Film Review: Outlaw of Gor (1988)

Also known as: Gor II (US), Outlaw (English TV title)
Release Date: December, 1988 (Germany)
Directed by: John Cardos
Written by: Peter Welbeck, Rick Marx
Based on: Outlaw of Gor by John Norman
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: Urbano Barberini, Rebecca Ferratti, Jack Palance, Donna Denton, Russell Savadier

Breton Film Productions, Cannon International, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Get out of here, you disgusting worm!” – Queen Lara

I’ve never seen the first Gor movie but when something is as wonderfully bad as this is, you don’t really need a bunch of context to enjoy the cheese.

Besides, I had seen this years ago when it was showcased in the fifth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I enjoyed it then and I enjoyed it now, as well.

Sure, it’s going to get a low rating but it’s a bad movie. I will be fairly kind to it, however, as it is chock full of sword and sorcery and science fiction cheesiness that makes it hard to believe that this wasn’t actually an Italian Conan ripoff, which were in abundance in the ’80s.

This is actually an American film and it was even distributed by Cannon Films. However, it did hit European markets first and starred a lot of European actors.

This also has Jack Palance in it and it immediately made me think of Hawk the Slayer, another ’80s sword and sorcery flick that featured Palance as its main antagonist.

The plot is really strange as it sees a normal dude in the normal world end up on another planet where he is basically a warrior king. He also takes along his annoying, doofus friend.

Apart from that, this is a wobbly plot full of ’80s fantasy tropes, sword and sorcery action but mostly forgettable scenes.

Overall, this is nowhere near the upper echelon of ’80s sword and sorcery movies but it also isn’t at the bottom of the barrel. It’s lower than average but still engaging and enjoyable if you’re into these sort of things.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: the first Gor movie, as well as other really low budget sword and sorcery flicks.

Film Review: Body Double (1984)

Release Date: October 15th, 1984 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: Brian De Palma, Robert J. Avrech
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: Craig Wasson, Gregg Henry, Melanie Griffith, Deborah Shelton, Guy Boyd, Dennis Franz, Al Israel, Barbara Crampton, Slavitza Jovan

Delphi II Productions, Columbia Pictures, 114 Minutes

Review:

“I do not do animal acts. I do not do S&M or any variations of that particular bent, no water sports either. I will not shave my pussy, no fistfucking and absolutely no cumming in my face. I get $2000 a day and I do not work without a contract.” – Holly Body

Having now seen all three movies in Brian De Palma’s neo-noir trilogy from the early ’80s, I’d have to say that this one is the weakest but it is also the most fun. But I’ll explain what I mean.

The first two movies in De Palma’s noir thrillers came out back-to-back. This third film, however, came out after he did Scarface. I feel like I need to mention that, as this feels like a weird amalgamation of the style from the other noir pictures, as well as the style from Scarface, which was poppier, livelier and had an early ’80s neo-noir aesthetic in its own way due to its use of lighting, shadows and neon accents. Scarface almost had vibrant giallo tones and they carried over into this movie.

I’ve talked about De Palma also tapping into Alfred Hitchcock for these films and honestly, this might be his most Hitchcockian of the lot, as it channels parts of Rear Window and Vertigo.

As simply as I can state it, Body Double channels Rear Window in how it explores voyeurism and it channels Vertigo in how it features two women appearing as one with some noir styled trickery.

This might also be tapping into Dial M for Murder due to the use of the phone as a narrative prop when the girl that the protagonist is obsessing over has a killer in her midst.

There’s really a lot going on in this movie and it’s a solid homage to all of these great things but it is very much its own film that taps multiple creative wells but still comes up with something refreshing and unique.

I thought that the plot was well conceived and executed and even if you can start to put it together fairly early, there is still a bit more to the big reveal than you’ll anticipate.

While this might be the worst acted of De Pama’s neo-noir flicks, no one in it is bad and the performances kind of add to the bonkers proceedings. I feel as if the performances are a bit hammy because the tone of the film called for that. And that’s not to say that this isn’t a serious movie, it is, but it seems pretty self aware that it is tapping into schlock territory while still being real cinematic art.

The film also uses some gore and it works well here. De Palma has used gore before; look at Sisters for instance, as that had some brutal moments in it. But the use of gore really adds something to the dreamlike quality of the film. While this takes place in the real world, there is something fantastical and magical about the look and feel of the picture.

