Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Shape of Things to Come (1979, George McCowan)

I know I've said this before but one thing I love are cheesy Sci Fi films from the late 70's and early 80's.  Star Wars, like any other genre-defining films, created a hunger for Science Fiction that was quickly fed by pretty much every movie company out there at the time.  Everyone from Roger Corman (Battle Beyond the Stars, Starcrash) to Disney (The Black Hole) were trying to give movie goers what they wanted.  Released in the U.S. by Film Ventures International (FVI) in the summer of 1979, The Shape of Things to Come was another stab at a box office hit for the masses.  This time, a classic story by H.G. Wells was used as inspiration (and title) but updated for contemporary audiences.

Many years in the future, after the "Robot Wars", most of humanity has taken residence on the moon.  Earth has been mostly abandoned and a nearby planet called Delta 3 is the sole possessor of a drug called RADIC-Q-2, which humans need to protect them against radiation poisoning.  After an empty cargo ship crashes into the moon, we find out that a scientist named Omus (Jack Palance) has gone mad and taken over Delta 3.  He informs the Senator of the moon (John Ireland) that he wants to become supreme ruler of humanity.  Outraged that the Senator refuses to fight Omus, scientist Dr. Caball (Barry Morse), his son Jason (Nicholas Campbell) and the Senator's daughter Kim (Anne-Marie Martin) steal a spaceship to stop the evil tyrant before he destroys mankind.

When I first heard about this film, I instantly knew it was right up my alley.  Not only was it a cheesy Sci-Fi film from the late 70s, but it had Jack Palance as the evil space villain.  Sweet!  Also, the fact Blue Underground released it on DVD is like a seal of approval for me.  Out of curiosity though I started reading a few reviews and surprisingly each one slammed the film harder than a teenager's bedroom door.  I started wondering what could be wrong and decided to just give it a shot.  Well ruffle my hair and call me Franky...  as usual, the critics were wrong.  This movie was awesome!  It had the perfect mix of cheesiness, action, drama and evil Jack Palance.  It also had two excellent leads:  Nicholas Campbell, who I enjoyed in the previous roles I've seen him in (The Dead Zone, Trapped and The Spy Who Loved Me) and Anne-Marie Martin (credited as Eddie Benton, a very interesting choice for a stage name), who was super hot and made for a perfect heroine.  If I had to pick a detractor for the film, it would be a couple of slowly paced scenes in the middle, but otherwise it was a really fun B movie gem.

RATING:  8/10

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Starcrash (1978, Luigi Cozzi)

The Roger Corman Cult Classics line from Shout! Factory shows no sign of slowing down their exciting output of the Master's '70s and '80s films.  Following such sought after titles as Humanoids from the Deep, Forbidden World and Galaxy of Terror, we are presented with Luigi Cozzi's cult sci fi film Starcrash, which is due to hit stores on September 14th.  I actually sought out this film a few years ago, mainly because of its pairing of Joe Spinell and Caroline Munro, both from Maniac and Last Horror Film.  The copy I saw was an unauthorized release under the title Female Space Invaders.  Yup, that really was the title.  I'm pretty sure my ass could fart out a better title, but I digress...

Starcrash is a Sci-Fi adventure featuring Stella Star (Munro) and her mystical partner Akton (Marjoe Gortner).  They are caught by the space police for smuggling (I think, or some other illegal space activity) and are sentenced to hard labor.  Fortunately the Emperor (of space?), played by Christopher Plummer (!?!) knows that Stella is the best star pilot out there and frees her to help him find his son Simon, played by David Hasselhoff (!?!) and destroy the evil Count Zarth Arn (Spinell).

According to the DVD's liner notes (by Starcrash expert Stephen Romano), this film was one of the first to exploit the success of Star Wars back in the late '70s.  Though Roger Corman would later be responsible for another outer space expoitation masterpiece (Battle Beyond the Stars), Starcrash is itself quite an accomplishment.  Though the film's budget, acting, special effects, story, dialogue and...well, I guess everything..about the film is laughable, it is undeniably fun and watchable.  There are just too many factors that make this film more enjoyable than a lot of equally cheesy films.  First and most importantly is the cast.  Joe Spinell is my hero and I will watch him in anything.  The same goes for Caroline Munro, and when they are together it's a no-brainer (that term could have a double meaning for this film).  The fact they managed to get thespian Christopher Plummer is pretty amazing, but more amazing is that the film also has a young David Hasselhoff!  Besides the wonderful cast, you also have a great score by frequent James Bond composer John Barry.  His soundtrack here is not too far off from his other Science Fiction work (the Bond film Moonraker and The Black Hole) and helps the film feel more professional.  Shout! Factory's 2 Disc set (available on DVD and Blu-Ray) is itself quite amazing, especially for this film.  It seems like they crammed every possible detail out there about this film in the package, including deleted footage, interviews, a Caroline Munro retrospective, stills, trailers (with commentary by Joe Dante and Eli Roth), plus 2 (!) full length commentaries by Stephen Romano.  Oh, it also has a 12 page booklet and the picture has been cleaned up nicely.  Definitely a quality release for a fun, silly film with an unbelievable cast.

RATING:  7/10


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Starmummy in HorrorHound magazine # 25!!!!!

I am very happy and proud to announce that a letter I wrote to HorrorHound, the best Horror magazine currently in publication, was published in their current issue (#25  Sept/Oct).  What is also exciting is that this issue is their first to get international distribution and an increase in their North American presence as well.  I urge all of you to go pick up this magazine, not just because of my letter, but because it is a great source for all things horror.

Thank you HorrorHound!



Friday, September 3, 2010

Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated (2009, Mike Schneider)

I'm sure most horror fans know the unfortunate story of how George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead ended up in Public Domain hell.   Apparently the film's distributor neglected to put a copyright indication on the prints, therefore leaving the film without a copyright.  So here you have one of the best (and best loved) horror films of all time basically available for anyone to make money on (or just give away).  And I'm sure you've noticed around Halloween time all of the cheapo releases of Night of the Living Dead in your local Supermarket and Department Store's dollar bins.  I've even seen copies included with Spooky Sounds CDs, as if it's just some cheap gimmick.  Though I believe the more people exposed to the film, the still saddens and sickens me to see the Citizen Kane of Horror films treated this way.  Ok, now that I have pissed myself off, lets get to the point of this review.  A few months ago I heard about a new DVD coming out from MVD Entertainment called Night of the Living Dead:  Reanimated.  Out of curiosity I looked into the film and the concept really intrigued me.  So what is this film?   Read on...

Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated takes the original audio track from George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead and puts it to an animated version of the film.  Though, it's really not as straight forward as that.  The film makers brought together a wide array of talents to animate different scenes of the film.  The different mediums used include everything from standard animation to computer animation to claymation to stop motion animation, using everything from puppets to Barbie dolls to Night of the Living Dead action figures (yes they really sell those).  Also employed were still drawings, paintings and original footage from the film put through a number of different visual effects.

As expected, Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated took a really neat concept and really delivered.  I'll admit that the animation in some of the scenes didn't work for me, but most of the film was creative, well done and very entertaining.  Some parts of the film were hysterical (especially the puppets, which pretty much always crack me up anyway).  A lot of the still artwork fit great and looked very professional.  Though there are few (if any) Public Domain films as great as Night of the Living Dead, it would be fun to see this concept used again.  

RATING:  8/10