Film Review: The Princess Bride (1987)

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

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Film Review: The Sentinel (1977)

Also known as: Hexensabbat (Germany), De Watcher (Netherlands)
Release Date: January 7th, 1977 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Michael Winner
Written by: Jeffrey Konvitz, Michael Winner
Based on: The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz
Music by: Gil Melle
Cast: Chris Sarandon, Cristina Raines, Martin Balsam, John Carradine, José Ferrer, Ava Gardner, Arthur Kennedy, Burgess Meredith, Sylvia Miles, Deborah Raffin, Eli Wallach, Christopher Walken, Jerry Orbach, Beverly D’Angelo, Hank Garrett, Nana Visitor (as Nana Tucker), Tom Berenger, William Hickey, Jeff Goldblum

Jeffrey Konvitz Productions, Universal Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“It’s all right. Listen, listen. I know everything now. The Latin you saw in that book was an ancient warning from the angel Gabriel to the angel Uriel.” – Michael Lerman

The Sentinel came out in a decade that was packed full of religious themed horror movies after the successes that were 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby and 1973’s The Exorcist. So it’s easy to see why it may have gotten lost in the shuffle. However, in my opinion, it is one of the better ones out there.

The film also has a really great cast, even if most of the parts are fairly small, except for the two leads: Cristina Raines and Chris Sarandon. Sprinkled throughout though are Martin Balsam, John Carradine, José Ferrer, Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith, Sylvia Miles, Eli Wallach, Christopher Walken, Jerry Orbach, Beverly D’Angelo, Nana Visitor (of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Tom Berenger, William Hickey and Jeff Goldblum. Needless to say, there’s a lot of great talent here and the film truly benefits from it, as just about every scene includes someone of note and none of them are simply dialing in their performance.

The plot revolves around a young woman with a pretty screwed up past, wanting to live on her own for awhile. She moves into an old building near the water in New York City. However, the attic apartment has an old blind priest that just sits in the window 24/7. The place is also full of bizarre residents and as the film rolls on, we come to learn that these people are ghosts. We also learn that the building is a gateway to Hell and the old priest sits there to keep the evil from escaping the walls of the house.

The story almost feels like it’s ripped from a ’70s Italian demon movie. But also like Italian demon movies, this is eerie as hell and really effective. It’s just creepy as shit in the greatest way possible.

I like how the story evolves and brings in the detectives played by Eli Wallach and Christopher Walken. I like both of those actors tremendously and they were great together in this. In fact, I kind of wished they had their own film as two NYC detectives in the gritty ’70s.

The real scene stealer for me was Chris Sarandon. I’ve loved the guy since I first saw him in Fright Night when I was a little kid. He’s just solid in this and I like what they do with his character over the progression of the story.

I was definitely pleasantly surprised by this movie. I’ve known about it for years but never got around to seeing it. Had I known how many great actors were in this, I probably would’ve watched it years earlier.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other religious horror of the ’70s.

Film Review: Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Also known as: Dog Day (worldwide English informal short title)
Release Date: September 19th, 1975 (Spain – San Sebastian Film Festival)
Directed by: Sidney Lumet
Written by: Frank Pierson, Thomas Moore
Based on: The Boys In the Bank by P. F. Kluge
Cast: Al Pacino, John Cazale, James Broderick, Charles Durning, Lance Henriksen, Chris Sarandon, Penelope Allen, Sully Boyar, Susan Peretz, Carol Kane, Dominic Chianese

Artists Entertainment Complex, Warner Bros., 125 Minutes, 131 Minutes (1975 cut)

Review:

“Look, Mom, I’m a fuck-up and I’m an outcast and that’s it. You come near me, you’re gonna get it – you’re gonna get fucked over and fucked out!” – Sonny

I’ve probably seen this movie a half dozen times but it’s been a few decades. I always saw this on cable, so it was always the “safe for TV” version and having now watched this again, I realized that I had never seen the beginning of the film, as I never knew there was initially a third bank robber that bolted in the opening sequence of the movie.

It was really great seeing this in full and the way it was meant to be seen without cable television censors getting in the way of the art. Being that this is a Sidney Lumet film, it deserves to be seen as the director intended, as he was a true motion picture maestro.

Seeing this now also made me appreciate how good John Cazale was and it makes me wonder how great his career could have been had cancer not taken his life in 1978. In fact, this was the last film of his that he lived to see released theatrically. But it’s crazy to think about what iconic roles after his death he may have had a shot at playing or what mediocre movies he could’ve elevated had he been cast in place of others.

Additionally, this shows how incredible Al Pacino was in an era where he was still growing as an actor but already displayed the chops that would earn him legendary status.

