horror, movie, movie review, sci-fi

July 7th, 2019 Movie – Monster From The Ocean Floor

monster from the ocean floor

So continuing on with the few movies that were listed on my “shopping list”, I find myself watching the first movie that Roger Corman produced. That little nugget right there honestly should have had me watching this movie a lot sooner than now, but that is life. Anyways, I first came aware of this movie while watching the Attack Of The 50 Foot Monstermania DVD. At one point during the movie they showed movie posters for some of the numerous giant monster movies that came out during the 50’s and 60’s and this was one of the few movies they showed that I had not seen. Now let’s see what Mr. Corman has in store for me with today’s movie, Monster From The Ocean Floor.

The plot: Julie Blair is vacationing in a small seaside village in Mexico. While taking a break from attempting to draw the ocean, she argues with the village boy that accompanied her, about his belief that there is a sea monster in the ocean. After the boy leaves, Julie decides to go for a swim in the ocean and is surprised when a small, one-man sub surfaces right in front of her. After apologizing for scaring her, the driver of the sub introduces himself as marine biologist Steve Dunning and invites her to the boat where he and his colleagues are doing research. Julie agrees and they head to the boat, where Dr. Baldwin welcomes Julie and starts showing her some of their specimens. Suddenly, a boat pulls up saying that the diver he is with is missing so Steve goes to help look for the missing diver; finding the man’s dive suit but no sign of the man. Later that night, Julie and Steve are talking about the missing diver and Julie tells him about the boy’s story of the sea monster but Steve laughs it off. The next day, Julie convinces Steve to join her in looking for the monster and they head down into the ocean but when Julie spots a large octopus, she is scared and asks Steve to take her back to the boat. After talking with the fisherman who lost the diver, Julie goes to see a local man named Pablo, who tells her that he had seen a single giant eye in the water one night during a full moon. Julie tells Steve about Pablo’s story, as well as what some other villagers told her and asks if anything happened in the area. When Steve tells her about the Bikini Island tests, she says that maybe the radiation mutated a creature into a monster but Steve says she has been reading too much science fiction. Dr. Baldwin joins them, telling Steve that Stanford had approved their request and Steve tells Julie that they are moving to a different area for a few weeks but if anything comes up to get in touch with him. That night, Julie walking along the beach when she is frightened by a cow that had wandered onto the beach and she collapses onto the sand. Suddenly, a large, octopus-like creature appears in the ocean and starts heading towards shore and Julie sees it but, thinking it is her imagination running wild again, she collapses back into the sand. Meanwhile, Pablo is talking to an old woman, Tula, who tells him that they must perform a sacrifice to appease the monster but Pablo is reluctant to do so but finally agrees. Pablo attempts to kill Julie, first by secretly putting some blood on her while she goes diving, and then by letting the air out of her scuba tanks so she can drown. Julie manages to make it back to the boat and as she pulls the anchor back up, she snags onto something, pulling it up with the anchor. Julie sends the object to Steve and Dr. Baldwin, who examine it and determine it came from a giant amoeba and quickly head back to the village. At the village, Julie and Pablo head back into the ocean and Pablo makes one more attempt to kill Julie but can’t bring himself to do it and tells Julie of the legend, apologizing for what he has done. Julie forgives him, then dives down into the water, where she spots the monster and quickly hides against some rocks to avoid being spotted by it. Steve and Dr. Baldwin arrive next to Pablo’s boat and when he tells them that Julie should have been back by now, Steve has his mini-sub readied to launch so he can go find her. Steve spots the monster approaching Julie and pilots his sub straight at it, crashing it into the monster’s eye and killing it. Steve then swims over to Julie and carries her back to the surface and after she regains consciousness, Steve apologizes for doubting her and the two kiss.

This wasn’t a bad little giant monster movie but it did suffer from one problem; not enough giant monster. The acting was ok, with Anne Kimbell doing a good job as Julie, while Stuart Wade was equally good as Steve, though the chemistry between them was rather awkward and forced. I know that this was early in the 50’s nuclear terror but it still felt unoriginal, despite this being one of the earlier movies like this. I did think the idea of an amoeba being mutated to giant size was a pretty good idea, and I liked the design of the creature, especially the glowing eye and tentacle tips. The rest of the special effects were ok, though the times that they sped up the camera speed where it was too shaky. The sound was a little off at the beginning of the movie, as the music was overpowering the opening narrative, but it did get better as the movie progressed. A decent old movie to watch if you get the chance.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

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horror, movie, movie review, sci-fi, thriller

March 10th, 2019 Movie – Lords Of The Deep

lords of the deep

There are times, that I hate Daylight Savings Time. Mainly it is in the spring, where we “jump forward an hour”, as it really tends to throw me off my day. Anyways, I have decided to continue reviewing some of the movies offered on Shout Factory TV that I do not own. I chose today’s movie because it happened to also be featured on the latest season of MST3K, so you know it is most likely to be ridiculously bad. In the late 80’s, there seemed to be a ton of movies that focused on alien life forms at the bottom of the ocean. I mean, we had The Abyss, Leviathan, and Deepstar Six to name a few. So it makes sense that Roger Corman would produce his own movie on the subject. So let’s see what is in store for us with today’s movie, Lords Of The Deep.

