Monday, 25 July 2016

Hardcore Henry (US/RUS, 2016)

























Wow so this is kinda unique isn't it! An action movie with a twist, that twist being some actual originality!! Well colour me surprised. So this action flick was basically filmed in a first-person perspective (FPS) which as I'm sure many of you out there will know, is a widely used term in the videogaming world.  This essentially means we the viewers are watching all the action from the protagonists perspective, virtually through his eyes, making everything feel much more realistic. I do believe this is the first movie to ever do this for its entire runtime, hence its uniqueness. Unfortunately it also means the movie simply cannot escape being compared to a simple videogame and little more. I really do hate it when I have to compare a sequence in a movie, or some effects, to a videogame because it just comes across as cliche. Well imagine my horror when faced with the scenario of comparing an entire movie to a simple videogame!

Aaand this is the problem...its just like watching a bloody videogame!! Aarrgghh!! You just can't not say it! Whilst I completely appreciate the fresh approach and originality on display here, which is indeed a big deal these days, I just can't get around the fact this movie basically feels like a collection of videogame, in-game sequences cobbled together to make a full length movie. Its almost as if they're just gotten a hold of some popular FPS game, taken out all the cut scenes, stuck them together and voila! here's your movie. You could literally do that with any major videogame right now...like Halo. I've haven't felt so divided for some time, I like what they have done, I like the daring approach, it does feel new...but at the same time it doesn't, heck it could come across like cheating to a degree, like its not a proper movie.

Everything about this movie screams a videogame, nothing vastly different from any other silly action fest of course but this movie is in FPS. Lets look at the plot briefly, some dude (Henry) wakes up after an accident in a not too distant future. He has been badly injured and has had his arm and leg replaced with cybernetic limbs which will obviously give him greater strength and skills. All of a sudden the facility is attacked by a powerful albino chap with telekinetic powers and a bunch of tooled up henchmen. Henry is forced to rescue the scientist working on him (his wife) and escape, alas he is not yet on the ball with his special abilities so he does this in a clumsy fashion. Long story short, Henry loses his wife to the bad guy and must utilise the help of a cloned man to help him locate a source to re-energise his cybernetic limbs, then find his wife. To say the plot is weak and formulaic would be an understatement, to say the plot is cliched, unoriginal, predictable and errmm...videogame-esque, would also be another huge understatement.

I mean come on, the movie plays literally level by level, one set piece to another with very little in between. Henry makes his way to a location, meets up with one cloned version of the mysterious Jimmy, Jimmy helps Henry a bit, then gets killed off, Henry fights a load of goons, wins, moves on to next location for next fight (a rails shooter type scenario). Every now and then Henry even gets a small boss character to battle such as a goon with a flamethrower, or a tank. Sometimes Henry comes across a stash of weapons to power-up or gain ammo or health even. At one point Henry even acquires a pair of female dominatrix sidekicks that are able to kickass with their own unique weapons and abilities. Not really sure where they popped up from or why they even help Henry but there you go. Along every step of the way Henry meets up with a new clone of Jimmy in a new guise, be it a pothead, a punk, a British soldier from WWII, a sniper etc...Almost every time the clone version of Jimmy is able to help Henry in that particular situation, think of Jimmy like the Cortana of the movie if you will, the game guide.

Everything trundles along merrily until Henry reaches the climatic end game battle against the main baddie, and some 'Matrix' rip-off sequence where he must fight a horde of clones...but in a less shitty CGI fashion. Speaking of the main bad guy, he totally looks like a videogame character, very much like the lead character from Devil May Cry actually. No idea why he's a super powered telekinetic, unless I missed something? no clue, just the way it is in this future I guess. As for his motivation, well lets just say it involves that age old plot device of cyborg super soldiers and taking over the world, nuff said.

