Miller’s Crossing

After the recent low-grade film viewings I decided I needed to see a quality film again, so I chose this Coen brothers masterpiece. I have seen this before, but this is the first post for this film on MBMS, so I must have last watched this a long time ago. Still, I remembered a lot of it.

There is not much to say about this one really, except that it is a perfect gangster film, not even Scorcese could do any better. The casting, cinematography, sets, writing, and of course directing were all top-notch. There is no use writing more, no need to. So to fill in some space, here are some images…

Gabriel Byrne as “Tommy”.
Albert Finney as “Leo”.
Albert Finney (on right) as a maid.
John Turturro as “Bernie Bernbaum”.
Sam Raimi in a cameo.
J.E. Freeman and Marcia Gay Harden

It is amazing that this film is now 28 years old, it hasn’t aged a day. I would love to see it at the theatre.

And the Coen Brothers are now in the MBMS Page of Fame.

Date watched: December 1st
Score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 80

Stanley Clarke – Modern Man

I bought this a few weeks back on vinyl, from Good Times

Click on the cover to listen to the title track.

I bought his self-titled album a while ago, and liked it so much that I wanted more. So, when I saw this I bought it, no questions asked.

Unfortunately though it is a little disappointing. It is supposed to be a jazz fusion album, but to me it sounds more like a mix of disco and funk, and in fact it came out in a still very disco 1978. There are plenty of horns, disco-guitars, and various singers, along with piano and Stan’s funky bass playing. But, it just doesn’t do it for me, as much as I like Stan and disco, the two just don’t go together for me. Reviews on the Interwebs are also quite mixed.

The vinyl, cover, and insert are all in minty condition, all good there. It is a Japanese pressing.

I do like the cover though, Stan was a cool customer back in those days.

Stan’s best album cover.
This one is cool, too.

I am sure though this is just a blip in the Stan catalogue, so I shall continue seeking out more of his albums, those two above albums especially.

Stan has a great website, check it out.

Music count 2018: 105
Total vinyl count: 22

Reform School Girls

Browsing on YouTube for eighties films I chanced upon this and chose it because it had the name Wendy O. Williams attached to it. She was of course the vocalist for the Plasmatics, a band I got into a while back.

The story is about a teenager busted for a crime she unwillingly took part in (a shootout between her boyfriend and a security guard), and she is sent off to reform school. The school turns out to be run by a mean and unhinged ward head, and a nazi-like reform school warden. The school is populated by bad girls, mostly wearing designer lingerie and sporting very 80’s hairstyles.

Wendy plays a bully who is also best buds with the ward head, Edna. Together they terrorise the new girl and her fellow new inmates. The story follows pretty much any other story of this type: the girls rebel against the oppressive regime, fight the bully, a kind-hearted doctor at the school tries to expose the goings-on at the school but fails. But after the suicide of one of the girls, all of the girls go berzerb and trash the place then march on the warden. Edna totally flips and goes on a shotgun rampage then dies after climbing up a tower (while blasting away with the shotgun), which caught fire after Wendy drove a bus into the tower, causing an explosion and fire, and she fell to a flaming/screaming death.

Williams, the warden, ward head “Edna”.

It all sounds rather fun, but for the most part it just played out like a bad 80’s action flick, but with scantily-clad females and of course a nude shower scene or two. Reading about it on the Interwebs I see that the director actually intended this film to be a spoof of two of his own earlier “women-in-prison” films which he was not pleased with. It didn’t really feel like a spoof, it mostly played out quite straight except for Edna who was playing her part way over the top.

Still, it was kind of fun to watch, mostly because of Edna and Wendy. I suspect Wendy was pretty much playing her on-stage self, when she yelled angrily in one scene you could hear the angry singer of the Plasmatics.

Some trivia from IMDB:
Wendy O. Williams refused to wear any outfits that weren’t her own for the film. She also refused to take off her boots and even wears her boots in the shower scenes.

Wendy O. Williams would come to work and do 200 sit-ups before coming onto the set.

Director ‘Tom DeSimone’ has stated that actress Pat Ast could be a headache on set as he would have to feed her lines, and in one scene in particular she refused to walk because the ground was too soft.

This documentary about Wendy, while not well made, was interesting.

Date watched: November 30th
Score: 5/10
Film count 2018: 79

Krull

The opening shot of the huge evil mountain spaceship making a slow pass across the screen on it’s way to conquering the planet of Krull seemed quite promising, it was quite impressive. But, as it would turn out it was also the best thing about the whole film.