On a side note: I love the use of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” in this film. It briefly turns the film into a bizarre ’80s style MTV music video with a bit of sexploitation thrown in. It may sound odd for someone who hasn’t seen this film but it’s the moment where I realized that I love this picture. And it’s that moment where the film really commits to the bit and shows you that despite the harsh moments and violence, this is a film that’s really having fun with itself. It’s like cinematic masturbation of the highest regard.

And thinking about that moment, it really helps to set this film apart from the other two that are so closely associated with it. Where the first film was really dark and gritty, the second one started to let some light into it and then this third picture, really embraces the bright lights and becomes somewhat chipper, creating a lot of contrast from the beginning to the end of De Palma’s neo-noir work. In fact, the visual tones also remind me a bit of De Palma’s very lively Phantom of the Paradise.

Due to the length of this review, it seems that I have more to say about this picture than the other two, which I still feel edge it out. But I think that’s due to the fact that this gave me the most to chew on and it feels like the most Brian De Palma film of all-time, as he calls back to a lot of his previous work and his main influences.

Despite this being my least favorite of the three noir thrillers, it’s still a damn fine film and honestly, it’s probably the one I will revisit the most.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Brian De Palma’s other neo-noir thrillers from this era: Dressed to Kill and Blow Out.

Film Review: Blow Out (1981)

Release Date: July 24th, 1981
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: Brian De Palma
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz

Cinema 77, Geria Productions, Filmways Pictures, 108 Minutes

Review:

“Ya know, the only trouble I ever got into was when I was too careful!” – Sally

After watching Dressed to Kill about a week ago, I didn’t want to waste much time before checking out another neo-noir thriller by Brian De Palma. I decided to go in chronological order so I picked Blow Out over Body Double but I do plan to watch that other one in the very near future.

Another reason why I wanted to get into this one was to see how it measures up to Dressed to Kill, as it came out just a year later and it featured some of the same players in Nancy Allen and Dennis Franz. Also, this re-teams Allen with this film’s lead, John Travolta. The two also starred alongside each other in De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie.

While this is the second film in a row where Allen plays a lady of the night, this character is very different from her character in Dressed to Kill. Here, she is more ditzy and too trusting where in Dressed to Kill, she was sharp as a tack and weary of those around here. I actually really like her in both roles and despite playing similar characters, they’re both different enough to show her range as an actress. And honestly, I’ve underrated her work and didn’t really recognize her ability until seeing her in De Palma’s films.

John Travolta is also on his A-game here and in fact, he’s dynamite. This may be one of the top two or three performances I’ve seen from Travolta and it’s surprising to me that not too long after this, his career sort of floundered and he didn’t bounce back till 1994’s Pulp Fiction.

The real scene stealer though is John Lithgow, who just has the uncanny ability to play crazy, really damn well. He’s played these types of characters multiple times but this is the oldest example of it that I can think of or that I have seen. He’s got the incredible ability to be a lovable patriarch on one had and to be an absolutely chilling bastard on the other. And here, with De Palma’s direction, he is a pretty intense predator that exudes danger from his very presence.

The fact that Travolta’s day job in this film is as a sound engineer for slasher pictures actually adds a lot to the film’s tone and narrative style. While this isn’t a slasher picture, it does present Lithgow as a slasher like character, as he stalks his prey (pretty women) and brutally murders them.

While this film shares a similar tone to Dressed to Kill it is less cerebral and is more of a straightforward political thriller. That certainly doesn’t mean that it is lacking. It still carries on De Palma’s Hitchcockian vibe that has been alive and well in his pictures before this. Because of that, though, this film has an energy and a style to it that is enthralling and intriguing. And despite channeling Hitchcock, De Palma’s films still have a certain panache that is all their own.

Looking at Dressed to Kill and Blow Out side-by-side, I prefer the former. But that doesn’t mean that Blow Out is less of a film. Dressed to Kill was more my cup of tea because it’s damn twisted, somewhat taboo and a bit darker.

That being said, Blow Out is still a fantastic thriller and in the upper echelon of Brian De Palma’s oeuvre.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Brian De Palma’s other noir-esque films: Dressed to Kill and Body Double.

