Archive for The Walking Dead

Portrait in Black

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on October 31, 2011 by dcairns

HENRY, PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER — finally available uncut in the UK — is reviewed here, at Electric Sheep. By me.

Recommended to any fans of TV’s The Walking Dead who may have been asking themselves, “Where did they FIND that guy???” and to anybody who saw MAD DOG AND GLORY and wondered how that director managed to get work. Because he showed startling early promise, it seems. I’m not 100% convinced about HENRY, but is IS an ambitious departure from the kind of cheapjack exploiter the production company was asking for. On the other hand, Victor Erice was asked for a cheap Frankenstein knock-off and he gave them SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE. Now that’s ambition.

They Came From Beyond Poverty

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2011 by dcairns

INVISIBLE INVADERS was one of a mere handful of movies (how many movies can you fit in a hand?) still to be viewed in my demented ongoing quest to se every damn film illustrated in Denis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies, a quest I have termed See Reptilicus and Die.

Reader, I watched it.

Edward L Cahn was a Z-list schlockmeister with a mildly redemptive actual interest in sci-fi, leading him to make the above-average space monster outing IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE. Consequently, his 1959 invasion from space cardboard epic has a few intriguing ideas floating around in it, albeit all mismatched and ill-thought-through.

As Joe Dante points out over at Trailers From Hell, II shares a plot motor with the legendary PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE — alien invaders (who have colonized the moon) reanimate the dead, turning our own deceased relatives against us. Since this is an available location + stock footage kind of epic, the visual effect here is a little more like the later NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, so we can say that the movie has combined two cheap tricks of the B movie: monsters you can’t see, and monsters which are just zombified guys in suits. For some reason, the possessed corpses in this movie are all male.

A very special episode of  Little House on the Prairie…

Immediate problems are apparent: the aliens attack by sabotaging us and turning our own weapons against us — “Holland, Finland and Russia have been blown up!” — which means they’re only really effective when invisible. The possessed corpses are a cumbersome add-on who seem to add nothing to the invasion beyond a bad odour. It’s also not clear how the aliens can become intangible enough to enter the corpses, but leave dragging footsteps in the dirt, and can be sealed inside locked rooms.

Similar confusion arises when our heroes fight back with an acrylic spray. This might easily be used to make the invisible invaders visible, but instead they use it to seal one into his futile corpse-vehicle, transporting him back to their underground lab (shades of Darabont’s Walking Dead show, and indeed the phrase “the walking dead” is used throughout), where they crack the plastic shell with high pressure and attempt to destroy their prisoner with a battery of experimental techniques. Finally, sound waves reduce the poor invisiblite to a soapy mound of foam.

What’s not clear is why they assume the alien will survive being hermetically sealed in an acrylic coating. Wouldn’t they go the way of Shirley Eaton in GOLDFINGER?

John Agar wears a terry-cloth hazmat suit.

Ah, John Agar, his very presence the stamp of low, low quality. In biology class, agar means is a jelly used to cultivate germs. In movies, it’s roughly the same. Agar’s last movie, THE NAKED MONSTER, came out three years after his physical death, which is always a sure sign of a very special kind of career. Also, he was married to Shirley Temple. In my book, that makes him a pedophile. That may not be fair, or true, but since when did that stop anybody?

True star of this movie is wattled scientist and pacifist Philip Tonge, in a dignified and sincere turn that manages to inject a bit of humanity into the thing. He’s joined, briefly, by John Carradine as the first victim of alien resurrection, Dr Karol Noymann — a name previously assigned to Edgar Barrier in writer Samuel Newman’s earlier THE GIANT CLAW. Again, this info comes from Joe Dante. It was nice to see Carradine as he’d just appeared, via stolen clips from VOODOO MAN, in Craig Baldwin’s MOCK UP ON MU, which I watched not five minutes earlier, thus adding to my ongoing sensation of being trapped in an uncanny web of coincidence. This is the feeling that’s held sway since I started reading Ulysses, “the book with everything in it,” and I wondered if the invisibility theme encountered in Cahn’s film and Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentleman and another film I watched, THE AMAZING MR BLUNDEN (directed by Lionel Jeffries, who’s also excerpted in MOCK UP ON MU) had anything to do with Joyce. It does!

“For I’m the boy / Who can enjoy / Invisibility!”

Thanks to the mysterious Andrew deSelby for pointing this out.

Observe the sonic death ray. It’s clearly made of wood. Since it’s been hastily improvised in response to an unexpected alien invasion, that’s actually reasonable. But the wily humans, not wishing to give away their ultimate weapon’s jerry-built origins, have painted it silver.

Smart.

Can anyone explain why I find the above image so funny?

Joe Dante also claims that the zombie motif is reprised from Cahn’s CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN (scripted by Curt Siodmak), “but without that film’s squibbing” — in the print we saw, the squib effects were present and correct, providing some slight added value as little explosions puncture the zombie army’s business suits.

Usually Hollywood movies with pacifist characters exist in order to show the pacifist either learning the error of his ways and wading in, fists a-flying, or getting disintegrated, thus illustrating the necessity for violent action. This movie’s take is more nuanced, or one might say fucked up, since the pic ends with Tonge’s dewlapped peacemonger uniting the nations of the Earth — against the common enemy, those invisible bastards from the Moon.