The plot: In the near future, large corporations have begun developing undersea habitats in the hope of conquering and developing a new frontier under the oceans. As a submersible vehicle heads towards a habitat, it’s crew discuss how one of the scientists at the habitat has discovered something that has frightened one of the company backers, who wants her dealt with. At the habitat, Claire, the biologist in question, is studying the strange gelatinous mass she discovered when she suddenly decides to touch it with her bare hands, resulting in her receiving strange, psychic visions. Meanwhile, Commander Dobler is talking with a corporate executive about the replacement sub’s failure to arrive yet and the crews’ mixed reactions to being replaced. Later, Dopler makes contact with the sub and is talking with the sub’s commander when a quake occurs and the sub loses contact with the habitat as it’s systems go down. Inside the habitat, Claire had been talking with her lover, Jack O’Neill, when the quake happened and as she heads back to her lab to protect her work, the beaker with the substance falls and breaks, cutting her arm in the process and the substance gets into her bloodstream, resulting in more visions. When the quake subsides, Dopler asks for a status report and after hearing of the damages to the station, has a repairman, Chadwick, head out to make repairs. Dobler then tells the rest of the crew about losing contact with the replacement sub and Fernandez goes out in a sub to see if he can find them. Fernandez locates the sub and tells Dobler that it’s hatches are blown open and there is no sign of the crew and Dobler orders him to come back. Meanwhile, Chadwick continues making repairs when he is attacked by something and he makes his way back into the dive pool. When medical officer Barbara goes to examine him, she discovers that he has mutated into something that resembles the sample that Claire had been studying. Claire and Barbara have the “body” taken to the lab so they can run some tests to try and figure out what has happened to Chadwick, overriding Dobler’s orders to destroy it, and Dobler tries to deal with the crews’ reactions to learning that the replacement crew has vanished. Dobler tells his second in command, Engel, to make sure Fernandez is ok before sending him back out to retrieve the other sub so they can all escape the station, then uses the intercom system to listen in to Claire and Barbara’s discussions on the creature. Later, Claire goes to speak with Dobler about the creature, which has changed shape into a stingray like appearance, and tells Dobler that the creature is intelligent but he is skeptical about it. That night, Claire has some more visions and hears a voice telling her that she has to trust them and she will understand. When another quake hits the station, Dobler checks to make sure everyone is ok and finds them all in the lab staring at the specimen tank, where the creature has changed into a more humanoid/ray appearance. Dobler orders Fernandez to retrieve the other sub so they can all leave but Fernandez finds himself attacked by more of the ray-like creatures and disappears. Back at the station, Dobler orders the computer, Trilby, to terminate the creature while he tries to get the rest of the crew to sign a non-disclosure agreement but Engel is the only one to sign the form, as Claire and the others say the discovery is too big to keep quiet. When they discover the creature has escaped the tank, Dobler has Trilby try and track the creature so they can destroy it, then heads to the control room so he can monitor the situation. As Claire and Seaver search the station, Trilby tells Claire to head to the specimen room, as movement was detected there, but Seaver chooses to go there in her place. When Seaver gets there, the doors shut behind him and he is unable to get them open; while inside the control room, Dobler watches the computer screen as the dot he believes is Claire expires. Meanwhile, Claire continues checking the washroom, where she discovers the creature hiding in the drains, and she begins having the visions again. Trilby orders the crew to head to the specimen room, where they all discover Seaver’s body inside while Claire is missing. Jack and Engel go to try and find Claire while Barbara moves to start an autopsy on Seaver’s body but Dobler tells her not to, as he doesn’t want her to discover the truth on how he died, and says they need to find Claire. Meanwhile, Jack finds Claire and the two lovers embrace before he tells her about Seaver’s death. Claire tells him that the creatures have established a colony on the ocean floor and she has to go there and asks for his help, with Jack agreeing so long as she comes back. Claire leaves, and Jack fakes being attacked by the creature to cause a distraction for her to leave unnoticed. Jack is carried to his room and Barbara watches over him, knowing he was faking, and once they are alone, she asks what is going on. Jack tells her to examine Seaver’s body, as they have to know what happened to him, then meet him in the computer annex, as he is going to try and unlock a secret file that he and Claire had discovered earlier. The two go their separate ways but Dobler, back in the control room, notices their movement on the monitor and gets suspicious. Meanwhile, Claire makes her way in the sub, escorted by the creatures that had attacked Fernandez, and discovers the alien colony, where she is shocked to find Chadwick is there and still alive. Chadwick explains that the aliens are all one being and are there to teach them balance but warns that a massive quake is about to occur which will destroy the lab, and Claire has to go back and get everyone out of there. Back at the station, Barbara discovers that Seaver died of asphyxiation and that Dobler had ordered the room to be sealed and the oxygen from the room removed, only to have Dobler to do the same thing to her. Meanwhile, Jack discovers the truth about what is going on there only to have Dobler confront him and as they struggle, Dobler knocks Jack out. Dobler then tells Engel to go out and locate Claire and Engel reluctantly does so but ends up being attacked by the creatures. Dobler then contacts the executive, who chastises Dobler for his actions and tells him that he is being replaced. Claire arrives back at the station and tells Dobler about the colony and how the quake will destroy the lab and they have to escape. Claire goes to look for the others, finding Barbara’s dead body and and injured Jack but as she tries to help Jack back to the sub, Dobler has the corridor sealed and begins removing the air. Jack manages to knock the cover off the air duct and goes to shut down Trilby but Claire passes out due to lack of oxygen and is saved by the creature. As the quake hits the lab, Jack and Claire reunite and make their way to the sub, but Dobler tries to stop them. Jack and Dobler struggle, with Dobler getting the upper hand over the injured Jack, but Claire helps Jack and they manage to escape, leaving Dobler to die in the lab. As they make their way back to the colony, they experience a vision that explains what happened to the alien’s planet and how it came to it’s end. The voice then tells about how they traveled to Earth, whose habitat was similar to theirs, and as they saw humans going down the same path they did, they said they want to help the humans avoid making the same mistake. Claire and Jack arrive at the colony and Jack is surprised to see not just Chadwick, but Fernandez, Engel, and the replacement crew their as well.

