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: Superdome (1978)

Release Date: January 9th, 1978
Directed by: Jerry Jameson
Written by: Barry Oringer, Bill Svanoe
Music by: John Cacavas
Cast: David Janssen, Edie Adams, Ken Howard, Clifton Davis, Peter Haskell, Susan Howard, Van Johnson, Donna Mills, Tom Selleck, Michael Pataki, M. Emmet Walsh, Vonetta McGee, Bubba Smith, Ed Nelson, Dick Butkus

ABC, 97 Minutes

Review:

This appeared in the first season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, before the show went national. Maybe they never featured it once they went to cable because it was a film so bad that they couldn’t handle sitting through it twice. I really couldn’t handle sitting through it once.

I watched this movie and I really have no idea what the hell was going on in it. There was some plot about a killer, a football veteran with a bum knee, a young quarterback trying to make a name for himself and a really young hot girl swooning over some old fart. And while IMDb categorizes this as a sports movie, it doesn’t feature any sports moments, just people talking about sports as it leads up to the Superbowl. When the Superbowl begins, the film ends.

Superdome is awful. In fact, “awful” isn’t the right word, it just doesn’t have the weight or the meaning I am looking for.

For a movie that takes place in New Orleans, the capital of fun in the American South, it was bland, boring and felt like medieval torture.

I’ve been to New Orleans multiple times, it is a magical place. In fact, you’d have to try damn hard to make a movie in New Orleans and make it an uneventful bore with absolutely no style. I’d be less bored watching a lab rat in a computer class try to write code with C++ for two hours.

Seriously, this film was so damn boring and bogged down with thirteen dozen characters and ninety-three subplots that it was impossible to know what the hell was happening from scene to scene. I mean, at least Bubba Smith and Dick Butkus showed up and tried their best but it was obvious that they were bored too.

Superdome should have been titled Superbore or Superdumb. Either of those would have been more fitting. Besides, this is a slap in the face to the people of New Orleans, the New Orleans Saints, the actual Superdome, the NFL, the entire sport of football and America. The NFL doesn’t need Hollywood’s help in trying to destroy its image, they are doing just fine.

And you bet your ass that this is going into the Cinespiria Shitometer! The results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”

 

Film Review: Jaws 2 (1978)

Release Date: June 16th, 1978
Directed by: Jeannot Szwarc
Written by: Carl Gottlieb, Howard Sackler
Based on: characters by Peter Benchley
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton

Universal Pictures, 116 Minutes

Review:

“But I’m telling you, and I’m telling everybody at this table that that’s a shark! And I know what a shark looks like, because I’ve seen one up close. And you’d better do something about this one, because I don’t intend to go through that hell again!” – Martin Brody

Jaws 2 has its fans and its detractors. I’m more in the fan camp, as I think it is a pretty good sequel, all things considered. Besides, it is nowhere near as bad as the two Jaws films that followed.

For a sequel that lost its original (and legendary) director, two of its lead actors and the benefit of using mystery over a full reveal of the monster, Jaws 2 does pretty good with the pieces of the puzzle it still has.

Roy Scheider is back, as is Lorraine Gary, who plays his wife. Additionally, Murray Hamilton returns as the sleazy town mayor, who apparently learned nothing from his greedy follies in the first Jaws picture.

This chapter in the franchise is much more action heavy. You see the actual shark more often, which is fine. After the big reveal in the first movie, there isn’t much reason to hide him in this one, as the building of suspense in Spielberg’s “less is more” technique wouldn’t work a second time around and in the first movie it was employed to hide the fact that the shark robot never worked properly.

While Jaws 2 is not the near perfect masterpiece of its predecessor, it is a worthy sequel in that it builds off of the first film. It gives you more time with the Brody family and gets more personal than the original movie. The fact that Capt. Brody’s children are in direct danger, makes the tension and the finale work quite well.

Also, the finale has Schneider’s most bad ass moment in his long career. The scene where he finishes off the shark by feeding it an electrical cable is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen a manly man do on film and it tops the killing of the shark from the first movie, even if me saying that pisses some people off.

Jaws 2 is not a perfect picture but it is still a fairly strong outing and a good companion piece to the original. Granted, everything in the franchise just goes off the rails after this.

