Star Knight (1985)

star_knightAn alien lands on a medievel world which may be Earth. A clumsy knight (dubiously named Klever) obsessed with advancing toward a higher standing in the court and marriage to the princess who becomes the alien’s captive. Seeking to gain the approval of the king, Klever leads a team of men into the lair of the dragon who dwells in a lake (where the alien’s craft has crashed). With the support of a alchemist Boetius, Klever is sure to defeat the alien who cannot speak or exit his space suit. However, the princess Alba has strangely fallen in love with Ix the alien and wants nothing to do with Klever.

It’s a calamity!

Star Knight is an oddity to say the least. Featuring Klaus Kinski and Harvey Keitel, I was expecting something strange and entertaining. However, the lack of good ADR and a dodgy script coupled with poor acting left me feeling cheated. Keitel acts as if he is in any movie other than a fantasy and Kinski is barely present. The only upside of the movie is the alien’s spacesuit and craft design which are quite impressive. Keitel blunders his way through the story and there are some comedic sequences with a Green Knight who cannot get anyone to fight him which fall flat.

A bizarre entry into that nether world of 80’s sci-fi/fantasy, Star Knight is more of a fizzle than a pop.

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The X From Outer Space

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After a rip-roaring musical opening, the starship AABGamma embarks on the latest Mars expedition. Every previous attempt has failed but this one is bound to work thanks to the wacky misfit crew of experts. However, the ship encounters a UFO that is defined as looking like a ‘half cooked omelet,’ prompting a stop over at the moon base. This future world has such a well run space program that a trip to the moon is a five minute journey and the moon has a fully stocked bar.

Eventually the mission is back underway but the UFO traps the craft in its gravitational pull. When the crew tries to fix the atomic engines, they find that small glowing egg-like things are draining the ship’s thrust. After returning to Earth with one of the eggs, the crew decides to relax and party only to later find that the lab where the egg was left to analyze (after many nightcaps) has hatched. The rapidly growing bird/lizard-like creature goes on an all-too-familiar rampage throughout Japan as the scientists scramble to find a solution.

Revered as a kaiju epic by film historians, The X From Outer Space was part of Shochiku Studio’s attempt to cash in on the popularity of giant rubber monsters. The movie is a delightful snort fest of its time. If you are looking for a fun monster film to watch with friends or that special someone, this could be it.

The X From Outer Space can be found on the Criterion Eclipse Film DVD set When Horror Came to Shochiku.

Black Sabbath (1963)

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The work of Giallo grandfather Mario Bava, Black Sabbath is an anthology film containing three short stories; The Telephone, Wurdulak and The Drop of Water. Hosted by horror legend Boris Karloff, the movie is a tension filled yet thoroughly enjoyable delight. Each part of the trilogy stands on its own and deserves praise; the thrilling Telephone simmers as an innocent young woman is terrorized by repeated calls from her ex lover, recently escaped from jail and eager to enact revenge. As she frets about her apartment, more phone calls come detailing her every move. Its a nail-biter in the tradition of Hitchcock and a great opener.

My own favorite tale, the Wurdulak, is based on folklore not dissimilar to the Wendigo. A killer who has tasted human blood yearns for the lives of its loved ones. A spine-chilling story, the Wurdulak stars Karloff as a weary man who has returned from a mysterious hunt after this famed beast and appears changed, as if the murder of the creature has changed him. The lighting and cinematography is stunning and the sound design, an unholy night in the middle of nowhere, will make your hair stand on end.

The final tale, The Drop of Water is a cautionary story of the supernatural when a woman is called in to assist on the preparation of a body after an untimely death. The corpse is horrifying with an inhuman open grimace peering back at the viewer. After snatching a piece of jewelry from the body the woman is haunted by what she saw and driven to madness.

I was lucky enough to see this film at the Carolina Theater in Durham, NC. A double feature is screened every week and this one (paired with Dario Argento’s Deep Red) could not be missed. Accompanied by trivia and period trailers, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Robo Vampire

robovampire5.jpgDrug smugglers are getting frustrated with the DEA who seem to be one step ahead of them. In order to get the upper hand, they make an obvious decision to employ vampires as both mules and muscle. Their connections are a bit baffled by all this but figure that the bad guys know what they’re doing. When a girlfriend (who may be a ghost) of the alpha vampire (who wears a gorilla mask) shows up, she is allowed to stay so long as both cooperate. Everyone is very sweet and understanding toward the drug smugglers.