Anywho the action in this flick is satisfying for sure, this ain't no kiddie flick folks, plenty of blood spurting all over the show with limbs flying, necks snapping and bullet holes aplenty. But funnily enough its not the violence that hooked me as we've seen this many times before, its the FPS angle that grabbed me. The simple reason being, and this is just me here, watching this film made me wanna go play FPS videogames, I actually wanted to switch off and go play a game. In fact, the more violent and intense the film became, the more it made me wanna play a game and do the same thing...but with me in control. Now is that a compliment for the movie? well kinda, I guess, but you could also say its not because it made me wanna switch off. Overall I'm saying the FPS angle did engage me for the most part which is positive, but it doesn't last. The jarring visual feast laid out before you does indeed become very jarring at times, almost unwatchable as our protagonist leaps about (if you get motion sickness this might not be for you). And if you probably haven't guessed already (which you no doubt have), the movie does become more and more videogame-esque as you head towards the finale, the sense you are heading towards the big boss fight. As I was watching the final battle I got the feeling I should of been hammering a pad button furiously, button mashing the fuck outta the end of level villain.

So when it all boils down to it, the FPS angle does engage you but it also grows tiresome when you actually wanna see what's happening in frantic sequences. Ingenious as it was to shoot the movie with these little GoPro, head-mounted cams, the obvious issues with rapid head movement in fast paced action sequences makes it hard to watch at various points, although admittedly a bit more thrilling at others. I liked how we didn't really find too much out about Henry, the fact we don't see him apart from a brief glimpse at the end (almost like other famous FPS game characters like Master Chief or Doomguy), although its a shame that all the other characters are completely throwaway. There is an eye rolling plot twist in the end involving the so called super soldiers (they aren't too super in the film) and the villains, I didn't see it but I should have, its all very cliched. So bottom line, it feels like the action genre is being reinvented before your very eyes...but really it isn't. The movie feels like a bit of a gimmick, a bit of a guilty pleasure that does work...for a while.

6/10



Thursday, 21 July 2016

Night of the Ghouls (1958)

























Ah the Ed Wood cinematic universe with the odd crossover. Well there are certainly a few interesting tit bits to mention with this movie. For starters it didn't actually get released until 1984 due to money issues. Secondly the film is supposedly part of an unofficial trilogy called 'the Kelton trilogy'. The reason being that Paul Marco stars in all three films (the third being 'Plan 9 from Outer Space') as the same character of patrolman Kelton. In fact there are two reoccurring characters altogether and a one reoccurring actor playing a different role. And lastly, as already said, this is in fact a sequel of sorts to 'Bride of the Monster', something I didn't realise until I watched the movie.

Now when I say a sequel, its definitely a loose sequel, there is little continuity apart from one main character really, and that's Lobo. Basically the local police are sent to investigate a so called haunted house, the old Willows place which has been rebuilt. The reason local folk think its haunted is because a conman and his small gang are using the house as a base of operations to run a fake medium enterprise. They are charging people lots of money by making them believe they can contact their dead loved ones. Little do the tricksters know that the house is actually haunted and ghouls do roam the grounds, for some reason. I'm guessing it may be down to the areas tortured history, where Dr Eric Vornoff once resided and experimented on people, or not, this is an Ed Wood flick after all.

So Lobo is really the only main reoccurring character here. His face is now badly scarred after the huge fire and nuclear explosion that wreaked havoc on the area (can you tell I'm being sarcastic?). No but seriously, he does actually have a big burn on his face, because surviving a nuclear explosion does that. Not sure what actually happens to Lobo this time though, he takes some bullets to the chest again, wrestles some people, then kinda disappears, he's more of a background character this time. On the other hand patrolman Kelton gets more screen and dialog time only to be knocked unconscious again by Lobo, still manages to live through it though. Despite the fact this is a sequel and there are a couple characters from the previous movie, there isn't really much talk about the events from that film, no mention of Vornoff or anything. Instead the focus is all on the new characters, mainly the rather stupidly named antagonist Dr. Karl Acula (Dracula) played by Kenne Duncan who wears a turban because that's what all mediums wear. Then you have Sheila, the white ghost (Valda Hansen), which is actually one of Acula's girls who is suppose to scare away the locals, and the black ghost! A spectre that appears to actually be real much to the distress of Sheila but not so much Acula.

