Thursday, 30 July 2015

Convoy (1978)

Following on from such movies as 'White Line Fever' and more notably 'Smokey and the Bandit', this film continues with the highly popular truckin' and CB radio craze that swept America at the time. Twas the ultra cool thing to do back then, the grizzly manly thing all men did to show how...errr...manly they were, and stick it to the man! Drive your big rig (18 wheeler) across the dusty barren highways of southern America, usually shirtless, with a sexy broad at your side and pissing off the local law enforcement with your erratic (dangerous) driving. Lets not forget about talking nonsense over the CB radio now, that was the highlight of the truckin' camaraderie.

Yeah OK I rip on the concept but its not that bad, its actually is a pretty sweet concept. I mean lets be honest here, really, these trucks are cool, they look cool, they sound cool and hauling cargo across the great wilderness of the USA must be an awesome adventure. The whole lifestyle of being free and easy, being your own boss, going at your own pace and being able to chat to virtually anyone over your CB radio does sound like fun to an outsider. So when you have Hollywood jumpin' on the bandwagon and introducing these butch, kickass characters that are a merry band of rebellious, amusing, insightful, dashing rogue types, I can fully understand the surge in popularity.

I mean look at the plot for this thing. The good guys (the truckers) are set up by crooked cop Sheriff Wallace (Ernest Borgnine) for speeding, they have to bribe him to get out of it. Later on at a diner the cop catches up with them and starts to abuse one of the truckers, the black guy, hey its the 70's. All hell breaks loose when Rubber Duck (Kris Kristofferson) tries to help out his fellow trucker, despite by being civil a nice big bar brawl breaks out, cops vs truckers. The truckers win of course and have to put the pedal to the metal to get to the next State before the cops can nab them. From here on the truckers tear up the highways getting to the State boarder and beyond. Along the way lots of other truckers and various vehicles join in all taking a stand against the corrupt police force led by Sheriff Wallace, hence the films title.

The plot is pretty basic lets be honest, not only that it could of virtually encouraged people (at the time) to rebel against the police trying to emulate the current craze (at the time). Not saying that would or did happen, but when you have a string of movies all with the same message it could happen here and there. Of course most everything we see here has been inspired by 'Smokey and the Bandit' which was a massive success the previous year (not fact but its obvious). The truckers are local southern boys trying to make a living hauling cargo, which is in the same vein as the Bandit, whilst the big ego of the law is trying to make their life hard, again in the same vein as Sheriff Buford T. Justice to a degree. The fact they cast Borgnine as Sheriff Wallace really makes this obvious if you ask me, he is practically the same character as Buford T. Justice, same look, build and relatively the same comedy aspect.

Not only this but most of the chase action is very familiar, the trucks go off-road to shake the cops and naturally most of the squad cars end up crashing big time. There are also smash-ups with other road users, large highway advertising boards, other squad cars, road blocks and at one point an entire small town gets destroyed by rampaging 18 wheelers! A pretty daft moment frankly, as if you could do that without trashing your truck and what about innocent people?! The carnage isn't exactly original but the fact its all carried out by big rigs does add much spice to the proceedings, not something you see everyday in a movie. Although to be fair there isn't much truck chaos in the movie, most of the time we see them merely in convoy set against some fantastic American backdrops.

What is kinda confusing is the tone of the movie. At first it almost comes off as a sort of indie road movie, a sort of cultural landmark for a generation, much like 'Easy Rider'. Then it does indeed go down the old 'Smokey and the Bandit' route with a reasonable amount of  banger racing, although not overly goofy. During the middle of the film it becomes much deeper and emotional when the cops bag the black character and beat him to try and lure in Rubber Duck. Plus there is all that political business with the Duck meeting the Governor of New Mexico because he is seen as a local folk hero and the Gov wants to ride that with a PR campaign. Then towards the finale things become quite dark as Wallace faces-off against Duck with the National Guard and a tank! Indeed the ending (and fate of Duck) seems completely out of place, followed by a rather lame twist which is the polar opposite to the dark finale you witness minutes prior.

All of this is of course littered with all the CB trucker jargon you can muster, its all here, stuff you've heard before and stuff you haven't. I understand the CB obsession was fresh back then, it enabled you to be cool and it was fun I'd imagine, but everyone could hear what you say, surely this would have many disadvantages in this specific scenario.

Yeah its a macho movie, Kris Kristofferson is the epitome of a macho man with his golden tan, gruff beard and gruff vest. There is the obligatory token black character, and this time, female character too! whilst all the other rednecks are your standard bearded, cowboy hat wearing tobacco chewers. Ducks sexy sidekick played by Ali MacGraw seems to have a certain haircut/style to try and fit in with the hip blaxploitation genre and appeal to all demographics, whilst being the epitome of a weak female character totally dependent on the strong male lead. Weird how she sells her Jaguar E-Type at the start to raise some cash, surely you'd get a shot load of cash for a Jag! Oh and her romance with Duck is so flippin' cheesy and cliched, but hey this is an old movie.

This is such a 70's flick it really is, so damn 70's, but director Peckinpah does really add a glossy sheen to it which elevates it above other seedy looking 70's flicks. You still have that horrible hippie-esque vibe going on in parts which I hate, but the vehicle porn on display is really good, really slick at times with a great array of now vintage trucks and other jalopies. The main truck used by Duck is the star of the show for the most part and it does look great as it belches out black fumes whilst it thunders along, true American muscle. Its a mixed bag with great visuals and truck porn, I think most will know if this is there cup of tea, niche genre really, solid but nothing special.


Monday, 27 July 2015

Duel (1971)

Its hard to think Steven Spielberg was around directing movies as far back as 1971, dunno why, just is. Anyway this movie was originally a TV movie (only recently found out), a rather short TV movie naturally. But after this feature found much success on TV Spielberg was given more money to film more scenes for a longer cinematic cut. This alone shows the quality of Spielberg's work because you'd never guess there was extra filmed footage, it all blends so seamlessly.

The plot is based of a short story of the same name by Richard Matheson. It involves a middle aged man (David Mann) who is travelling on a business trip in California, although we never really find out what he does or where he's going (well he's a salesman but that's all we know). Its a strange unexplained situation really, he starts out from a city (unknown which), and drives for what seems like friggin' ages! We follow him through the city and far away, out into the Californian desert and beyond, Christ knows where he's going but he doesn't appear to have any baggage or anything.
At one point he comes across this dirty, rusty almost spooky tanker driven slowly by persons unknown. He passes the tanker legally as anybody would, but for some reason the driver takes some kind of offense to this and roars past Mann again, reverting back to driving slowly. Mann once again overtakes the truck and speeds away, the tanker driver blasts his horn in anger. From this point on Mann is terrorised by the mysterious tanker at every turn of his journey.

