Monday, February 6, 2023

'80s Fun: Conan the Destroyer (1984)

 I guess it is up to me to defend this much-maligned Sequel.  When even your Star isn't a fan, there are issues.

This is Conan the Destroyer, the 1984 Sequel to John Milius' Film and the middle part of a failed Trilogy.  Still waiting for Conan the Conqueror/King, Arnie and company!

The Title Character returns, but his comrade is not with him.  Maybe they dropped in and out like on the Cartoon Show.  When a Queen promises to restore his lady love, he's willing to do just about anything for her.  What if the person he's protecting is later meant to be sacrificed though?

Richard Fleischer takes over on this one, bringing with him a long Career full of Films you wouldn't associate with one person.  For instance, he did Doctor Doolittle in 1967, but also made a Biopic of Che Guevara (Che!) in 1969.  Weird, no?

So, is this Film actually good or not?  To find out, read on...

Conan is back, now joined by a Thief (who was supposed to be played by David Landers of Lenny & Squiggy fame).

A group of armed men attack them until...they want to hire them instead.

Sucks to be the guys Conan ran through BEFORE you decided to hire him.
The Queen (Sarah Douglas, who is the Queen of Starring in Sequels) hires him to protect her Niece on her journey to retrieve a magical MacGuffin.  In return, she will restore his lost love.

We, the audience, learn that said Niece is meant to be sacrificed....and Conan will be killed.

So much for surprises.
The Princess was born with a mark, so she must retrieve some artifacts to wake their 'sleeping god.'

Trivia Note: she was on Justice League Unlimited, as was Mako (who plays the Wizard), Tracey Walter (who plays the Thief).  Douglas herself appeared on its predecessor- Superman: The Animated Series.

I mentioned useless Trivia- take a shot.
Conan agrees to the mission but must recruit more people for it (since his Archer pal is missing).

He gets Mako (playing a different character) for his magic and Grace Jones (in her first Film role) for her ferocity.  This was apparently true on set, as she actually bit Chamberlain in their fight, as she was not used to doing Fight Scenes.

They are also joined by the Queen's Personal Guard- Wilt Chamberlain- who was tasked with keeping the girl alive...and a virgin.

I guess she won't be one of his 20,000+ partners then?
Now that they have a team, they must get the Crystal that lets them get the Horn that will let them do the Ritual.

This leads to a fun fight with Conan vs. a Wizard, who mutates into a Man-Ape (that's also a mirror...I think).

Both Roles are played by the late Pat Roach, a big Actor most known for being 'chopped up by the airplane propeller' in the first Indiana Jones.
Things take a turn for the worse after a twist or two- represented by this picture of Arnold being given a Giant Swing.

For all you Wrestling fans out there, he also gets put in a Gory Special by Roach as well.

Naturally, they have him do them, since he was actually a Pro-Wrestler too.  He's not the only one, of course.
It all leads up to a big Battle against the creature that this whole Film was building up to summoning.

Can Arnold stop Andre the Giant (in a suit designed by Carlo Rambaldi)?

Of course, he can!  It's going to look bad-ass though, so still check it out.
A fun Film that maybe isn't as serious as some people would have liked.  There are instances where some people said that the Film wasn't dark enough or was made for 'family entertainment.'  
The Plot involves a woman to be sacrificed to someone a dark God and Conan kills like 50 people in this Film.

Was that a Family Film in the '80s?!?

(Other people's) Complaints aside, the Film is really gorgeous to look at, using real vistas and locations.  Seeing it in full 1080p HD for the first time was a delight.  It has lot of Action, lots of fun characters and a good Story.  Is it as deep as the original Film?  Maybe not.
Do I have a soft spot for the 'pulpier' Sequels in a Series (like Temple of Doom)?  Clearly.

Aside from a few random jokes, it's a good, serious Conan Film that delivers what you expect from a Film like this.  It has sword fights, monsters, a few Wizards and, well, more sword fights.

It's a shame that we didn't get a proper 3rd one, whether it was in 1987 (as planned), sometime in the '00s (with HHH as the Fan-Cast Lead), in 2012 (when Arnold said that it was planned), in 2017 when it was 'still being planned) or, well, now.