The story is bookended by Wood regular Criswell (much like 'Plan 9') and has him rising from a coffin right at the start to introduce you the viewer to the film. Its cute and all but because Criswell is also playing a role in the movie, as one of the dead risen from the grave, you're not too sure whether he is just narrating at the start, or if he's actually part of the plot. Alas with Wood you can never tell because everything was so cheap and cheerful. I'm tempted to think Wood just used Criswell in more than one role simply because he liked the guy and he had no other biggish names to fill the roles. But on the other hand, as his role is essentially a zombie, and he is seen awakening from a coffin at the start, it does kinda tie up, it also foreshadows the events at the end of the movie. Bit unfortunate that old Cris is constantly dressed in his splendid tux, doesn't quite look right, doesn't convey the right mood.

So can you expect anything different effects wise with this? not really, in fact there isn't really much to speak of unlike other Wood flicks. The usual array of official offices used by the police throughout, complete with an easter egg 'wanted' mugshot of Wood on the back wall in the local police station. You don't see anything of the old Willows house exterior this time, its all inside apart from some shots in a wooded area which are primarily for the black and white ghost shots. Everything set inside the house is pretty tacky, its all been shot across a few rooms with a few corridors and there's hardly any set dressings outside of the main room where Acula does his tricks. Said main room is chock full of many rudimentary, corny objects which do convey a massive sense of cheesiness that's for sure. The crystal ball, the fake skulls, obviously fake skeletons sitting at the table, elaborate candles, and a big curtain concealing the rest of the set. It all looks like a very lazy funhouse or spookhouse at a fairground. I'll bet the coffin we see being used is Criswell's personal coffin (he owned one).

In the end the plot remains unsolved technically, the police are baffled about what happened, heck I'm not so sure myself! Half the people we see just vanish, including Lobo, Acula is presumably buried alive by the very clean cut corpse or Criswell, Sheila is killed or turned into a real ghost? I guess that's the ironic little twist in her tale. The black ghost isn't really explained but does kill off Sheila for some reason, probably because she was in cahoots with the dastardly Acula. Criswell signs off with a  final poignant note to us the viewers, again making me unsure if he's simply the narrator or still in character for the sake of the plot, unsure...but I suspect he's still in character.

Overall the plot is weak and ends up becoming an even greater mess. As the dead Criswell explains to Acula near the end, apparently once every 13 years when summoned by a medium, the dead get to rise from the grave and be free for 12 hours precisely. So...do mediums tend to come around every 13 years to accidentally raise the dead? Who sets the 12 hour rule for the dead? Why would a medium somehow raise the dead by accident? what on earth do they do to trigger that?? Why are these walking corpses so clean and smart?? Meh, I guess its best not to think about it too much, there's no point really, I'm just amazed there wasn't a shittonne of stock footage strewn about the place, there was some, but not as much as usual. Honesty, I didn't really find myself enjoying this Ed Wood adventure, too bland, not exciting enough, no flying saucers or Lugosi makes it seem a tad dull. 'Bride' is by far the better picture in my opinion, more of a classical look and feel to its horror and sci-fi.

5/10

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Grimsby (UK, 2016)

























Ah Grimsby, bastion of the north, the seaport of Kings, forever now emblazoned throughout cinematic history in a British comedy. Damn shame its in this stinker of a flick though innit! sheesh! Now don't get me wrong here folks, I think Sacha Baron Cohen is a bloody genius! his comedic skills, along with a complete lack of shame and tact, is the stuff of legend here in the UK. This amazing talent is typical of British comedy, the anarchic, crazy, no bars hold approach that we have all been privileged to witness throughout the decades. Yeah I know the Yanks think we are all tea sipping buttercups that wouldn't say boo to a ghost, but I still have no real idea why that image persists.

Alas the whole idea here is weak, its tired and formulaic, its basically another spy parody or spoof (ugh!). I mean seriously, how many of these do we flippin' need?? Anyways the plot goes like this, the Grimsby brothers have been separated for the last 28 years, Nobby has since become a slobby, alcoholic with 11 kids, whilst Sebastian has gone the other way and become a secret agent (agent for MI5). Sebastian (Mark Strong) comes across some info that an important actress named Rhonda George (Penelope Cruz), who is hosting a very important event for curing AIDS (I think), may be the target for assassination. Whilst attempting to stop said assassination Sebastian is thwarted by his own long lost brother, by accident, which in turn makes it appear that the pair are the attempted assassins. Naturally the pair must now evade the law whilst trying to unravel who is trying to assassinate Rhonda George and what they may or may not have planned for an upcoming event.

