Film Review: Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Also known as: Wonder Woman 2 (informal title), WW84 (promotional title)
Release Date: December 16th, 2020 (several international markets)
Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Written by: Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, David Callaham
Based on: Wonder Woman by William Moulton Marston
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Lynda Carter (cameo)

Atlas Entertainment, DC Entertainment, DC Comics, Warner Bros., 151 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t wanna be like anyone. I want to be an apex predator. You’ve always had everything while people like me have had nothing. Well now it’s my turn. Get used to it.” – Barbara Minerva

I really liked the first Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman movie. However, I always felt like my initial reaction was a bit overblown, as it had the same sort of long-term effect that the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies tend to give me. You see, I leave the theater really satisfied but then, as time passes, I don’t have much urge to ever rewatch them again.

I let my high rating for 2017’s Wonder Woman stand because it was my initial reaction to seeing the film for the first time. And I also thought that I’d give the sequels their fair shot at doing the same. I thought about revisiting the first movie before seeing its long-awaited and long-delayed follow-up . However, I just couldn’t muster up the interest.

Having now seen Wonder Woman 1984, I feel a bit harsher towards the first movie, as it kind of exposes some of the flaws it had a bit more. The reason being, this film shares those flaws but also shows that Jenkins couldn’t correct them and in fact, doubled down on them because she either didn’t know they were there or because she doesn’t listen to actual criticism.

The biggest of those flaws is the action. In the first film, it was wonky and not very great except for a few dynamic shots. In this movie, you open with some Amazonian Olympic games, followed by a quick action montage to reintroduce us to the film’s hero. Then you have to wait an hour and twenty minutes before you get to the first legit action sequence, which is terrible, ignores all the laws of physics and has certain things happen just for plot convenience. You then get another sequence in the White House and then one more big final fight. That’s it for a two and a half hour movie about a comic book superhero.

I actually have to say that the opening sequence of the child Diana competing against adult Amazons in their version of American Ninja Warrior was, believe it or not, my favorite thing in the film. This takes up the first ten-to-fifteen minutes of the movie and then it’s all downhill from there.

This is followed up by reintroducing us to Gal Gadot, as the adult Diana a.k.a. Wonder Woman. This is a cheesy, slapstick-y introduction that wedges in so much blatant ’80s iconography it looks like Stranger Things buttfucking The Goldbergs while sucking on Ready Player One‘s tits and reaching around to fingerbang Hot Tub Time Machine. The whole sequence is awful, lowest common denominator, try hard bullshit where the director doesn’t know what she’s doing but she’s trying to cover that up by throwing Trapper Keepers in your face.

Over an hour later we get the next action scene. This is actually the first straight up, real action scene. However, it is quick, dumb and ended with Diana lassoing a goddamned missile, riding it down the street to scoop up two kids and then crashing and rolling on the street in a way that would have killed them. But whatever.

The White House fight was actually fairly decent and the only action sequence that was. But for a high point in regards to the action, it was dull and just a paint-by-numbers affair.

The final fight sees Diana then fight Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah, who at this point has turned into an actual humanoid cheetah. The character’s CGI is deplorable. I mean, it’s really damn bad. It was hard to watch this scene, as it played like late ’90s Sci-Fi Channel cringe.

At the same time, I did feel the emotion of the conflict, as Diana cared about the woman Cheetah used to be but even then, the visuals were so shit that it ruined the connection that this confrontation needed to have with the audience. The baffling bad CGI was just distracting and pulled you right out of the film.

After that, we have to see Wonder Woman finally confront Maxwell Lord, who has essentially turned himself into a genie that is trying to grant the wishes of everyone on the planet. This whole storyline was dumb as hell, made little-to-no sense and I never really understood the villain’s true motivation other than he was a loser that craved power. It was said that this character was supposed to represent Donald Trump and be a critique of his presidency and personality. Frankly, after seeing this movie, that doesn’t make a lick of fucking sense. Also, in the end, he reverses everything and reunites with his son. Was he off the hook? Did he serve jail time? I guess none of that is important because this movie is stupid.