The rest of the cast is pretty damn perfect too from the cop to the federal agents to the bank teller with the least amount of lines. Lumet did a spectacular job in getting the most out of his cast: utilizing their strengths and personalities to maximum effect.

The majority of the film takes place in one location but this moves at such a brisk pace that it doesn’t bog things down, which can happen fairly easy in pictures without the talent that this one had.

Plus, the cinematography was solid, the musical score was perfect and the film just had the right sort of tone. It felt like real, gritty, ’70s New York City without coming off as edgy or dark like Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. Granted, this was a film that had its fair share of violence and perilous, unfortunate situations but even knowing the outcome could never be good for the main characters, you still didn’t give up hope or fall into a sense of despair.

Dog Day Afternoon is a motion picture that deserves its status as one of the best films of its decade. It also boasts some of the best performances by just about all the key actors involved.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other crime films of the 1970s, especially those starring Al Pacino.

Film Review: Bordello of Blood (1996)

Also known as: Tales From the Crypt Presents: Bordello of Blood (complete title)
Release Date: August 16th, 1996
Directed by: Gilbert Adler
Written by: A. L. Katz, Gilbert Adler, Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale
Music by: Chris Boardman
Cast: Dennis Miller, Erika Eleniak, Angie Everhart, Chris Sarandon, Corey Feldman, Aubrey Morris, Whoopi Goldberg (cameo), William Sadler (cameo), John Kassir, Phil Fondacaro

EC Comics, Universal Pictures, 87 Minutes

Review:

“[talking to a she-vampire] I’d rather Crazy Glue my dick to the bullet train than fuck you.” – Rafe Guttman

I recently revisited Tales From the Crypt‘s Demon Knight. So I figured that I’d also go back and revisit Bordello of Blood. I remember not being as fond of this as I was Demon Knight but hey, it’s got Corey Feldman as a vampire in it, which is probably something that every teen girl wanted to see since The Lost Boys came out. I’ve never been a teen girl but I did like The Lost Boys and Corey Feldman.

This also has Dennis Miller in it as Dennis Miller. Well, not really. Miller always seems to play some version of himself though and here, he is Dennis Miller as a private eye trying to woo Playboy model Erika Eleniak. His character’s name is Rafe Guttman, which seems fitting for a Miller character.

Probably the real highlight from a casting perspective is Chris Sarandon, who was a fantastic vampire in the classic Fright Night. Here, he isn’t a vampire he is a guitar-wielding rock star televangelist that runs a megachurch but is somewhat responsible for the vampiric activity in the film. Sarandon plays such a kooky character in this and he’s simply great.

The story was penned by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, the guys behind the Back to the Future movies. This is nowhere near the greatness of those films but it is a fun and entertaining movie.

I don’t think this is as good of a picture as Demon Knight but that is mostly because this doesn’t even come close to the level of insanity and intensity that we got in that film. This movie is crazy and has some nice gory bits but Demon Knight was batshit crazy, where this is just more of a wild ride.

This is definitely worth a watch if you’ve got ninety minutes to kill and just want some dumb, mindless, badass fun in your horror. It’s certainly a product of the ’90s and fits well within the Tales From the Crypt franchise.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Anything related to Tales From the Crypt.

Film Review: Child’s Play (1988)

Also known as: Blood Brother, Blood Buddy (both working titles)
Release Date: November 9th, 1988
Directed by: Tom Holland
Written by: Don Mancini, John Lafia, Tom Holland
Music by: Joe Renzetti
Cast: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif, Dinah Manoff

United Artists, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 87 Minutes

Review:

“Hi, I’m Chucky. Wanna play?” – Chucky

I remember the first time that I saw the Child’s Play trailer in the theater. I was nine years-old and it looked pretty terrifying. Now I wouldn’t see the movie in the theater but I did get to check it out as soon as it hit video store shelves in 1989. I was immediately hooked by the film and was always pumped whenever a sequel was coming out. Well, at least the first two sequels, both of which I also really enjoyed.

This is the original though and I didn’t really know what to expect when I first saw it. in modern times, people know Chucky as a killer doll that has great one liners and a sick sense of humor. In this original film, he’s pretty much just sick and blood thirsty, focused on two things: revenge and possessing young Andy’s body. What’s scarier to a kid than your toy coming alive and wanting to possess your body with voodoo? Okay, maybe if that toy was a clown.

The film was directed by Tom Holland fresh off of his success with Fright Night. It also re-teams Holland with his Fright Night star, Chris Sarandon. While this isn’t quite as fun and exciting as their previous movie, it did create a larger franchise, as Chucky has had seven movies to date while Fright Night had two and then a another two with a reboot series. But Chucky, as a character, deservedly had more longevity than Jerry Dandrige, the villain from Fright Night.