This movie used to be on TV a lot when I was a kid, a typical Boxing Day film. Its a thriller but in typically Spielbergian fashion, so not much swearing, if any, and what there is is tame, plus suspense that can be enjoyed by all. I mean lets be frank here, you're not gonna have much scary suspense about a tanker driver chasing a small red car in the middle of the day right. Yet this just shows how good Spielberg was/is, the film isn't scary no, but that shows how good the camera work and direction needed to be in order to convey the danger and atmosphere. The looming shots of the oily hulking tanker as it bears down on Mann's tiny car, creepy distance shots of it just waiting whilst chugging out black exhaust fumes, the way the tanker comes out of nowhere behind Mann's car, plus all the stand-off moments. It all looks so slick and nothing like most made for TV movies, many shots I think look very Hitchcock-esque in style, especially the moment where Mann gets out of his car and stands-off against the tanker from a distance.

The whole thing does seem a tad silly when you think about it logically though. Yes you can relate to it in a degree, I'm sure we've all had moments in car journeys when someone has pissed you off, maybe a touch of road rage, a touch of dangerous bumper riding, some choice language and visual signs etc...we've all been there. But watching this movie you can't help but dissect it just a bit. Lets be honest, Mann could quite easily avoid the tanker, all he had to do was go another route, or maybe stay overnight somewhere, or he could of rung the police much earlier at one of the more populated gas stations. When he does stop at a diner and discovers the tanker is there also, he could of waited by the tanker for the mysterious driver to confront him, maybe even let his tyres down or sabotaged the engine. After all by that point the crazy trucker had already rammed Mann's car so surely anyone would be straight onto the police. Also, later on when the insane tanker driver tries to ram Mann into an oncoming locomotive, he could clearly, quite easily drive off either to the left or the right, there was space. Suspension of disbelief is the order of the day here naturally.

Of course the character of Mann is suppose to be the everyday man, an average Joe, and he is, played brilliantly by Dennis Weaver. This isn't a big man, a man with lots of muscles, a cocky man, a smartass, he's a regular family man with a regular physique...and glasses (but also because in the early 70's big muscle men weren't the thing). Weaver plays this character perfectly, again very relatable for most of us. He's not someone who just jumps to conclusions and lunges in with his fists, he worries, he thinks about the situation, makes himself paranoid, and when he does do something its slow and reserved, he's apologetic and weak. Now I'm not saying that's how everyone is of course but I'm sure most levelheaded people would be more like this, well British people would.

What I find interesting is how similar this movie is to 'Jaws', bare with me here. The image of the huge lumbering yet fast dark tanker and the way it haunts the highway, hunting Mann like small prey, parallels Spielberg's famous fishy tale. There a huge lumbering shadowy (for the most part), yet fast shark haunts the waters of Amity Island, hunting human prey much smaller than itself. Both entities are virtually the same and almost shot the same by Spielberg, just watch how the tanker stalks Mann and springs up outta nowhere on some occasions, the horn akin to battle cry or animalistic roar. I love how on occasion we see the tanker just sitting there, its exhaust pumping out its black fumes almost as if it were a breathing creature, waiting to pounce. The shape of the Peterbilt  281 cab section and long hood with front headlights, also gives the tanker an obvious face.

The movie is nothing but intriguing from start to finish for sure. The mystery never really gets unraveled, we never see the tanker driver, we never get a reason for his madness, the tanker truck grill/bumper has a few license plates from various States on it which hints at other possible highway kills? or maybe the driver just made other lonesome car drivers crash or abandon their cars (not killing them), and he took the plates? Presumably the tanker driver has always done this on desolate stretches of highway and in barren areas otherwise he'd have the police on his tail.

Plus at the very end what exactly did Mann intend to do?? he drives his car at the tanker for what reason?? What does happen is only down to pure luck for Mann, he had no idea it was gonna go down the way it did. And then what?? he's in the middle of the wilderness, with no car, and he's injured...sooo does he die? Unfortunately its left open ended for you the viewer to make your own minds up, alluring but annoying too. Still its a riveting little story that is well acted, beautifully shot and thoroughly well crafted, typical Spielberg.


Friday, 24 July 2015

Cannonball Fever (aka Cannonball Run III, Speed Zone, 1989)

Much like the previous two movies this one opens with yet another red Lamborghini Countache, but this time its tearing down a small winding wooded country road, a change from the open desert. Naturally right behind this Italian supercar the cops are in hot pursuit. In the meantime Lee Van Cleef, in a very small cameo, plays an elderly grandfather teaching his grandson how to skip stones across a small lake. Van Cleef tells the young boy how to throw the stone at just the right angle so it can skip across the water.

All of a sudden the red Lambo comes roaring up to the waterline and flies across the obviously shallow lake, skipping just like a flat stone...kinda, it then takes off once it hits dry land. The young boy looks at his grandfather and asks him about the angle he should throw the stone, Van Cleef looks at the car in disbelief and...annoyance I guess. The whole setup is cheesy as hell and doesn't really work to be honest, its not funny at all and Van Cleef is wasted totally, shame. The intro is good, its always good to see an 80's Lambo tearing it up, but it doesn't hold a candle to the first two movie intros.

I think you can guess what the plot is here, its another race, from east (Washington D.C.) to west (Santa Monica) and the winners this time stand to receive 1 million Dollars. Unfortunately the D.C. chief of police (Peter Boyle) manages to arrest all of the drivers prior to game time so a whole bunch of new drivers must be found. One by one each sponsor clambers to find a new driver any way they can, no matter who they are.

In the starting grid this time we have Charlie (John Candy), who has been tricked and bullied into driving for his so called best friend from school Gus (Eugene Levy). Charlie is a parking valet and brilliant driver, hence Gus wanting him for the race. Along for the ride is Tiffany, Gus's love interest, for some reason, mainly because she is eye candy. They use a BMW.

Matt Frewer plays Englishman Alec who is in debt to loan sharks. They send a hitman to whack him (Joe Flaherty), but Alec persuades Vic to ride in the race with him in order to pay back the money he owes. Vic may have other ideas though. They drive a Jag XJS.

The two sexy ladies for this movie aren't quite as sexy as the previous two but hey, you gotta have the sexy ladies in a sexy car, its obligatory. Here they manage to persuade a Ferrari owner to use his Spyder. The duo are MIT grads and electronics/gadgets experts, so they use their brains and electronic gizmos to assist them in gaining the upper hand. This is the easy bit of tame progression for the movie (and 80's), having the sexy females actually going against the norm and being intelligent and skillful characters instead of just skimpily dressed sluts.