So for starters you have the age old cliche with two characters that are the polar opposite. Not only that but its an age old cliche within a cliche as one character is a slob and the other is a success. Sebastian is your typical Bond-esque hero, clean cut, very smart in appearance, well spoken, intelligent, multi-skilled, and equipped with gadgets. On the other hand, Nobby is your typical grungy, overweight, unshaven, tattooed, unemployed, chavish, English lout that spends all his time drinking, wearing an England football shirt and fucking his rather heavy wife. Is it me or was there a definite Liam Gallagher vibe going on here? Both Strong and Cohen do play these roles very well it must be said, in fact Strong does put up a pretty solid case for actually becoming the new Bond. Alas while Cohen is a good laugh as the yobbish but surprisingly caring Nobby, his character merely sounds like Ali G. His appearance is definitely spot on there's no doubt about that, but again its almost like a caucasian version of Ali G but not as smart if I can say that, minus the gang related paraphernalia. Unfortunately Cohen is completely unable to render a decent northern accent, he fails epically.

So what about the setups? the close to the bone comedy that Cohen is infamous for. Well its most definitely there that's for sure, but its pretty crap and cringeworthy too. For a start the humour is mainly toilet humour, nothing wrong with that, but its a hit and miss affair it really is. At one point Sebastian is hit with a poisoned dart in the shoulder and the only way for him to survive is having Nobby suck out the poison. Do I really have to explain where this is going? yeah you all know what happens next, poisoned dart to the testicle, you can guess the rest. But the main showstopping visual gag has to be the elephant scene. In order to evade capture by the bad guys, Seb and Nobby hide out inside an elephants vagina, yes you read this right, something that was foreshadowed earlier in the movie. So they indeed manage to avoid the bad guys, but alas they aren't able to avoid a horny male elephant trotting up to fuck said female elephant with the guys inside. What follows is a...how can I put this? unique scene where the duo must jerk-off said male elephant in order that its penis softens and they can get out of the female elephants vagina. Oh but the amusing (ahem!) twist is the fact there's a whole line of male elephants waiting to fuck this female, oh how the hilarity ensues.

So is there any other brand of humour here other than cocks, animals, semen and other forms of general sexual innuendo? No! no there isn't really, well not unless you count the scenes where Nobby's young kids are swearing like sailors, watching elephant sex on TV, having oral sex with a very large black female, blocking the toilet with a big turd, shoving a virus filled firework up your ass etc...need I go on? I think the one gag that made me titter a little was Nobby telling Seb that he shaved one of his kids bald in order to claim disability benefits by saying he has leukemia. Should that be funny? probably not, I felt bad giggling at it.

There isn't really much to offer here truth be told. Scott Adkins plays a baddie from eastern Europe again, he has one scene where he does his thing, its lasts a few minutes and that's it. There are numerous pointless cameos that were clearly meant to big the film up. The whole Trump gag seemed a bit pathetic also, out of place and like an infantile dig. The entire football match finale sequence is an absolute joke, not only is it completely unfunny at every step, it looks pathetic and highly fake also. Dare I say that the liberal shooting of people gag from the midway point is actually a bit distasteful in this current political climate? Kinda felt a bit awkward to be honest. Finally the twist in the plot is generic and obvious, hell it feels like you're watching a Pink Panther flick or worse, a Scooby-Doo flick for adults. What seemed like a very promising adult, action filled romp from Cohen, unfortunately is anything but. Its safe to say the entire movie misses the mark drastically and more worryingly, they appear to try and setup a sequel at the end!

3/10

Thursday, 14 July 2016

The Angry Birds Movie (USA/FIN, 2016)

OK so I'm gonna be completely honest here and say I've never ever, ever played this game. Yes that's right, I'm not one of these people that plays videogames on my phone. I used to for a while, I had a few classics like R-Type, and I still have Fruit Ninja, but generally no. So unfortunately this means I probably missed all the key nods and winks and general elements of the game that were featured in this movie. So please bare this I mind when I rip this piece of crap apart...oh wait!

