Film Review: The Projected Man (1966)

Also known as: Frankenstein 70 – Das Ungeheuer mit der Feuerklaue (Germany), Laser X: operazione uomo (Italy)
Release Date: March, 1966 (UK)
Directed by: Ian Curteis, John Croydon (uncredited)
Written by: Peter Bryan, John C. Cooper, Frank Quattrocchi
Music by: Kenneth V. Jones
Cast: Bryant Haliday, Mary Peach, Norman Wooland, Ronald Allen, Derek Farr

Compton Productions, Universal Studios, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Pretty you may be.” – Chris Mitchell

Ugh… why?! Why was this made?!

This turkey is terrible. And if it actually was a turkey, it’d be a giant mass of dried out, tough to chew, hard to swallow turkey. Kind of like the turkey my Aunt Grace made that one year for Thanksgiving when she passed out drunk on Rebel Yell and none of us kids knew what to do because we were like eight years-old so that thing baked for like 14 hours.

Like a couple hundred other terrible movies, this one was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and really, that’s probably the only reason I have even heard of this cinematic typhoon of monkey poop. This one is really hard to get through, even with the comedic prowess of Mike Nelson and the ‘Bots ripping it to shreds.

I have to assume that people have to try really hard to make a movie this bad. Like was it a challenge or a dare? “Hey, here’s twenty quid, now go make a pile of shit, make it seven reels long and get it in the theaters!”

I guess it doesn’t help this film that the monster is a guy that looks like he is cosplaying as the Phantom of the Opera with a mask made out of an old pair of tighty whities.

The plot is about a scientist trying to find a way to transmit matter. He then decides to be his own guinea pig. So it’s sort of like The Fly but nowhere near as cool. Obviously the self-experimentation goes awry and the dude gets all disfigured, gross and crazy.

They should have just gone the Ed Wood route with this film and just thrown a bunch of other shit into the movie too. If there was like an alien zombie attack going on, a couple vampires and just some general flying saucer shenanigans, I could have at least thought that this was ambitious. But really, it takes a basic, tired ass plot, gives us a basic, tired ass movie and was really just a massive waste of time. A waste for the people that watched it, the people that made it and the poor celluloid that could have been used for something better like, I don’t know… a Dutch documentary about the history of Klomp crafting.

Anyway, I’ve had migraines that were more enjoyable than this film. So you bet your friggin’ ass this is going into the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 5 Stool: Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (passed easily).” I beg to differ on the “passed easily” bit.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: That moment after a big sloppy pooh when you look over and realize that you’re out of toilet paper and your mum isn’t home to pass you one through the cracked door.

Film Review: The Phantom Planet (1961)

Also known as: Planeta Fantasma (Spanish title)
Release Date: December 13th, 1961
Directed by: William Marshall
Written by: William Telaak, Fred De Gortner, Fred Gebhardt
Music by: Leith Stevens
Cast: Dean Fredericks, Coleen Gray, Francis X. Bushman

Four Crown Productions Inc., 82 Minutes

Review:

“We are able to translate all languages with voice tone waves.” – Sessom

Another day, another terrible movie that I watched due to it being featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. I’ve been slowly working my way through the entire MST3K series and I know that I’m more than halfway through it, at this point, but man, there are so many episodes and this feels like a never ending endeavor.

The Phantom Planet is exactly what you would expect from a rocketship movie from 1961 that was made with no budget, very little creativity and a script that probably would’ve been better used to stabilize a wobbly table at Shoney’s.

However, this movie has Coleen Gray in it, which probably means nothing to anyone reading this but she once worked with Stanley Kubrick in The Killing and was in two very good film-noirs: Kansas City Confidential and Nightmare Alley, which is one of the top things Tyrone Power has ever starred in, mind you.

This was also directed by a guy named William Marshall but he isn’t that William Marshall. You know, the suave and sexy black dude that starred in the Blacula films. No, this is just some boring white guy that directed a turkey wearing bells and called it The Phantom Planet.