This adventure fantasy film was made in 1983, the same year Return of the Jedi came out. It was also the most expensive film of the year with a budget of 47 big ones, compared to 42 big ones for Jedi. It was a flop though, and it is not hard to see why.

The main problem was the story which was very dull, even the action sequences were tedious and lacking. Some things happened on screen without explanation, and scenes which would have required actors to act surprised, shocked, or otherwise were just met with looks of boredom or not knowing what is going on. One such scene is where we are introduced to the comedy relief, a magician who suddenly appears by flying into the scene as a fireball, landing into a pond. The two main characters who were taking a rest next to the pond just looked on as if they were waiting for a bus, not even any dialogue such as “What the flippin’ heck was that?!”, or “Bajeezas!”.

The acting was adequate and included fine actors such as a young Liam Neeson and equally young Robbie Coltrane. All of the cast were British in fact, except for the hero dude who was an American, of course. The lead female (one of only two women in the film) was British but the producers decided her voice should be completely dubbed over with an American voice…sheesh! Robbie Coltrane’s voice was also dubbed, but by a fellow Brit actor for some reason.

“Time to save the day!”. “Careful dear, you might cut yourself!”.

It would appear that most of that 47 million went towards the elaborate sets and the filming locations (Italy mostly). The set in the photo below in particular was quite impressive, but was only used for a very brief part of the film.

Made on the 007 sound stage at Pinewood studios.

The interior sets too were pretty fancy. Twenty-three sets were made in all.

The director was Peter Yates who also directed Bullitt.

This is now considered a cult classic, but I really can’t see why. I wouldn’t say this is a disaster, but it should have been a whole lot better.

Date watched: November 30th
Score: 4/10
Film count 2018: 78

Better Off Dead

I thought this 1980’s teen comedy might be fun to watch, but it wasn’t at all.

John Cusack plays a teenager (John was 19 at the time) who loses his girlfriend to the high school ski team captain, and he attempts to get her back. Along the way he meets a French exchange student and by the end of the film he is no longer interested in his ex but in the French girl instead, of course.

Also in the story is David Ogden Stiers (he died this year), Curtis Armstrong (Booger from Revenge of the Nerds), and a cast of mostly unknown but at least decent actors.

Roy Stalin (ski captain), Charles De Mar (Booger), ex-girlfriend, and Lane Myer (Cusack).
Davod Ogden Stiers and Kim Darby (she played the girl in the original True Grit film).

The jokes were mostly very silly, very much only jokes that teens in the eighties would enjoy…today’s teens would probably not even watch this film. The actors though did the best they could, and towards the end of the film the French girl fixed up John’s Chevy Camaro which was a real nice car, so that kept my attention while it was on screen.

French girl, John, Camaro.

Also of interest was when I realised that Curtis Armstrong did the voice of Scooter on Terrible Thunderlizards, and old fave cartoon series, he sounded exactly as he did in the cartoon, especially in this scene. Savage Steve Holland who directed this film also created, directed, and voiced the character Doc (Doc is the character on the left, Jason Priestley’s “Squat” character on the right) in Terrible Thunderlizards. And I just learned that Jason Priestley also voiced a character on that show.

So as a film it was not much at all, but I imagine for many it is a piece of eighties teen comedy nostalgia. I did enjoy researching this one though, there is a lot going on in the background of this film, this site has some juicy facts.

Something you may not know about John Cusack is that he was a kickboxer. From Wikipedia: He trained in kickboxing under former world kickboxing champion Benny Urquidez for over two decades. He began training under Urquidez in preparation for his role in Say Anything… and holds the rank of a level six black belt in Urquidez’s Ukidokan Kickboxing system.

I will continue with eighties films though, I have Krull lined up next.

Date watched: November 25th
Score: 3/10
Film count 2018: 77

Killers From Space

It was the title that got me on this one, it sounded thrilling, but it was anything but. Not even Peter Graves could help this one.

The story starts off with a nuclear test in the desert, complete with soldiers, scientists, and top brass observing it from a distance with dark goggles. Also observing is scientist Peter Graves who is flying in a jet fighter around the site to take measurements. He and the pilot spot a bright light coming from the ground near where the bomb went off, so they fly in to investigate. The plane controls though freeze and it crashes, killing the pilot, and Peter Graves is found to be missing. Later, Peter Graves turns up at base with not a scratch except for a scar over his heart…he had been operated on!

Peter Graves and the chief bug-eye.