The first Child’s Play is scary and dark in a way that the others aren’t. Okay, the first three are really dark compared to the titles with “Chucky” in the name but this first film has a much more serious tone. Maybe after coming off of Fright Night, Holland wanted to put the comedy to the side. Also, the filmmakers probably weren’t aware at just how hilarious the character could be with Brad Dourif’s genius behind the voice.

The film is pretty well acted between Chris Sarandon and Catherine Hicks. Alex Vincent was really damn young but he was less annoying than most child actors and he did well with the dark material. I liked that he would go on to be in the first sequel and that he would return for the two most recent installments, where he is now an adult.

Child’s Play wasn’t the first killer doll movie but it popularized that tale, as many knockoffs would come out shortly after. None of them really have the same quality and sense of dread that this film has though.

This was a solid foundation for the franchise. Granted, I think I like the second film a little bit more but that’s because of that incredible final battle in the toy factory.

Rating: 7.75/10

Documentary Review: You’re So Cool, Brewster! The Story of Fright Night (2016)

Release Date: December 2nd, 2016
Directed by: Chris Griffiths
Music by: Lito Velasco

Dead Mouse Productions, 217 Minutes, 146 Minutes (Condensed version)

Review:

If you don’t like Fright Night, we can’t be friends. I mean, seriously, it’s a hell of a good time and was a much needed return to traditional monsters in a decade ruled by slasher films.

This long documentary covers everything you could ever want to know about Fright Night and it even goes into its mostly unappreciated sequel.

The coolest thing about this film and what I love about these modern documentaries about old horror franchises, is getting to revisit the cast and creators all these years later.

It may seem bizarre to have a documentary that is much longer than the subject matter it is discussing but a lot goes into filmmaking and this documentary doesn’t leave a single stone unturned. You get candid looks at the special effects, props making, creature makeup and how certain sequences were shot.

The interviews with the cast, the director and all the other key people were really the best part of this film though. It was especially cool seeing William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon, Amanda Bearse and Stephen Geoffreys in 2016. Geoffreys’ bits I liked because it showed the man himself and how different he is from the Evil Ed persona. He also discusses how he was apprehensive about performing certain aspects of the character.

Tom Holland, the director, discussed at length about how the whole project came to be, as well as shedding light on what lead him to it.

If you are a fan of the original Fright Night or you’re hardcore and love the whole franchise, this is certainly worth checking out.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Fright Night (1985)

Release Date: August 2nd, 1985
Directed by: Tom Holland
Written by: Tom Holland
Music by: Brad Fiedel
Cast: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Stephen Geoffreys, Roddy McDowall, Art Evans

Vistar Films, Columbia Pictures, 106 Minutes

Review:

“Hello, Edward. You don’t have to be afraid of me. I know what it’s like being different. Only they won’t pick on you anymore… or beat you up. I’ll see to that. All you have to do is take my hand. Go on, Edward. Take my hand!” – Jerry Dandridge

This was one of those movies I discovered at the video store, as a kid in the 80s. Once I found it, I rented it almost monthly for a year or two. That was, until the crappy sequel came out and sucked the wind out of this film’s sails. It could have been a stellar franchise but it wasn’t. However, this picture is still a classic and always will be, in my opinion. Frankly, they should have just left the movie alone and never made a sequel or that reboot.

Chris Sarandon makes a pretty good vampire. While he is technically the star of the picture, this really is a good small ensemble piece, though.

William Ragsdale really gets the most screen time. This was before he had that cool Fox sitcom Herman’s Head and this was his most famous role outside of that show. His girlfriend is played by Amanda Bearse, who would also go on to be in a major Fox sitcom shortly after, Married… with Children.

The cast was rounded out by veteran Roddy McDowall, who is superb in this, and Stephen Geoffreys, whose character “Evil Ed” gave birth to two of the most overused catchphrases in the 1980s: “You’re so cool, Brewster!” and “To what do I owe this dubious pleasure?”

The film is an 80s teen horror romp. It exists in a similar vein to movies like Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad, albeit more violent and less child friendly than the latter.

The special effects are pretty good but this was when practical effects were at an all-time high and the effects maestros of the 80s were on a different level, especially in regards to their ingenuity and creativity. The wolf effects, at the end, as well as the final battle between the heroes and the vampire were great. There’s a reason why I love movies like this, the aforementioned and An American Werewolf In London. Even at their most absurd, they still have a sense of realism because what you see is there in the physical world on set.

Fright Night is one of the top horror films of the 80s that isn’t connected to a famous slasher. It sort of revitalized the fantasy horror genre at a time when Jason Voorhees was chopping through everything in sight.

Rating: 8.25/10