So between the action scenes, we have long drawn out dramatic stuff. Most of it is boring but we see Diana and Steve, her love from the first film, reunite. However, Steve came back from a wish Diana made early in the story. So, the writing was on the wall from the get go that Steve was going to have to die to beat the villain.

Moving on, the cinematography was bland and basic. It felt tonally at odds with the first picture and didn’t really feel like it had any ties to any of the other Justice League or DCEU movies. Maybe Jenkins is trying to ignore all that and just do her own thing. I don’t blame her for that, actually.

Before wrapping this up, I should also mention that there’s a pointless cameo by Lynda Carter but I do like seeing her. I just wish she would have had something more to do than catch a pole from falling on a baby.

So that’s it. This wasn’t worth the wait and really, I don’t care about a third film or anything coming out of the DCEU, anyway.

It’s Christmas, back to drinking whiskey and smoking meat.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as Aquaman and other DCEU films.

Film Review: The White, The Yellow, and The Black (1975)

Also known as: Il bianco il giallo il nero (original Italian title), Samurai (Canada), Ring Around the Horse’s Tail (US dubbed version), Shoot First… Ask Questions Later (US alternative title)
Release Date: January 17th, 1975 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
Written by: Amendola & Corbucci, Santiago Moncada, Renee Asseo, Antonio Troisio, Marcello Coscia, Sergio Spina
Music by: Guido & Maurizio De Angelis
Cast: Giuliano Gemma, Tomas Milian, Eli Wallach

Filmel, Mundial Film, Tritone Cinematografica, 112 Minutes

Review:

“[about to be hanged by a gang] I’ll never die without my boots on, and a star on my chest.” – Sheriff Edward Gideon

I’ve seen and reviewed about a half dozen Sergio Corbucci spaghetti westerns in recent years. I didn’t know about this one, however, until I stumbled across it while looking for something else. But I’m glad I did, even if it’s one of Corbucci’s weaker westerns.

Still, it’s a well cast film with three cool characters that had nice chemistry and provided solid performances that required dramatic and comedic acting with a little pinch of badassness sprinkled in.

People today would probably find the fact that Italian actor Tomas Milian plays a samurai in the Old West to be “problematic” and while the character is written mostly for laughs by tapping into cultural stereotypes, Milian still gives his character a certain panache and coolness when push comes to shove.

Spaghetti western legends Eli Wallach and Giuliano Gemma also add some fun to the proceedings, with Wallach playing a Sheriff and Gemma playing a typical western cowboy.

The plot sees this unlikely trio come together to track down a stolen Japanese horse that was intended to be a gift for the US government. The three men end up embroiled in a rivalry with a band of desperadoes that are made up of former Confederate soldiers.

Side note: this film was actually made as a loose parody of the Charles Bronson starring Red Sun. Milian’s samurai character would also reappear in the film Crime at the Chinese Restaurant in 1981, directed by Sergio’s younger brother, Bruno Corbucci.

Out of the Corbucci westerns I’ve seen, this one is, unfortunately, the weakest. But I can’t fault the director for trying to do something different for his last picture in the genre. While the characters are amusing and work fairly well together, the movie does kind of miss its mark and pales in comparison to Django, The Great Silence, Compañeros and The Mercenary. I’d also rank it behind Navajo Joe, which wasn’t anywhere near as goofy and borderline slapstick-y despite having more humorous bits than Corbucci’s other spaghetti westerns.

This also lacks the gravitas of those earlier films. Not that that’s a bad thing, per se, but Corbucci sort of had a particular style with his westerns and this plays more like a generic western comedy than the great action flicks one could expect from Corbucci.

Overall, I like the casting and I enjoyed their characters but apart from that, this is almost forgettable and probably only stayed afloat in a sea of spaghetti flicks due to who made it.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Sergio Corbucci spaghetti westerns.

