Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Movies I Stayed Up Late For: The Fury


As a kid without cable there were quite a few movies of the week, and they were what we had.

These were the limits of our lives.


Quite often, the CBS Saturday Night movie, capper of the weekend, kept me up at night because I couldn't wait to see what the hell happened next....

I have pontificated on many of these celluloid diversions right here on my very own corner of the internet.

There's one that I still have tons of rock solid memories of seeing some 30 years ago.

Let's discuss early Brian DePalma. And "The Fury".

He made the incredibly faithful Stephen King adaption, "Carrie" two years prior, and seemed the man for the job here.  I remember this movie blowing my doors off in the very early 80's when it was being run on over-the-air TV, and the lovely Frani and I sat down to take it in off of the DVR just the other evening.

Well, it's a bit uneven.  There's a story to be told here, make no mistake, as a very young Amy Irving and Andrew Stevens are two teens with powerful telekinetic abilities that The Gubmint (led by a greasy Mr. Rosemary's Baby, John Cassavetes) wants to possess and make more dominant.

Kirk Douglas, looking svelte and strong for his age, is the lead as Stevens' father and I get the feeling the studio liked that he was in it. Unfortunately you can really feel that fact, as his character is on screen almost constantly for the first hour, on the hunt from the second scene on to find Stevens and that becomes the onus of the film.  The scenes with Douglas, many that do not accomplish much when factoring in screen time, suck running length from what should have been more exposition into the potentially interesting link between Irving and Stevens, as well as what was being done by the shady Goverment Agency to the latter kiddo.  Instead there's overextended comic exchanges between Douglas and Gordon Jump's family and a pair of cops, one of which is a young and somehow still-coiffed Dennis Franz.

The action and visual effects, on the other hand, are top notch.  A young Rick Baker did the FX, and DePalma was not suffering from a lack of need to create slow-motion set pieces either, as there are a few.  The closing moments are pretty slick, and put the money shot from David Cronenberg's "Scanners" (which came later, and is much more ballyhooed now) to shame.  Cronenberg's film told a better story, and that's why it's deservedly more fondly remembered, but it shouldn't be forgotten that this little pic here tread the ground first.   That said,  Michael Ironside is intimidating as the heavy in "Scanners", while you just feel like slapping Cassavetes with a brick and telling him to shut up in this one.

Overall, it wasn't as good as I remember it, but it still elicits fond memories of the living room floor, that old Sylvania console model TV, and the Late Movie.  It's neat to see "then unknowns" like Franz and Daryl Hannah, Kirk Douglas being Kirk, some nicely done DePalma camera tricks, and to remember when Andrew Stevens was gonna be "big".

Friday, March 28, 2014

Movies I Stayed Up Late For: MAGNUM FORCE



Yeah, I'd need both hands to count how many times I stayed up into the fog of pre-dawn for the second film in the "Dirty Harry" Callahan film series, "Magnum Force".  Many nights I sat in front of the age-old Sylvania console television, rubbing the sleep out of my overworked peepers. I forced myself to stay alert with the single minded purpose of catching good old Clint himself as he blows away half of the crooked San Francisco police force, a single-handed, one man walking death warrant for the corruption that had infiltrated the SFPD, under the evil guidance of one Hal Holbrook.

Hal's soldiers included a then unknown Tim Matheson who went on to some fame in "Animal House", "Fletch", and as a side note, I believe I've caught his name on the small screen once or twice as a director of an episode or two of "Psych". Here we find a young David Soul, a few short years before "Starsky & Hutch" and the mini-series that had me defecating in my pants, "Salem's Lot". Mr "Don't Give Up On Us" was also one of the "dirty" cops that spent much of their time pulling over known pimps and drug dealers for one reason, and one reason only, and that was to shoot them in the face.

You might question why 'ol Harry, a damn-near vigilante himself, would have a problem with this sort of thing. That gets answered succinctly late in the film in a dust-up with  a spiteful Lieutenant Briggs, Mr. Holbrook's character.  He  asks Harry about his "hypocrisy" and the Inspector's frequent "bucking of the system".

His response is genuinely twisted and hypocritical: "I hate the goddamn system! But until someone comes along with changes that make sense, I'll stick with it."

Kind of clunky spoken and thought out logic, there, Harry. I prefer a quote from earlier film:
"Nothing wrong with shooting, as long as the right people get shot."  That's honesty.

Actually, "Magnum Force" is an infinitely quotable movie.  After all, it's where I learned the life lesson that "a man has to know his limitations."

....and how to spot "salty lookin' dudes".

Ah, the 70's....We all love David Soul, despite his character's evil nature, and here's a reminder of why....






Monday, March 24, 2014

MOVIES I STAYED UP LATE FOR: Silent Rage

Mad Scientists. Mad Slashers. Kung Fu fury.

Chubby Comic Relief.