Film Review: Good Guys Wear Black (1978)

Release Date: June 21st, 1978
Directed by: Ted Post
Written by: Joseph Fraley, Bruce Cohn, Mark Medoff
Music by: Craig Safan
Cast: Chuck Norris, Anne Archer, Soon-Tek Oh, Dana Andrews, James Franciscus, Lloyd Haynes, Jim Backus

American Cinema Releasing, 96 Minutes

Review:

Good Guys Wear Black is one of Chuck Norris’ early films, coming out in the heyday when he was rising to fame in the action movie genre. This was just his second starring vehicle but it helped propel him forward.

The first act of this film was actually my favorite, as it sees a bad ass military squad dressed in black and led by Chuck Norris, raiding the compound of some scumbags. Initially, I thought this was what the film was about and I was enjoying it.

Then the film switched gears. It turned into a conspiracy movie, where members of Norris’ crew were getting killed off and Norris was a target himself.

The film was gritty and embodied the true essence of a late 70s action movie. However, it was broken up by a lot of filler and would’ve benefited from a bit more balls-to-the-wall ass kickery.

The weakest part of the film was the climax, instead of Chuck Norris throwing fists, feet and cracking skulls, he killed the main antagonist in the dumbest and least Chuck Norris way possible – ramping a car into a river, causing the bad guy to drown or whatever.

This film isn’t a complete waste of time, and style-wise it is interesting. The problem with it, is for a film with the title Good Guys Wear Black and starring Chuck Norris, it is like a neutered watered down version of what one should expect from the guy who has been the king of bad ass Internet memes.

Film Review: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Also known as: Zombi (Italy)
Release Date: September 1st, 1978 (Italy)
Directed by: George A. Romero
Written by: George A. Romero
Music by: Goblin, Dario Argento, De Wolfe Music
Cast: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger, Gaylen Ross, Tom Savini, Joseph Pilato, John Landis

Laurel Group, United Film Distribution Company, 116 Minutes (Italy), 127 Minutes (US)

Review:

I’m reworking my way through The Living Dead series of films. I’m going through the George A. Romero ones first and will then look at the films involving John A. Russo, as the two split the franchise down different creative paths after they made the original Night of the Living Dead in 1968.

The second Romero film and the most highly regarded of the series is this one, Dawn of the Dead.

This film came out ten years later and was a co-production between the United States and Italy, as Romero teamed up with Italian horror and giallo maestro Dario Argento. Argento edited the film for Italian audiences, who would see it first, and also brought in Goblin, who worked with him on the music for several of his pictures, most notably Suspiria, which came out a year before this.

In Italy, the film was released as Zombi and it would spawn a series of unofficial sequels, the most famous being Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2. That was released in the States, oddly enough, as Zombie.

To start, Dawn of the Dead is a damn good zombie picture. However, I am in the minority here, as I don’t consider it to be the best of the Romero Living Dead mythos. I actually prefer the other two of the original trilogy and especially consider Day of the Dead to be the best. But I’ll get into why, when I review that one.

Dawn of the Dead is still pretty stellar and it does show the world in a much broader sense than the original. The thing I really liked is that the zombies are everywhere but society hasn’t fully crumbled at the start of the film. Things fall apart over the course of the story, as we learn through television and radio broadcasts until things from the outside world go silent.

In this chapter, two SWAT team members, a helicopter pilot and his girlfriend land on top of a mall. They decide to live there, as it has power and it has all the things they will need to survive and then some.

The bulk of the story deals with the men cleaning out the zombies and securing the mall. They take out the living dead and fortify the entrances by moving semis in front of them. Eventually, things go south when a biker gang shows up, trashes the mall and bring the outside zombies swarming in. This isn’t just a movie where our heroes fight zombies, they also have to deal with a biker gang who want to take their home but ultimately ruin it for everyone.

This is the first film, that I know of, that shows humans having to defend themselves from other humans in a zombie scenario. This was the prototype of almost every zombie story after it. Hell, The Walking Dead is, at this point, a seven season television series based on this concept.

Dawn of the Dead is one of the best zombie movies ever made. To many, it is the best. The trilogy of films it is a part of are responsible for creating the genre and its tropes. It is also interesting, when compared to modern zombie entertainment, as the zombies are still fresh and newly created and therefore, aren’t just ragged flesh hanging off of bones.