Ok, this wasn’t the greatest movie ever but it actually wasn’t that bad of a movie. The acting was fairly decent, with Priscilla Barnes doing a good job as Claire, while Bradford Dillman was equally good as Dobler. I also liked Mey Rayne (Barbara) but the rest of the cast really felt too wooden, especially Daryl Haney (Jack). As far as the plot goes, it really didn’t feel all that original. I mean, yes there were a lot of aspects that made it seem like nothing more than a ripoff of The Abyss, but then you throw in the whole social commentary about humanity destroying the world by over-exploiting the planet’s resources, which has also been done plenty of times before this movie came out. Adding those two aspects together did not exactly make a unique story telling experience. The special effects in the movie were honestly a mix of being good and bad. I did like the aliens design and at times they were done very well. However, some of the camera work felt extremely shaky at times which didn’t help with the movie any. All in all, it’s a decent time killer of a sci-fi movie but it is not one that will be especially memorable.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

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Flashback Review: June 12th, 2014 Movie – A Bucket Of Blood

a bucket of blood

Ending the weekend with a Roger Corman movie, now that sounds like some fun times to me. Now I saw this years ago during a Halloween binge watching of old horror movies on TV. Now I wasn’t as familiar with Corman’s work back then as I was now but I thought the movie was pretty interesting. When I bought the Chilling Classics box set, I noticed this movie was part of it and I made sure that A Bucket Of Blood was the first movie out of that set that I watched. Now let’s see if my memory of this movie holds up to a more recent watching.

The plot: Dimwitted Walter Paisley works as a busboy at the Yellow Door Cafe, a popular beatnik hangout. As a man is on stage reciting a poem, Walter is collecting the dishes and empty cups at the tables when he stops at a table where Carol, The hostess whom he has a crush on, is sitting and watches her as she draws. When the performance is over, the club’s owner Leonard chastises him and tells him to keep working and after Walter leaves, Carla admonishes Leonard for being too hard on him. Meanwhile, an undercover cop named Lou Raby is sitting at the club when he gets up to head outside, then calls his chief to report what he has been able to learn about any narcotics being passed around in the club since he worked his way in. Later that night, Walter returns to his apartment and works on sculpting something out of clay when he hears Frankie, his landlord’s cat, crying out from behind the wall where it got stuck. Walter gets a knife to cut Frankie out of the wall when it accidentally plunges through the sheet rock and stabs Frankie. Walter knocks down the wall and sees what he has done and gets depressed over it and as he wonders about what to do, he recalls the words of a poet that had performed and decides to use Frankie’s body as a sculpture. The next day, Walter takes the clay covered cat to work and shows it to Carla and Leonard, passing it off as something he created. Carla is impressed with the sculpture and convinces Leonard to display it at the club and Leonard agrees, telling Walter that if it sells they will split the proceeds. That night, several people comment about Walters sculpture and Leonard tells Walter to take the rest of the night off, as he is unable to do his job with everyone approaching him. As Walter goes to leave, a woman named Naolia approaches him and talks to him for a while, then gives him a vial to remember her by. Walter pockets the vial as he leaves but he unknown to him, Lou had seen what happened and follows Walter to his apartment, confronting him about the vial, which contains heroin. Lou goes to arrest Walter, who protests his innocence, and when Lou brandishes his gun to try and get Walter to come with him, Walter panics and hits him with the frying pan he was holding, killing him. Walter’s landlady starts knocking on the door to find out what the noise is and Walter quickly hides the body so she doesn’t see it, then works on cleaning up his mess. Meanwhile, Leonard is closing up the club when he accidentally knocks the cat statue over and as he looks closely at it, he realizes it is a real cat and gets rid of it. The next day, Leonard tells Walter that someone had bought the cat statue and has him sit down with Carla and some other patrons. When the men asks Walter if he is working on anything else, he tells them that he is working on a full size statue he calls “Murdered Man”. Leonard gets a sick look on his face and he goes to call the police about Walter but when an art critic offers to buy the cat statue for $500, he hangs up and tells the man he doesn’t have the cat statue but will have another statue there soon. As the man leaves, Carla approaches Leonard and tells him that she is going to Walter’s to look at his statue and invites him to come along. Leonard agrees and when Walter unveils the statue, they are both shocked  but Carla tells him it is incredible. Leonard feels sick again and when Walter asks if he can show it at the club again, Leonard tells him he shouldn’t show his pieces one at a time, but should build up a collection and do a proper show, that way they can sell them for more money. He then tries to subtly steer Walter into doing free form sculptures, so as to keep him from killing anyone else, and gives him $50 for his half of the cat statue and tells him if he needs more money to let him know. The next night at the club, several of the patrons treat Walter like a star and he is talking with them about his sculpture but a model named Alice doesn’t seem impressed by Walter and is rude to him. Walter follows Alice home and knocks on her door, apologizing to Alice and asking if she would like to be his model for his first female form sculpture. Alice agrees and they head back to Walter’s apartment, where he has her sit in a chair after taking her clothes off and proceeds to strangle her. The next day, Walter shows his new piece to some of the patrons at the home of Maxwell H. Brock, the poet that inspired Walter, and they are all impressed and Brock plans a party for Walter at the Yellow Door. After the party, Leonard warns Walter about drinking too much, saying he might say something he regrets but Walter ignores him and heads home. On his way, he sees a man working at a construction yard and Walter kills him, cutting off his head with a buzzsaw so he can use it to make a bust. When Walter shows up with the bust at the Yellow Door, Leonard tells him not to make anymore statues and tells him that he will organize his show to display what he has so far. The night of the show, Walter escorts Carla to the show and as they are walking, Walter proposes to her but Carla turns him down, saying she likes him but she doesn’t love him. Walter gets upset at the rejection and asks if she will let him make a statue of her after the show. During the show, Carla is looking at the statue of Alice when she notices a human finger underneath the clay. Shocked, she goes to leave but Walter stops her and when she tells him there is a body in his statue, he admits it is Alice and he made her immortal. Walter says that he can do the same to her and she runs out of the club, with Walter following her. After they leave, the statue of “Murdered Man” falls and everyone realizes Walter’s secret to his art. Leonard goes to call the police while Maxwell and Lou’s partner, who was also undercover at the club, chase after Walter. Walter chases Carla to a lumberyard but as he searches for her, he starts hearing the voices of Lou and Alice, taunting him about having nowhere to go. Walter runs back to his apartment and as he realizes that he will soon be caught, he decides to hide where they won’t find him. Walter, Carla, and the others break down Walter’s door and find that Walter had covered himself in clay and hung himself and one of the men says that Walter probably would have called it “Hanging Man, his greatest work”.