Tim Matheson is a TV reporter who gets caught up in the race in his van, so he decides to race. The driver of the red Lambo from the intro sequence (John Schneider of The Dukes of Hazzard) gets arrested with all the other original drivers, its left in the hands of an Italian porter. An ice cool dude called Flash steps up outta nowhere and takes control to drive it, he's an ex-cop and wants the money for his own unknown reasons. Flash is a super cool, shades wearing driver, where as the Italian is a trembling nervous wreck.

Lastly Nelson and Randolph Sloane are two millionaires who spend their whole time trying to cheat their way to the finish, mainly by catching a plane to the finish line. They drive a Bentley Corniche. Jamie Farr makes a cameo as the Sheik from the first two movies but he doesn't race.

As you can imagine much of the run time is taken up with the predictable scenarios of the various characters getting into all sorts of close calls. There are some nice moments of car porn but nowhere near as much as the previous two movies, this time an emphasis has been put on making the few set pieces bigger. Hence the race from downtown Washington D.C. which is a highlight admittedly, the race into Santa Monica, and the use of a large aircraft. In between all that there are various small cameos of course and the usual tomfoolery and slapstick routines. One such sequence sees Candy pretty much redoing (homaging?) a famous scene from his classic movie 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles'. Another sees a learner driver being taught by a racist instructor who bullies the learner into overtaking any foreign car, whilst he verbally abuses the driver as they pass. Definitely another highlight as its actually very amusing to see this guys reaction to a Volvo and Alfa Romeo.

All things considering there aren't many, if any, car wrecks in this movie, it seems they were too scared to possibly damage anything, or maybe the budget wasn't high enough. The movie takes an age to get going and an age to actually finish and once the race is done it carries on with boring fluff. Its not a particularly funny film, or exciting film, alas we've kinda seen it all before now and this feels very much like beating a dead horse. Nonetheless it is fun at times, the cars are great as always (as long as you like cars) and the range of character actors on display is reasonable.


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Cannonball Run II (1984)

This movie kicks off much in the same way as the first movie. A white Lamborghini Countach is roaring down a desert highway, the engine throbbing as it tears up the tarmac yet again. It pulls up behind a cop car, teasing it, then blows past it. Next up we see another familiar SPEED LIMIT 55 sign, the Lambo breaks next to it and out jumps Catherine Bach, she obstructs the sign with another so it now reads SPEED LIMIT 155. She jumps back into the Lambo and it screeches off into the distance, cop car in tow. The chase continues until the Lambo pulls into a construction site and gets its white body colour jet washed off to reveal its original red body colour.

This intro sequence is nowhere near as ultra cool and thrilling as the original movies intro, how could it be when we've seen that idea already. Nonetheless its still a solid intro that still puts many action flicks to shame. Even the stark bold red credits that once again appear, this time with a typical 80's go-faster stripe underneath, look much better than most modern movies CGI credits.

Now I can't sugarcoat the plot here, lets be brutally honest, its exactly the same as the first movie, a shameless rehash. But that rehash does work to a degree because its a new race with new competitors, like a new season of Wacky Racers. This time the Cannonball has been organised by the Sheik (Jamie Farr) from the first movie, who has been ordered by his father to simply win the race, to restore honour to the family name. The main subplot surrounding the main event sees Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. back again but this time they owe a large sum of money to Don Don Canneloni (Charles Nelson Reilly), who is in turn in financial trouble with the mobster Kaplan (Telly Savalas). Together Canneloni's goons (Henry Silva, Alex Rocco, Michael Gazzo and Abe Vigoda) and Kaplan, spent most of the run time trying to stop the Sheik in order to kidnap him for his vast wealth.

This is where the movie pretty much turns into a Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner cartoon for the most part. There are sequences that have literately lifted straight out of the WB cartoon as the goonish thugs attempt to snatch the Sheik from the race in various harebrained schemes. They fly a chopper with a large magnet underneath to try and pick up the car whilst in motion, they set up a large tripwire-esque trap across the road to stop the car, they use a big claw-like clamp on the front of a car to try and grab the Sheiks car etc...its all pretty childish and cringeworthy to be honest.

As for the race, well back under starters orders this time are of course Reynolds and DeLuise, this time dressed in military garb and driving a limo also decked out in military colours. This time they pick up a pair of dancers dressed as nuns (Shirley MacLaine and Marilu Henner). This sexy duo think the dynamic duo of the Bandit and Captain Chaos could provide them with lots of money (the race winnings).

The sheik is of course back in the race driving another Rolls. Along for the ride with him are his servant played by Doug McClure and Doctor Van Helsing from the first movie again played by Jack Elam. As we know his aim is to win the race hands down, Van Helsing is there to look after him as he has an ulcer.

Making up Needham's automobile Ocean's 11-esque roster again, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin are this time dressed up as cops driving a Chevrolet Corvette. The rat pack is completed later on in the movie as Frank Sinatra joins the race in his Dodge Daytona Turbo because...well to complete the rat pack clearly.

Jackie Chan is also back in what feels like a rehashed role, his character wears virtually the same attire and he's driving another very similar Japanese car, a Mitsubishi Starion. Difference is for comedic purposes his partner is the giant Richard Kiel whose presence also seems to influence more Bond homages. Their car is able to turn into a mini submarine when under the water, plus other predictable gadgets seen before.

This being a Needham/Reynolds race flick (or personal inside joke flick), you can't not have some sexy ladies in skimpy attire driving a smokin' hot supercar. As already mentioned this time its Catherine Bach (minus her Daisy Dukes) and Susan Anton. However, not content with having a white/red Lambo at the start (which they abandon in the desert with its doors open!), they also get through a Merc 300 SL Coupe and a yellow Nova Sterling! Expect many tight ass shots...but do enjoy.

The worst idea in this flick has to be the use of a hideous orangutan that pretends to drive a Cadillac Fleetwood 75, whilst in the back is Mel Tillis and Tony Danza. Dunno if this is the same orangutan that partnered up with Clint Eastwood, don't think so, but the idea I think has been pinched from that Eastwood franchise.

Much like his other Burt Reynolds driven franchise this movie goes exactly the same route, a rehashed sequel. Like the first movie, this was never meant to be a sensible, its a complete parody/spoof/farce of a comedy that serves up yet more larger than life cameos, inside jokes, stereotypes and nods and winks galore. The movie ends with such an outlandish and hokey fight sequence, seriously, every trick in the book and every character is crowbarred into it for no real reason at all. Its like a beat 'em up videogame franchise with every character forced into one game title. Everything is upped to crazy cartoonish levels of mayhem with more in your face stunts and tyre screeching antics, yet there is actually less focus on the vehicle aspect this time I think.

