982
Directed by: Paul Schrader
Written by: DeWitt Bodeen, Alan Ormsby
Music by: Giorgio Moroder, David Bowie
Cast: Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, John Heard, Annette O’Toole, Ruby Dee, Ed Begley Jr., Frankie Faison, John Larroquette

RKO Radio Pictures, Universal Pictures, 118 Minutes, 93 Minutes (TV cut)

Review:

“Oliver doesn’t love you. He loved the panther. He wants you because he fears you. Let Alice have him. She thinks his fear is courage. And he thinks his fear is love. Well, they were made for each other.” – Paul Gallier

It’s probably strange that I had never seen this until now. I grew up in the ’80s on a steady diet of horror and fantasy and in the time since, I’ve adored the original Cat People series of films put out by RKO Radio Pictures and producer Val Lewton in the 1940s.

This stars Malcolm McDowell, one of my all-time favorite actors, especially in darker roles, as well as Nastassja Kinski, daughter of Klaus Kinski, who enchanted me in the Wim Wenders masterpiece, Paris, Texas.

The cast is rounded out by John Heard, Annette O’Toole and smaller roles for Frankie Faison, Ed Begley Jr. and John Larroquette.

Cat People‘s plot is very similar to the film it’s a remake of but it’s a much darker twist on that film and it also explores the mythos quite a bit more. It also adds in a steady helping of gore and eroticism. I wouldn’t quite call this exploitation but it’s probably as close as “high art” can get to that.

The cinematography is haunting and effective and director Paul Schrader did a great job of staging and capturing just about every scene and shot in the film. It certainly looks incredible and the atmosphere really becomes a character within the picture.

Overall, this is pretty good but I did find it a bit slow at times. But almost everything in it feels necessary and I can’t imagine how disjointed the 93 minute cut of the film must feel. Hopefully, those who have judged this harshly in the past didn’t watch the shortened version without realizing that there was a more developed version of the movie.

I really liked the characters in this and how each one felt like they were alone in their own way, exploring and discovering parts of themselves where the overlap of knowing one another created a dangerous situation for all parties involved.

Ultimately, though, the real highlight was getting to see the werepanther transformation. The effects worked extremely well.

All in all, this was a cool movie that was made even cooler by the use of different versions of David Bowie’s “Cat People” mixed with interesting and moody cinematography.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other were-creature movies from the time like An American Werewolf In London and The Howling, as well as the film it is a remake of and it’s sequel/spinoffs from the ’40s.

Film Review: The Last Horror Film (1982)

Also known as: The Fanatic (UK), Love to Kill (Germany), Fanatico (Spain), Fanatismo Letal (Venezuela), Fanatical Extreme (US video title)
Release Date: October 9th, 1982 (Spain – Sitges Film Festival)
Directed by: David Winters
Written by: Judd Hamilton, Tom Klassen, David Winters
Music by: Jeff Koz, Jesse Frederick
Cast: Caroline Munro, Joe Spinell, Judd Hamilton, Filomena Spagnuolo, David Winters, Susanne Benton

Shere Productions, Winters Hollywood Entertainment Holdings Corporation, Troma Entertainment, 87 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve seen enough fake blood to know the real thing when I see it.” – Jana Bates

I recently revisited Maniac, which starred Joe Spinell and Caroline Munro. I knew about this movie, which also starred both of them and came out just two years later. I’ve never seen it but since I cherish both actors, I figured that seeing this was long overdue.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, I just knew that a New York City cab driver goes to the Cannes Film Festival in France due to his obsession over a film starlet.

One thing I didn’t expect from this was the comedy element. But I actually enjoy it quite a bit, as it lets Spinell really ham it up. The scenes between him and his mother, who is played by his real life mom, were funny as hell and their personal chemistry comes through in a very charming way.

Side note: For those that don’t know, Spinell was really close to his mom and despite his life as a character actor and party animal, he always kept his mom close. Little did I know that he actually included her in one of his films.

Beyond that, I really like Spinell and Caroline Munro when they’re together. This is the third time they’ve been in the same movie after Maniac and the cheap Italian Star Wars ripoff, Starcrash.

The really cool thing about this movie, is that like Maniac, it almost has giallo notes to it. Plus, setting it in Cannes and filming it during the festival created an awesome and unique atmosphere for something so dark, violent, gory and borderline slasher-y.

Additionally, the filmmakers rely on your knowledge of Spinell’s past characters, specifically his role in Maniac, to play off of and to set up a really good twist ending that you won’t see coming.