A Bucket Of Blood has met with mostly positive praise from modern critics, holding a 79% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, most of the critics cite this as a great example of Corman’s early work, citing the blend of humor and horror as well as the rich atmosphere he created in the film. The line about how Walter Paisley “knows his anatomy” is apparently a nod to the similar-themed House Of Wax (1953), which used the same line about Prof. Henry Jarrod, played by Vincent Price, who would go on to become one of Corman’s favorite actors to use. The movie was a mild success at the box office, earning $180,000 off of a $50,000 budget.

I know people like to look down on Roger Corman movies but this one is actually a well made movie. The acting was pretty good, with Dick Miller doing a fantastic job as Walter, while Barboura Morris (Carla) and Antony Carbone (Leonard) did good jobs as well. The story was pretty good, though I will admit that there were some similarities to House Of Wax (1953) but while that seemed to go with the pure horror route, Corman added some comedy to his script that changed how you perceive the killer. Instead of being some sinister killer with purpose, you instead feel sympathy for Wallace, as he just unluckily kills the first man (and cat) and wants to hide the bodies but when everyone thinks he is a genius, his desire for everyone’s praise has him going on to kill more people until his guilt causes him to kill himself. A surprisingly good movie that is well worth giving a chance if you see it coming on.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

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horror, movie, movie review, sci-fi

May 9th, 2018 Movie – The Wasp Woman (1959)

the wasp woman

Another Roger Corman movie in less than a week, this day is looking up. Looking back, I think I always like Corman’s earlier movies as opposed to his later works because he always seemed to make more with less in those movies. Now this is a movie that I am pretty sure I have seen early on in life but I can’t recall it off hand. Now, let’s see what we have in store for me today with today’s movie, The Wasp Woman.

The plot: Dr. Eric Zinthrop is out in the woods searching for a wasp’ nest and when he finds it, he uses a smoker to ensure the wasps are put to sleep before placing the nest in a container and heading back to the honey farm that he works at and heads to his workshop. Mr. Barker, the owner of the honey farm, shows up and goes to see Zinthrop, as he is supposed to be working on extracting royal jelly from the queen bee. When he finds Zinthrop has been studying and experimenting with wasps, as he believes he has found a way to reverse the aging process, he says that he is there to do research on royal jelly, not work with wasps, and fires him. Some time later, at the headquarters for Janice Starlin Cosmetics, Janice Starlin is holding a board meeting to discuss their declining sales when Bill Lane, a young board member, says that the reason for the sales’ decline is due to Janice being seen as the face of the company but after 16 years, the public is seeing her start to age, which is turning them away from the products. As the board meeting ends, Janice asks her lawyer, Arthur Cooper, to come into her office and discuss what Bill had said. After Arthur leaves, Zinthrop is shown into Janice’s office and he says he has discovered a way to reverse the aging process. Taking her into a lab, he shows her proof that it works by de-aging a rat and a guinea pig right before her eyes. Janice asks what he wants and Zinthrop asks that she fully fund his research and she agrees, providing that she be his human test subject. The next day, Janice announces her plans to fund Zinthrop’s research but Bill and Arthur both think that Zinthrop is a crackpot as they talk about the matter afterwards. As Zinthrop’s research continues and begins injecting Janice with the enzymes, Janice’s secretary, Mary, listens in on a phone call discussing one of Zinthrop’s invoices and tells Bill about it. Some time later, she goes into Janice’s office and steals some papers from Janice’s desk and gives them to Bill and Arthur as they discuss the money Janice is spending. Meanwhile, Janice is becoming impatient with the slow progress Zinthrop’s formula seems to have on her so she sneaks into his lab and injects herself with some more of the serum. The next day, everyone is shocked to see that Janice looks like a 20 year old and Janice happily talks about what their next slogan should be for a marketing campaign. Meanwhile, Zinthrop returns to his lab and is shocked to find that a cat he had injected the formula with has started to mutate and become incredibly violent, attacking him without any warning. As Arthur, Bill, and Mary discuss Janice’s appearance, Arthur worries that it is only temporary and she will regress back to normal and decides to pay a visit to Zinthrop’s lab and look around, then hides when Janice comes in looking for Zinthrop. Janice hires a detective to track down Zinthrop and they eventually learn that he was struck by a car and in a coma at the hospital. Meanwhile, Arthur continues to poke around in Zinthrop’s lab at night when he is suddenly attacked and killed by Janice, who had mutated into an insect like creature. Janice then turns back to normal and she places the serum she had grabbed back into the fridge and quickly leaves after disposing of Arthur’s body. The next day, people are surprised at Arthur’s missing the morning meeting but Janice doesn’t seem to concerned about it, as she is much more worried about caring for Zinthrop, whom she has brought to the company so she can care for him when he awakens out of the coma. As Janice places him in the bed, Zinthrop says that there was something important he had meant to tell her but he can’t remember. That night, the night watchman is killed by the transformed Janice and Zinthrop hears the scream but his nurse tells him not to worry about it. The next night, Bill and Mary, worried over Arthur’s disappearance, break into his office to see if they find anything and when Bill notices his pipe on his desk, he says that Arthur is dead, as he would never leave his pipe around. Meanwhile, Janice goes to see Zinthrop and tries to tell him about what is happening to her and asks him to help her when she suddenly transforms. The nurse had heard the commotion and Janice attacks and kills her, while Zinthrop faints from what he witnesses. Later that night, Bill and Mary go to Zinthrop’s room to talk to him and discover evidence that the nurse was murdered. Mary goes to call the police but the phone is only a direct line to Janice’s office, who is surprised to learn that they are still in the building. As Bill tends to Zinthrop, Mary goes upstairs to Janice’s office to call the police and get Janice out of there. When she arrives in the office, Mary stops her from calling the police, then transforms and attacks her. Hearing Mary’s screams, Bill and Zinthrop go to help her and find Janice has taken Mary to Zinthrop’s lab. In the lab, Janice attacks them both and Zinthrop ends up throwing a bottle of acid at her face and as she reels from that, Bill pushes her out the window. Bill then goes to check on Mary while on the street, Janice transforms back to human as she dies.