Its not as bad as 'Smokey and the Bandit II', its not a complete and utter virtual remake of its predecessor, there is some fun to be had here admittedly. Of course car porn is evident and appreciated by those inclined, the action is hectic and enjoyable at times and I can't deny that the casting is epic. I loved seeing the Godfather mobsters all together, its cool seeing the rat pack together for the last time, and basically the sheer number of all-star cameos and odd matchups is just intriguing to see. Its lazy for sure, but still manages to keep its head above the waves with pure quirkiness.


Monday, 20 July 2015

The Cannonball Run (1981)

This movie opens with a black Lamborghini Countach tearing down an empty highway, a sun-kissed highway at dawn, the sound of the engine thundering. Instantly the movies main soundtrack kicks in with its toe tapping beat, the bold stark red credits role, instantly you know this song is cool and you're gonna like it. The jet black Lambo sweeps over the horizon (now set against a clear blue sky), behind it, following closely is a blue Pontiac Firebird/Firebird Trans Am police car, both cars are ripping up the tarmac. By this point if your attention has not been snagged, or you're not impressed by the sheer sex on wheels, then you're clearly not a petrolhead.

Based entirely on an actual unofficial, unsanctioned street race during the 70's, this movie is just that, a long street race from one side of the country to the other. There really is nothing more to this movie than that, a long running chase sequence filled with stunts, crashes and lots of inside jokes. The various characters are always trying to screw each other over, desperately trying to gain the advantage both time and distance wise, whilst avoiding smokey (highway patrols).

The collection of racers are basically a bunch of misfits and eccentrics all driving the vehicle of their choice. The characters and the cast that play them are the carrot on the stick for the movie, its a big ensemble of cult and classic stars of the time. Next to that its all about the vehicles, the plot...what plot? Of course this being a Hal Needham car flick he utilises his two main stars from his previous fast car flick (amongst others).

There isn't any particular protagonist in this movie but the duo of Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise tend to be the pack leaders obviously. They both drive a souped-up ambulance with Jack Elam on-board as the good doctor Nikolas Van Helsing (could of used a bit more imagination with that name). The sporadic moments of DeLuise as Captain Chaos are easily a guilty pleasure, even though you know its infantile nonsense.

The legendary pairing of Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. as a dunken, gambling obsessed duo dressed up as Catholic priests in a red Ferrari, was (and is) pretty fresh. These two serve up much of the comedy as they bumble their way across the country, a surprisingly solid little Laurel and Hardy act.

Tara Buckman and John Carpenter movie regular Adrienne Barbeau are the sexy catsuit wearing Lambo drivers. The stereotypical bimbos in a fast car that use their assets to get out of trouble.

This was Jackie Chan's second western movie, playing a sort of nerdy high-tec wizard who could of course kick ass. Chan and his partner Michael Hui race in a Subaru GL 4WD that has been kitted out with all sorts of computer gadgetry including radar, a rocket boosted engine, infrared sensors etc...Clearly playing on the old stereotype that people from Orient (China and Japan) are geeky techno geniuses with in depth martial arts knowledge...kinda true though.

Did I mention Hal Needham is the director here? Well if the 'Smokey and the Bandit' in-jokes , the casting of Reynolds and DeLuise and the fact this movie is kinda the same as said movie, didn't tip you off, then surely the inclusion of some good ol' redneck boys will. Can't not have some Confederate flag waving southern boys racing, a staple ingredient of Needham car flicks...along with Reynolds.

In one of the more amusing and intriguing character roles is Roger Moore...playing himself...kinda. Moore actually plays a character called Seymour Goldfarb Jr. yet this character goes by the name Roger Moore in the film. So...this character, played by Roger Moore, thinks he is the real Roger Moore, when he isn't. Not only that but this confused character drives a silver Aston Martin DB5 which is laden with all the expected gadgets and tricks. Whenever he is on screen a familiar little soundtrack plays, he does refer to his past playing a certain famous character, and he's always got a different beautiful woman in his car in every scene.

Lastly we have the Sheikh (Jamie Farr) in his white Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, accompanied by his sister (Bianca Jagger), who can buy his way out of anything. The only character to pop up in all three movies of this franchise and another ropy stereotype.

The whole point to this movie (like most of Needham's movies) is to focus solely on the cars and occasionally the characters that drive them. You know exactly what to expect from the get-go as we've seen it all before in his other Burt Reynolds fast car franchise. Lots of smoking tyre spinning, off-road tomfoolery, skids, doughnuts, helpless/useless police units and massive amounts of automobile carnage. At times these sequences get interspersed with some character and plot development, but not much of it ever builds up to anything important and half the time it gets interrupted by some hideous incident involving a big stunt.

In all honesty the movie can't live up to those first five electric minutes with the Lambo chase. That sequence is so unbelievably slick n sexy. The black Lambo screeches up to that SPEED LIMIT 55 sign, out jumps a slim sexy 80's blonde, graffitis it, jumps back in and zooms away. This short intro is epic in every sense, it gets your pulse racing, its exciting, thrilling and makes you wanna drive dangerously immediately, eat your heart out The Fast and Furious. Not only that but the movies trailer is kickass too! the movie looks and sounds awesome, its just a shame this isn't an accurate representation of the whole flick.

Alas it all feels like a big fun vacation for the Hollywood elite. Its like they made a movie for themselves stuffed with inside jokes, nods, winks and cameos galore! getting all their buddies on-board. Its overloaded with dated stereotypes, visuals and even the odd controversial comment. Still there is some cracking car porn here for fans and some stunts are impressive no doubt. A cult movie in a cult genre, unless you're into it you may not like it.


Friday, 17 July 2015

Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 (1983)

Why is this sequel called 'Part 3'? beats me, sounds strange really, like an old fashioned tale. Other than that its business as usual for a third time accept for the fact that the Bandit is no longer with us on this road trip. Yep for this third movie Reynolds has flown the coop leaving Gleason to hold the fort on his lonesome. The only other returning cast member is Reed as the old Snowman.

The plot once again sees the ultra rich Enos duo offering a wager to (this time) Sheriff Buford T. Justice. The rather pointless aim this time is to transport a large stuffed fish on their car, from Florida to Texas, within the time limit. Why a stuffed fish? well it makes no difference really, its just a stupid visual gag. So Justice accepts the wager and drives off with his dim witted son played again by Mike Henry. The little twist or gimmick in this story is after the Enos duo fail to slow down Buford on his new quest, they attempt to hire the Bandit to help them. But as we know Reynolds isn't in this movie so instead they have to opt for the Snowman for assistance.

This entire idea is somewhat tired really it must be said. The original movie was a great slice of hokey, Dixie bound tomfoolery with a cool car. The second was an utter shameless rehash of the first which literately didn't even bother to try and be remotely different, accept for the cargo it was virtually identical. Now with this they have turned the tables and tried a new angle by making Buford the mule, which I must give small kudos too. Alas they still can't escape the lure of the original flicks plot and simply have to make the movie into another big chase sequence.