These vampires, it must be noted, are the hopping kind (or jiangshi). They can be controlled by special notes and dust. They hop, shoot sparkler flames from their sleeves and smoke from their mouths. They also possess an uncanny knack of martial arts and flipping making any battle five times longer than it needs to be.

But where’s the robot you ask? One of the DEA agents is killed in action and revived using what appears to be manikin limbs painted silver, random computer parts and silver oven mitts. The robot is an amazingly ineffectual machine of tedium whom the drug smugglers, along with their army of the undead destroy. But since he is a state of the art robot, the DEA quickly repairs a ‘short circuit’ (he was actually blown to pieces by a rocket) to get him back in action.

Robo Vampire is a lurid film with standard action, drama and torture along with a weird love scene between a ghost and a gorilla-vampire. It’s tastefully done. The robot is so laughably bad that it nearly makes this film worth seeing for his ridiculousness alone. It’s a great flick for a night when you have a bunch of friends over and plenty of adult beverages.

Like Hyper Sapien, Robo Vampire can be found on the Sci-Fi Invasion DVD set.

Hyper Sapien: People from Another Star

During a visit to Earth, a pair of young aliens decide to remain and discover what life on this strange planet is like. Trailing along with Robyn and Tavy is a weird triple-limbed muppet named Kirbi. Both girls have massive coifs of hair that shift color after prolonged exposure to Earth’s atmosphere. Luckily, during their long trek through the wilderness of Wyoming, they meet Dirt, a young lad with a love of the outdoors and a bizarre habit of sleeping in a suspension hammock.

Passing themselves off as simply ‘visitors’, Dirt eventually realizes his new friends’ alien origin. Luckily, his Grandpa is an open minded guy and is more than happy to host a pair of extraterrestrials. Even Kirbi, a truly mystifying creature which consumes gasoline and charcoal is welcome. Kirbi also helps Grandpa hustle some local in poker.

The film is a charming story that sees Robyn and Dirt grow attached to each other as their obvious differences filter away. Oh and the magic of a community barbecue and local politics doesn’t hurt. 4BBoSI4XrXo76D0tpqFo7GKCqrUDirected by former Bond film editor Peter Hunt, Hyper Sapien: People from Another Star is pure 80’s cinema. The performance from Keenan Wynn as Grandpa is especially touching and sadly marks the famed character actor’s final appearance.

But nothing can prepare you for the oddity that is Kirbi.

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Hyper Sapien can be found on the Sci-Fi Invasion DVD set, which I recommend for a fun few nights. If nothing else it’s the only opportunity to catch the rarity Morons From Outer Space.

 

On the Edge of Blade Runner

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Looking for the perfect way to spend a quiet Monday evening? Here’s a wonderful BBC documentary based on Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (oddly hosted by comic genius Chris Morris).

I can still remember the cold rainy day when I saw this film (at far too young an age). A groundbreaking film that never fails to make an impression and make me feel like I am watching it for the first time… I love Blade Runner.

As a bonus, here’s a lovely film about the life of author Philip K Dick with some very special cameos.

Free to watch: “The Thing” documentary!

Exploring the dark interior of the mind and soul, the horror movie is one of the most revered of cult film genres. With a body of work spanning over 40 years, filmmaker John Carpenter is an icon of horror. While there are many movies that Carpenter has directed which have a strong following (including Dark Star, Halloween, The Fog, Christine, Escape From New York, and Big Trouble in Little China), “The Thing” remains one of his most revered efforts.

Including interviews with the cast and crew, behind-the-scenes footage and storyboards, this amazing documentary provides a unique glimpse into the production of the John Carpenter’s “The Thing” and is not to be missed.

In the winter of 1982, a twelve-man research team at a remote Antarctic research station discovers an alien buried in the snow for over 100,000 years. Soon unfrozen, the form-changing alien wreaks havoc, creates terror and begins killing the researchers one by one.

Source: Free to watch: “The Thing” documentary!