He is taken in for testing and after he acts pretty weird for a while the doctor decides to give him a truth serum. Under the serum he blurts out the truth of what happened. He explains he was taken underground by alien men with buggy eyes after the crash. He was dead, but they revived him by working on his heart and he was then as good as new. After waking up he found out that the aliens were from a planet where the sun was dying. The aliens had to adapt to less sunlight by growing buggy eyes so they could see better. They decided to find other planets to colonise so a bunch of them went to Earth and set up base underground in the nuke test area. There, they started to breed giant lizards, bugs, and other nasties which they would use to wipe out humanity. Peter Graves, being a scientist, figured out that they were getting power from a local power station to run their operation, and that if they lost that power things would overload. The chief bug-eye cottoned onto him so had the big chief alien up in the orbiting space station mesmerise Peter Graves via a television screen, then he was sent on his way to get info about the next nuclear test, which would be the last test they needed before world domination.

The truth serum didn’t convince the military brass, they thought Peter Graves was looney, so Peter Graves busted out of hospital, went to the power station and after a tense stand-off while holding an engineer at gunpoint, had the power turned off for ten seconds, which caused an almighty explosion in the bug-eyes underground lair, a huge nuclear mushroom cloud of an explosion…they were all toast. The end dialogue was: “Just as he said!”, “He blew them to pieces!”. Smiles all round then end titles.

The film was made in 1953 which was a busy year for nuke testing, 11 tests in all, and all above ground in Nevada. One test was even performed by firing a nuke from an artillery gun…scary stuff. The filmmakers did not seem to be making an anti-nuke film, they were just using it as a plot device.

The alien abduction, operation scar on Peter Graves chest, and brainwashing was interesting. Stories of actual people claiming alien abduction did not start until a year later.

As entertainment it was not much, there was a lot of talking but very little action, and no killing at all on the alien side of things. They just looked silly with their ping-pong ball eyes which must have been very uncomfortable to wear. It was good to see a 28 year old Peter Graves though, a fave actor of mine because of his role in the Airplane films, as well as the Mission Impossible TV series. It was a B-grade film though, so not much can be expected from it.

I have decided Peter must go into the MBMS Page of Fame, a most worthy actor.

It is time to watch a more modern film. I feel like an eighties film next.

Date watched: November 23rd
Score: 4/10
Film count 2018: 76

Beyond The Time Barrier

This is a 1960 science fiction film that was made in 10 days, and it shows.

The story is about a test pilot who jumps in his X-80 super fighter jet and whizzes off into space, aiming to break the 6,000 mph mark. What he ends up doing is transport himself to the year 2024. There he discovers that the world has been affected by a plague caused by the nuclear tests of the 50’s and 60’s, and we discover that this is an anti-nuke film.

The year 2024 (actual screenshot from the film)

Most of the population has become mindless savages who are held captive by people who are not savage but are mostly deaf mutes. The big boss, named The Supreme, and his chief security officer are the only ones who can speak, and they don’t want the pilot to go back to the past. Being held captive are four other time travellers from various times in the past, including a meddling Ruskie. They want to help the pilot go back to the 1960’s so he can prevent the nuclear tests, but actually they are planning on going back too.

“Take that you cad!”

The beautiful girl in the story is Princess Trirene, granddaughter of the The Supreme, and she can read minds and she trusts the pilot so helps him escape to the past. Once back in 1960 the pilot instantly ages to an old man, but he manages to convince the Pentagon brass that nuclear tests must stop.

“Gimme some sugar baby!”
“Spare a talent for an old ex-leper. “

The acting in this film is quite wooden, and at times some actors were in ultra-dramatic mode. The dialogue was simple and quite silly at times, especially the science boffins’ explanation of why the pilot went ahead in time. I liked the fact that the Pentagon brass accepted his highly implausible story about his adventures and demand that nuclear testing must stop, they basically just said “Yeah, alright then, you seem to be telling the truth”. If it was a 2018 film starring The Cruiser it would take half the film for Tommo to convince them, not 30 seconds.

“So, you went to the year 2024?”. “Yep, sure did”. “And you reckon we have to stop nuclear testing?”. “Yep”. “Seems legit, better do something about it then”.

The director was Edgar G. Ulmer, who also directed The Man from Planet X. I can’t decide which film I like more…maybe The Man from Planet X just because of the wacky alien.

The film was made with the cooperation of the Air Force. From Wikipedia: The film’s action sequences used Air Force weapons, M1 carbines and M1911A1 pistols, with the actors taking care not to fire the weapons directly at one another.

This is neither bad nor good, but I found it slightly entertaining just for the silliness of it all.

Date watched: November 23rd
Score: 5/10
Film count 2018: 75