All things considered, this actually isn’t that bad of a movie. The acting was good, with Susan Cabot (Janice), Michael Mark (Zinthrop), and Anthony Eisley (Bill) doing good jobs in their roles. The story was pretty interesting, as the theme of a fountain of youth has been around for centuries and is always a good go-to for a sci-fi movie. I liked the idea of using insects as being central to the youth formula, as insects have such a short life span so it is a bit of irony (I think I am using that correctly). I also liked how they really showcased how vanity can lead to a person’s downfall, as Janice’s desire to regain her youth led to her pushing forward recklessly without concern of the consequences. The special effects were pretty weak to be honest but that kind of helped with the charm of the movie, as the story really helped carry it. A fun little movie if you are in the mood for some B-movie fun.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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horror, movie, movie review, sci-fi

May 4th, 2018 Movie – War Of The Satellites

war of the satellites

Happy Star Wars Day everyone, and this seems like a rather appropriate movie to watch. Looking back, it seems like Roger Corman had a thing for outer space movies, from the 50’s all the way through to the 80’s. Now I can’t say that they were all good or bad, but they all had aspects that were enjoyable. Now today’s movie is not one I had ever seen before I bought it as part of a triple feature of movies. So let’s see what some early Roger Corman space exploration looks like as I watch War Of The Satellites.

The plot: At an observatory, members of Sigma Project, a U.N. space exploration project, are observing their 10th manned satellite mission, hoping that it will succeed where the others have failed. As the satellite approaches an area of space, a barrier appears that destroys the satellite. U.N. Representative Mr. Akad demands that the project be halted, saying the loss of life is not worth it, and argues with project leader Dr. Pol Van Ponder about it. Later that night, a teenage couple are making out in their car when they see a strange object crash to Earth. Hearing a strange pulsing sound, the guy gets out and finds a missile-shaped object lodged in the ground and after pulling it out, they take it to the authorities. At the U.N., Sybil Carrington, a member of Sigma Project, reads aloud the message from the missile, which comes from the Masters of the Spiral Nebula Ghana. The message states that they look at humans as a disease and have chosen to stop their repeated attempts to explore space in order to protect the universe. After hearing the message, Mr. Hotchkiss, the United States Representative, says that no other life form has the right to halt mankind’s exploration of space and the U.N. agrees to fund Sigma Project. When reporters ask Van Ponder about the message, he says he believes it to be a hoax to try and shut down the project and decides to lead the next mission to space. After the reporters leave, Sybil says that she will join him and Dave Boyer, who is romantically attracted to Sybil, volunteers as well. Van Ponder admits to the two of them that the missile has defied all analysis and they have no idea where it came from. As the new satellite nears completion, Hotchkiss calls Van Ponder and tells him of an emergency meeting at the U.N. and Van Ponder leaves to attend it but as he drives down the road, a strange light is seen overhead that causes him to lose control of his car and crash. At the U.N. Meeting, Akad argues to the U.N. President that they should halt funding of Sigma Project when the U.S. Representative receives word of Van Ponder’s crash. Akad extends his condolences to the representative, but argues that this should be further proof to discontinue funding when Van Ponder suddenly enters the room, receiving a rousing applause from the attending members. After the meeting, the U.S. Representative speaks briefly with Van Ponder and after he leaves, Van Ponder suddenly splits into two beings, revealing that he is not the real Van Ponder, but an alien intending to delay future space exploration. Some time later, Dave approaches Van Ponder and asks that he reconsider Sybil joining them on the mission, as he worries for her safety. Before Van Ponder can respond, they hear news of various disasters across the world, which some people feel is the work of the aliens making good on their warning. Hearing this, Van Ponder decides to suspend Project Sigma and has Sybil type up a letter to the U.S. Representative. Reading the letter, the representative can’t bear to read it to the committee and asks that Dave read it in his stead. When he gets there, Dave hears Akad continuing to ask for the project to be stopped, this time saying it is a matter of survival, but Dave argues that if the surrender to the aliens, who obviously see their attempts to explore space as a threat to them, then they will no longer be surviving or free, but merely existing at the whim of the aliens. The next day, Van Ponder and Dave are going over some calculations for the project when a staffer walks in and says he thought he saw Van Ponder in another area. They tell the man he is working too hard but as Van Ponder is called away, Dave notices that he has an identical mark on both arms and gets suspicious. Van Ponder heads to the test area and speaks with Johnny but as he does, Van Ponder accidentally bumps into the torch Johnny was working with and it burns his hand. When Johnny notices this, he rushes to get the doctor but while he is gone, Van Ponder heals his hand on his own. When the doctor arrives and examines the hand, he thinks Johnny is playing a joke on him and Van Ponder says that Johnny is obviously seeing things due to over exertion and Johnny argues that there is something strange going on with Van Ponder as he is escorted out by the doctor. Meanwhile, Dave investigates Van Ponder’s wrecked car and afterwards, tries contacting Sybil, only to learn that the launch time has been moved up and he needs to hurry to arrive at the launch site. When Dave gets there, he learns that Van Ponder had made a change to the crew and placed Sybil in Rocket 1 with him, instead of on Rocket 2. Meanwhile, Johnny was grounded by Van Ponder but the doctors clear him to rejoin the mission and Van Ponder agrees to allow him to board. After everyone has boarded Rocket 1, Van Ponder splits again, sending one of his clones onto the rocket while the other one remains behind. As the rockets reach their assigned positions, they release the various components to build a large orbiting satellite. As the safety checks are finished, Van Ponder goes to see Johnny and reveals the truth about who he is and offers Johnny to join his race but when Johnny refuses, Van Ponder kills him. Sybil enters the room and sees Johnny’s body and Van Ponder says that he died due to the acceleration and he will address it. As Van Ponder is making his speech to the crew, Dave goes to see Sybil and tries to tell her his suspicions about Van Ponder, but she doesn’t believe him. Lazar has his own doubts as to Johnny’s death and agrees to examine Van Ponder for Dave but Van Ponder is called away before he can be examined. Before he returns to Lazar, Van Ponder fashions a heartbeat for himself and then confronts Lazar about his reasons for the examination before killing him. After he leaves the room, he alerts two guards that he suspects Johnny’s death was not natural and ask them to bring Dave to his quarters. Meanwhile, Sybil is speaking with Dave about how Van Ponder has been acting odd when the guards arrive to detain Dave. Dave tells Sybil to go see Lazar but as she does so, she sees Van Ponder dumping Lazar’s body into the air lock for disposal. Van Ponder gives chase to Sybil, who ducks into the solar energy room, and as he talks with her, he splits into two bodies again sending one to help destroy the satellite as it approaches the barrier while the other continues talking with Sybil. Dave manages to get free from the guards and attempts to stop Van Ponder, eventually killing him and then orders the crew to go with the original plan instead of Van Ponder’s. He then rescues Sybil from the solar energy room before they use the stored solar radiation to help blast their way through the alien barrier. At mission control, Hotchkiss and Akad are watching events and think the satellite was destroyed at first but are relieved to see it make it through the barrier as Dave announces that the whole universe is now their frontier to explore.