Now this isn’t the worst space faring sci-fi flick that MST3K has featured. By comparisons sake, it isn’t that bad, actually. It’s still not a good movie but it has the sort of hokiness that is charming.

But let’s run it all down.

The effects are awful, the acting is mostly bad, the direction was pedestrian, the sets were deplorable and the editing was so choppy that I got sea sick and barfed on my popcorn. Still, I don’t hate this.

But that won’t save this movie from going into the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 4 Stool: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft.”

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: Other MST3K fodder that featured rocketships: Women of the Prehistoric PlanetProject MoonbaseRocketship X-MFirst Spaceship on Venus, etc.

Film Review: Girl In Gold Boots (1968)

Release Date: April 25th, 1968
Directed by: Ted V. Mikels
Written by: Art Names, Leighton J. Peatman, John T. Wilson
Music by: Nicholas Carras, Chris Howard
Cast: Jody Daniels, Leslie McRae, Tom Pace, Chris Howard

Geneni Film Distributors, 94 Minutes, 108 Minutes (original cut)

Review:

“I see you’ve been promoted from Yak Boy to Mop Boy.” – Buz Nichols

GIrl In Gold Boots is a film about the seedy side of the go-go dancing world, as told by the man behind The Corpse Grinders and The Black Klansman. And as should be expected, it is of poor quality with bad acting and an insane nonsensical plot full of unlikable characters.

But hey, it’s got hot dancers in it and there is a version you can watch that is riffed by Mike and the ‘Bots courtesy of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Watch that version, as it is actually one of my favorite Mike Nelson MST3K episodes.

In this film, we meet this waitress in some shithole diner in the middle of nowhere. Her father is the cook and he’s a drunk shithead that smacks her around. Some swindler from Hollywood named Buz with just one “z”, convinces her to go back to La La Land with him where he can help make her a go-go dancing sensation. Yes, this is a real plot.

Once things initially work out for this girl, she soon finds herself in a seedy world where everyone is a drug addicted maniac and go-go dancing isn’t the only sexy activity on the menu.

This film is full of terrible scenes but at least the actors got to film that segment on the beach, driving a cool plastic dune buggy thing through the sand. I would have signed up to be in this movie just to drive the dune buggy thing. Well, and to hangout with go-go dancers day and night.

Out of the three Ted V. Mikels films I have seen, this one was the least engaging and pretty damn boring.

You get some musical numbers with cute girls and their jiggly bits but then you get atrocious musical numbers like the proto-emo dude singing in the rain while the female lead’s face is superimposed in the background.

This movie is full of severe cringe. Sometimes I like that though. It’s just that the cringe never seems to lead anywhere worthwhile.

I’m not sure if there is an unrated version of this where you get to see some boobs but there should be. This film was like a big tease and no breasties saw the light of day. It’s like a nudie cutie picture with no nudie. I’d much rather watch Ed Wood’s Orgy of the Dead.

Leslie McRae, the female lead, didn’t have a great career but she did go on to play Cleopatra in Roger Corman and Paul Bartel’s Death Race 2000. She was also in Coffy.

This, like all films of a similar quality, must be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 4 Stool: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft.”

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: The Wild World of BatwomanOrgy of the Dead and Eegah.

Film Review: Thunderball (1965)

Release Date: December 9th, 1965 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Terence Young
Written by: Richard Maibaum, John Hopkins, Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, Ian Fleming
Based on: the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming
Music by: John Barry
Cast: Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi, Rik Van Nutter, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn, Philip Stone

Eon Productions, United Artists, 130 Minutes

Review:

“My dear girl, don’t flatter yourself. What I did this evening was for Queen and country. You don’t think it gave me any pleasure, do you?” – James Bond

After Guy Hamilton directed Goldfinger and took the Bond film franchise away from focusing on SPECTRE, Terence Young came back to direct the fourth film and made SPECTRE a focal point once again. And I’m glad because as much as I like Goldfinger, I’d rather see Connery’s Bond duking it out with Blofeld’s minions on a grand stage. Auric Goldfinger just seemed like a chump when compared to a high ranking SPECTRE agent.