At least we can enjoy the Book version by...Robert Jordan?!?  The Wheel of Time guy?

Next time, I get back on track and give Denzel some attention.  Can he stop a deranged killer?  See you then...

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Shudder Sunday: Def by Temptation (1990)

 Bond, James Bond...III.  This Actor turned one-time Director is the man who brought us today's Film.

In honor of Black History Month, let's focus on this once-hidden gem ....

A real sleazy guy- basically an early Himbo- ends up with a woman at the Bar and goes back to her place.

All goes well until she starts to cut him up, whereupon he flees futilely for his life, dying at the door.

Just beware of male nudity, should that bother/offend you.
With no context, we next see a bunch of Scenes unfolding in short order...

A Priest- Samuel L. Jackson(!)- is talking about evil to his Son in Church (with nobody else there).
We see him and the Wife leave him with Grandma for a trip.
They die in a car crash (cue fake red blood that looks like paint) trying to avoid someone in the road.
Years later, the son- who's now an Adult (and the Film's Writer/Director/Producer) feels compelled to see his older brother in New York City.

All caught up now?
At the Bar- which is the setting for about 40% of the Film- we see her work her magic- as it were- on more people, including a man cheating on his Wife (who waits until he's in the Bar to take off his wedding ring!) and a, sigh, Gay Patron.

She maims and infects the former with AIDS (welcome to 1990!), while the latter is just killed.
She makes her moves on a young Actor- Kadeem Hardison- who fantasizes about her pretty much immediately.

He remembers that he has to meet his brother- the son- and is saved...for now.
The son explains that he's going to be a Preacher, but wants to 'see the World' first.  His brother is lapse in his religion.

All the while, the Temptress does her thing- only now she has a new target.

Guess who it is.
We find out that she's a Succubus and targeting the Priest due to him being 'the last of his line.'  Him being a Priest is, I'm sure, a bonus too.

Can his brother K- not to be confused with K from Men in Black- and a Cop save him?  Can he save himself?

To find out, stream the Film now.
A fun Film for all of the right reasons.  Seeing stuff like this always makes you wonder why the person never Directed another Film.  As I've said, there's usually a reason- like undue stress in the case of Dan Akroyd.

Without a story as to why Mr. Bond III only did this; I can just say that it was pretty darn good.  You can definitely see the things they did to save Money.  There are only a few Sets and limited Extras.
That said, the Sets look nice, and the absence of people is not that big of a deal to people that aren't as obsessive with detail as I am.

Some stuff is dated in a fun way- like the Music and Fashion-, while other parts are not so much- like the one guy being punished with AIDS.  It could have been far worse, mind you.

Of particular note, the Succubus design reminded me of Demons 2, as did their riff on 'creature comes out of the TV Set.  K also has a Poster for Demonwarp on his wall, so points for that!

So, if you want to see a 'Black Horror Film,' enjoy practical effects and a fairly simple Plot, there's a lot to enjoy.  For instance, this lady's failed Audition for one of those Shampoo Commercials...

A fun, inspired low-budget Horror Film.  This is the kind of stuff I love to 'discover.'

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Lost in Translation?: Tightrope (1984)

 It's been too long since I've featured Japan here.

To be clear, anytime I go more than a day without featuring Japan here is too long.


This is their Poster for 1984's Tightrope with Clint Eastwood...

Not as silly as other ones, but it still has their visual flair.

The perspective of the hand in cuffs in front of the city- nice.
Obviously different hand with added in here- great.

If you knew nothing about the Film- as this was pre-Internet-, you'd be curious to see this one for sure!

I will admit that I did some light tweaking of the image I found.
Here's the original...

Mostly color touch-ups, but I did add the clearer silhouette of the mystery man/killer.  Not bad, right?

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Tubi Thursday: Black Rat (2010)

 Black History Month is here, so let me cover some Black Cinema.

Let's begin with...this 2010 Film from Japan...

A group of High School Students- sure they are! - are called to the School by someone they think is each other.