So, the plot goes something like this. There's this island called Bird Island (because the inhabitants are all birds you see) where everyone lives happily accept for one character called Red. I'm not sure how close to reality this little world is suppose to be though. Its clearly a fantasy but maybe a possible alternate reality because they have dinosaur history in this world also. Anyway Red is the videogames main logo or the face of the game (apparently), so he's our protagonist, a grumpy, anger prone...errr...bird. There are also various other cheerful cliched characters as of course you would expect but everything centres around Red. Half of the plot is about Red being given anger management lessons and that's how he meets up with other various birds which will help him later on down the line. This really is of little importance however as it just serves to introduce the other main characters. The rest of the plot simply revolves around a race of green pigs that turn up on Bird Island with the intention of stealing all the eggs.

Lets look at these main characters that are based off a videogame that I have no clue about. All the birds are stumpy and flightless, check. The main character is Red, an angry, red coloured, chunky bird with big thick eyebrows...because whatever. Bomb is a big fat, black coloured bird that (for some reason) looks like a cartoon shaped bomb complete with a little yellow coloured tuft on his head which looks like a fuse. Oh and he is also able to spontaneously blow up at will...because sure, whatever. Chuck is a slim, yellow coloured bird that zips around like crazy, he's kinda like the Speedy Gonzales of the trio. Obviously these characters look and act the way they do because in the videogame they have special traits for the gameplay, in the movie its just off the wall nonsense. The odd thing is the big hero character of Eagle actually looks like a real bird, you know...from reality, yet all the others look like cartoon birds, sure fine whatever.

So first off, why exactly do these green pigs wanna steal all the birds eggs? Apparently its so they can eat them, but surely they have food on their island no? They clearly survive and thrive perfectly fine without needing to steal a shit load of eggs, what do they normally eat? Also is it me or does it seem kinda creepy that the pigs wanna steal and eat the eggs which are essentially the unborn children of the birds. Isn't that basically mass kidnapping and mass murder? But when you think about it, how did they know about Bird Island and all the eggs? they sail up to the place making out they just discovered the place, probably a lie of course but...why are they wanting to steal the eggs again? I am also to presume the birds on Bird Island have never ventured very far from their island then, seeing as they had no clue who the pigs are despite the fact the pig island isn't that far away.



Now lets talk about this pig inhabited island, for a start, how come its so much more advanced than Bird Island? Seriously these pigs have planes and cars etc...while the birds seem primitive in comparison. Also, why the fuck is the island knee deep in TNT?! Where did they get all those explosives? did they make it? what do they use it for?? As for the buildings, why are they all built in the fashion they are? Towering rickety structures that look paper thin and are fragile as hell apparently, yet made of rock. When the birds attack the pigs trying to get their eggs back, these buildings come down like dominoes, they seem so fragile that I would be worried about gusts of wind. This also leads me to the entire attack by the birds, apparently these birds can't die then? They catapult themselves over vast distances, into buildings, and don't get injured or killed? I realise this is a kids flick but that kinda takes away any thrills or danger. Despite the buildings being made of solid materials like stone or wood, these birds can slam into these things without harm. Now I know what you're gonna say, its based on the videogame and that's what happens in the game. Yes I know that, but this is why making movies based on some vidoegames is stupid.

I found the plots notion about the pigs arrival on Bird Island apt I must say. I mean come on, was I the only one that saw the current worldwide immigrant crisis being touched on here? All the birds are welcoming in the pigs thinking its wonderful, while Red is suspicious of them and thinks the pigs coming onto the island will cause problems. Then later more and more pigs arrive and the island becomes more crowded and over populated, yet still the majority of the birds don't see the threat and ignore Red's warnings, carrying on oblivious. Its only Red that sees through the mist to see the truth. How very appropriate, I thought whilst watching.

