Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (1985)

BABY: SECRET OF THE LOST LEGEND (1985)
Article 3721 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-7-2011
Posting Date: 10-22-2011
Directed by Bill L. Norton
Featuring William Katt, Sean Young, Patrick McGoohan
Country: USA
What it is: Dinosaur film

A female paleontologist and her husband discover a family of brontosauruses living in an African jungle. When a rival paleontologist discovers them, he captures the mother dinosaur, and the father dinosaur gets killed in the process. Can the husband and wife rescue the mother dinosaur while keeping the rival from also kidnapping the baby dinosaur?

Because in my heart, I believe that dinosaur movies will always have a special magic for children, I believe that when they’re made, the filmmakers should take a certain amount of consideration of that audience. I think that’s why this movie leaves an unpleasant taste in my mouth; though the basic story itself could appeal to children, the movie is peppered with touches that make it somewhat inappropriate for that audience; there are nasty and mean-spirited characters, an ugly strain of sexism, a certain preoccupation with sex, and too much violence, much of which could have been left out without harming the basic story. I also found the special effects to be a real mixed bag; the dinosaurs look more impressive in full body shots and from a distance than they do in the up-close head shots, where they look rather unexpressive. Quite frankly, the movie betrays a certain lack of care and thought. In the end, the problems sapped the fun out of the movie for me.

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The Love Butcher (1975)

THE LOVE BUTCHER (1975)
Article 3720 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-6-2011
Posting Date: 10-21-2011
Directed by Donald M. Jones and George Theakos
Featuring Erik Stern, Kay Neer, Jeremiah Beecher
Country: USA
What it is: Psycho killer movie

An ugly and crippled gardener has an alternate personality; he’s also a handsome ladies’ man who seduces and then kills his victims, usually women that have insulted his other personality. Will the police be able to catch him?

Between the sleazy title, the unpromising-sounding premise, and the fact that, according to one of my guides, it sat on the shelf for seven years before finally getting released in 1982 during the slasher era, I was expecting something pretty awful, and for about the first twenty minutes or so, I didn’t see anything that contradicted that expectation. It wasn’t until about the halfway mark, when the studly alter ego kills a victim he failed to seduce and then begins conjuring up an alternate reality in which he succeeded in his seduction, that I began to really take interest, as it begins tapping in to an unexpected complexity in the interplay between the two personalities. In some ways, it ends up being a very interesting variant of PSYCHO, one in which the explanation of the psychosis actually adds texture to the story rather than coming across as something thrown in at the last moment. Oh, it’s still pretty sleazy, and some of the killings are cruel and nasty, but that’s to be expected; what isn’t expected is some of the interesting story turns it all takes before it’s done. I ended up finding this one a lot more worthwhile than I expected it would be.

Kiss Daddy Goodbye (1981)

KISS DADDY GOODBYE (1981)
Article 3719 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-5-2011
Posting Date: 10-20-2011
Directed by Patrick Regan
Featuring Fabian, Marilyn Burns, Jon Cedar
Country: USA
What it is: Odd zombie movie

When their father is killed by some bikers, two children gifted with psychic powers resurrect him and use his body to take revenge on those that killed him… and anyone else that threatens the children.

I don’t think I’ve ever quite seen this conjunction of various types of horror movies put together in quite this way; it’s a “revenge from beyond the grave” zombie movie, as well as a creepy kid movie with touches of THE FURY added to the mix. In its own low-budget way, it has certain charms; I like some of the spontaneous touches such as the background noise at various points in the movie and the way the car that is being pulled from the lake practically falls apart as we watch. Yet, there’s a listlessness about the production; it moves at a snail’s pace at times, and the acting seems distant and muted. In fact, after watching the first half, I found myself trying to find the best word to describe it, and came up with “preoccupied”; everybody in the movie seems to be acting as if they’ve got something else on their mind, as if there was a better movie being shot across the street and everyone wanted to go over there. In fact, there are times where this movie feels incomplete; in particular, a scene where the resuscitated father attacks a couple of surfers is nearly impenetrable, as if some scenes were missing. The movie ends up being quite bad, but in one of those curious ways that makes it almost an object of fascination. And it’s one of the only movies I’ve seen where you can see a man dig his own grave… after he’s dead.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979)

BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY (1979)
TV-Movie
Article 3718 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-4-2011
Posting Date: 10-19-2011
Directed by Daniel Haller
Featuring Gil Gerard, Pamela Hensley, Erin Gray
Country: USA
What it is: STAR WARS-inspired TV series pilot

After being frozen aboard his spaceship for 500 years, a pilot from the 20th century is revived. He finds himself embroiled in a plot by aliens to destroy the Earth, but the Earthlings of the future think he’s a spy. Can he defeat the aliens and convince the Earthlings of his sincerity?