Seeing this, I was surprised to find out that I actually prefer it to Maniac, even though it’s nowhere near as well known and was sort of lost to time for a few decades before Troma decided to dust it off and distribute it on DVD.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Maniac, which also stars Joe Spinell and Caroline Munro, as well as other late ’70s and early ’80s horror and slasher films.

Film Review: 48 Hrs. (1982)

Also known as: Forty Eight Hours, 48 Hours (alternative spellings)
Release Date: December 8th, 1982
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: Roger Spottiswoode, Walter Hill, Larry Gross, Steven E. de Souza
Music by: James Horner
Cast: Nick Nolte, Eddie Murphy, Annette O’Toole, James Remar, Sonny Landham, David Patrick Kelly, Brion James, Frank McRae, Kerry Sherman, Jonathan Banks, Margot Rose, Denise Crosby, Peter Jason, Chris Mulkey

Lawrence Gordon Productions, Paramount Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“What are you smiling at, watermelon? Your big move just turned out to be shit.” – Jack

Being a fan of Walter Hill’s work, especially The Warriors and Streets of Fire, I figured that I should revisit 48 Hrs. as I like it a lot but haven’t watched it as regularly as those other two films.

This is the movie that made Eddie Murphy’s career and led to him getting his best gig, the lead in the Beverly Hills Cop film series. This is also one of Nick Nolte’s most memorable performances and the two men had some great chemistry in this and its sequel.

The film is a pretty balls out action flick with a good amount of comedy, courtesy of Murphy, but it also has the hard, gritty edge that Hill’s movies were known for.

On top of that, this also brings back a few of the actors from Hill’s The Warriors: James Remar, David Patrick Kelly, as well as Sonny Landham, who had a minor role in that previous film. This also features a brief scene featuring Marcelino Sánchez as a parking lot attendant. He previously played Rembrandt, a member of the Warriors gang.

One thing I forgot about this movie, as I hadn’t seen it in over a decade, was the strong racial undertones. I kind of remember some of it being there, like the scene with Murphy in the redneck bar, but I guess I had forgotten that Nolte’s Jack was a bigoted asshole in the first two acts of the film. The way it’s done in this film works and it certainly reflects the time but man, it would not fly today. But neither would shows like All In the Family, The Jeffersons or Good Times: all of which examined these issues within a comedic framework.

The thing that truly stands out in this film is the action. Those sequences are all really good and they’re pretty harsh in a way that makes the proceedings of this film feel more realistic and dangerous than Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop pictures. These scenes are also made better by just how good James Remar is as a total piece of violent shit. Sonny Landham is enjoyable to watch here too, as he plays a character that is just as tough but at the other end of the moral spectrum from his most famous role as Billy in the original Predator.

All in all, it was a pleasure to revisit this movie. It’s a solid film from top to bottom with great leads, good pacing and a real charm that is brought to life by Murphy and Nolte.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as the Beverly Hills Cop and Lethal Weapon movies.

Film Review: Vincent (1982)

Release Date: October 1st, 1982
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Tim Burton
Music by: Ken Hilton
Cast: Vincent Price (narrator)

Walt Disney Productions, Buena Vista Distribution, 6 Minutes

Review:

As far as I know, this is the earliest thing that Tim Burton directed that’s been officially released. I never got to see this as a kid but I eventually saw it in the ’90s when a friend showed it to me.

Burton had some other shorts he did before this and he also worked in animation at Disney but this was the creation that got his career moving forward at a pretty rapid speed, as he got to make the original Frankenweenie short just after this.

This is a stop motion animated short but the techniques Burton employed here would go on to serve him well in The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride.

This short film is also significant in that it opened the door for Burton to work with his childhood idol, Vincent Price. They would work together again in one of Burton’s most iconic films, Edward Scissorhands.

Vincent is just a hair under six minutes but it is simple, sweet and effective.

The story is about a seven year-old boy named Vincent Malloy. He obsesses over trying to be like Vincent Price to his mother’s dismay. His mind runs wild and the short film gives us a lot of great vivid visions of Vincent doing heinous acts to those he cares about. The whole thing is narrated by the real Vincent Price, who delivers his words in the form of a poem written by Burton.

The animation is fabulous, especially for the time and for what I’m sure was a scant budget and limited resources despite being made while Burton was employed by Disney.

Vincent is a great homage to the man who narrates it and from a stylistic standpoint, it shows us that Tim Burton already had a clearly defined vision of what he wanted his work to be, specifically in regards to tone, atmosphere and overall visual design.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Tim Burton animated works: The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, Frankenweenie, etc.