Film Review: Crypt of the Vampire (1964)

Also known as: La cripta e l’incubo (original Italian title), Crypt of Horror (UK), Terror In the Crypt (US alternative title)
Release Date: May 27th, 1964 (Italy)
Directed by: Camillo Mastrocinque
Written by: Tonino Valerii, Ernesto Gastaldi
Based on: Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Music by: Carlo Savina
Cast: Christopher Lee, Adriana Ambesi, Pier Anna Quaglia, Freidrich Klauss

E.I. Associates Producers, Hispamer Films, Alta Vista, 82 Minutes

Review:

“It’s so beautiful here. Perhaps nature has purposely set the stage and is waiting for the actors to enter. But who knows if the play is farce … or tragedy. This is a spot where one could come for pleasure … or for death.” – Lyuba

Being that Christopher Lee is one of my favorite actors of all-time, it’s always cool checking out one of his films for the first time. While I’ve seen all the fairly well-known ones and most of his Hammer work, there are those odd ones that have slipped through the cracks over the years. But the guy has close to 300 acting credits to his name, so there are still several of his movies that I haven’t seen.

This one was a low budget production by Italian and Spanish studios that came out during the height of his career, just before he’d make The Devil-Ship Pirates and The Gorgon for Hammer that same year.

Also, this film is an adaptation of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, which Hammer would also use as source material for their Karnstein trilogy of films, as well as Captain Kronos.

While Lee was no stranger to vampire films, this one provides him with a very different role. It doesn’t push him into another version of a Dracula character and instead, he plays a human count that is concerned that his daughter may be possessed by an evil spirit that brought his lineage trouble in the past.

This film is kind of slow and pretty drab for the most part. However, what it lacks in energy and poor pacing, it makes up for in atmosphere. This is a dark, haunting picture. The surviving prints of this film that have made it online and in spite of being digital, are of pretty mediocre quality. But this actually seems to work for the film, as it appears darker and in a higher contrast than what was probably originally released.

Overall, this picture looks superb, even with the physical elements working against the physical film that they eventually digitized. It’s not an exciting picture, though, but at least Lee gives a solid, convincing performance and the film convincingly manufactures a thick sense of dread and claustrophobia.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other horror films that Christopher Lee starred in apart from Hammer.

Film Review: Count Dracula (1970)

Also known as: Dracula ’71 (alternative US title), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (complete title), Dracula (working title)
Release Date: April 3rd, 1970 (Germany)
Directed by: Jesus Franco
Written by: Augustino Finocchi, Peter Welbeck (English), Jesus Franco (Spanish), Carlo Fadda (Italian), Milo G. Cuccia (Italian), Dietmar Behnke (German)
Based on: Dracula by Bram Stoker
Music by: Bruno Nicolai
Cast: Christopher Lee, Herbert Lom, Klaus Kinski, Frederick Williams, Maria Rohm, Soledad Miranda, Jack Taylor, Paul Muller, Jesus Puente

Filmar Compagnia Cinematografica, Fénix Cooperativa Cinematográfica, Corona Filmproduktion, 98 Minutes

Review:

“One of my race crossed the Danube and destroyed the Turkish host. Though sometimes beaten back, he came again and again then at the end he came again for he alone could triumph. This was a Dracula indeed.” – Count Dracula

Even though Christopher Lee had already played Dracula a half dozen times by 1970, I think it was hard for him to turn down this alternative take on the role, as Spanish director Jesus Franco wanted to make a film that was the closest version of Bram Stoker’s original literary work.

That being said, this is a pretty spot on adaptation of the novel but that also works against it, as a lot of this is boring, drawn out and more focused on drama, as opposed to horror.

The first act of the film is wonderful, well paced, decently acted and it seems to come off without a hitch. However, after that, the story moves at a snail’s pace and the only things in it that are worthwhile are the few scenes with Klaus Kinski as Renfield and the absolutely stunning beauty of Soledad Miranda, who unfortunately died way too young in real life and just barely scratched the surface of her potential.

Jesus Franco would go on to essentially make films that fit the porn category more than anything else but this one is very light on being sexually exploitative and maybe that’s due to Lee’s involvement.

The film is okay but mostly forgettable other than it existing as a Lee Dracula film that isn’t a part of the Hammer continuity.

It was shot and filmed in Spain and that kind of takes you out of the picture when it’s supposed to be set in Romania and England. Watching characters run through castles and streets full of desert sand is a bizarre thing to see in a Dracula film but I digress.