Yes this is indeed a kids flick and kids should enjoy it, but is there anything here for adults and gamers? I guess there really should be and depending how you look at it there might be. In my opinion I don't think many adults will get much out of this. I know its a complete fantasy but much of it makes little sense, its off the wall, there is no legitimate threat from anything to engage you, its not funny, and it doesn't look all that special. As for gamers, well they might like it a bit more being able to point out all the little nods from the game, if you love the game then seeing a movie about it would be fun I guess. But end of the day the whole concept is just a worthless cashgrab, there's no need for it, its pointless. Lets see, a suitable analogy could be this, do you remember the videogame Lemmings? would you make a movie out of that (if it was still huge that is)? exactly.

5/10

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Bride of the Monster (1955)

























Also originally known as 'The Atomic Monster', then when Wood got his hands on the script it became 'The Monster of the Marshes', then 'Bride of the Atom', before finally sticking with what we have now. This was to be Wood's first venture into the realms of his beloved science fiction and horror genres, a popular combination in the US during the 50's. As usual with these types of movies the common enemy is a mad, ageing scientist from somewhere in Europe, mainly eastern Europe or old war-torn Europe. And once again a common factor used in the plot is America's old love affair with anything atomic, in this case atomic supermen, a race of super atomic men that will conquer the world!! 

Yep that's the plot right there, Dr Eric (Eric??) Vornoff (Bela Lugosi) wants to create a race of atomic supermen that will conquer the world purely because his homeland pissed him off it seems. Back in his unnamed homeland which is clearly Russia or Germany or surrounding Nazi controlled areas, Vornoff had suggested to his colleagues (or superiors) the idea of harnessing nuclear power to create a master race of great strength and size (to help fight a war?). Strangely enough his ideas were rejected and he was exiled from said country branded as a madman, at the same time losing contact with his wife and child. So in response to this Vornoff is trying to carry out his original vision and create a super master race in his own name...because that'll show em'! Looks like its up to the local law enforcement and a young female reporter to save the day...in a rather unconvincing way.

The film starts out with a long shot of a creepy looking house set amongst some bare trees (the old Willows place), its night time, its stormy, its raining and it all looks quite nice actually, highly atmospheric indeed. This kooky looking abode is where the good Dr Vornoff lives with his rather fat servant or slave, Lobo (Tor Johnson). The interior is your typical Hammer Horror-esque affair with old wood panelling, dim lighting, lots of old dusty books on the shelves...and a giant octopus in the dungeon, or where ever. Now one does immediately ask oneself, where did Vornoff get a giant octopus? Come to think of it, how on earth does he manage to look after it and how does he have the space to keep it?? Surely one would need a rather large enclosure with all manner of special things. These are of course stupid questions, you never question an Ed Wood film or any sci-f/horror film from the 50's. He keeps it in a freshwater lake (despite them only surviving in saltwater) conveniently next to the house, moving on...

Now, who exactly is Lobo you ask, well he's a large, dumb, mute, zombified, apparently bulletproof, slave with an angora fetish. Where did Vornoff get Lobo? well it seems he picked Lobo up in the wilderness of Tibet of all places, who'd of thought it eh. Lobo seems to have no mind of his own and carries out Vornoff's bidding without question, that is of course until he comes across the beautiful reporter Janet (Loretta King) and her angora beret. The sweet beret seems to bewitch Lobo and he soon loses the plot, although I'm not entirely sure if it was over the angora beret or the woman. Anyway Janet the reporter decided to investigate the funny happenings around Vornoff's house and ended up crashing her car not far from the building (women drivers eh). This is how Lobo discovers her...after fighting off a large snake...don't question it. 

Oh and in case you're wondering, which I know you are, the funny goings on at Willows House revolve around missing people. Of course these people are the results of Vornoff's failed experiments, victims he's either lured in or had Lobo drag in. I believe it was twelve missing people, all of which have somehow vanished nearby Willows House. Now admittedly I'm not entirely sure how the police would know this but...did they even think to check out the old house and surrounding area? nope.

This location is actually a hive of dangers it seems, did Vornoff choose the house because of this? or perhaps he added these features himself. Apart from large snakes there are wild alligators, a swamp and quicksand! Plus it constantly storms in this location also (supposedly down to Vornoff's experiments which is beyond odd), only thing missing is a bottomless pit. Not only did Wood literally use every cliche in the adventure handbook, he also seemed to cheekily pinch the Dracula, Van Helsing characters too. This can be obviously seen with Lugosi playing Vornoff (who always simply played a version of Dracula for Wood) complete with his hypnotic hand tricks to summon young ladies, and with the character of Prof. Strowski from old Europe. Strowski being Vornoff's fellow countryman who is absolutely fine in creating a super race of supermen...but only to conquer their homeland, not the world because that would be going too far. Well, at least not straight away anyway.