This chapter in the franchise also feels a bit like a call back to the original film, Dr. No. Mainly just in aesthetic and geography though, as this film’s big finale takes place in the Bahamas, which draws some similarities to Dr. No‘s Jamaica sequences.

Also, the villain in this is Emilio Largo, one of the all-time greatest Bond villains of all-time. See, I said “all-time” twice to solidify the point. In fact, I ranked him third on a list where I did a countdown of James Bond baddies. The only villains I ranked higher were Blofeld (obviously) and Francisco Scaramanga because c’mon man, that’s Christopher Lee. Largo is just perfect as a top SPECTRE operative and “Number 2” to Blofeld, who Bond would finally face in the film after this.

In a lot of ways, this sets up the big Bond vs. Blofeld showdown that was coming in You Only Live Twice while also being a culmination of the events that started in Dr. No and From Russia With Love. This is a vital chapter in the Connery era, as it acts as a bridge linking the important SPECTRE plot points. Plus, it’s just damn good.

While this Bond film is tropical and beautiful, it also has a grittiness to it. It feels more real than the previous outing. Granted, that’s a bit undone by the hokey speed boat finale but the technology to make that sequence less cheesy, didn’t exist yet. And really, that whole stopping the super speedy boat from crashing is really my only complaint about the film.

I love Connery’s James Bond. I also love Largo, as I have already pointed out. The scenes that the two share together really take this film to a different level though. Red Grant was good in From Russia With Love and Dr. Julius No was solid in Dr. No. But there is just something larger and more threatening about Largo. Sure, he can’t physically match Bond like Red Grant but he effectively uses other tools and plays to his strengths.

Underwater sequences in movies usually suck, let’s be honest. But the ones in this film just work and there’s a lot of underwater stuff. Plus, you get to see Bond literally swimming with sharks and I mean “literally” in the grammatically correct way and I’m not using “sharks” as a metaphor. I mean actual sharks.

Thunderball is better than just being a popcorn movie set in majestic scenery. If you ever wanted to pick a handful of Bond movies to have a mini marathon with, than this should definitely be in that handful.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Sean Connery James Bond movies, as well as that George Lazenby one.

Film Review: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Also known as: Dr. Strangelove (informal title), Edge of Doom, A Delicate Balance of Terror (both US working titles)
Release Date: January 29th, 1964 (UK & US)
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, Peter George
Based on: Red Alert by Peter George
Music by: Laurie Johnson
Cast: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens, Tracy Reed, Peter Bull, James Earl Jones, Shane Rimmer

Hawk Films, Columbia Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.” – President Merkin Muffley

This is my 1000th film review since starting Cinespiria back in November of 2016. That’s a lot of movies watched in 18 months. Granted, I did filter in reviews from other sites I worked on before this one. Anyway, I wanted review number 1000 to be something special. I chose Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb not because it was my favorite film but because it was partially responsible for putting me on my path of not just loving to watch movies but loving to intimately understand them.

When I was in film studies in high school, back in the mid-’90s, Dr. Strangelove was the first Stanley Kubrick film that we watched out of three; the other two were 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining. While I had seen some of Kubrick’s films before this, it was this experience that really made me learn who the director was and why he was so important and one of the greatest auteurs that ever lived.

Dr. Strangelove isn’t my favorite Kubrick picture but it is still one of my favorite movies of all-time. But I’d say that Kurbick would probably own four spots in my personal top ten.

I love this movie. It is exceptional in a way that films aren’t anymore. I’m not saying that filmmakers today aren’t capable of greatness, they certainly are, but Kubrick could touch any genre and leave a very distinct and very powerful mark.