Ultimately, this was cool to see, as it allowed Lee to get more into the literary Dracula without the ham and cheese of the Hammer sequels. It felt closer to the original Hammer film than any of their sequels, as far as the Dracula character goes. However, it’s completely devoid of that Hammer charm, which made those films much more iconic and memorable.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Christopher Lee’s Dracula films from Hammer, as well as Jesus Franco’s other vampire movies.

Film Review: Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

Also known as: Terminator 6, T6 (informal alternative titles)
Release Date: October 23rd, 2019 (Belgium, Switzerland, France, UK, Ireland)
Directed by: Tim Miller
Written by: David Goyer, Justin Rhodes, Billy Ray, James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee, Josh Friedman
Music by: Tom Holkenborg
Cast: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta, Edward Furlong, Earl Boen (archive footage)

Skydance Media, Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, 128 Minutes

Review:

“I won’t be back.” – T-800

I hope the above quote from the T-800 actually rings true because this franchise has exhausted itself beyond repair.

Granted, it could go away for a few decades and try and reboot itself but chances are, Schwarzenegger won’t be around and he’ll be way, waaay too old. And frankly, without him, I don’t care about this franchise. Although, I did like the television show and if something came along and built off of that, we may have something. But I just don’t think that’s remotely possible anymore.

Like all the other sequels after Terminator 2: Judgment Day, fans wanted a nice hot, lobster bisque from a top notch restaurant but instead, were served a cold can of Campbell’s pea soup with a fork instead of a spoon.

This movie was a waste of the talent it had in it. Linda Hamilton came back for this bathtub fart, Schwarzenegger looked bored and Mackenzie Davis is capable of so much more than being a dry, boring, nearly lifeless half human/half machine. I think they totally forgot that she was half human and just told her to be a robot.

The film also shits on the legacy of the first two movies more than any other film in the franchise. It just straight up murders a young John Connor in the opening scene and if that doesn’t infuriate you, you’re not a fan.

That being said, if that had happened and was done to provide the viewer with something unique, compelling and with a real purpose, I could’ve lived with it. Instead, we got a soulless romp full of “girl power” nonsense that completely didn’t work because in the very end, the girls still needed the man to finish the job. I’m not trying to be a dick, here, but it’s hard not to be when the filmmakers do something so heavy handed yet so passé and just fuck it up in the end, anyway.

Linda Hamilton is one of the O.G. female badasses and it’s like the filmmakers forgot that shit and thought that they were giving us something knew and refreshing having female leads shoot guns and blow crap up.

As for the positives, I did like how Schwarzenegger’s Terminator character evolved and lived a normal life, developing human characteristics.

I also thought that some of the action was decent. Not great, but certainly passable by late 2010s standards. Unfortunately, those standards are grossly below the bar set by the first two movies in this franchise, three and four decades ago.

I also liked the villain Terminator and thought that he was a natural next step in killer robot evolution, unlike the robot from T3, which was overpowered beyond belief.

But that’s really about it for stuff I liked. I mean, it was neat seeing Hamilton and Schwarzenegger together again but unfortunately, that long overdue reunion was overshadowed by a movie without heart, soul or a point.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other underwhelming Terminator sequels after T2.

Film Review: Rambo: Last Blood (2019)

Also known as: Rambo V (alternative title)
Release Date: September 18th, 2019 (Indonesia)
Directed by: Adrian Grunberg
Written by: Matthew Cirulnick, Sylvester Stallone
Based on: characters by David Morrell
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Adriana Barraza, Yvette Monreal, Genie Kim, Joaquin Cosio, Oscar Jaenada

Lionsgate, Millennium Films, Campbell Grobman Films, Balboa Productions, 89 Minutes, 101 Minutes (international cut)

Review:

“I’m gonna tear you apart.” – John Rambo

I may be four months late to the party but I finally got around to seeing Rambo V or, as it is officially called, Rambo: Last Blood.

Getting straight to the heart of it, this is the worst Rambo film. That doesn’t mean it is bad, though, as I still really enjoyed it and it’s better than most other modern action films.

The last fifteen or twenty minutes of the movie are incredible for fans of hardcore ’80s style action. It’s an all out war between Rambo and piece of shit sex traffickers on Rambo’s farm.