Turkish Star Wars

hqdefault2343Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (The Man Who Saved the World) is a 1982 Turkish adventure film also known as Turkish Star Wars. It’s also one of the most bizarre low-fi science fiction films this side of 2001’s The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra.

Via DangerousMinds: Directed by Çetin Inanç and starring Turkish action superstar Cüneyt Arkin, The Man Who Saved The World is an amazingly over-the-top knock-off of George Lucas’s Star Wars. Popularly known as Turkish Star Wars for reasons that are clearly apparent, this Turkish slab of cinematic taffy stretches the boundaries of disbelief to the breaking point. And that’s what makes it a far more entertaining film than the one it rips off. I’ve forgotten most of the original Star Wars but I’ll never forget Cüneyt Arkin doing battle with a gigantic psychopathic shag carpet using only a cardboard sabre (completely lightless) and some well-placed karate chops.

Turkish film writer Evrim Esroy’s sums up Turkish Star Wars nicely:

Director Çetin İnanç‘s attempt to create the ultimate Turkish science fiction epic has all the trademarks of the genre: a mash-up of American cinema tradition and Turkish mythology bound together by the insane desire to reach infinitely beyond its microscopic budget. Two pilots who find their ships mysteriously crashing on an alien planet end up fighting an evil dictatorial emperor plotting to destroy Earth. But no summary can do this wild mix justice. From its z-grade, beautiful inhabitants to the endless borrowed shots literally spliced in from the actual STAR WARS, this is lo-fi filmmaking at an unparalleled best.

The movie was a bomb when it was first released, but became a cult hot in the US after it was picked up by the improv troupe Foleyvision who provided a new soundtrack live in house.

The ‘Turkish Star Wars’ film was recently screened at the Alamo Draft House and gained even more followers (no doubt riding the fortuitous release of Episode VII: The Force Awakens). Nevertheless, unless you live near one of the Alamo Draft House cinemas or the hip equivalent, it is much harder to come by this obscurity.

Fortunately, J. Sprig has made a dub of the film, replacing the audio track with a playlist of psych and punk rock Turkish music… and it is awesome (man the soundtrack is unbelievable!).

Turkish Star Wars from J. Sprig on Vimeo.

Recommended:
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Godzilla/King Kong Rematch Announced for 2020

Not satisfied with new Star Wars, Batman, Superman, Avengers and Star Trek films? Prepare for the next wave of nostalgia as Godzilla and King Kong face off once again on the big screen.

While the first Godzilla film directed by Ishirō Honda was released in 1954 and remains an icon of monster movies, it wasn’t until 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla that the King of Monsters gained worldwide notoriety which catapulted the creature into superstardom.

So it should come as no surprise that after the success of the 2014 Legendary Godzilla film directed by Gareth Edwards, a new trilogy has been planned including a bout with the giant gorilla, Kong.
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Via Legendary Pictures:

KONG: SKULL ISLAND confirmed for 2017, GODZILLA 2 for 2018, GODZILLA VS. KONG for 2020

Burbank, CA – October 14, 2015 – Following Legendary’s and Warner Bros. Pictures’ 2014 success with the global reinvention of the Godzilla franchise, the companies have come together to create an epic, new shared cinematic franchise. All-powerful monsters become towering heroes for a new generation, revealing a mythology that brings together Godzilla and Legendary’s King Kong in an ecosystem of other giant super-species, both classic and new. Monarch, the human organization that uncovered Godzilla in the 2014 film, will expand their mission across multiple releases.

The announcement that the reinvention of monsters continues was made today by Legendary CEO, Thomas Tull and Kevin Tsujihara, Chairman and CEO, Warner Bros. The initial trio of films are 2017’s KONG: SKULL ISLAND, GODZILLA 2 in 2018 and then GODZILLA VS. KONG, arriving in theaters in 2020. While Legendary maintains its new home at Universal Pictures, the GODZILLA films remain in partnership with Warner Bros., who will now also distribute KONG as a part of this franchise. Production on KONG: SKULL ISLAND begins October 19th.

Warner Bros. and Legendary released Godzilla in May 2014 with an agreement to release Godzilla 2 on June 8, 2018. Both films feature the human Monarch organization. Shortly following Legendary’s pact with NBC Universal, Legendary acquired rights to additional classic characters from Toho’s Godzilla universe, including Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah. This paved the way for developing a franchise centered around Monarch and anchored by Godzilla, King Kong, and other famous creatures.