A Blank Look

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 23, 2011 by dcairns

The freeway, shimmering like a dewy cobweb strand…

Ran John Boorman’s POINT BLANK for students this week. Apart from the use of Alcatraz, it also has THIS in common with Richard Lester’s PETULIA –

POINT BLANK.

PETULIA — the disembodied bunch of flowers ascends diagonally, like Sharon Acker’s head in the Boorman film.

It’s conceivable that Lester saw POINT BLANK, which came out in ’67, around the time he was shooting his movie. There’s an amusing story about Lester bumping into Mike Nichols, who was shooting THE GRADUATE. The chatted briefly about their respective projects, and each left in a state of paranoid anxiety — “Oh no, we’re making the exact same movie!

False alarm.

Sharon Acker’s really good in this scene — a masterstroke by Boorman to cut half the dialogue so that she simply recites her side of the “interrogation” — Marvin, all post-coitally spent after firing all his bullets into the mattress (ahem) simply slumps.

Boorman rocks the Antonioni thing, colour-co-ordinating everything to within an inch of its life — see also Mike Hodges’ THE TERMINAL MAN, which repaints LA so that everything except the grass is black and white and gray and silver. The long scene in Sharon Acker’s apartment is starved of Technicolor to the point where a shot of smashed beauty products in a bathtub carries a visceral shock.

Bath gunk colours are picked up later by globular sixties club lighting…

And that’s Boorman’s genius here — every scene has it’s own strong visual and aural ideas, and they’re butted up against one another for max contrast and effect. It’s fun to see how Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson’s costume changes cue the interior design choices. Lee changes into a brown jacket, and suddenly we notice the brown curtains ~

And the bed he’s looking at suddenly has a brown sheet. And when he revisits Alcatraz, it’s brown too — it wasn’t when we first saw it, at the beginning of the film.

Just ridiculously beautiful.

James Sikking, as a pipe-smoking hitman, describes Marvin as “a brutal” — an adjective turned into a noun, and a word that returns in Boorman’s ZARDOZ, where Connery leads a tribe of brutals. That made me smile.

One of Boorman’s strengths/weaknesses is his lack of humour, the way he doesn’t think for a moment we’ll laugh — leading to Linda Blair doing Lullaby of Broadway and Sean Connery in a nappy and Helen Mirren in figure-hugging tit armour… but here, it all works: POINT BLANK is either a cold-blooded existential/Jungian revenge drama or a deadpan jet-black comedy. Or both. No contradiction is apparent.

Boorman, in that glossy Michel Ciment book, is very keen on the Incident at Owl Creek Bridge idea — each of his movies, it seems, could merely be fleeting by in the mind of a dying protagonist. In POINT BLANK that really does work, and is heavily hinted at in the opening scene. “A dream?” ponders Marvin, in VO, a bullet in his belly. The film’s convenient elision of how he escapes certain death and what he’s been doing before his return in a silvery suit adds weight to the fantasy hypothesis. Note also how the dialogue in any scene from which Marvin is absent has a stilted, B-picture quality, as if it’s the best he can come up with for the stuff he has to imagine happening when he’s not there.

Somebody pointed out the delicious, mysterious connection with Curtiz’s THE WALKING DEAD, in which gangster Boris Karloff returns from the grave to seek revenge, and those he’s after all get themselves killed without him laying a finger on them. He seems to be an embodiment of guilt, an abstract Nemesis. And Marvin’s character, “Parker” in the Westlake/Stark novel, is here called Walker.

(Westlake once said that if he’d know he was going to write so many books about Parker, he’d have called him something else, to avoid having to find alternative ways of saying “Parker parked the car.” Boorman’s Walker differs most markedly in that he’s very much a one-shot character. Walker will NOT return in POINT BLANK II.)

Boorman’s writers are an interesting gang — besides the source novel, he’s got the writer’s of WHERE’S JACK? which deals with the celebrated highwayman and escape artist Jack Sheppard (Hitchcock once proposed a biopic of this fascinating folk hero for Ernest Lehman to write) and THE FRENCH CONNECTION II. Alas, none of them seem to have done much else.

The Heavy Symbolism is very much Boorman, though. Walker’s wife has no maiden name (we see her gravestone) so that Angie Dickinson, his sister-in-law, can ask “What’s my last name?” and then Walker can ask “What’s my first name?” Geddit? Either nobody knows anybody, not really, in this alienated modern world — or else these are stock movie characters in search of an author or at least an ending (Boorman’s movie, like his HELL IN THE PACIFIC, deliberately fizzles out, classic bang/whimper stuff). “A dream?” Or a movie? Note the emphasis on sliding curtains, lenses, screens, an LA where nobody’s in the movies but everybody’s playing at being a gangster, and Angie’s jazz club is called The Movie House and the evil conglomerate is called Multiplex…

Lee Marvin’s posture is the film’s secret weapon. Here, he watches as the phony stash floats away into the storm drains where it will doubtless be eaten by giant ants.

Soderbergh interviews Boorman on the DVD commentary track! Buy it — Point Blank

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