Unfortunately that small element of originality with Buford goes out the window, the reason being the Snowman manages to slow Buford down by stealing the large stuffed fish on his car. Buford needs this stuffed fish to win the wager. Thusly this once again sees Buford on the chase, after the Snowman and the large stuffed fish. The twist concept of Buford being chased doesn't last long I'm afraid. Heck even Cledus the Snowman manages to pick up a female sidekick in virtually the same fashion as the Bandit did way back in the first movie. It appears that these movie characters have requirements, Buford always chases and the protagonist always has a female sidekick...and drives a Trans Am.

I don't actually know what Buford is in his police attire for this really, he is on the brink of retirement and once again is completely out of his jurisdiction the whole time. I understand being a police officer in a police car would have its advantages in high speed chases but he's out of his jurisdiction! In America you can tell that easily from the car model, colour, body wrap layout and of course the badge on the side. It doesn't matter of course because we all know its just for the movie, Buford has to be in his police garb, with his son, driving a wrecked police car, otherwise its not Buford T. justice.

I think we all know what to expect with this movie by now. There isn't much time to blink without possibly missing something as the entire movie is literately one big chase and crash sequence after another. There is very little actual plot or character building going in between the chaos. We see one chase and crash, Buford suffering some kind of humiliation and his car getting more beat up as it goes, then move on the next chase and crash. The slapstick and pratfalls are on a grand scale with this one, perhaps even more so than before, where as the stunts are pretty predictable really, you can see what's gonna happen the second the scene starts. They even throw in some motorboat chases this time, just to mix it up a bit...a tiny bit.

On the whole its more like watching banger/stock car racing on the streets, the mayhem is through the roof with gravity defying, unrealistic nonsense that is impressive in an odd way (gotta admire the stunt work). Its not really funny though, more childish and insane than anything, kids might like it but geez...even The Dukes of Hazzard and Knight Rider are more realistic. Put simply, it kinda works better than the second movie because they try something different, but it still doesn't work entirely because there is no Reynolds as the Bandit and Reed is no leading man. The Snowman on his own just doesn't hit the mark even if he is driving the famous black Trans Am Firebird.

Definitely only for people who like these specific late 70's/80's madcap car chase genre movies. If you like to spot all the old cars, pickup trucks and big rigs, whilst seeing a good old crunch up with solid stunts etc...well you know already this is the movie for you.


Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Smokey and the Bandit II (1980)

Hal Needham is back with Reynolds and all the gang for another dose of pedal to the metal, tarmac burning, high octane, highway speeding...I think. This time the movie has gone for a more all out comedy slapstick route, more along the lines of Needham's other movie 'The Cannonball Run', or dare I say, Disney's Herbie franchise.

Once again the plot revolves around the Bandit and his partner the Snowman, transporting a cargo across the country as quickly as possible. This time its from Miami to Dallas, once again the challenge is set by Big Enos, once again there is a big monetary reward and lastly the cargo is an elephant (only thing that is different). Here lies the problem with this movie, its exactly the same shit as the first movie, exactly!! Once again the duo team up with Sally Field's character Frog, who has once again left Junior Justice at the altar, which naturally means Sheriff Buford T. Justice is back on their trail...again. The entire premise of the first movie is basically rebooted or remade here, accept the cargo is an elephant.

I really couldn't believe my eyes as I was watching this (first time viewing), the plot simply retreads everything. When we find the Bandit he has become a drunk which adds a new dimension to the character, but that is quickly forgotten as the plot recaptures the same old vibe, but not in a good way. Frog is once again lured away from getting married to Junior, which begs the question why on earth is she still even wanting to marry this guy! I thought she was over him in the first movie. The fact that this leads to Buford Justice chasing the Bandit and co across the country yet again feels really really rehashed and boring.

This movie seriously takes a nose dive in terms of dignity, talk about selling out and milking your original idea. The whole project just feels like its patting itself on the back whilst slapping product advertisement stickers all over itself. I mean lets look at the Bandits attire in this one, he's wearing a shiny red jacket with the words 'Bandit' and 'Trans Am' down the sleeves and across the back. Even the car has 'Bandit' on its paintwork which makes me wonder why really, it that really necessary? is the Bandit a product within this movies universe? Plus how the hell did they manage to afford a Pontiac Trans Am by chopping in that crappy old car?

As the story unfolds more and more ridiculous things happen which make no sense and have clearly been chucked in to be funny, apparently. Enter Dom Deluise, a Needham regular, a regular movie partner of Reynolds and a regular slapstick comedian of the time. If you ever needed your movie to be bolstered with in your face comedy then Deluise was your man, and sure enough he is on good form here as expected. The only problem is his character has obviously been jammed in just to extract the best from Deluise and nothing more, the character is a throwaway job. The fact the Bandit and co take him along on their adventure makes no sense either because they could of dropped him off anywhere, he's obviously there to salvage the movie.

Now lets talk about the cargo, the elephant. Yes that's right, they stuff a living creature into the trailer of a big rig, no light, no food, no water and most importantly no air! Couldn't help but wonder if this would have been allowed these days, of course its not real but we do actually see the animal climb into the trailer. The point is its the whole idea of doing it, and the way the characters think its perfectly OK, although admittedly they do look after the animal much better later on. Gotta ask why a Republican party would need an elephant, yeah sure its your mascot but you really need a real one?!

The whole thing is so drab, just watching Buford chase the Bandit all over again, doing the same spiel but without any grown-up edge to it. Everything is so childish, the chases are almost like Benny Hill sequences, the carnage is tame and has this cartoon-esque quality to it, there is never any real threat or danger etc...because its all so light-hearted. In the first movie it felt relatively realistic, like it could happen, here its all over the top and off the wall, which in-turn takes away any proper enjoyment. Perfect example being the big money sequence where the Snowman and all his big rig buddies take on an entire squadron of smokies. Now this is the sequence which I refer to as (Disney's) 'The Love Bug' sequence, this is what I meant at the start of this review. The whole thing is pretty cringeworthy and virtually destroys any self respect this movie had.

I was seriously disappointed with this sequel, never knew it was such a rehash...or reboot basically! Its exactly the same as the first movie with minor alterations, watered and dumbed down incredibly. There isn't even any car or truck porn to get excited about, they have completely jettisoned that idea leaving only the famous black Trans Am. I can't count all the big rigs in the Love Bug sequence simply because it was so crap and infantile, clearly not about the trucks. Do yourself a favour and don't bother with this shockingly woeful attempt at a sequel.