When Legendary announced films centered on Godzilla and Kong, fans all over the world speculated these two characters might one day meet in the same film. Classic Toho monsters including King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan, as announced at Comic-Con 2014, may also join the Legendary pantheon of giant monster mayhem going forward.

“Audiences really responded to Godzilla,” stated Tull. “Today, I’m excited to reveal that film was only the beginning of an epic new entertainment universe. As a lifelong fan of these characters, I’ve always wanted to see the ultimate showdown, and today we’re pleased to be announcing that and more.”

“Working with our partners at Legendary, we enjoyed tremendous creative and commercial success with `Godzilla,’” said Tsujihara. “It’s great to be able to revisit these characters and help create a franchise with so many creative possibilities for filmmakers. Fans love these big, globally iconic films and it doesn’t get any bigger than this.”

About the Productions

KONG: SKULL ISLAND stars Tom Hiddleston, Sam Jackson, Brie Larson, John Goodman, Tian Jing, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, John Ortiz, Shea Whigham, and Toby Kebbell. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and written by Max Borenstein, John Gatins, Dan Gilroy, and Derek Connolly, KONG: SKULL ISLAND will fully immerse audiences in the mysterious and dangerous home of the king of the apes as a team of explorers ventures deep inside the treacherous, primordial island. Legendary’s Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni will produce with Mary Parent. Alex Garcia and Eric McLeod will executive produce. Warner Bros. will distribute the film in 3D and IMAX 3D on March 10, 2017.

GODZILLA 2 will be written by Max Borenstein and directed by Gareth Edwards. Legendary is producing with Mary Parent and Alex Garcia will executive produce. The film is set to be released by Warner Bros. on June 8, 2018.

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“It’s on!”

GODZILLA VS. KONG will be released in 2020.

Scary Movies: ‘Asylum’ (1972)

‘Never turn your back on a patient.’
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An anthology film consisting of four tales (“Frozen Fear,” “The Weird Tailor,” “Lucy Comes To Stay,” and “Mannikins of Horror”) with a framing story, Asylum is from Amicus. Based in world famous Shepperton Studios, Amicus produced horror from 60’s and 70’s (as well as the only Doctor Who feature films to date). They are primarily known for this type of anthology movie which is an economic treat as it offers up numerous short stories whereas most movies provide just the one.

The framing tale centers on Dr. Martin, a young man attending the weirdest job interview ever at a mental institution. He visits four patients and listens to their ramblings as the viewer is taken along for a flashback. It’s yet another case in a long line of films in which the mentally ill are presented as incurably demented and lost and the treatment is barbaric. That said… gripping stuff.

Written by Robert Bloch (of Psycho fame) and directed by Roy Ward Baker who had previously worked on the excellent Quatermass and The Pit as well as the controversial Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, Asylum is a portmanteau piece starring luminaries of horror and cult film such as Peter Cushing, Patrick Magee, Britt Ekland and Barry Morse. The asylum itself is a test of sorts as Dr. Martin must guess which of the patients is former Doctor Starr, who recently lost his marbles and is now incurably insane.

In fact, all of the patients are deemed incurable. Luckily they also have tantalizing tales to tell explaining how they ended up at the asylum. It’s all traditional fare in the vein of Poe or the pulps, but the segments are told with aplomb and directed with a remarkable eye for the fantastic.

The performances are by and large downplayed with a few exceptions such as Barry Morse (of Space 1999) playing the part of the down on his luck tailor constructing a suit made from otherworldly material for Peter Cushing (the stand out part of the film for me).

‘Georgy Girl’ starlet Charlotte Ramping is stunning as a young woman losing her mind as she pops pills and is visited by Britt Eckland (we should all be so lucky) and Richard Todd finds a unique (though tried and true) method of divorce… with disastrous results.

A fun and witty romp, Asylum is full of creepy yet entertaining moments (the clockwork homunculus is both stirring and side-splitting) and features a remarkable cast and a sharply written script. The violence is mostly downplayed and the usual titillation found in movies of this era is absent, making this a relatively tame horror flick. If you are a fan of other Amicus films of the 1970’s, this is right up your alley and the perfect way to spent a cold October evening.

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