Film Review: House (1977)

Also known as: Hausu (Japan)
Release Date: July 30th, 1977 (Japan)
Directed by: Nobuhiko Obayashi
Written by: Chiho Katsura, Chigumi Obayashi
Music by: Asei Kobayashi, Mickie Yoshino
Cast: Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, Ai Matubara, Kumiko Oba, Mieko Sato, Eriko Tanaka, Masayo Miyako, Yōko Minamida

Toho Co. Ltd., 88 Minutes

Review:

“She eats unmarried young girls. It is the only time she can wear her wedding gown.” – Gari

I don’t think that anyone can argue that House is not one of the most bizarre motion pictures ever made. It’s certifiably insane but I mean that in the best way possible. Frankly, it is one of the most unique film experiences I have ever had. It’s so unique that I’m not surprised it hasn’t reached a larger cult status.

It is hard to describe what the film is. It’s like someone strung together a couple old Japanese folktales of yōkai, handed the directorial reigns over to Dario Argento and told him he had to take a bunch of LSD before rolling the camera.

The story itself is fairly simple. We follow seven Japanese schoolgirls who go into the country to stay at the house of an auntie of one of the girls. Except when they get there, things start to get weird and girls start going missing.

The cool thing that sets all the girls apart, is that each one is a stereotype of some kind with a nickname that fits the stereotype. Kung Fu is a badass martial arts chick, Prof is a brainy girl, Fantasy tells stories with lots of embellishments, Melody plays the piano, etc.

The film also utilizes trippy animation and physical environments constructed of very obvious matte painting backdrops. While this may look cheap at first, it creates a true fantasy world that doesn’t even scratch the surface with how weird this film will get as it continues to roll on.

The special effects for a lower budget Japanese film in the 1970s aren’t much to write home about but this film makes the most out of its limitations and because of the strange environment, the effects are easy to accept. This is a film that you just have to roll with but rolling with it is actually quite easy. It has this endearing hokiness that is infectious.

The acting is on par with a 1970s Japanese tokusatsu program. If you’re a fan of the UltramanKamen Rider or Super Sentai franchises, you know what I’m talking about. It isn’t great acting but it is comedic, physical, overstated and fun. Most of the actors are amateurs but they handled the material well and felt like authentic girls being themselves.

There is some really artistic gore in this but nothing too disturbing. A lot of it is mixed with animation or as a part of a visual collage. Also, the colors are vibrant and the gore is reminiscent of what you would see at the height of the Italian giallo movement. The film could even be described as a Japanese folktale mixed with Alice In Wonderland and some vivid blood splatter.

Trying to quantify what the entirety of this picture is with words isn’t an easy task. Maybe the trailer below will help. Regardless, this is a film worth experiencing at least once in your lifetime.

Film Review: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Release Date: August 14th, 1975
Directed by: Jim Sharman
Written by: Richard O’Brien, Jim Sharman
Based on: The Rocky Horror Show by Richard O’Brien
Music by: Richard Hartley, Richard O’Brien (songs)
Cast: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell, Jonathan Adams, Peter Hinwood, Meat Loaf, Charles Gray

Michael White Productions, 20th Century Fox, 100 Minutes

Review:

“A mental mind fuck can be nice.” – Frank

The Rocky Horror Picture Show was not initially a good experience for me the first time I saw it. I was dating this girl that was obsessed with it and she took me to a midnight showing of the film. Little did I know that I was going to be in for an insane shitshow where the audience is jumping around and yelling the entire time. Not to mention everyone singing over the film in voices that ranged from Tiny Tim to an industrial shredder. This certainly was not the way to experience this movie for the first time. My girlfriend failed at showing me her greatest love so I then failed at making her mine.

Watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show, at home and in private, is a much better way to see the film on a first viewing. While the theater experience is wild and nuts, it is hard to decipher what the hell you are watching with this bizarre picture.

I am not a fan of musicals but the music in this film is at least pretty good and thoroughly entertaining, even if every girl I’ve ever dated has played “Time Warp” a gazillion times to the point where it makes me want to shoot myself in the head.

This film works though. The main reason is because of how fun and weird it is. Plus, Tim Curry,who is already amazing, is on an otherworldly level as Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Then again, Curry literally takes over ever single picture he is in. He has massive charm and is fully dedicated to everything he does. So seeing him as a transvestite mad scientist is pretty badass regardless of the narrative context or a film’s overall quality.