The first two acts of the film are a bit weak, however. They don’t feature that much action, really, except for a few scenes of Rambo just beating up some thugs. This picture certainly doesn’t have the level of action as 2008’s, far superior, Rambo.

I think part of the problem is that this movie is too short. It’s less than 90 minutes and if you lob the credits off the film, it’s only about 80 minutes. Now there is a longer international cut that comes in at 101 minutes. I’d assume that this is a better cut of the film and maybe the US version had its violence and action toned down due to the overly bitchified political and social climate of 2019. I mean, this is a movie about a white dude killing off a fuck ton of Mexicans. It doesn’t matter that these people are the scumfucks of the Earth, the Hollywood elites would rather the races be reversed in movies like this now.

That being said, the villains in this are so evil that I don’t feel like the end was satisfying enough. After what these men did to Rambo’s surrogate daughter, his friend’s sister and well, to Rambo himself, I was really hoping for levels of violence and gore on par with the 2008 film.

The big finale is still great, as Rambo lures the scumfucks into his underground maze where he picks them off one-by-one like a silent predator. The murder of the gang leader at the very end is pretty intense and violent but I feel like that piece of shit got off too easily. But maybe this is a sign that Rambo is older and he just wants these men dead, as opposed to playing with them like a cat slowly torturing a mouse.

Like other Rambo movies, this one comes with a message. This time, the film’s message is about how fucked up the cartels are in Mexico between sex trafficking, kidnapping, drugs, etc.

I guess one big difference between this and the 2008 chapter, is that I didn’t leave this one wanting more. The ending is sort of ambiguous, as Rambo may or may not bleed out and die. I think it was left that way to keep the door open for Rambo VI. I don’t think it’s necessary though and now, I don’t think that this movie was necessary either.

The fourth film had a pretty perfect ending and went out on a really high note. This fifth film, while mostly okay, felt like that family member that stuck around a day or two too long after the rest of the family left following the holidays.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Rambo movies, as well as other ’80s and early ’90s Stallone movies.

Film Review: Hercules (1958)

Also known as: Labors of Hercules (worldwide English title)
Release Date: February 20th, 1958 (Italy)
Directed by: Pietro Francisci
Written by: Ennio De Concini, Pietro Francisci, Gaio Frattini
Based on: The Argonauts by Apollonius of Rhodes
Music by: Enzo Masetti
Cast: Steve Reeves, Sylva Koscina, Gianna Maria Canale, Fabrizio Mioni, Arturo Dominici, Mimmo Palmara, Lidia Alfonsi, Gina Rovere

Embassy Pictures, Galatea Film, O.S.C.A.R., 104 Minutes, 98 Minutes (DVD cut)

Review:

“Immense and immortal was the strength of Hercules, like the world and the gods to whom he belonged… Yet from letter men he learned one eternal truth – that even the greatest strength carries within it a measure of mortal weaknes…” – title card

There are so many Hercules and sword and sandal movies featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 that I’m glad I saved the best (and first) for last.

This is also the most famous of the old Hercules films because it starred Steve Reeves and its success launched a film series and countless ripoffs because the Italians don’t care about copyright laws.

While this is mostly a competent film and fairly okay for what it is, I still find it slow and kind of boring for most of its duration. The action scenes and the finale are decent for 1958 standards but there isn’t much here that is memorable other than Reeves, himself, and that iconic scene of him using the chains to pull down the pillars with his godlike strength.

The sets and the overall look and design of the production are better than average and I mostly like the lighting but the cinematography is pedestrian, as is the shot framing. While films were generally less artistic and lacking visual experimentation in the ’50s, I kind of expect more from the Italians, who have a certain atmospheric panache when they’re really trying. But this feels like a big action movie playing it safe and therefore, it feels sterile and uninspiring.

I guess people had less standards for these sort of things back then and this motion picture was a big enough hit to keep the sword and sandal genre going. Well, until the Italians and Spanish figured out that they could make westerns for a lot cheaper and get a bigger return on investment. But these films were the bread and butter of Italian and Spanish studios before the three Sergios came along a few years later.

Hercules is an alright movie. I don’t see it as a game changer or all that interesting but it did make a mark that propelled Steve Reeves to superstardom and took sword and sandal cinema to new heights in popularity.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: all the other Italian Hercules and other sword and sandal movies.