Sunday, 12 July 2015

Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Twas this movie that helped along the creation of the popular cult TV show The Dukes of Hazzard. Not solely of course, but these fast drivin' Southern cowboys really grabbed the public's attention back in the late 70's. In an odd way, now I think about it, this franchise could well be looked upon as the Fast and the Furious of its day. A lot of the interest here focuses on the automobiles, well the Pontiac Trans Am, but if you have a thing for big American rigs then you'll enjoy this too.

The premise goes like this, two mega rich Texan cowboys want a driver to smuggle a load of Coors Beer from Texas (in the west), to Georgia (in the east), within a set time limit. No particular reason for this challenge I might add, this millionaire father and son duo merely want to see if a driver can succeed in the bet, for fun, because...reasons, don't question it. The snag is, Coors Beer was not allowed to be sold east of the Mississippi River, because...I don't know. The beer was also supposedly one of the finest beers in the USA at the time, but I still have no idea why it couldn't be sold in the east. So the Bandit steps up to the challenge with his sidekick the Snowman, they gotta collect the merchandise and haul it back east, if they manage it they stand to win $80,000!

Directed by Hal Needham and the first of his movies to feature fast cars and Burt Reynolds. Back in the late 70's, early 80's there was a definite splurge of these goofy fast car comedies, very loose plots about getting from A to B in a variety of vehicles, lots of slapstick, tomfoolery and sexy ladies. These movies were pure male fodder, for young lads, petrol heads and showboaters, Reynolds was (at the time) the epitome of the cool ladies man, not necessarily big and strong but rebellious, dashing and cocky, Errol Flynn in a fast car. In this movie we see him at his peak, the tash is dark and bushy, the attire is the stereotypical southern bar-hopping US cowboy, he's laid back but also on the ball, he smokes and he drives a slick black all American Pontiac Trans Am. Its like they made the Marlboro Man the main character...but in a fast car.

Everything about this movie is all American and that's what made it so popular around the world I believe, it was an insight into (southern) American life which many people (outside the US) had never seen before. The Bandit and his partner, one driving a badass muscle car and the other driving a typical all American big rig, tearing across the southern States with the law on their tail. Despite the fact this duo are breaking the law they are made out to be the good guys, Robin Hood types, just'a good ol' boys.

On the flip side you have the police which seems to consist of two people, the fat loud Buford T. Justice played by Jackie Gleason, and Junior Justice played by Mike Henry. Its quite clear to see the similarity between these two characters and the law enforcers of Hazzard County, especially the simple Junior Justice. However the whole angle for these two seems a bit far fetched, they are merely after the Bandit because he picked up Carrie (Sally Field) who was running away from her wedding with Junior. I don't believe Buford knows about the Bandits illegal cargo, he just wants to kidnap Sally Field's character and drag her back to get married against her will. To achieve this the Sheriff crosses numerous State lines and goes way out of his jurisdiction, seems ridiculous, but then again its not a sensible movie.

If you're expecting masses of car carnage then you might be disappointed, the only real devastation we see is to Buford's police car. The Bandit gets into various scraps and sticky situations along the journey from Texas to Georgia, but naturally evades most cleanly. The various police forces that try to nab the Trans Am of course end up flippin' over, crashing into each other or getting dunked into ditches. Along the route they are assisted by many other big rig drivers and locals that all believe the Bandit to be a local southern hero. This happens via everyone's CB radios which was also became very popular at the time, lots of rapid quickfire radio gibberish flying about that sounds cool but only truckers understand. Leaves you struggling to keep up with the dialog but its impressive sounding and actually authentic.

This is a very simple concept movie, there isn't really a lot to it. There aren't that many super duper stunts in all fairness, sure there's the obligatory Dukes of Hazzard jump in the Trans Am and various bits of solid driving skills on show, but don't go expecting a 'Blues Brothers' riot of wreckage. Numerous drive-by shots of the now famous black Trans Am both near, far and wide, some in the rain, some in the gleaming sunshine, tyre spins, skids etc... Same again for the Kenworth rig and its iconic trailer art, lots of lovely wide shots and close-ups, and all vehicles with many interior shots of the cast as they speed along. Most of these sequences and shots are accompanied by a pretty good country soundtrack that's enough to get your foot tapping, overall it certainly delivers on open road auto porn that's for sure.

Its easy to see why this became such a hit, it was fresh, quirky, exhilarating stuff that kick started an entire genre. What's more it can be enjoyed by all ages as it offers thrills n spills for kids and adults, its one of those movies that was often shown on TV here in the UK. Looking back in retrospect I think it just about holds up, its stupid in places with the pratfall/slapstick comedy going overboard at times (Gleason's Buford and Henry's Junior mainly), but Needham keeps it together generally. Its basically one long real car chase interspersed with cheesy visual gags, cornball cult fun stuff, pure Americana.


Thursday, 9 July 2015

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (2015)

I guess it was inevitable that we would see a sequel, the first movie was quite good fun I can't deny, unsure how well it did but most things get sequels these days. Hell I'm sure there will be a third too, because all the bigwigs like to make trilogies, its great for DVD sales.  But yeah...I did like the first movie somewhat, it was a reasonable idea, a mall cop thinking he's a real cop, trying to be a real cop, it worked on some levels.

The main pull for this franchise was/is of course Kevin James who uses his weight to gain laughs lets not beat around the bush. Admittedly I am a fan of the guy to a degree (said it before and I'll say it again), I think he's enjoyable, fun and effective with his physical gags, plus he's a good everyman that we the audience can relate too. Unfortunately he does seem to have had more success on TV than the big screen, and he's not helping himself here.

This movie is virtually the same shit that we saw in the first movie. Blart and his daughter go to a security convention in Vegas, low and behold at the exact same time a group of criminals are planning to steal all the valuable paintings from the same hotel Blart is staying in. Just like the first movie Blart blunders into the crime caper and ends up stopping it in his usual clumsy overweight manner, spoiler alert! he manages it. Oh...would a Las Vegas hotel have the Van Gogh Sunflowers painting in it?

Yep its the same as the first movie yet somehow its much worse, probably because its a babyish infantile pile of crap this time around. Seriously, the last movie has some good moments of sarcastic humour, this has nothing, its completely void of anything that would make an adult or child smile. Its bizarre, there literately isn't anything funny at all! not a single moment that made me smile. Hell there aren't any actual jokes! it pretty much consists of James making stupid faces (that aren't funny faces) and mincing around trying to be funny. What I really don't get is the franchises obsession with those Segway things, seriously there is an entire scene dedicated to trying to make out those things are funny. I realise its Blart's little trademark and part of his character but it isn't funny! watching him trying to show off on one isn't funny, its just lame.