A masked person in a skirt and rat mask confronts them. 
They say that it is 'time for vengeance' and reveals the wounded body of one of their classmates (who we saw stalked in the Cold Open) covered in blood and seemingly dead.

They, understandably flee as the masked figure has a bat and a strong swing.
As they get separated and put in some light Saw-style tests, we get flashbacks...

These seem to happen at random times, so enjoy.

The key thing- their friend Asuka killed herself and they were all kind of terrible to her in the lead-up.
The rat-masked killer uses such evil devices as...a bat and some wires to kill them.

Okay, it's more about personal intent and less about Reverse Bear Traps.
Is this really Asuka's Ghost?  I mean, this is Japan, after all.

If it's not, then who is it?

The Film didn't bother to introduce anyone else before, so your guess is as good as mine.
Who will survive the worst Lock In ever?

To find out, stream the Film now.
A solid premise, but a very weird execution.  Some of it can be chocked up to 'Because Japan...' of course, but there's more to it than that.

The Film has this odd approach where they give you only a little bit of the story at the beginning and give you chunks of it as the killing commences.  I'm not going to say that it is a terrible idea, but it's not one that I recommend using.

When it comes right down to it, they aren't being 'creative' or 'different'- they are just cheating.  You can't guess the twists and turns because you don't get the pertinent information to do so.

That aside, there's some enjoyment to be had, but the overall generic nature of it makes it easy to zone out at times.

Is it terrible?  Not really.  Is it easy to understand, digest and enjoy?  Not so much, which is a shame.

What else do you get when you Google 'Black Rat 2010,' by the way?  This guy...

Black Rat is an interesting Film- in theory.  In execution, it's muddled and kind of 'meh' overall.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

'80s Class?: Tightrope (1984)

 What better way to do begin Black History Month than with...a Clint Eastwood Film?  Well, it is set in New Orleans.

The Film is 1984's Tightrope, a Film that is both Directed by and NOT Directed by Clint Eastwood.  It's the Schrodinger's Cat of Clint Eastwood Films.  Officially, it was not Directed by him.  Unofficially, he apparently did most of the work, since the Director 'worked too slow.'

If I'm being honest, that translates to me as 'He doesn't Direct like I do,' so I'll just take over.  Am I wrong?  Maybe.  This is the same guy who once lectured an empty chair that supposedly held the President of the United States too- did we all forget that moment?

The Plot involves Eastwood's Detective trying to catch a Rapist and Murderer in New Orleans, while also dealing with his own issues.  As the killer targets those around him, can he 'walk the tightrope' to maintain his sanity and stop him?

If you wanted to see what Wikipedia describes as an *deep breath* 'American neo-noir psychological mystery slasher crime thriller film,' read on...

The Film plays a bit with conventions as we see a woman at night gets stalked by a strange man...but then saved by a Cop.

We see that said 'Cop' is wearing the same shoes as the stalker and... she's just dead the next day.

I feel like we skipped a Scene or two....
We see that Eastwood's Cop is a Divorcee with 2 Daughters- one of whom is played by his *actual* Daughter Alison.  Is it just me or is hiring your kid to play ONE of your daughters somehow weirder than not hiring her at all?

As for the Ex-Wife, we see her twice, but she has no lines.  At all.
The body is discovered, and he begins to work the case.  
There was apparently another murder before the Film started, so now the question is are the 2 related?

The Film really leans heavily on early use of CSI work, from hair samples to bite marks, so that's kind of neat.
The problem is that Eastwood's Cop is still going through alot after the divorce and keeps ending up sleeping with the women he talks to about the case.

So, in summary so far, every female character- minus his kids- is either a Sex Worker or his ex-Wife.
The streak is broken when he meets up with a woman who teaches Self-Defense for Women (Genevieve Bujold) and pushes him to be more open about the case.

After the second murder we see, he finally comes public and warns people.

Mind you, he's still doing the whole 'talk to them, sleep with them and then they get killed' routine during this time.
He eventually realizes that there is a connection between the people killed by the villain and the women he meets/sleeps with, be they a Prostitute, Masseuse or Mud Wrestler.