I also love the sets and the vibe of the picture. And the cinematography is impressive, especially in regards to the lighting and the use of vivid colors and shadowy contrasts.

While, to me, this isn’t a classic in the way it is for most of the girls I’ve dated since my teen years, it is still a motion picture that is one of a kind. It’s kind of baffling how this even got made and released by a major studio. It has a sort of grindhouse vibe to it and even reminds me of some of the cooler nudie cuties of the 1960s but with less boobies and better music.

But if I want to watch a horror themed sexual extravaganza, I’m more apt to watch Ed Wood’s Orgy of the Dead.

Film Review: Halloween (1978)

Release Date: October 25th, 1978
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Music by: John Carpenter
Cast: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles, Nancy Loomis, Charles Cyphers

Compass International, Falcon Productions, Debra Hill Productions, 91 Minutes

Review:

“I met him, fifteen years ago. I was told there was nothing left; no reason, no conscience, no understanding; and even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six-year-old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes… the devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.” – Dr. Loomis

I’m not a massive fan of Halloween, the original film, as most people are. While I have loved slasher movies since I was a kid, and while I love the Halloween franchise, as a whole, my first real love in horror was Freddy Krueger and A Nightmare On Elm Street, followed by Jason Voorhees and Friday the 13th.

In debates, hardcore Michael Myers fans always want to point out that he came first. Yes, he did debut before Freddy and Jason. But despite the public consensus, Myers was not the first slasher. He may have popularized the genre but Halloween wasn’t anything new, even in 1978. There was Black Christmas, a nice little slasher from Canada that came out in 1974 and was actually a better movie, in my opinion. The Italians, specifically Mario Bava and Dario Argento, were also making giallo films for well over a decade before Halloween and those were the prototype for the slasher pictures of the 70s and 80s.

Not to take anything away from the greatness of Halloween but it was hardly original. Although, it may have been a lot cooler, due to the look of Michael Myers, and that’s what made it a cultural phenomenon that people still embrace four decades later.

By slasher standards, however, Halloween really isn’t that good. I’m sorry but there are a lot better films in the genre. Most of the stuff that happens to build suspense is completely nonsensical and goofy when not seen through nostalgic goggles.

The thing that saves this film are the elements that work for it. Primarily, Donald Pleasenca as Dr. Loomis and “The Shape” a.k.a. Michael Myers are the real glue of this picture.

The film also benefits from its look, which is a testament to how talented John Carpenter was behind the camera. He captured mood and tone in just the right way. He also enhanced this picture with one of the most famous scores in horror film history. His theme for the film is still creepy as hell and will never not be included on people’s Halloween playlists for the rest of time.

Jamie Lee Curtis got her real start in this film but even though the character of Laurie Strode is highly regarded as a supreme scream queen, she doesn’t do much other than stab Myers in the eye with a coat hanger. She’s mostly a damsel in distress and only defends herself with animal instinct once she is cornered and completely exposed to the killer. She certainly wasn’t anything like the badass Nancy was from A Nightmare On Elm Street or some of the leading ladies from the Friday the 13th films.

I don’t want to sound like I am trashing Halloween, I do truly love the film. I just kind of see it for what it is. It was significant and popularized slasher films in the United States. It also doesn’t hurt that it is simply called Halloween.

I’m also that asshole that thinks that Halloween III, the one without Michael Myers, is far superior to any of the Myers films for the fact that it is truly horrific, original, bizarre and just a ball of wacky insanity. Plus it has Tom f’n Atkins in it.

Film Review: The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970)

Also known as: Point of Terror (US alternate title)
Release Date: February 19th, 1970 (Italy)
Directed by: Dario Argento
Written by: Dario Argento
Based on: The Screaming Mimi by Fredric Brown (uncredited)
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno, Eva Renzi

Seda Spettacoli, CCC Filmkunst GmbH, Titanus, 101 Minutes

Review:

“Bring out the perverts!” – Inspector Morosini

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage would be a high point for any director’s career. In the case of Italian giallo maestro Dario Argento, this was his debut picture.

Tapping into a major influence of his, Argento took the giallo style that Mario Bava was famous for and gave it a much harder edge and grittier atmosphere. Argento still employs a vibrant color palate to create this world he lets us live in for 101 minutes but everything is much more realistic and less fantastical.