Film Review: Avalanche (1978)

Release Date: August 30th, 1978
Directed by: Corey Allen
Written by: Corey Allen, Gavin Lambert (as Claude Pola)
Based on: a story by Frances Doel
Music by: William Kraft
Cast: Rock Hudson, Mia Farrow, Robert Forster, Jeanette Nolan, Rick Moses, Steve Franken, Barry Primus

New World Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

Avalanche is exactly what you would expect it to be, a 1970s run-of-the-mill disaster flick where nothing happens for the first 75 percent of the picture other than developing characters you won’t care about when they are guaranteed to die before the show’s over.

In this particular picture, Rock Hudson plays a prick that bullies his wife around and doesn’t get why she can’t stand him. Mia Farrow plays the wife and she is probably more boring than she has ever been. Robert Forster is also there to be a possible second love interest for Mia Farrow but he just plays it cool because Robert Forster is always cool.

If you haven’t already guessed, the annoying people in this film are on the verge of being run over by an avalanche. As is customary in these pictures, one guy foresees the disaster and warns the important people. However, the important people ignore the warning because they “don’t want to create a panic”, which means, they want to collect money from the clueless saps who are in danger.

We get an hour or so of douchey people and their lame swanky parties until the avalanche finally kicks off. When it does, good bye ski resort!

The action isn’t very exciting and some of the avalanche special effects are pretty bad. The resort gets run over pretty quickly and it seems like we wasted an hour waiting for the destruction that was promised only to see it happen too quickly.

The film sort of makes up for that though, as everything after the avalanche becomes even more dangerous. I’m not sure why but the film makes everything after the avalanche a death trap. An ambulance, for no apparent reason, crashes through a building. Then we get things falling over, things exploding, bridges collapsing, people fall off of ski lifts only to miss the rescuers holding their safety trampoline thingy, it’s a real shit show.

Ultimately, this film is boring, lame and full of at least a couple gallons of liquid suck. It should definitely be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. So let’s see the results… Well, what we have here is Avalanche categorized as a Type 5 stool, which is defined as “Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (passed easily).” Whatever, I couldn’t pass it that easily.

Film Review: Laserblast (1978)

Release Date: March 1st, 1978
Directed by: Michael Rae
Written by: Frank Ray Perilli, Franne Schacht
Music by: Richard Band, Joel Goldsmith
Cast: Kim Milford, Cheryl Smith, Gianni Russo, Roddy McDowall, Keenan Wynn, Dennis Burkley, Eddie Deezen

Irwin Yablans Company, 80 Minutes

Review:

Laserblast has gone on to be a sort of cult film, mainly because it was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. I actually didn’t see the episode when it aired back in May of 1996, where it was the final episode of the show on Comedy Central. It moved to the Sci-Fi Channel the following season. It was also the last episode to feature Trace Beaulieu, who played mad scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester and provided the voice of Crow T. Robot.

I didn’t first see Laserblast until more recently, when revisiting MST3K, in an effort to see every single episode that was still available.

To put it mildly, the film is absolutely atrocious in every way. Yet, somehow, they convinced Roddy McDowell to be in it but he often times would sign on to a pile of shit in spite of his talent. Luckily, he rebounded, somewhat, a decade later with Fright Night (probably best to ignore its sequel, though).

Laserblast also features nerd extraordinaire Eddie Deezen. He pretty much played different variations of the same role throughout the 70s and 80s. He’s probably most known for Grease and its horrible sequel but he was also known for War GamesCritters 2, Steven Spielberg’s 1941Midnight Madness and being a prominent voice actor.

The film also stars a bunch of other people but when I have to point out Eddie Deezen, as a casting high point, it’s probably best to ignore the rest of the people in the picture.

Laserblast is dull, it is stupid and it is a waste of the celluloid it was filmed on. The special effects are some of the worst that I have seen come out of the late 1970s. The spaceship is crap, its animation and physics of movement resemble that of an unintelligent child playing with his toys. The aliens are presented in stop motion of the worst kind in what was an embarrassing homage to the great Ray Harryhausen. The props were even worse, especially the arm-mounted laser gun that looked more like an early prototype of a t-shirt launching air cannon than anything menacing or bad ass.

There really is nothing about the film that is worthwhile. Without MST3K commentary, this would be damn near impossible to sit through. It is uninteresting, ugly and clearly displays a complete lack of talent in the filmmakers.

In reference to this motion picture, Mary Jo Pehl of MST3K said, “The lead guy, Kim Somebody, is another sterling example of how filmmaking is not a meritocracy. The fact that this film was even made proves that ‘anybody can do it.’ You can find this either inspiring or depressing.”