Dr. Strangelove is a terrifying film, at its core, but it mixes a war story with comedy. Yet, despite its absurdity in several scenes, none of what happens seems all that implausible. Kubrick had that power, the ability to make something seemingly ridiculous and also very real, at the same time. I can only imagine that this film was even more effective when it was current during the height of the Cold War and just over a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Kubrick did an amazing job shooting and capturing this film. He collaborated with cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, who over his career, worked with Alfred Hitchcock, George Lucas, Roman Polanski and Mike Hodges. The two men really capture lightning in a bottle in nearly every scene. All of the material shot in the War Room is superb. In fact, the War Room scene has gone on to inspire countless films over the last half of a century.

The centerpiece of the film is Peter Sellers, who performed three different key roles within the film. All three roles were very different characters. The reason why this happened, is that Columbia Pictures originally wanted Sellers to play four roles, as they believed that the success of Kubrick’s previous film Lolita was due to Sellers’ character in that film assuming different identities. Kubrick reluctantly accepted Columbia’s demand in order to get the picture made. But frankly, it worked and it worked wonderfully. All three of Sellers’ roles in this film have become pretty iconic and all of them would steal the show if not competing for screen time against one another. Sellers should have won the Academy Award but he was beaten out by Rex Harrison for My Fair Lady.

Everyone in this really takes command of the screen, however. There are great performances by George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Slim Pickens and James Earl Jones, who plays a small but important role.

Additionally, the music selections for this film are fantastic and help drive the emotional narrative and growing tension.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a masterpiece that still plays well over fifty years later. It is stupendous and truly is a perfect motion picture.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Other Kubrick films that deal with war: Paths of GloryFear and DesireFull Metal Jacket.

Film Review: Goldfinger (1964)

Release Date: September 17th, 1964 (London premiere)
Directed by: Guy Hamilton
Written by: Richard Maibaum, Paul Dehn, Berkely Mather (uncredited)
Based on: the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming
Music by: John Barry
Cast: Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Fröbe, Shirley Eaton, Harold Sakata, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn

Eon Productions, United Artists, 110 Minutes

Review:

“Man has climbed Mount Everest, gone to the bottom of the ocean. He’s fired rockets at the Moon, split the atom, achieved miracles in every field of human endeavor… except crime!” – Auric Goldfinger

A lot of lifelong James Bond fans that I talk to, consider Goldfinger to be their all-time favorite film in the franchise. While I love it, it isn’t my favorite or even my favorite of the Connery pictures. I rank it behind From Russia With LoveDr. No and Thunderball but let’s be honest, all the Connery films were solid. Yes, even Diamonds Are Forever.

I think the thing that makes this film stand out, is that it feels different than the other pictures from the Connery era. At least, it feels different to me.

Goldfinger is a bit more confined. Sure, Bond travels the world but a big chunk of this film takes place in the United States, which is far from exotic, at least to a guy from the United States. The nicest place in the film is the Swiss Alps but the movie doesn’t spend a great deal of time there. There is Miami, then the London office of MI-6, then the Switzerland stuff and then back to the United States for Auric Goldfinger’s big raid on Fort Knox.

This isn’t what I would call a smaller film but everything just seems less grand overall. In fact, the Fort Knox heist seems a bit below Bond’s pay grade. While I like Goldfinger tremendously as a villain, this film lacks the extra gravitas you get when SPECTRE is present onscreen. Goldfinger was certainly a decent foil but he is sort of a bumbling man baby that Bond had no problems with outsmarting from the outset of the film. I feel like Bond could have dealt with Goldfinger in the first twenty minutes of the story and been done with it, if he wasn’t just trying to frolic with the fancy ladies. This seemed more like a story where Bond was on vacation, got kind of bored and just stumbled upon a quick and easy caper to occupy his downtime.

I guess Oddjob was a formidable henchman but he could have also been easily dispatched with a gut shot from Bond’s Walther PPK. Sure, he’s a big dude with a razor sharp hat but a nice shot to the tummy would have taken the mute Korean bear down. Bond needs to stash more tiny pistols on his person.