Crystal Plumage really takes the giallo formula to a slasher movie level. And while it even has a certain aura of film-noir, it bridges the gap between these distant generations almost seamlessly. It is a true giallo but it taps into an older Hitchcockian thriller vibe and looks towards the future with touches of John Carpenter. It truly is a bizarre and eye opening experience, as it shows you how certain genres can kind of give birth to new and different things: noir to giallo and giallo to slashers. That evolution has never been clearer than it is in this picture.

The film is a murder mystery where the murders start to pile up. Pretty girls die, the hero witnesses a murder attempt and then puts himself in harms way in order to lure the killer out. Eventually, his girlfriend is put into danger because what is a giallo without a pretty girl running from a knife?

The main actor is Tony Musante, who I liked a lot in the Sergio Corbucci spaghetti western The Mercenary. He starred alongside the great Franco Nero in that one, as well as Jack Palance – a good pair of actors to learn from. His girlfriend is played by Suzy Kendall, who would go on to be in another pivotal giallo picture, Sergio Martino’s Torso.

This film is also a part of a loose trilogy of pictures by Argneto referred to as The Animal Trilogy. The other two films are the ones that immediately followed this one: The Cat o’ Nine Tails and Four Flies On Grey Velvet. All three films share similar themes and have a consistent visual style.

This was the precursor to a lot of great work by Argento. It was a magnificent starting point for the young director and he also got to work with the legendary composer Ennio Morricone.

The film is a visual feast and showed that Dario Argento had something exceptional in regards to his ability to shoot a scene and how to use color and darkness. A true master of mise-en-scène from the very get go, Argento’s work here is pretty profound for his lack of experience helming a motion picture.

Film Review: Psychomania (1973)

Also known as: The Death Wheelers, The Frog, The Living Dead
Release Date: January 5th, 1973 (West Germany)
Directed by: Don Sharp
Written by: Arnaud d’Usseau, Julian Zimet
Music by: John Cameron
Cast: George Sanders, Beryl Reid, Nicky Henson, Mary Larkin, Roy Holder, Robert Hardy

Benmar Productions, Scotia-Barber, Scotia International, International Film Distributors, 95 Minutes

Review:

“It’s easy to kill live people.” – Jane Pettibone

When I read the premise of this film, I got massively excited. I had to see it! However, watching it was a massive disappointment.

The premise stated that the film was about a small town biker gang called The Living Dead. They are a wild bunch with skull helmets that like to hangout in cemeteries and obsess over dead stuff. The leader kills himself to actually be reborn as “the living dead”. The rest of his crew follow suit and we get an evil biker gang that is seemingly immortal, indestructible and have super strength.

This film could have been something really cool but in the end, it was mostly a bore without any real frights or scares and it was all just really nonsensical and pointless.

The biker leader is the bratty son of some rich psychic lady with ties to some ancient power or something. The biker brat gets some mysterious frog and they are able to harness its mystical powers so that the young man can become a handsome leather clad zombie biker. In fact, when the biker brat emerges from the grave on his motorcycle, he has no dirt on him and his hair looks like some model’s from a 1970s Short & Sassy shampoo commercial.

The movie suffers from the fact that there isn’t a likable person in it. Everyone is actually kind of deplorable. The one character that is supposed to be the innocent girl about to be victimized by the zombie bikers is actually a member of the gang that just doesn’t have any interest in being undead. Still, she is a part of this gang of nincompoops and the audience shouldn’t really give a shit about her.

Our biker zombies never really become zombies anyway. They just look the same but they can easily murder people with their bare hands and Incredible Hulk grip.

This is a dumb and pointless movie and the music throughout it is horrible. I don’t hate it though; it isn’t total shit. It just sort of exists in a weird limbo. It could have been something interesting but it failed to be good and it failed to be bad. Had it been atrociously bad, it could have been somewhat endearing. It was just a boring dud with no style and not a lot of substance.

Film Review: Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Release Date: May 27th, 1977
Directed by: Hal Needham
Written by: James Lee Barrett, Charles Shyer, Alan Mandel
Music by: Bill Justis, Jerry Reed
Cast: Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jackie Gleason, Jerry Reed, Mike Henry, Pat McCormick, Paul Williams, Macon McCalman

Rastar, Universal Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“What we’re dealing with here is a complete lack of respect for the law.” – Sheriff Buford T. Justice

Smokey and the Bandit is one of those pop culture things that was huge and often times talked about when I was a kid. Granted, I wasn’t born until the end of 1978 but this was a film that I couldn’t escape, as it spawned a few sequels and was so beloved that it was on television and VHS everywhere I looked. But justifiably so, because there is just something bad ass and cool about Burt Reynolds, especially with Jerry Reed as his partner and Jackie Gleason in hot pursuit. Not to mention the charming charisma of Sally Field.

