Film Review: Die! Die! My Darling! (1965)

Also known as: Fanatic (original title)
Release Date: March 21st, 1965 (UK)
Directed by: Silvio Narizzano
Written by: Richard Matheson
Based on: Nightmare by Anne Blaisdell
Music by: Wilfred Josephs
Cast: Tallulah Bankhead, Stefanie Powers, Peter Vaughan, Maurice Kaufmann, Yootha Joyce, Donald Sutherland

Hammer Films, Columbia Pictures, 97 Minutes

Review:

“Stephen? Stephen? She’s here in this house, my darling… but of course you know… you know…!” – Mrs. Trefoile

So this was another Hammer film that flew under my radar for years. I didn’t discover it until I recently got this twenty film Blu-ray box set.

For a straight up Hammer style horror flick, this was really damn good and enjoyable as hell. It doesn’t feature any of the classic literary monsters, so it had to rely on good storytelling, good direction and solid acting.

The story is interesting and engaging while the performances by Tallulah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers were damn exceptional. So much so, I was enthralled and pulled in by their acting and I easily ignored all the missed opportunities the victim had at escaping or defeating the villain.

You have to suspend some disbelief in how easily this woman is held captive by a cranky, crazy old lady and her hired help around the house. But regardless of that, this is still superb in its execution and man, you just want to see that old lady get her just desserts.

Tallulah Bankhead was intense and sinister. She gave a top notch performance and what makes it even more impressive is that she got really sick during production. So much so that she had to forego her salary and promise to finish the film, regardless, just so her role wasn’t recast. In the end, she pulled off something remarkable.

It’s also worth mentioning that a young Donald Sutherland plays one of the villain’s minions. However, he’s kind of an innocent character, as he’s mentally handicapped and doesn’t really understand the reality of what’s happening around him.

Die! Die! My Darling! is much better than I assumed it would be. It’s a mesmerizing thriller that sucks you in rather quickly and holds your attention until the final frame.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Hammer pictures of the ’50s through ’70s, especially ones like this that don’t feature the more famous literary monsters.

Film Review: Animal House (1978)

Also known as: Laser Orgy Girls (original script title)
Release Date: July 27th, 1978 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: John Landis
Written by: Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney, Chris Miller
Music by: Elmer Bernstein
Cast: John Belushi, Tim Matheson, John Vernon, Verna Bloom, Thomas Hulce, Donald Sutherland, Peter Riegert, Stephen Furst, Bruce McGill, James Widdoes, Douglas Kenney, James Daughton, Mark Metcalf, Kevin Bacon, Karen Allen, Sarah Holcomb

Stage III Productions, Oregon Film Factory, Universal Pictures, 109 Minutes

Review:

“Christ. Seven years of college down the drain. Might as well join the fucking Peace Corps.” – Bluto

Animal House is a cult comedy that came out before I was born but was beloved by the generation slightly ahead of mine. I grew up hearing older people quote the movie constantly but I never actually saw it until the ’90s in my teen years. It’s also been that long since I’ve seen it, as although I love John Belushi, the film never hit the mark for me.

I feel like I did enjoy it more now, though, but that’s probably also because comedy is dead in the 2020s and everything in this film would be considered grossly offensive by modern snowflakes and “cancel everything” dweebs. Simply watching this felt like an act of defiance against Generation Bitch Made and everything their weak knees wobbly stand for.

Still, I can’t consider this a great movie, even if it spoke to an entire generation of slackers. However, it was never intended to be a great movie. This was made to entertain horny young folks that toked grass and drank a lot of beer. It also helped pave the way for a slew of mindless, funny films that did the same thing. Escapism is important to the human brain and National Lampoon’s Animal House provides solid escapism from your problems and your world for 109 minutes.

The film is also full of a lot of actors that would go on to have long careers, many of whom moved on to bigger and better things.

In the end, Animal House is goofy, obnoxious and reminds me of simpler times when people were still allowed to laugh and enjoy life.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other John Landis comedies, as well as the films of Ivan Reitman.

Film Review: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Also known as: The Body Snatchers (informal title)
Release Date: December 21st, 1978 (San Francisco & Minneapolis premieres)
Directed by: Philip Kaufman
Written by: W. D. Richter
Based on: The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney
Music by: Denny Zeitlin
Cast: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, Art Hindle, Robert Duvall, Philip Kaufman (cameo), Kevin McCarthy (cameo)

Solofilm, United Artists, 115 Minutes

Review:

“We came here from a dying world. We drift through the universe, from planet to planet, pushed on by the solar winds. We adapt and we survive. The function of life is survival.” – Dr. David Kibner

This is a movie that kind of terrified me, as a kid. I’m also a germaphobe and have a strange fear of plants that don’t look right, especially coming into contact with them. I’m probably much better in that regard, as an adult, but this film is still quite unsettling regardless of how many times I’ve seen it and how much I’ve aged in the process.

Out of all the adaptations of The Body Snatchers story, this is the one that’s the most effective. At least from my point-of-view.

There’s just something supremely creepy about this version of the story and a lot of that probably has to do with it being made in the ’70s, it’s use of incredible practical effects and the solid cast.

Being an old school Star Trek fan, I love that Leonard Nimoy plays an evil bastard in this. Well, after he’s been infected with the alien spores, anyway. But its great seeing Nimoy get to express himself in ways that he couldn’t while playing Spock, his most iconic role.

Additionally, I loved seeing a very youthful and cool Jeff Goldblum in this, as well as Veronica Cartwright and Brooke Adams, who I wish would’ve been a more prominent actress because she’s always really damn good.