He begins to question himself too, even having a dream of himself as the killer.  Curiously, he is wearing the same mask that the killer later wears, so...

Option 1- it's a massive coincidence.
Option 2- the killer saw his dream and started wearing that mask.
Option 3- he just happened to guess the killer's mask.

I'm going with 2, no matter how silly or wrong it might be.
There's an odd part where he follows the killer's instructions, meets a man at a Gay Bar and then tries to find the killer...only to find that man now dead.
Joy.

He keeps working the case and figures out where the killer must work.

Of course, Movie Serial Killers are super geniuses who have the ability to read ahead in the Script (prove me wrong!) so it's not that easy.
Can he stop this killer- who is, of course, a Master of Disguise?

What happens when the killer strikes at his house?

I mean...could you imagine if he didn't stop him?
He does, obviously.  The End.
A good Film, even if some of it isn't exactly kosher these days.  Welcome to '80s Films- I know.

To get the complaints out of the way, it's unfortunate that no women get to really look that good here.  Even the Self Defense Instructor can't stop the guy, needing to be saved.  She does do more than others- stabbing the guy twice- but ultimately still can't do a damn thing to save herself.

Shocking to see this kind of thing in a Clint Eastwood Film, huh?

Aside from that and the iffy representation of Gay Men (as brief as it is), the Film is quite good.  Eastwood gets to play a far more nuanced Character than Dirty Harry ever was.  Granted- his nuance involves him sleeping with almost every woman in the Film (supposedly Bujold asked them to excise their Scene from the Film).

I will say that it is odd that his connection to all of the victims never takes a turn that makes him a suspect.  He gets to question himself, but nobody else does.  If this was done today with, say, Sam Worthington, we'd get at least a Scene or 2 where he has to prove that he shouldn't be the suspect.  

So, while Eastwood shows depth and complexity here, the Script doesn't quite do the same in the end.

That said, Tightrope is a good Film with all of its minor faults and dated attitudes taken into account.  It's a nice attempt at making Eastwood more than just a 'tough as nails Cop' for once.  That said, this guy is still my favorite Character.

Next time, another Thriller with a more Horror focus.  Let's see if Denzel can do as good a job catching his Serial Killer.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Shudder Sunday: The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves are Here! (1972)

 My first- official- look at an Andy Milligan Film.
Be afraid- be very afraid.

Is this another case of a great (read: silly) Title and not a good Film?  Let's see...

Out in England, an eccentric Family lives in solitude.

The Mooneys are strange, violent and have an animalistic Adult Son.

It's like a worse version of The Kardashians, really.
The Eldest Daughter has returned to the Home from a long trip abroad to study Medicine at the behest of her ailing Father.  Why?

Upsetting everyone is the fact that she's now married, and her new Husband is in the dark about, well, everything.

Ah, young love.
Everyone makes a big to-do about it and things only get worse around the House.

Mind you, the Film begins with them lighting the one Son on fire, so...not a great baseline.

What secrets do they keep?
So here's a little (well-known) secret about this Film...

It was mostly shot in 1969 (alongside 3 other Films) while Milligan was in England.

It was too short, so he shot another 20 minutes of Scenes involving Shopkeepers (both played by him) who add, well, mostly filler to the Plot.

One sells some rats- since Willard had just been a hit in 1972- and the other sells a gun that appears later (without explanation before, presumably).
More scheming and vague talk about the family's secret.  I sure hope that the Title doesn't give it away.

There's a B-Plot revealing the 'gross' reason why the one Son is different.

We also get some mild animal abuse, which might be real.  At the same time, however, the way it is shot disguises alot (and makes some of it look fake) ...so who knows?
As it turns out, the Family are all Werewolves.
Shocking- I know.

Things go poorly on a Full Moon Night and take a final turn when our Heroine reveals her personal secret.
No SPOILERS though.

To find out what happens (eventually), stream it now...
A slow, but steady Film.  It does eventually get to a point.  Why it thinks that the Werewolf thing is a big reveal with this Title is anyone's guess though.

There's nothing amazing about the Acting, Staging, Direction or anything.  It was shot at a nice House- like the other Milligan Films shot in England.  I don't know if a Film like this is good for Tourism, but who knows?