Naturally some of these things are minor in the whole grand scheme of things when it comes down to Ed Wood movies. Putting aside the cornball cliches of any similar flick where the young male hero comes to the rescue of the damsel in distress, the gruff police chief and the silly police officer sidekick who forms comedic relief (Paul Marco as officer kelton). With any Wood production you also have the usual bizarre mistakes and cheap touches such as the all too common night and day issue, lots of stock footage that doesn't blend in with the movie at all (in some cases the same footage repeated). A horrendously obvious stunt double for Lugosi, highly obvious fake sets such as a painted stonewall for the laboratory and clearly no ceiling. Lets not forget the glorious, infamous rubber octopus that doesn't move when attacking its victims or Tor Johnson's reaction acting. Plus there's Lobo fighting the hero Dick Craig (Tony McCoy) who has his cap gun (that never requires reloading) and is firing at point blank range into Lobo's chest. And finally the nuclear explosion that wipes out the house but nothing else despite it being a massive nuclear mushroom cloud explosion.

Speaking of the giant octopus, here's my fave Ed Wood blooper. The lake with the giant octopus appears to be at eye level with Vornoff when he looks at it through a window, which would indicate his lab is beneath the house and built up against the lake, right? Well that would make perfect sense but, we also see Vornoff open a door right next to the big window to have Lobo throw Strowski through into the waiting arms of the giant octopus. But...but...how is Vornoff and his lab not engulfed in a tidal wave of lake water??? What's more, when Strowski is thrown to the octopus, the creature appears to be just sat in a puddle of water, in a darkened room, then we get a quick cut back to stock footage of a real octopus (half the size). Oh the delight in watching this absurd sequence is too much.

Really when it comes down to it, the best looking part of the entire movie was that opening shot of the creepy old house. The best character and acting easily goes to the rubber octopus...nah I'm only kidding. In my opinion that accolade would go to Harvey B. Dunn as Captain Robbins and his little pet parakeet that sat on his shoulder. All in all this classic Wood motion picture really does have it all, everything any sci-f, horror buff could ask for (if you enjoy B-movies), plus it was Bela Lugosi's last full speaking role.

7/10



Sunday, 3 July 2016

Glen or Glenda (1953)

























Originally titled 'I Changed My Sex!' this was Ed Wood's first movie, his first step on a long journey into cinematic history...but not good cinematic history. Its a strange little number that's for sure, a docudrama and semi-autobiographical, with an odd fantasy element bookending the whole thing. That fantasy element comes into play with Bela Lugosi narrating to us, the viewer. His narration seems to revolve around humanity at first, pointing at mans traits, mans pursuit of knowledge, slowly turning to life in general, human personalities, birth, death etc...(almost like an informative film you might see in a natural history museum). The narration then leads into the story that commences with the death of a transvestite, a suicide, the reasons? because this person simply was unable to live their life as they wanted. The man in question was a transvestite who had been locked up in jail on numerous occasions for cross-dressing in public, but this was no act or mental condition, this was who he was, who he wanted to be. With society seemingly unable to understand his position he commits suicide. 

What follows is a curious and rather abstract look into the world of the cross-dressing male and transvestites, all under the guise of the movies plot which solely revolves around the police Inspector trying to understand what a transvestite is and why this person committed suicide. So in affect, this is virtually an educational film about the LGBT community. What its like to live in such a way, how the public perceives you, how your own family and friends perceive you and how to generally try and get by in 1950's America being a cross-dresser.