Donald Sutherland takes the cake, though, as the lead in the film. He and his friends become aware that something strange is going on and he does his best trying to stop it, even though it becomes clear that the alien invasion will happen regardless of how human beings feel about it.

The movie is also full of sequences that are simply great.

The one that really stands out to me is where Jeff Goldblum brings the heroes to a strange body. Here, we get to see the first real physiological changes in those effected by the alien spores. We also get to see how the aliens move and try to absorb human DNA in order to be replicated into plant-based copies.

Following that, we get another great sequence that sees Sutherland fall asleep and nearly get assimilated by alien pods in a backyard. The effects in this scene are incredible and some of the best of the era.

Speaking of which, the effects of the opening credits were also damn impressive, as we see the alien lifeforms leave their home planet and soar across the universe on solar winds, eventually making their way to Earth and attaching themselves to our plants.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is simply awesome. I dig the hell out of it from top-to-bottom and it’s one of those films I have to revisit every few years.

At some point, I’ll probably review the other remakes/re-imaginings of this story but none of them hold a candle to this one, except for the original.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the original film, as well as other alien invasion and killer virus movies of the ’60s through ’80s.

Film Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

Release Date: July 31st, 1992
Directed by: Fran Rubel Kuzui
Written by: Joss Whedon
Music by: Carter Burwell
Cast: Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland, Paul Reubens, Rutger Hauer, Luke Perry, Hilary Swank, David Arquette, Stephen Root, Thomas Jane, Sasha Jenson, Ben Affleck (uncredited), Ricki Lake (uncredited), Seth Green (uncredited), Alexis Arquette

Sandollar, Kuzui Enterprises, 20th Century Fox, 86 Minutes

Review:

“Does the word “duh” mean anything to you?” – Buffy

Joss Whedon wasn’t a fan of this version of his Buffy character and five years later, he developed a television series that reflected what he saw in his mind. Most fans prefer the television show but I guess I have to be the odd man out or maybe it’s because I am often times a contrarian but I prefer this movie. I’ll explain though, that’s why I’m here.

First, I have always loved Kristy Swanson. This isn’t a battle over who is hotter between Swanson or Sarah Michelle Gellar, as both are gorgeous, but Swanson’s personality and the way she played this role was more my cup of tea. And if Buffy is going to be a valley girl high schooler, Swanson fits the part better for me. Not to discount Gellar’s work because she was great in her own way and played Buffy as a much more complex character. But let’s be honest, she also had seven seasons and 144 episodes to grow in that role, Swanson had less than 90 minutes.

I also love the supporting cast of the movie better. I mean the villains are Rutger Hauer and Paul Reubens for chrissakes! And man, both of those guys ham it the hell up in this and just fit the tone of the film perfectly. Reubens ad-libbed in a lot of scenes and it made for a better movie and for a more entertaining character.

You also have Luke Perry, at the height of his popularity, and I’m not afraid to admit that I watched Beverly Hills 90210 during its peak. It was the hottest show on television and I was in middle school. Plus, I met Luke Perry when I was young, just by coincidence, and he was really f’n cool.

This movie is cheesy as all hell but it is supposed to be. It captures that ’90s teen vibe really well but overall, this is just a really fun movie that I can put on at any time and still enjoy for its absurdity and its awesomeness.

I knew that once the TV show came out, that we’d never get a proper followup to this version of Buffy. But since the TV show has its own comics, it’d be cool if someone did a comic book sequel to this incarnation of that universe. Or hell, maybe even a Buffy vs. Buffy crossover. Who owns the comic book rights now? IDW? Dark Horse? Boom? Dynamite? I don’t know but whoever it is, get on it!

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other ’90s teen horror comedies: Idle HandsThe FacultyFreddy’s Dead, etc. I also like pairing this with Encino Man for some reason.

Film Review: The Castle of the Living Dead (1964)

Also known as: Il castello dei morti vivi (original Italian title), Crypt of Horror (alternate)
Release Date: August 5th, 1964 (Italy)
Directed by: Warren Kiefer
Written by: Warren Kiefer
Music by: Angelo Francesco Lavagnino
Cast: Christopher Lee, Gaia Germani, Philippe Leroy, Donald Sutherland

Serena Film, Filmsonor, Cineriz, Tigon Films, 90 Minutes

Review:

I’ll watch anything with Christopher Lee in it. And even though he’s been in some dreadful pictures out of the 280 credits he has on IMDb, he is always a bright spot in them. This isn’t one of those dreadful pictures but it’s also not very good. It’s in a weird limbo.

The Castle of the Living Dead is also the first film with Donald Sutherland in it. He started his career playing triple duty, as he has three different roles in this. Maybe the studio could only afford five actors but they needed seven characters.

If the plot is anything, it is bizarre.

We have a group of carnival folk who arrive at Count Drago’s (Lee) castle to entertain him. What the carnies don’t know, is that he is a mad scientist that mummifies humans and animals with some mysterious liquid. The token carnival midget figures out something is shady and he tries to be the hero. Apart from a scene where the midget literally gets thrown off of a castle turret by a zombie, he does save the day in the end.

This was a film where the production was pretty much a clusterfuck. Directors changed, staff changed and it isn’t really known who should get credit for what. It’s possible that Mario Bava worked on some of the film’s special effects. However, things here certainly feel beneath Bava’s level of talent.

This is a dirty looking film with bad sound and a disorienting presentation. Scenes that I assume are supposed to be at night, are shot in daylight with a lot of shadows added in but the contrast between the darkness and obvious sunlight is strange.

The Castle of the Living Dead is only really worth checking out if you love Lee, Sutherland or gratuitous dwarf abuse. Even at ninety minutes, it is too long for a picture of its style and quality from its era.

Rating: 5/10