Everything else is completely predictable throwaway spiel we've seen a shitzillion times before. Blart's daughter is fat just like him, she falls for a good looking guy who is clearly out of her league and Blart doesn't like it, the main baddie looks like a Bond villain, the baddie henchmen are a standard bunch with a token black guy and token sexy females, the hotels security is headed by some uber sexy male hothead and the hotels general manager is a sexy supermodel type. The only thing they add here which had promise and showed some ingenuity, was the little gang of security officers that meet with Blart for the convention. A ragtag team of misfits that really shouldn't be in security...but are, clearly for reasons other than actual security. James older brother Gary Valentine stars in this as one of the aging, fat, balding security guards in this little gang. Again clearly meant to be a hilarious addition...but it isn't.

The whole security convention aspect could of been a winner, they did the same silly thing in the US TV version of 'The Office' with an office supply convention. Seeing that episode shows how funny this movie could have been in the right hands, even with James, the material was there (albeit a little bit of good material) but its been wasted. That one small idea does not make up an entire movie of course, and as already explained there is nothing else here of value. Even the apparent suspenseful finale where Blart takes down the bad guys is pathetic and not even up to the meager standards of the first movie! This could have been better with a slight adult edge, it was never gonna be great but it could of been better, but its not, its pretty darn terrible.


Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Last Knights (2015)

The title doesn't inspire much does it, much like the drab 'First Knight', remember that? Anyhoo as you can probably guess this is all about medieval knights, the twist being its an adaptation of the classic historical Japanese tale, Forty-Seven Ronin. So its 47 Ronin...but with medieval knights, so predictable I'm amazed it hasn't been done already.

So the plot should be obvious to any movie fan. A group of elite knights led by their aged master are up against a corrupt official who is in-turn very close to the Emperor of this unknown land. The corrupt official manages to get the knights master into trouble and executed as a traitor to the Empire basically because he wouldn't cooperate with his bribes. This of course leaves the small group of elite knights masterless and seething for revenge.

Mkay so, we have our adventure, our hairy manly adventure for big sweaty burly men...grrr. First thing, this movie is based on the historical Japanese event of the 18th century, an event that is supposedly true although I think historians are unsure of the exact facts. This movie is an adaptation of that story yet its apparently completely fictional, unless I have missed something major. I have no idea where this movie is suppose to be set, we are not given any city names, regions, lands nothing, not even the character names give much away. Obviously as we are dealing with knights here its presumably set somewhere within Europe during the Middle Ages, and judging by the landscapes on view I'd hazard at guess at Eastern Europe somewhere. This leads me to question how historically accurate this movie is suppose to be, it sure looks historically accurate, it looks great in fact, but it seems to be set within some mythical land like a Conan movie. I have to ask myself, if you want the movie to be an authentic entity, why are you not using real places? maybe with some real people even.

This leads me to other factors such as the character names. Clive Owen's character is called...Raiden, yes Raiden, as in we just totally pinched that off Mortal Kombat. The corrupt official is called Geza Mott, Morgan Freeman's character is Bartok and Cliff Curtis's character is called Cortez. Yes it does all sound like a line up of Star Wars characters or indeed, a Conan flick. I will point out here that Owen is of course the rugged leader of the elite knights and Freeman is of course the aged master who gets killed off, surely no surprises there.

Now I get to the crux of this movie, well the apparent crux anyway. It seems the small unit of elite knights in this movie are pretty diverse, in fact the whole cast of the movie is pretty diverse. Now that's not an issue of course but it does again hinder the historical authenticity of the film. The main issue being...what exactly is the director trying to aim for here?? is this suppose to be an accurate depiction of medieval Europe or just a fantasy movie that looks accurate? This small unit of knights consists of men from all over, Englishmen, New Zealand (or in the film Arabic maybe), Oriental...presumably Japan, African and I'm sure I heard some Yanks in there too. Their master, played by Freeman, is of course African too (presumably), his daughters looked Asian to me, the Emperor of the land appears to be possibly Arabic or maybe Turkish? he has an accent for sure, and Mott the corrupt official has a definite Japanese samurai warrior at his side.

So what the hell is going on here?! where is this taking place exactly?? I'm sure there was diversity in places during the Middle Ages but not like this, this is like a historical avengers team for the politically correct. To further add more questions, Owen's character towards the end states he will restore his peoples name, their lands, his nation, but surely all these people are within the same country? Freeman and his knights ruled a city somewhere, and they traveled to the capital to see the Emperor, so its all within one country, so what the hell is Owen's character on about saying he wants to restore his nation. Unless he means he wants to free his nation from corruption, but it doesn't really seem that serve to be honest.

Truth be told the film does look wonderful throughout, no expense has been spared on getting every set and costume looking really authentic. The location work is also breathtaking at times with some amazing landscapes all captured against some stunning weather conditions. Clearly much love, time, patience and attention to detail was spent on this project, kudos. There is some CGI thrown in the mix too but only for longshots of the landscapes and buildings, you can tell at times but generally its add great scope, depth and atmosphere to the proceedings.

Its definitely a fun sword and sandal adventure with dashing gruff heroes, slimy villains and all the cliched uber testosterone packed fight sequences you'd expect. Add to that lots of predictable stirring emotional moments of death, happiness and vengeance in a flurry of fast paced thrills n spills. The movie adds nothing new to the mix at all, hard to when its an adaptation of 47 Ronin of course. Its basically the same old revenge tale but this time with medieval knights...typically dressed all in black to look ultra badass. Its a shame they didn't utilise English knights of the 14th-15th century when they were very colourful and kitted out in mail coifs, closed helmets and full body armour, that would have been more original methinks. Fun but jumbled, it seems they have taken elements from various other movies and thrown them all in the mix with reasonable results.


Saturday, 4 July 2015

Wolfen (1981)

Adapted from a novel of the same name, yet after a bit of reading the movie is quite different from the book. With a title like this you'd think this film was about werewolves, but you'd be wrong. In fact it kinda depends on what source you go by, the book is sort of about werewolves, a species of creature that are descended from wolves, intelligent and probably more like werewolves than in this film. In the movie there are no werewolves and no creatures descended from the wolf line.

And there lies the problem with this movie, no werewolves. The plot is all about these mysterious murders in New York, bodies are turning up badly mutilated or half eaten and everyone knows there aren't any alligators in the sewers doing this so...what gives?! Fear not, along comes the most unlikely monster hunter in the form of Albert Finney to try and crack the case, with the help of his female partner and the plucky coroner played by Gregory Hines. Now this isn't a jokey action packed supernatural thriller, oh no, its actually a reasonably slow paced detective story as we follow Finney and co snooping around in the Bronx.