Goldfinger, as much as it probably seems like I am knocking it, just makes me feel like we checked in with James Bond on an off day. The villain had charisma and personality but I feel like the bayou sheriff from the Roger Moore Bond films could have beaten Goldfinger accidentally.

I do like the cinematography and the film’s style and visual tone. I also love the Aston Martin DB5. However, the film seemed generally less gadget-y than a typical Bond picture. Although, the car had some cool features that were completely ripped off for the Spy Hunter video game in the ’80s.

I just don’t agree with the popular opinion on this one. It’s a good Bond movie but it is definitely not in the upper echelon. When watched within the context of all the Connery films, it seems like filler and a forced break away from the larger SPECTRE story arc.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The other Sean Connery James Bond movies, as well as that George Lazenby one.

Film Review: From Russia With Love (1963)

Release Date: October 10th, 1963 (London premiere)
Directed by: Terence Young
Written by: Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, Berkely Mather
Based on: the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming
Music by: John Barry
Cast: Sean Connery, Pedro Armendariz, Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw, Bernard Lee, Daniela Bianchi, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn

Eon Productions, United Artists, 115 Minutes

Review:

“Siamese fighting fish, fascinating creatures. Brave but of the whole stupid. Yes they’re stupid. Except for the occasional one such as we have here who lets the other two fight. While he waits. Waits until the survivor is so exhausted that he cannot defend himself, and then like SPECTRE… he strikes!” – Blofeld

After the huge success of Dr. No, Eon Productions didn’t waste any time in fast tracking a sequel. While that usually results in shoddy results, what we actually got was one of the best James Bond films of all-time and my personal favorite out of the Connery pictures.

This also serves to establish SPECTRE as a much bigger threat than you might realize that they were when watching Dr. No. Blofeld makes an appearance here and he employs two of his best agents (and two of the best Bond villains ever) Rosa Klebb, SPECTRE’s “Number 3”, and Donald “Red” Grant, an incredibly talented and deadly assassin, who really is the evil counterpart to James Bond and the first time we’ve seen this sort of character.

What I really like about the Connery Bond pictures, especially the earliest ones, is that they had a seriousness about them. Sure, they were also playful, as Bond movies should be, but they also knew how to balance it really well. Bond doesn’t yet feel invincible and with the opening scene in this picture, where we see how astute Grant is at killing, the danger in this film feels much more real. I think the very dark opening, regardless of its narrative swerve did a lot in foreshadowing the tone of the rest of the picture.

This movie has a real grittiness to it. However, that grittiness started to dissipate with each new Bond film after this one. A grittiness that is mostly non-existent in the era of Roger Moore.

Part of that is due to the fight scenes. This has some of the best cinematic face offs that you will see from the 1960s. The confrontation between Bond and Grant on the train is almost strenuous to watch because it has a real sense of authenticity to it. It’s might vs. might, skill vs. skill, as two well trained men with deadly hands try to kill one another.

Also, Bond still has all of the elements that made him cool and tough in the first film but it’s at a whole different level here. Dr. No was the trial run and now, by film two, Connery seems more comfortable and familiar with the territory. And the best part, is that this was before the character started to become watered down and cliche. Connery’s Bond has a certain panache and gravitas and the writers weren’t trying to purposefully maximize it or fine tune it yet. Connery just put it out there, carried the film and it was all natural. Or at least it felt that way.

And while you don’t need a lot of money to make a good picture, this film had double the budget of its predecessor and it shows. All the on location stuff was great and even though I love the beauty of Jamaica, the Turkey scenes in this are majestic and made the scale of this film come across as much more epic.

From Russia With Love isn’t just one of the greatest James Bond films, it is one of the absolute best in the entire spy thriller genre.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The other Sean Connery James Bond movies, as well as that George Lazenby one.