This was surprisingly a pretty good movie to watch. The acting was pretty good, with Dick Miller (Dave) and Susan Cabot (Sybil) doing a good job in their roles. I also liked Richard Devon as Van Ponder, as his rather robotic portrayal of the character really helped sell the whole alien doppelganger aspect. The story was interesting and I know it is an early sci-fi movie but I am curious to know if this is one of the first movies to focus on the alien race intending to keep humanity from exploring space. The special effects were laughably bad, and I am completely serious about that, but they actually help give this movie some more charm, as it actually helps you focus on the story more than the effects. A fun bit of classic sci-fi that is worth watching if you get the chance.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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action, martial arts, movie, movie review

February 26th, 2018 Movie – TNT Jackson

tnt jackson

Wow, it’s been a while since I have watched a Blaxploitation and I honestly don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I understand the need for them, as they helped give African-Americans characters that were the focus or hero of the movie, and not just a side character, but they did tend to stereotype them in a bad light sometimes. Now Roger Corman was known for doing plenty of exploitation movies during the 70’s and so it isn’t too surprising that he would do one or two Blaxploitation movies during that time. Today’s movie just happens to be one of them so let’s see what is in store for me as I watch TNT Jackson.

The plot: In Hong Kong, an African-American man, Stan Jackson, is walking down the street when he is cornered by a gang, led by another African-American, Charlie. The gang leader strikes the man, claiming he stole something from him, and the man attempts to get away but the gang chases after him and ends up attacking him backstage in a theater. The next day, Diana “T.N.T.” Jackson arrives in Hong Kong and asks her taxi driver to take her to a place called Joe’s, but the driver refuses, saying it is in a dangerous part of town, but offers to take her as far as he can. When the taxi stops, the driver points Diana in the direction she wants to go and she makes her way through the area, witnessing an attempted rape and a murder. As she asks around for Joe’s place, a group of men attempt to mug her but she is able to fight them off. A woman named Elaine in a passing car stops and offers Diana a lift and tries making some small talk but Diana blows her off so Elaine tells her to finish her business and leave town before dropping her off at Joe’s. Inside, she finds Joe practicing karate in an upstairs room of his restaurant and asks if he has seen her brother, as this was the address she was given to contact him. Joe hands her an unopened letter she had sent and says he hasn’t been there for a while to collect his mail. When a waitress is being assaulted by one of the restaurant patrons, Joe goes to stop the man and as a fight breaks out, Diana helps him when he is overwhelmed. As the fight finishes, she is approached by Charlie, who offers her a job working with him. Diana says she will think about and after he leaves, she asks Joe about him. Elsewhere, Charlie is talking with Elaine, who asks his opinion about Diane, and they then head upstairs to see Elaine’s boyfriend Sid, who is busy making an arrangement to smuggle in some heroin. That night, Sid, Elaine, Charlie, and Sid’s assistant Ming head to Joe’s and ask Diana to meet with them. Diana sits with them and Sid speaks with her and offers her a job but as Elaine insults Diana, she gets up and leaves, later apologizing to Joe for blowing her chance at getting more information from them. Meanwhile, the heroin shipment is ambushed and stolen and Ming believes that Diana has something to do with it. Ming thinks she should be eliminated but Charlie and Elaine both argue that she might be useful. Charlie is sent out to hire some more men and when Diana hears about it, she decides to use the opportunity to try and work her way inside the gang. Going to the temple where Charlie is recruiting some fighters, she ends up sparring with Charlie, who offers her a drink after she beats him. The next day, Diana is wandering around when she ends up being attacked by Elaine, and as the two fight, Elaine ends up getting knocked out. Meanwhile, Charlie and his men are attacked and the shipment they were carrying was stolen. When Ming and Sid arrive, Ming renews his idea to eliminate Diana, as this started when she came to town. Meanwhile, Diana takes Elaine to Joe’s and as she figures out what to do with her, Elaine reveals that she knows about Diana and that she is actually an undercover cop working to break up Sid’s smuggling ring. Ming shows up at Joe’s to get Diana and sees Elaine there and Elaine tells Ming that Diana had nothing to do with the ambush as she was with her all day. Ming still has Diana accompany him as he takes Diana back to Sid’s place and he attempts to rape and torture her for information but Diana manages to turn off the lights and proceed to beat up Ming and his men. Meanwhile, Charlie is talking to Elaine about how he has his own plans to start a criminal empire when they see Ming walking by and comment on what happened. Charlie leaves and makes some arrangements of his own, then goes to see Diana and the two end up having sex. Afterwards, Diana notices the lighter that Charlie uses to light a cigarette as one that belonged to Stan and realizes that he is the one that killed Stan but she doesn’t confront him right then. The next day, Sid has a meeting planned with his heroin distributors and as they make the arrangements, Elaine goes out to enjoy the parade outside. Elaine secretly meets with her boss and tells him about the meeting but notices Diana and goes to talk to her. When Diana says she plans on killing Charlie, Elaine tells her boss to deal with Diana or else she will ruin their sting. The police arrest Diana but when Elaine returns to the hotel, she finds that Sid and Ming had found her contact and Sid knocks her out, then orders Ming to kill the officer, saying they will deal with Elaine after the meeting. Meanwhile, Joe helps break Diana out of jail and she heads to the hotel to find Charlie. At the meeting, the distributors say they won’t deliver any more product unless they get paid first and Charlie tells them that he will pay for the product, revealing that he was the one ambushing the shipments. When Sid confronts him, Charlie quickly knocks him out, then ends up fighting with Ming and some of his men. Elaine regains consciousness and manages to get away from her guards but as she tries to escape, she finds herself surrounded by more of Ming’s men and she is forced to fight them, and Diana shows up to help her. The police arrive and begin arresting the drug smugglers and Sid’s men and Diana sees Charlie sneaking off and goes after him. Sid regains consciousness and goes to leave but runs into Elaine, who fights with him and they both end up crashing through a window and falling to their deaths. Diane catches up to Charlie and when he starts talking with her, she strikes  him and tells him about her brother, and the two start fighting, with Diana eventually killing him.