"Silent Rage" has it all. It also boasts examples of all 4 of what I feel are the 4 integral ingredients of a great "B" movie.

1."What the Hell?" dialogue: "Look at that cell structure!!!"

2.Out of Place Martial Arts mayhem: Chuck Norris takes apart a bar full of bikers and the antagonist at the end of the film with his high kicking antics.

3. Hey, It's that guy!!!!: Steven Keats, Stephen Furst (Flounder from "Animal House"), and Ron Silver (!), who sadly passed away early.

4.Overacting alert!!! Steven Keats in his mad scientist rage of cellular and biological superiority spews venomous f-bombs at eventual Oscar winner Ron Silver (in an early role for him)

Ron Silver's patient, Brian Libby (referenced in "Hot Fuzz", Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright are geniuses) is on the edge and medicated at the beginning of this classic.
His landlady's noisy children drive him over the edge and he murders two people with an axe before Mr. Norris and Silver show up. After much violent struggling and a temporary handcuffing in brief police car incarceration, our soon to be slasher, John Kirby, is gunned down.

After he kicks the squad door off from the inside.  Roll eyes here.

Shortly thereafter in a Texas hospital, biological scientist Keats, for reasons unknown to the audience works as a surgeon with psychiatrist Silver. They try unsuccessfully to save the life of Kirby, played well nearly worldessly by Brian Libby. Keats then tries to play God by injecting an experimental chemical into Kirby, (who is an excellent choice for such a thing by the way, to the film's credit, Silver's character DOES make that point), turning him into an indestructable version of the psycho he already was.

The rest of the film is a generic slasher movie, although skillfully executed to some degree with the use of some tension, and an eerie synthesizer created soundtrack. The odd addition of Norris as the hero (this was post indy-"A Force of One", "Octagon" Norris, but pre-Cannon--"Missing in Action" Norris.) is truly weird, and Furst as Norris' silly sidekick doesn't really work for the most part. I kept expecting him to ask "So, you guys playing cards?"  Chuck doesn't act here as much as "exist", while the pros around him being Silver, Keats, Furst and Toni Kalem, as his love interest, do the heavy lifting.

 If you can call it that. Give them credit, they do well with what material they have.

"Silent Rage" obviously is a mess, but an entertaining one, however, with a decent genre climax. Norris was obviously an excellent cinema martial artist, and it shows here. He doesn't do much else right. When he's not throwing his trademark standing spin kicks and jump crescents, he's cringe-inducing.

But overall, it is what it is (I hate that phrase).  A good "B" grade horror/sci-fi/karate move.

Friday, March 7, 2014

MOVIES I STAYED UP LATE FOR: The Food of the Gods


My current foray into "Movies I Stayed Up Late For" is the 1976 drive-in late night TV staple, "The Food of the Gods".

It's an absolute Godawful piece of claptrap that did nothing upon it's cinematic release but induce projectile vomiting and groans of disdain. It starred former child-evangelist (you read that right) Marjoe Gortner.  There was even a wide-release documentary made on that topic entitled "Marjoe!" At one point, je was being ballyhooed by some in the cinematic press in the early 70's as "the embodiment of cinematic masculinity" (!) but never amounted to much more than a B-movie semi-icon.

This cinematic achievement was a quaint little story about chemical corruption. It seems there's these jars labelled "FOTG" sitting on the shelves of some elderly farmer's barns. (elderly farmers barns in 70's movies, always seem to have great things hiding inside them) Some animals and insects start to eat some of the mystery juice that was accidentally spilled causing them to grow awful damn huge, develop nasty dispositions and wreak general havoc all over the rural area. (You know, eating people and stuff).

The movie was forgettable (and regrettable) beyond this great cliffhanger ending: The final shots show some of the dumped compound running off into a river. Through snappy editing, the river flows downstream (where else does a river flow, Rob?) and (gasp) some cows drink from the river. The next shots are composed in a dairy, then show a child (hold on to your butts!) drinking from a milk carton in her school lunch. Oh My God! Wait a tic, what's gonna happen? Is she gonna be a pro wrestler or an NBA player or what?

Not to mention they forgot to take the hyper-complex scientific theory of dilution into consideration. How effective would the substance be when broken down into parts per million, and several miles of riverflow? Not well thought out, boys, but yet again, how well thought out was the concept of this movie?

Wait a minute, I'm the guy who stayed up late for it.
 Heh, I was a kid, right?......right?

I'm sticking by that.


ADDENDUM: In 1988, I remember breezing through the daily information colossus known to those "in the know" as THE WAUSAU DAILY HERALD, and seeing the cineplex, if it could be called that, down by the mall showing (probably on the screen downstairs that's no bigger than my living room TV where I saw "Good Morning, Vietnam" in it's 347th week of release) "Food of the Gods 2", a Canadian opus trying to cha-ching in on the 12 year old success of the original.