While this is a massively cherished movie, I personally don’t see it as a classic worthy of the highest levels of esteem. Is it fun? You bet your ass. It is also hilarious, at times, and the characters are all pretty lovable. All that aside though, it’s not a great movie. Well, not great in the sense that it should be a true cinematic classic.

The action is better than decent but it isn’t anything exceptional. It really plays like an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard except it is a feature length picture. As a kid, I certainly enjoyed The Dukes of Hazzard a lot more but maybe that is because I had the car, the poster and it was on television just about every single day. Sure, that television series was obviously inspired by Smokey and the Bandit and a whole slew of cowboy car and trucker movies but it had a bigger impact on me and I certainly feel more nostalgic for it than Smokey.

Burt Reynolds is still pretty damn enjoyable in anything but therein lies the problem. Had this not been a vehicle for Reynolds, it probably would have just come and went and not reached the pop culture heights that it did. Take out Jackie Gleason and you’re not left with much other than a run of the mill car stunt movie.

This is a film that is truly carried by its stars. While I would probably still find enjoyment with it had someone else played the Bandit, I doubt that the general public would have gotten behind it like they did.

The direction isn’t great and the editing is choppy in some parts and actually has a lot of mistakes, especially in regards to where vehicles are in relation to each other from cut to cut. Also, Coors is a pretty shitty beer but the microbrewery revolution hadn’t really kicked off in 1977 and rednecks today still drink mass produced swill.

While it may sound like I am being hard on this film, I’m just putting the facts out there, as I see them. I really like Smokey and the Bandit but not in the same vein as its hardcore fans. But that’s okay. Everyone has their cup of tea and while this is a very good cup, it isn’t a great cup.

Film Review: Angels Revenge (1979)

Also known as: Angels Brigade, Seven Angels
Release Date: February, 1979
Directed by: Greydon Clark
Written by: Greydon Clark, Alvin L. Fast
Music by: Gerald Lee
Cast: Sylvia Anderson, Lieu Chinh, Jacqueline Cole, Liza Greer, Robin Greer, Susan Kiger, Peter Lawford, Jack Palance, Jim Backus

Arista Films, 97 Minutes

Review:

“Women can make a difference!” – April

This film is almost completely unwatchable. Thankfully, it was riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and they made it much more tolerable. Still, it is a real chore to sit through this thing and I’m a guy that will watch Jack Palance in anything.

These are what I call jigglevenge movies. It’s a movie where a bunch of big breasted women get together to get revenge on some man pig that is evil. In this case, these women band together to kill some man pig drug dealers. Of course, the big disappointment with this film is that these pretty girls wear unflattering jumpsuits for almost the entire film.

Although, they have a cool armored van that looks like a time traveling DeLorean had sex with the A-Team van. Then again, it is unimpressive and useless, as are the women piloting the thing. They could’ve outfitted it with all sorts of cool weapons and gadgets but that probably would’ve needed a budget and I’m pretty sure that all Jack Palance and Jim Backus got for doing this movie were two-for-one coupons they had to use together at Big Hector’s Enchilada Bus and Foot Massage.

Angels Revenge or Angels’ Brigade or Charlie’s Rejects is dumb, boring and pointless. It is obviously trying to ripoff a famous show featuring bad ass beauties also referred to as “Angels” but it isn’t a tenth of what that show was and that show wasn’t that great to begin with.

This is also rated PG, which really limits what this film can do in regards to expressing its sex appeal. I guess that’s why this jigglevenge movie has the jiggle contained in Super Dave Osborne jumpsuits. I mean there are a few bikini beach moments but nothing spectacular. Everyone looks bored and disinterested and that’s not sexy. Have you ever been to the strip club and the girls look bored and disinterested? It’s not a fun time and I’m certainly not buying any of them drinks or chow mein from Mr. Wu’s next door.

So considering the awfulness of this picture, it needs to be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”

Although, I did like the line from the trailer where the narrator states, “…a fighting force of velvet bodies primed for action!” That alone saved this from getting a one out of ten rating but it’s not even a line in the movie, just genius marketing.