Well, this was about what I expected it to be, and that is not a good thing. This movie was pretty terrible on a number of levels. The acting was lousy, with most of the people seeming to be too stiff and non organic in their interactions. The story should have been a straightforward revenge movie but the whole drug trade angle kind of muddied the plot some. The fight scenes were terrible, incredibly slow, most likely due to Jeannie Bell’s not knowing any martial arts and having to fake it, rather badly I might add. It was kind of funny, as they would slowly make the motions, then speed up the film at times to make it seem like Diana was moving faster in her attacks. This is a pretty lousy movie and not really worth watching unless you really want to watch one of these movies.

Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5

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horror, movie, movie review, thriller

February 4th, 2018 Movie – The Terror (1963)

the terror

Ahh, we go from a random 70’s horror movie to an early Roger Corman movie. I always enjoy watching some of Corman’s early films because it is fun to see some of the early stars that he was able to get before they became big. Case in point, today’s movie stars a young Jack Nicholson and I am looking forward to seeing his performance in it. Being a Roger Corman movie, you would think that this might end up being a pretty bad movie and, as it so happens, other people think so as well because it wound up being included in a collection titled “The Best Of The Worst”, though I already had a copy of this movie in a Roger Corman collection. Now let’s see what exactly I am in for with today’s movie, The Terror (1963).