Wait a minute here, the first did absolutely nothing. This makes no sense. How did this North-central Wisconsin theatre manager get horranged into carrying this stupid movie anyway?
Did the distributor offer him a "Food of the Gods 2" baseball hat?   These filmmakers tried to pull of the cinematic equivalent of a sequel to oh, say, "Frogs",  (I'm sure Sam Elliot is proud) or "Grizzy"....

....wait, that was attempted.  Sorry, there,  George Clooney, Laura Dern, and Charlie Sheen. (Were you winning then, Mr. Estevez?)

 Go figure. I should fund and release a sequel to "Satan's Cheerleaders". It would be as intelligent.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Movies I Stayed Up Late For: IT IS THE CAR



It was long before James Brolin became Mr. Streisand. It was long before he put on his overacting clinic in "The Amityville Horror".  Decades before he played Pistachio Disguisey's father in "Master of Disguise".  It was years before the novel, "Christine" by Stephen King and the John Carpenter masterpiece adaptation that followed.

It was "The Car".

For some reason a very large vehicle that is of a rather nondescript and largely unidentifiable design is possessed by the devil. Why? You got me there. Maybe it's nickname is Regan.

It is "The Car"

It hangs around peoples houses and revs it's satanic engine and honks it's rather non-intimidating devil-horn. It's future victims walk around in the dark and appear shocked and make stupid phone calls. For some reason, when it's headlights, accompanied by a synthesizer "sting", explode into brightness, these morons get frightened beyond all help.

Because it's "The Car".

It waits outside metal graveyard fencing for the innocents hiding inside to come out, for it cannot enter hallowed ground.

It's metal. It can wait.

What's with that horn?  I know options are limited, but isn't there something more intimidating than that "honk"?

Oh, well.
It is "The Car."

At the end, the car falls off a cliff and blows up, and a devilish face can be seen in the rising conflagration that becomes the emanation from it's detonation.

It is "The Car".

And I stayed up late for it.

And slept like a baby.

Hey! There's Ronny Cox!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

MOVIES I STAYED UP LATE FOR: DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY

In the late 70's in the Will household, it's obvious, as I previously lamented, to say there was no cable. You get your listings from the paper. A solid week's worth of scheduling on about 4 pages of a "PARADE"--sized publication insert. Don't lose it, or you'll be forced to flip the dial searching for your show until it breaks.


 So, it was easy for a little chap like myself to scan the black and white newsprint, hopefully to find out if "White Lightning", "Eat My Dust", "Vanishing Point", or my personal fave, "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry" were going to be aired anytime that week. It was more miss than hit, as far as programming goes,(Hey, "Paper Tiger" is on!! Is that a kung-fu movie? Who the hell is David Niven?) but one of the local Milwaukee or Chicago stations would pop one of those redneck classics on more than once a month, giving me a decent reason to scan the publication.

I'm no gearhead now, not even close, but as a boy I loved the car-chase movie. The roar of the engine, the endless action shots of Burt Reynolds, Barry Newman, Ron Howard, or yes, Peter Fonda whipping the steering wheel around like Devo on Acid.

 So, "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry"..... Who needs plotline. Fonda, (Henry's son) playing Larry, and his partner rip off a grocery store, (in a surprisingly disturbing sequence involving an uncredited Roddy McDowall) to fund their racing career. They pick up an idiotic airhead, Mary, (Melissa George's mom, Susan) along the way, and run for it. Vic Morrow, (Jennifer Jason Leigh's Dad, what the hell is going on here!) some kind of helicopter pursuit expert, is put on the case, and the chase, one that may be the longest ever filmed, ensues. Longest until Tarantino and "Death Proof anyway. In a creepily sad bit of irony, Morrow was killed in real life by a helicopter during the filming of "Twilight Zone: The Movie".

 Some banter, which makes Adam Roarke the only sympathetic one of the three running from the law, is juvenile and poorly executed. Although there is a nice moment where Roarke befriends Mary, when Fonda's character lets his incredible assholeishness get way out of control and pushes her down. As far as emotional content, that's about as far as this one goes.

 I gotta say, I showed this movie to my son earlier this summer, and he disagrees with me on the ending. That's ok, he's entitled. There's a TON of c.b. chatter in the second half of this flick, and a lot of it is dialogue between Morrow and Fonda in the final chase segment. Just when it looks like the rogues have it made, and Morrow appears to be backing off as evidence by the dying of his Oscar-worthy repartee, Fonda's Charger crashes right into a train.

 Credits roll.

 Greatest. Ending. Ever.

I don't remember how many times we and Mr. Will, (that's my Dad. I'm just Rob) watched this one....

Thursday, February 20, 2014

YES, THERE'S THAT MANY.

I didn't even know there were that many shark movies, let alone that many shitty ones.

Thanks, James Rolfe.