For the most part its quite intriguing I can't deny, I had no clue who or what was actually killing these people. You're not so sure if its actually a supernatural beastie or just some looney tune, someone close to Finney perhaps. Without trying to give the game away it is disappointing how they go about this movie, the alterations they make. Like I said in the book there are actually genuine creatures on the prowl, here in the movie they substitute monsters for wolf spirits, or more accurately, Native American wolf spirits. I'm still not sure if these wolves were actually the Native American descendants Finney's character follows up on, these guys claim they are shapeshifters in the movie. Seeing as in the book the creatures are descendants of wolves, it makes sense in this movie that the wolf spirits on the loose are Native American descendants. It never really confirms this concept (I don't think) but I'm guessing the local Natives were the wolves, or they were able to summon them maybe.

What really disappointed me was the fact the wolves actually did look like proper wolves, they actually used real wolves in the movie. This of course ties in with the new Native American angle they use, but I found it an anti-climax because I wanted to see something more terrifying, more of a monster, pack of monsters. The whole movie has this pretty decent eerie atmosphere going on showing us wolf POV, how they stalk their prey, their vision, how they attract prey by making ghostly baby noises etc...Then they merely turn out to be actual wolves that you can see in the zoo or where ever. I didn't find that scary, after all the great buildup, dark moody moments and horrific deaths...they just turn out to be actual wolves.

Speaking of the wolf POV shots, well blow me down if John McTiernan didn't swipe ideas from this movie for 'Predator'. I kid you not! I have read this movie is notable for its early use of thermography/thermal imaging with the wolf vision sequences. You see these sequences and right away you know McTiernan probably pinched the idea for his Arnie vehicle, but jazzed it up a bit with bolder colours. Its these sequences that really add some spice to the wolf antics in the movie, mainly because for the most part you believe its a monster or werewolf and these sequences are darn effective conveying that.

What's more I do firmly believe James Horner also pinched the musical score from this film for that particular Arnie vehicle! You listen to it throughout this film and its pretty obvious if you ask me, its nearly identical! All this time I thought McTiernan and co had spearheaded such an original franchise and material.

Its certainly dated these days but the gore effects hold up well, very well actually. There's something a bit off about it all though, I guess the sight of these Native American fellas and their own little bar in downtown NY doesn't quite seem to fit in with the surroundings. I can't help but think the whole thing would have worked better in the wilderness or a smallish town out west, the sight of these wolves running around the city looks more out of place than scary really. Again the choice of Finney in the lead was an odd one if you ask me, he also doesn't quite fit into the NY surroundings. Its definitely an off-kilter movie and slightly misleading at the same time, the book does sound much better and more of what you'd expect.


Thursday, 2 July 2015

The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

Possibly one of the most iconic horror thrillers around that everyone forgets about. Its probably the epitome of schlock horror with the added bonus of having some quite dazzling practical effects courtesy of the legend Rick Baker. Get a load of that title! As with many sci-fi movies of the 70's and 80's, this film was heavily influenced by older sci-fi thrillers of the 50's that pretty much had the same plot. A dude comes back from outer space with some kind of illness or infection that slowly kills him.

Sure enough, in this movie a dude (Steve West) comes back from the far reaches of space (travelling to Saturn), after getting hit in the face with a blast of radiation. Although, I'm not too sure how they managed to get back to Earth when two of the crew were fried alive and the other was left half alive. Anyway with his other two crew mates dead, he is the only survivor back on Earth. But to everyone's horror the surviving astronauts flesh is slowly melting away, his whole body is slowly falling apart, and no one knows why. Role credits...oh wait!

Yes there is more, the movie continues for another hour and a half or so of simply watching this guy melt slowly. Its strange really because the movie starts off really well, the small sequence of the three astronauts in their little craft approaching Saturn's rings is quite decent. It looks really authentic with a solid little set, good costumes and good lighting, you could be fooled into thinking you're watching a serious sci-fi. Its the moment we get back to Earth the movie transforms into an extremely hammy tacky slasher thriller. For starters why would this astronaut leave the hospital and run off?? why would he even get out of bed in the first place? You're in a hospital, there is obviously something seriously wrong with you, you'd want the best help you can get, you'd want top people on the case, you'd want answers etc...Getting out of bed and running off after seeing your rotting hands and face is easily the wrong choice in my opinion.

From here on things get a tad silly, first off he starts to kill people in horrendous ways, yeah that's not cool bro. OK he's gone a bit loopy from the shock of seeing himself rotting away, but would that really cause you to start killing people in a fashion that would make Jason Voorhees proud? Its at some point during the stalking carnage that we find out he needs to eat human flesh to keep his strength up...yeaaah kinda leeching of the 1968 zombie craze set in motion by Romero methinks. This means we basically get one death scene after another, all set up in cheesy ways which are so blatantly obvious they offer no scares at all these days. Its also at this point that you basically don't really care about the character of West anymore, seeing as he's slaughtering folk for no real reason other than he looks like a monster. Each victim is the predictable stereotypical type, an old couple, a single bloke who looks a bit geeky, a young married couple, some faceless cops and some military dudes, oh and there's a little girl...but she of course escapes unharmed. Amazingly there are no teens having sex that get killed off, quite surprising really considering.

Despite all that its really all about the makeup and gore effects for the melting that we're interested in. Needless to say you can't go wrong with Rick Baker at the helm and he doesn't disappoint here. Admittedly the melting effects don't actually change all that much for the majority of the middle of the film, its only right at the very end we see the real money sequence. Up to that point we get lots of little gory moments with his ear coming off, his arm being cut off, various chunks of flesh and blood splodges, lots of gooey POV views from the melting mans perspective and some violent kills. For the most part he looks like a large runny cheese n tomato pizza that is dripping away but it is highly effective. But as I said the finale where we actually see the titular character melt away into a slushy, sticky, puddle of goo is by far the highlight. The vision of West's remaining eye slowly sliding down his face as his skull collapses in on itself is really terrific and haunting. Its a near perfect example of hands-on, practical effects that still holds up today, Baker the master craftsman.

Its a mixed bag really. The concept is not original, the start is good, the entire middle of the film is (now) a cliched monster slasher flick, but the effects are fantastic and you do kinda feel for West, at times. Although the morality aspect of the movie is well n truly lost beneath a sea of grisly gunk. Unfortunately overall the cheap slasher-esque motif sticks in your mind and brings the movie down, not even the so called black comedy segments, which are sporadic, make any real difference. I have read it was suppose to be a more light-hearted movie at first but they changed their minds, alas you can tell with some scenes feeling out of place. The old couple that get killed are clearly an old comedy sequence left in. In the end I can't deny that the movie is thin on plot, thin on motives for the characters and of course focuses more on horror and gore. Its a movie about a man...who slowly melts away, and that's it, nothing more, nothing less...but hell I liked it!