The funny thing is, this movie is now supposedly known as Ed Wood's worse creation ever, even beating the great 'Plan 9'. Yet despite this dubious honour the film is actually unique, fantastically unique, daring, brave and bold, simply because Ed Wood made a movie about a taboo subject in a time when such a thing could get you killed, worst case scenario. Now naturally judging by the era here, the dialog and general angle could be considered rather offensive and highly condescending, but in all fairness that really should be expected. In all honesty I'm not entirely sure if this is done on purpose by Wood to expose the truths about this American issue in society, or merely a sign of the times, the film simply being a product of the time and people just simply didn't know any better (or didn't want to know any better), the latter is more probable.

The way in which Inspector Warren and investigates the world of cross-dressing is quite hilarious and again...pretty offensive really. I loved how he visits these scientist/doctor types in very posh fully wood panel offices to try and lock down what exactly is meant by cross-dressing. We then get these very darling old shaky black and white movies explaining just what exactly is a transvestite and they live amongst the normal people. This is when we get the tale of Glen or Glenda, a transvestite who seems to have been studied by the doc?? anyway this is Ed Wood in his starring role basically playing himself. The docs case study of Glen or Glenda is in fact the semi-autobiographical part of the movie (about Wood himself, his secret). It is explained how the scientific world calls these men transvestites (a new word at the time), and how they are not actually homosexual as many would expect, but actually heterosexual, they just like to dress up in women's clothes. We then get lots of various flashbacks and segments showcasing how Glen's partner Barbara is suspicious of Glen, why he's acting so oddly, the fact they are due to be married and the pain Glen is suffering about whether he should reveal himself before or after or at all. We see Glen walking down the street in women's clothes, stopping by women's clothes stores and looking in. Glen looking for help from another transvestite, and of course dream sequences which are analogies for Glen's mental anguish on how he thinks he's not up to the task of being a strong male for Barbara...in the eyes of society. The dreams also carry on with some very weird little vignettes including vanilla BDSM, a rape scene, a striptease etc...its all rather peculiar and somehow serve to be an insight into Glen's distressed mind. 

Oddly, in the middle of all these very personal problems and revelations, we end up following another person and the reaction to sex change operations within society. Its almost like a sub plot within the film that goes absolutely nowhere but merely serves to offer up more insight into a slightly separate issue close to Wood and his friends (probably Bunny Breckinridge). Towards the end we are then given yet another little story from the doc of yet another character who was conscripted into the army for WWII but kept his second life a secret until after the war. Said person then managed to achieve having a sex change and basically lived happily ever after, again, not too sure why we are told this. 

All during this time we are shown the odd bit of obscure footage showing Lugosi playing his puppermaster-esque role. A role that was clearly shot purely because Wood adored the macabre and Lugosi performing it, plus it was all for virtually nothing and gave Wood a big A-list name in his movie, win win! The amusing thing is, what is shot is obviously nothing to do with the rest of the movie Wood shoots. The movie is clearly a very personal project about his life, inner demons and inner turmoil, but he's crowbarred in these small sequences with Lugosi which are clearly aimed for a more darker, horror, thriller type flick (his usual stuff). I suppose Lugosi's character is kinda like a God or mystical person that may or may not be controlling mankind or individual lives, maybe a Grim Reaper type character, which is a nice idea but it simply doesn't connect with the story Wood is wanting to tell. The dialog also has nothing much in similar with what unfolds on the screen...'Beware! Beware! Beware of the big green dragon that sits on your doorstep. He eats little boys, puppy dog tails, and big fat snails. Take care! beware!'. Seriously...what the hell is that suppose to relate to exactly?? and what does it really mean??

The entire movie feels like its been cobbled together with bits and pieces meant for other films, almost like a series of sketches. In between that you have these odd choices of stock footage which are a staple infamous diet of Wood flicks because they simply don't relate to what's going on on the screen (a herd of wild buffalo?). Yet despite the outrageously (obviously) out of date and slightly derogatory rhetoric going on, the film's heart is basically a good one. Yes transvestites are kinda portrayed like creations of doctor Frankenstein, to be experimented on and observed from within a safe confined space, but that's the era coming through. As weird, quirky, badly acted, bizarre and as cheap as it is, deep down this semi-biopic is pretty much an educational insight into tolerance and sexuality, how people can come to terms with its variations. An intensely personal account of a part of Ed Wood's life, and in that respect it does deserve some admiration and appreciation. 

6/10