Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Great And Crazy Movies...

A new (?) cable-ish network called EPIX is throwing up a bunch of really lousy 70's/80's horror and sci-fi that pretty much is like sitting in my living room circa that era and going through my VHS tape collection.  Just randomly grabbing things, I found LADY FRANKENSTEIN (poor Joseph Cotten stars, "from Citizen Kane to THIS?!"), the Traci Lords version of Roger Corman's NOT OF THIS EARTH, Umberto Lenzi's grotesque zombie epic NIGHTMARE CITY (in subtitled Italian!), and perhaps the most grotesque, WILLIAM SHATNER'S GONZO BALLET, a dance film based on William Shatner's musical collaboration with Ben Folds.

The Shatner piece is recent, but the other stuff appears to be taken directly from the original fuzzy VHS copies. This is not some archival effort ala Blue Underground's Criterion-like restorations, but down and dirty and the exactly the way I remember them.  Since the channel comes in over whatever crazy cable package I'm getting, I'm not sure what I'm paying for this stuff, but it's worth it!

OLDBOY: A bit more recent (as in "last year"), I finally caught up to Spike Lee's remake of OLDBOY.  The original version is an insane, completely perverse masterpiece.  The remake is more or less faithful (must less toward the end), but for some reason, despite some amazing talent, it just doesn't come together.  Josh Brolin plays the title character, a bore who finds himself locked in a hotel room-ish prison for 20 years, with no idea why he's there or who's holding him.  He gets to watch plenty of TV during his incarceration and learns he's been framed for his wife's murder.  20 years in, he's suddenly released and goes on a mission of vengeance.  Somehow 20 years in stir has given him the chance to develop some keen martial arts skills, which he definitely needs as he takes hammers and fists to an assortment of folks who don't want to give a guy a break.  Eventually he discovers the magnitude of the mad plot that led to his incarceration, a plot that required some impossible to predict alliances to succeed.  I can't quite put my finger on why this doesn't work better than it does... it's not bad, it just doesn't have the crazy sizzle of the original.  And that's too bad because I would LOVE for more gritty, crime-ridden movies from Hollywood...  

William Friedkin's SORCERER is finally out in a fully restored, approved by Friedkin blu-ray that looks AMAZING. The previous DVD was a pan and scan nightmare, but this edition has gorgeous color and is probably as good or better than the first 35mm prints.  Released at the same time as STAR WARS and with an unfortunate title that promises some supernatural element that doesn't exist, this was considered a big disappointment back in the day -- but it is one of the best 70's movie out there, easily in my top ten of the time.  A remake of the French film WAGES OF FEAR, this is a sparse, gritty crime/adventure drama with some of the most harrowing trucking sequences ever filmed. (I know what you're thinking, how can a "truck sequence" be harrowing? Watch this movie and see!) Anyhow, five stars, thumbs up, highest recommendation, etc.

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