Film Review: Dressed to Kill (1980)

Release Date: July 25th, 1980
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: Brian De Palma
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon, Dennis Franz, William Finley (voice, uncredited)

Filmways Pictures, Cinema 77 Films, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Doctor, I am not paranoid. Bobbi was making threats over the phone. She said she’s going to hurt me. My patient was slashed to death. And now my razor is gone. Now you don’t have to be a detective to figure it out, do you?” – Doctor Robert Elliot

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this picture but if Brian De Palma’s early films are any indicator, I knew that this would be bizarre, artistic and intelligent.

And it was those three things but it was also damn compelling and honestly, damn impressive.

I loved this film and it’s a shame that I hadn’t seen it before this. It was intense, melodic, sweet, scary and most importantly, intriguing.

While this picture is very De Palma-esque, maybe the most De Palma-esque of the man’s work, it is also very Hitchcockian, as the narrative and the shot framing displays a young De Palma’s callback to Hitchcock’s style and tropes.

Still, this is very much De Palma’s composition and not a cheap attempt at trying to emulate one of the masters before him. Honestly, it comes off as a respectful homage that creates a familiar framework that De Palma could then artistically build off of.

This is also very much a noir story. It has twists, turns, mystery, secrets that evolve and a shocking reveal when all is said and done. It’s pretty damn impressive that they were able to do some of the stuff they did in the time that this was made.

What really solidifies this as a great movie, aside from the solid direction and story by De Palma, is the cast.

Nancy Allen really carries this movie once she becomes the focus. And honestly, I’ll always love Allen simply for being a huge part of RoboCop but I never really thought much of her as an actress. Not to say she’s bad, she’s perfectly fine. But in this film, she really got to do some daring things. Honestly, it has motivated me to check out De Palma’s Blow Out in the near future as it also features her under De Palma’s direction.

I was really impressed with Keith Gordon and Angie Dickinson as well.

Michael Caine also plays an very important role but it’s Michael Caine, so one should expect a damn fine performance because I don’t think I’ve ever seen the guy not deliver.

I’d love to go deeper into the story and analyze some of it but I don’t want to spoil this for anyone. It’s a film that needs to be seen without knowing much about the plot and a Google search will probably spoil some major details.

If you like De Palma, Hitchcock influenced cinema or neo-noir, than you’ll probably like this picture.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other early Brian De Palma films, especially Blow Out and Body Double.

Film Review: Seed of Chucky (2004)

Also known as: Child’s Play 5, Son of Chucky, Bride of Chucky 2 (working titles)
Release Date: November 12th, 2004
Directed by: Don Mancini
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Redman, Billy Boyd, Hannah Spearritt, Steve Lawton, John Waters

Rogue Pictures, David Kirschner Productions, Castel Film Romania, 87 Minutes, 88 Minutes (unrated)

Review:

“Christ! Enough about your mother! I killed that bitch twenty years ago and she still won’t shut up!” – Chucky

Whenever this movie comes up in conversation, everyone I talk to seems to hate it. Granted, when it came out, the trailer didn’t make me want to see it and I put it off for nearly ten years. However, once I did give the film a chance, I liked it near the same level that I liked its predecessor: Bride of Chucky.

I understand why this entry into the long running movie series gets a lot of hate but I think that is because people try to view it in the same way that they looked at the original trilogy of films, as a serious slasher with some colorful and funny one-liners from the killer doll.

The big difference is that this needs to be viewed as a comedy. Sure, a dark, twisted, fucked up comedy but this takes the increase in comedy from Bride of Chucky and magnifies it a lot more. Now I understand why that would upset some hardcore slasher purists but this is really the 1966 Batman of the franchise and I mean that as lovingly as possible.

Brad Dourif and Jennifer Tilly are absolutely dynamite in this. It honestly feels like Dourif was ad-libbing the whole thing. I know that’s not really possible, unless he was controlling Chucky’s animatronics while voice acting but this has a similar feel to it as improv comedy. Plus, Chucky’s never been funnier and the jokes are just constant.

The real star of the film is Billy Boyd, though. He plays the offspring of Chuck and Tiff and isn’t sure about his/her gender, his/her life and his/her place in all of the madness that surrounds his/her parents. I guess a lot of people disliked this character severely and he/she’s sort of been pushed out of the film series since this picture but I’d still like to see him/her reappear or at least get a mention as to what his/her whereabouts are.

After typing that politically correct paragraph, I came to the realization that Don Mancini and the Child’s Play franchise were more socially progressive than Twitter by at least a decade.