Film Review: Mr. Arkadin – The Comprehensive Version (1955)

Also known as: Confidential Report (UK)
Release Date: June 27th, 1955 (Barcelona premiere)
Directed by: Orson Welles
Written by: Orson Welles
Based on: original radio scripts by Ernest Bornemann, Orson Welles from The Lives of Harry Lime
Music by: Paul Misraki
Cast: Orson Welles, Robert Arden, Paola Mori, Akim Tamiroff, Michael Redgrave

Filmrosa/Cervantes Films/Sevilla, Warner Bros., 93 Minutes (Spanish version), 95 Minutes (public domain version), 98 Minutes (TCM print), 99 Minutes (Corinth version), 106 Minutes (The Comprehensive Version – The Criterion Edit)

Review:

“You are simply a fool. I will not ask you your price, because you have nothing to sell. But, still, I’ll make you an offer. I am going to give you something to sell. And, then, I will pay you for it. Come on. You have tried to threaten me with a secret that does not exist. Now, I will make you a present of a real one. The great secret of my life.” – Gregory Arkadin

Mr. Arkadin is an Orson Welles movie that has eluded me until now. While I’ve known of its existence since I was studying Welles in my high school film studies class, I knew that it was a film that had a half dozen different edits, lots of missing pieces and it wasn’t really a complete body of work.

It’s not quite a lost film, as a 95 minute version of the film has existed in the public domain for quite some time, but much of it was lost and even with the more recent Comprehensive Version, we still don’t have an edit of the film that is Orson Welles’ complete and realized vision.

The genesis of this film is pretty interesting though, as the story was adapted from a few episodes of the radio series The Lives of Harry Lime. Fans of Welles probably already know that he played the character of Harry Lime in Carol Reed’s film-noir masterpiece, The Third Man.

Additionally, Welles once referred to this film as the “biggest disaster” of his life. This was because he lost creative control after missing an editing deadline, which then led to the film’s producer taking over and eventually releasing several different edits of the picture. The multiple edits created a lot of confusion and none of the released versions of the film were done so with the approval of Welles.

The Comprehensive Version, which is the edition that I watched and am reviewing here was made by taking pieces from the multiple versions of the film and trying to re-edit them into a form that makes the most narrative sense. However, the film still doesn’t feel whole and it isn’t.

That being said, it’s kind of difficult to review a film that isn’t complete and ultimately, wasn’t a fully realized concept brought to life by the artist that created it.

But you can still see how good it was by seeing some of these segments come to life. Welles employed great cinematography and one can’t deny that the film looks good and consistent with the level of visual storytelling that his movies were known for.

It’s also finely acted, even if some moments might not feel as coherent as they should. That’s not the fault of the actors, that’s the fault of the producer and editor. Well, at least they should take the blame based off of their involvement in making a chopped up and messy version of what this was intended to be.

It’s sad that this film didn’t get to be seen in its best form. The most recent form that exists is seemingly the best and it is still watchable but it just makes me wonder how different Welles’ version would have been. Additionally, for those that don’t know the full story behind this film, how would they see it? As a bad movie, a confusing one or even as an example of Welles not being on his A-game?

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Orson Welles’ other noir-esque pictures.

Film Review: Danger!! Death Ray (1967)

Also known as: Nest of Spies (UK), Hellish Beam (Sweden), Death Ray (Netherlands)
Release Date: January 28th, 1967 (Italy)
Directed by: Gianfranco Baldanello
Written by: Dick Arthur, Juan Antonio Cabezas, Al Christian, Jaime Comas Gil, Aldo Cristiani, Domenico Paolella
Music by: Gianni Ferrio
Cast: Gordon Scott, Maureen Delphy, Nello Pazzafini, Tullio Altamura

Leda Films Productions S.L., Meteor Film S.r.l., 93 Minutes

Review:

Not all spy thrillers are created equal. This is one that is pretty close to the bottom of the barrel.

But this is an Italian-Spanish co-production that ripoffs a lot of tropes and stylistic cues from much better, more famous movies.

Also, this was thrashed pretty hard in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and for good reason. It’s schlock, pure schlock… although, there is still something charming and endearing about it.