It's funny when you realize that the new material was shot in STATEN ISLAND three years later.  It's not super-obvious- to be fair to Milligan- since he never visibly connects the 3 locations.  That said, he also never visibly connects the 3 locations...

If you don't like Films about terrible, mean people, this is definitely NOT for you.  The Mooney Family is pretty bad all around, whether it is the murder, abuse or just general dickery.  They do get punished in the end, of course.

The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! doesn't sound like the worst of Milligan's Films (having seen a Review of The Body Beneath).  Just don't go in expecting the whole 'rat sub-plot' to really matter, no matter how cute this fake rat is...

Andy Milligan made an... interesting Film.  I'm curious to see if I love or hate more of his stuff in the future.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Pilot Wings/Buy the DVD: L.A. Confidential (1999)

 A while ago, I found a cheap copy of a great Film on Blu-Ray.  You can probably guess which one it was.

One of the reasons that intrigued me about it- besides the Movie being great- is that it had the TV Pilot for the Show on it.

There was a TV Pilot?!?
How did I not hear about this?

Oh, nobody bought it...and it was only first available on the Blu-Ray in 2003.
That makes sense.

Let's see what we missed out on with...

So you remember the Film right?

If you were in charge of picking up the Pilot or not, you'd better- it was only 2 years earlier!
*I apologize in advance for no Screen Caps.  It's only on my Blu-Ray and I can't Screen Cap from it ATM*

A Cop- Kiefer Sutherland- is involved in a Drug Sting Operation and accidentally shoots an innocent man, making him end up doing any job he can to repay the family in secret.

Who shot him?  Well, that mystery isn't addressed in the Pilot, so...
This hour long- with the commercials included- Pilot sets up alot of Story for you to follow...

A strict Cop comes in and wants to clean things up.
A Tabloid sleaze is investigating everything around him.
Kiefer is back on the case of investigating Chinese Heroin coming into L.A.
A would-be Actress- Melissa George- shows up and gets involved with some people.
In a curious bit of ironic Casting (in hindsight), Kiefer gets info from a young Actress who's hooked on the new Heroin that he's trying to track down the source of.

That Actress- Anna Gunn.

So, in 1999, she's a lady hooked on drugs, while in 2008 she's a Wife trying (eventually) to stop her Husband from creating/dealing drugs.
We also get the Hero Cop story from the Film- to be fair, they are both adapting the Book- and it sadly doesn't get too far in this format.

He meets Melissa after his big moment and...no more story after that.
We also set up the Villain of the Show in the form of Eric Roberts in a tense meeting between him and Kiefer.

Of course, again, no pick-up for said Pilot, so enjoy this tease of something you'll never see.

A woman's body is found with the Heroin on her and 'To Be Continued.'
Awkward.
This, oddly enough, gets a bad rap from many people.  Some say that it is just a rehash of the Film.

I mean, again, they are both based on a Book.  So, you're either damned if you go too far from the Book or you're damned if you stick to the Book.  Dealer's Choice, I guess.

That said, I'm not going to entirely dismiss the point.  If you adapt a Film into a Show, people want something more than just the same thing in long form. 
The Handmaid's Tale- as depressing as it was- expanded alot more of the Story than in the 90-minute Film.  That's a good example.  That's especially true as I watched Season 1 of the Show before seeing the Film- the opposite of this.

I can see the complaints to some degree with Officer Exley, as he has to start the same way as in the Film.  With no more than the Pilot, of course, his whole Arc- and a Subplot involving Marilyn Monroe- can't go too far.  

That's kind of my only *real* complaint here- they don't do a single Episode Story.  I get setting up the long-term stuff- that's fine.
They just needed one Story to resolve here to give a little bit of closure and then just tease- to I guess the Studio Executives- with more to come.

Without that, you get an hour of good story and setup for...nothing.

At least they tried again 20 years later and... nope, not picked up again!

Like I said, it's a good Pilot that sadly has no closure in any regard.  I still recommend getting the Film- and this Pilot by default- on Blu-Ray, since, you know, both are quite good.