The plot: On a dark, stormy night in 19th century France, Baron Victor Frederick Von Leppe follows a trail of water drops through his castle to his basement crypt, where he is confronted by the decaying body of a woman. The next morning, Lt. Andre Duvalier is riding along the coast, having been separated from the rest of his regiment, collapses from exhaustion at the water’s edge. He is saved from drowning by a woman and as she walks away, he calls out to her and asks for directions to Coldon but she doesn’t answer him and just walks away. Andre follows after her and she leads him to a stream that feeds into the ocean, but when Andre finishes slaking his thirst, the woman has vanished. Andre eventually finds her up a hill and asks her name and she laughingly tells him it’s Helene, then asks that he follow her. Helene leads Andre back towards the ocean and as the tide starts coming in, she walks into the rough waters and disappears. Andre heads into the water to try and find her but he is attacked by a hawk and the distraction causes him to be knocked over by the waves. Andre regains consciousness in the home of an old woman Katarina and, noticing her pet hawk, say that her bird attacked him but Katarina swears that isn’t the case as Helene, the hawk’s name, is a very friendly bird. Andre asks about Helene, saying that he talked to her, but Katarina swears that there is no woman by that name there, only her and Gustaf, who took care of Andre’s horse. Andre rests for the night when he is woken by the Helene (the hawk) as it eats a mouse, then flies off. Andre follows after it and finds Helene (the woman) sitting near the stream. Andre tries to find out more about her but Helene silences him with a kiss, then starts walking up the hill. Andre follows after her but is stopped by Gustaf, who shows him that the area is full of quicksand. Andre thinks Helene tried to kill him but Gustaf says she doesn’t know what she is doing and if he wants to help her, he must go to Von Leppe’s castle. Returning to Katarina’s house, Andre asks her about how to get to the castle but she refuses to tell him, then tries to discourage him from looking when he says he will find it without her. Andre makes his way through the area, managing to avoid being killed by a rock slide, and finally finds the castle. Seeing Helene looking down at him from a window, Andre knocks on the door continuously until the door is opened by Von Leppe. Andre manages to get invited in and after talking with Von Leppe for a few minutes, he asks about the woman he saw. Von Leppe tells him that there is no woman there and hasn’t been since his wife died. Seeing a picture of Von Leppe”s wife, Andre remarks about how much she resembles Helene but Von Leppe gets angry and says that Stefan, his majordomo, will show Andre to his room. That night, Andre sees Helene moving around in the graveyard heading towards an old chapel. Andre calls out to her, saying he will be right down, but finds that his door has been locked and as he goes to find something to pick the lock, he hears a loud commotion coming from outside his door. When the commotion dies down, Andre finds the door somehow unlocked and he starts to look around the castle before making his way outside. Once outside, Andre heads to the chapel only to find it empty but notices that all of the religious symbols had been removed. As he returns to the castle, Andre notices that the painting of Von Leppe’s wife has been removed and when heads back to his room, he is startled to see Helene there when he opens the door but when he looks again, she is gone and only a strange drawing of her is in his room. In the morning, Von Leppe tells Stefan that Andre is to leave at once and Stefan heads out to find Andre. Andre is looking in the chapel for signs of Helene when Stefan finds him and the two argue briefly before Stefan informs him of his horse’s disappearance. Andre then asks about Eric, whose name was on the drawing, and Stefan seems nervous and begs Andre to leave Von Leppe alone but Andre goes to confront the baron to get some answers. In the castle, Andre starts questioning Von Leppe and the baron reluctantly agrees to tell him the truth. Von Leppe says that his first wife had died some years ago and as he mourned her, he saw a village girl named Ilsa, who had just moved there with her mother, and he fell in love with her and took her as his new wife. Shortly after they were married, Von Leppe was called into military service and when he returned a year later, he found that Ilsa had taken a lover. In his rage, he killed Ilsa, while he had Stefan take care of her lover, and he has lived with the guilt for 20 years now. For the past 2 years, he has been haunted by Ilsa’s ghost, though nobody else seems to have seen her. Meanwhile, Gustaf is running along the beach and finds Helene there and, calling her Ilsa, tells her that she has to return to the sea, but Helene says she will when the sea enters the crypt. Stefan says that Andre will help her and Helene smiles when she thinks of Andre but they hear a bird call out above them and Helene turns to Gustaf and says the old woman warned him not to interfere, then leaves. Stefan approaches Katarina’s house and sees her talking to Helene, saying she will soon be strong enough to get her revenge. When Helene disappears, Stefan knocks on the door and enters, asking Katarina how long she has been living there. Katarina says she has been there for only 2 months but Stefan says he knows she has been there for over 2 years. Stefan then asks about the girl and when Katarina says that there is no girl, he says he saw her sitting in the chair before he entered. Stefan warns Katarina to leave or he will be forced to kill her and she comments about the previous tenant of the house being Eric, causing Stefan to pause. When Stefan returns to the castle, Von Leppe asks if Andre has left and Stefan tells him no, as he refuses to leave. Stefan suggests killing Andre but Von Leppe refuses, saying he has enough on his conscience without adding another death to it. That night, Andre hears Helene’s voice and goes looking for it but is forced to hide when he sees Von Leppe coming towards him. After Von Leppe passes, Andre follows after him and when Von Leppe enters another room, Andre thinks he hears the baron talking to someone inside. Andre barges in to find Von Leppe sitting by himself and he apologizes for the intrusion and Von Leppe says that Stefan went to get Andre a horse and suggests he leaves as soon as Stefan returns. Andre does so, with Stefan saying it is for the best, but as he rides along the shore, he sees Gustaf standing on a cliff, waving for him to wait. Suddenly, Katarina’s hawk swoops down and attacks Gustaf, clawing out his eyes, and a bloodied Gustaf ends up tumbling off the cliff to his death. Andre races down the cliff to check on Gustaf, who tells Andre that Helene loves him, which is why she saved him, and he must save her tonight. Andre returns to the castle and finds Helene in the chapel and the two kiss, then Helene asks if he will stay with her. She tells him that the crypt must be destroyed but Andre tells her not to worry about the dead and to come away with him to Paris. Helene says she loves him and the leave the chapel but as Andre goes to get his horse, he finds Helene has disappeared. Heading inside the castle, Andre sees Von Leppe opening the entrance to the crypt and heading down into it, so Andre follows after him. Andre watches as Von Leppe begins speaking with the ghost of Ilsa, who asks him to kill himself so they can be together for eternity. Von Leppe says he can’t do that, as his soul would be damned for eternity and Andre calls out to the ghost, knocking Von Leppe aside when he tries to stop him, but the ghost vanishes. Andre carries Von Leppe to his chamber and summons Stefan to tend to him, then asks Stefan for the key to the chapel’s inner room, as he wants to get to the bottom of this mystery. Stefan agrees but they find the hinges rusted shut and head back to get a crowbar. When they notice a light coming from the tower that the baroness lived in, they quickly head upstairs and Andre kicks the door open. Inside, they find a cradle and Andre asks if Von Leppe had a child but before Stefan can answer, Von Leppe appears and orders Stefan to escort Andre from the castle and to shoot him if he refuses to leave. When they leave, Von Leppe is approached by Ilsa’s ghost and she convinces him to kill himself and destroy the crypt so they can be together. When they head outside, Andre and Stefan see Helene in the graveyard and Andre manages to knock Stefan out, then chases after Helene but finds Katarina there instead. Andre tells Katarina to call off the attack on Von Leppe but she refuses, saying that he moment of vengeance is at hand as Eric was her son. Stefan heads back inside and sees the baron heading for the crypt but when he tries to stop him, the baron strikes him, then seals himself in the crypt. When Stefan stumbles outside, Andre grabs him and explains that Katarina is Eric’s mother, which is why she is trying to get the baron to commit suicide. Stefan then says that 20 years ago, the baron did kill his wife but during the struggle, the baron also died and Eric had been taking his place for the last 20 years, no believing himself to have always been the baron. Realizing what she has done, Katarina runs off to try and stop what is happening, while Andre and Stefan try to get into the crypt. Seeing Katarina cowering in the graveyard, Andre grabs her and heads with her to the chapel but she says she can’t enter the House of God as she made a pact with the Devil. When she breaks free of Andre’s grip, she goes to leave but is struck by lightning and set on fire. In the crypt, Von Leppe opens the floodgate to allow the crypt to be flooded, and Helene attacks him and starts trying to strangle him. Stefan manages to arrive and dives into the flooding chamber to try and save Von Leppe but the all end up dying as the crypt starts to cave in. Andre manages to make it into the crypt through the chapel and, seeing Helene floating in the water, drags her out and carries her to safety before the whole place is destroyed. Carrying Helene outside, Andre tells her that it is over and she is free now and goes to kiss her but when they part, he sees Helene turning into a rotting corpse while the hawk cries out above them as it flies off.

Not quite what I was expecting but this was also not as bad as I thought either. The acting wasn’t that bad, with Jack Nicholson (Andre) and Boris Karloff (Von Leppe/Eric) doing a fairly decent job with their roles, though I will admit that Jack did seem a little stiff in this movie. However, he was not as bad as Dick Miller, who really seemed stiffer than he normally is in his roles. The story was interesting, mixing a ghost story with a good old bit of revenge, but I feel like the whole love angle between Andre and Helene felt a little off. I think they could have done a better job of getting Andre to the castle than that but I will say that it did make for a good shock ending when he saw her rotting away. The special effects were decent and about what you would expect, with some cut-aways serving to mask the need for more serious effects, such as the actual gouging out of the eyes by the hawk, but they weren’t too bad. All said, I think this movie might be getting a bad rep, as there are plenty of movies that are much worse than this out there, and this one is worth a look, if for no other reason than to see a young Jack Nicholson in action.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

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