That’s not to say that some sequences won’t bore you to tears but I did enjoy how insane the plot was and it almost felt more in tune with the Matt Helm movies than the James Bond ones. However, this was lacking Dean Martin, solid laughs and a sea of gorgeous women.

But I really can’t compliment it beyond that and beyond saying that I didn’t hate it.

This has a lot of flaws from the acting, the dubbing, the direction, the cinematography, the lighting, the set design and just about everything else.

It’s goofy, it’s shitty but it’s a strong, solid turd, as opposed to a soft mushy one. And I guess that’s something.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other low budget spy films and James Bond ripoffs.

Film Review: Dagon (2001)

Also known as: H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon (US complete title), Dagon: Sect of the Sea (alternative), The Lost Island (Philippines)
Release Date: October 12th, 2001 (Spain – Sitges Film Festival)
Directed by: Stuart Gordon
Written by: Dennis Paoli
Based on: The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft
Music by: Carles Cases
Cast: Ezra Godden, Francisco Rabal, Raquel Merono, Macarena Gomez, Brendan Price

ICCA, Generalitat de Catalunya, Institut Català de Finances, Televisió de Catalunya, Televisión de Galicia S.A., Vía Digital, Xunta de Galicia, Castelao Producciones, Estudios Picasso, Fantastic Factory (Filmax), Lionsgate, 95 Minutes

Review:

“You cannot care for her. You do not dream of her! You will go soon to a beautiful place. You will forget your world and your friends. There will be no time, no end, no today, no yesterday, no tomorrow – only the forever and forever, and forever without end. It is your fate. It is your destiny.” – Uxia Cambarro

Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna are no strangers to Lovecraftian horror but this film is the closest thing to the source material that they have ever produced. And while this isn’t better than their earlier films: Re-Animator and From Beyond, it is still a solid, good effort that is better than most of their films after the 1980s.

While Dagon is the title of a short story from H.P. Lovecraft, this film is actually an adaptation of Lovecraft’s novella, The Shadow Over Innsmouth.

The two major difference is that the setting was shifted to a Spanish fishing village called “Imboca”, as opposed to “Innsmouth”, Massachusetts. Also, the aquatic deity Dagon takes on more of a Cthulhu appearance, whereas in the originally story his was humanoid with fish-like features.

I like this film for the most part. In all honesty, my only real complaint were the digital effects. They looked cheap, horribly cheap. They looked worse than what the standard was in Sci-Fi Channel movies circa 2000. However, the practical effects really make up for it, as the gore that was created physically, comes off as pretty damn good. But the problem with this is that there is so much variance in quality between the great practical effects and the abysmal digital effects that it breaks the movie for me. It’s, at times, pretty jarring. Especially, when both are utilized in moments that run so close together.

Also, the acting is pretty shitty but its not so bad that it goes to lower depths than one would expect from this sort of picture. It’s just nothing to write home about and so much of it comes off as really hokey. This could also be due to the quality of the dubbing, as this is a Spanish film and a lot of the dialogue needed to be dubbed over for the American video release. Usually dubbing from Spanish language films isn’t too much of a distraction but there are some scenes that look very out of sync.

The story is pretty compelling though. But this doesn’t do anything to surprise you other than some shocks with the amount of gore towards the end. But, if I’m being honest, none of the gory stuff exceeds what Gordon and Yuzna have done with their earlier movies. The infamous face peeling scene here is also just a rehash of the infamous face peeling scene that Tobe Hooper gave us in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

What I dig most about this film is that regardless of its flaws, it is one of the best adaptations of Lovecraft’s work. It’s not “Lovecraftian horror” it is Lovecraft.

Also, the scenes with mutated people slowly walking through the dark streets of the village reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from the Vincent Price starring The Haunted Palace. That was another film that adapted Lovecraft and featured some similar plot points to this film.

Dagon is a pretty cool film to watch, if you are into Lovecraft. It probably won’t resonate for those who aren’t already fans but it does have some solid gross out moments and it’s strange, surreal and unique.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Lovecraftian horror films: The Call of Cthulhu, From Beyond, Re-Animator, The Haunted Palace and The Dunwich Horror.