Anyway, I still prefer the original three films to anything that came after but this reinvents the franchise quite a bit and honestly, it needed some reinvention. While Bride of Chucky accomplished that already, Seed of Chucky pushed the bar further.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: all the Child’s Play movies except the 2019 reboot.

Film Review: Tourist Trap (1979)

Release Date: March 16th, 1979
Directed by: David Schmoeller
Written by: David Schmoeller, J. Larry Carroll
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: Chuck Connors, Jocelyn Jones, Jon Van Ness, Robin Sherwood, Tanya Roberts

Compass International Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Oh sure, help yourself… but it doesn’t work. I got nobody to call.” – Mr. Slausen

For some reason, a lot of slasher aficionados think that Tourist Trap is the friggin’ bee’s knees. I think it’s the bee’s stinger… right through the heart of good taste.

Sure, the ladies are pretty nice to look at, especially Tanya Roberts who I always thought was MILFtastic on That 70s Show, not to mention when she was a Bond girl in A View To A Kill and a replacement Angel at the end of the original Charlie’s Angels run. Other than that though, this thing is a pretty lame attempt at a slasher flick.

The opening scene where the dude gets locked in a room and harassed by cackling mannequins for what seems like 45 minutes, is one of the dumbest sequences that I have ever seen in a slasher film and I’ve seen Don’t Go In The Woods.

There is this killer that kinda looks like Leatherface in that horrible fourth Texas Chainsaw movie. You know, the one where he was a wailing banshee in a dress and covered in lipstick. Granted, this predates that movie by almost a decade and a half but it isn’t a good look regardless.

The killer and his doofus older brother (played by Chuck Connors, who should’ve known better than to be in this thing) go around trapping teens and killing them. We’re looking at lowest common denominator cookie cutter bullshit here.

The plot is weak, the characters suck except Tanya Roberts, the killer is dumb and the cinematography looks like it was handled by my drunk Uncle Titus between trying to perfect his barbecue sauce and spearing frogs for hors d’oeuvres.

Tourist Trap is not a classic despite what some tasteless folks might tell you. It is pretty boring, pretty ugly and a big ass romp full of stupid.

When run through the Cinespiria Shitometer this comes out as a Type 5 stool, which is defined as “Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (passed easily).” I beg to differ with the “passed easily” part.

Rating: 3.5/10

Film Review: Piranha (1978)

Release Date: August 3rd, 1978 (USA)
Directed by: Joe Dante
Written by: John Sayles, Richard Robinson
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies, Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Barbara Steele, Dick Miller, Belinda Balaski, Paul Bartel

New World Pictures, United Artists, 95 Minutes

piranha1978Review:

Some people might not realize this but Piranha was made to be somewhat of a parody to Jaws and its clones, such as Orca. It was also the first film that Joe Dante directed alone. He would go on to direct some of the most memorable films of the 1980s and a few decent ones from the 1990s.

It is hard to just consider this film as horror. It has comedy elements to it, especially where Dick Miller’s water park mogul Buck Gardner is concerned.

The film sees two teenagers go skinny dipping in a pool on what they believe to be an abandoned military installation. The pool is full of genetically engineered piranha that eat the teenagers alive. This brings in Maggie, an insurance investigator. She is a bit aloof and careless and while snooping around, releases the piranha into the local river system. As the film progresses, the killer piranha eat their way through the locals. Eventually, they attack a summer camp and finally, a newly opened water park.

Piranha isn’t just a parody, though. It is also a political commentary on the bastardization of science by the government. With this film being released a few years after the Vietnam War, a lot of the military’s questionable tactics were still fresh in people’s minds.

Most of the actors in this picture are completely forgettable. The only notable characters are those that have just a bit more time than a cameo. Dick Miller is always great and would go on to work with Joe Dante for years. Plus, Piranha was produced by Roger Corman, who also utilized Miller a lot. The film also features horror legend Barbara Steele as a sinister government scientist, trying to keep a lid on the tragedy. Then there is Paul Bartel, who plays the hilarious yet very heroic camp counselor. Bartel is one of the greatest character actors of the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Being that this is a Corman produced movie, you can expect it to cut a lot of corners. The effects aren’t particularly good but they are effective. My only real complaint about the piranha, is the strange sound effects used for the moments where they feast on human flesh.

Piranha is not a great film but it is the best of the Jaws ripoffs. Sure, Steven Spielberg said that first, but I share his sentiment.