Despite the fact that I’m primarily covering movies for my project, I seem to brush up against TV shows quite a lot, thanks to the concepts of editing TV episodes into movies or (as in this case) making movie-length pilots for the TV shows. I was expecting something fairly juvenile at first, but the opening credits take place while Buck is frozen and apparently dreaming, and his dreams largely consist of him encountering and making out with half-dressed females, a concept which made me feel the movie was a lot closer to FLESH GORDON than to STAR WARS. Well, I understand the concept of including sexy females to attract some of the older males, but, truth to tell, I found the females on display to be of the type that I would describe as sexy in the “I’ve just spent the last fifty hours with my hairdresser and cosmetician to remove any last vestige of humanity from my looks; please don’t breathe on me or you’ll lose the effect!” way that I find distinctly unsexy. The movie eventually descends into a series of double-entendres that are reminiscent of Matt Helm at his worst, and this, combined with the lousy script and the presence of one of the most obnoxious “cute” robots I’ve ever seen (I’m sure there must have been a “Dismantle Twiki” movement somewhere), I not only found this pretty painful but I wondered just who it was intended for. On the plus side, I did find it colorful. I avoided this series when it was on TV, and now I’m glad I did. Worst scene: Buck teaches the people of the future how to dance to rock and roll. Worst double entendre: I’m not going to repeat the whole thing, but the phrase “the emperor’s seat” is involved.

A*P*E (1976)

A*P*E (1976)
aka Ape, Attack of the Giant Horny Gorilla
Article 3717 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-3-2011
Posting Date: 10-18-2011
Directed by Paul Leder
Featuring Rod Arrants, Joanna Kerns, Alex Nicol
Country: South Korea / USA
What it is: The nadir of the giant monster movies

A giant ape gets loose in Korea. Panic ensues.

For a while I was part of a movie-watching group called The Exposed Film Society which tried to dig up some of the worst cinematic atrocities for our viewing “enjoyment”. As time went by, three movies ended up having such a permanent impact on us that they became de rigeur for initiations of new members to the group. I’ve covered one of these so far (2 + 5 MISSION HYDRA). This is the second. The best summary of our reaction to this one came from one of my friends who said “This movie hates you!” I was quite startled to find that one of the IMDB reviews used almost the exact same phrase. So, taking this as my cue, I’m now going to give you “10 Ways the movie A*P*E Hates You”.

1) The movie has simply the most godawful special effects I’ve ever seen in a giant monster movie. Not only that, it doesn’t even care how bad they are. Any self-respecting movie of this sort wouldn’t try to pass off the plastic cow as a real one as this one tries to do.

2) If there’s any audience that would be most attracted by a movie about a giant ape, it would be children. This movie instead tries to present itself as a racy, adult giant monster movie, thus shooting itself in the foot.

3) Not only does it try to present itself as a racy, adult giant monster movie, but it does it badly. Those expecting a racy good time will have to settle for a few bad double entendres, a shot of Joanna Kerns in a see-through bra, a crass and stupid staged attempted rape (being shot for a movie), and lots of gratuitous cussing. Even a sequence where the ape peers into a window to watch a couple making love stops at the point that a woman has just taken off her jacket. Anyone expecting racy pleasures from this movie will walk away disappointed.

4) Every scene featuring Alex Nicols as the beleagured Army Colonel is painful. For the longest time I used to think it was the acting of Nicols himself, but upon watching it this time, I realize it’s because he was given the worst dialogue in the movie…. as well as most of the gratuitous cussing.

5) The movie makes some of the most repetitive attempts at utilizing the 3-D gimmick I’ve ever seen. How many times can you see a soldier aim a gun straight at you and fire? How many times can you see the giant ape throw a rock at you? How many gratuitous sequences can you handle that only exist because of the 3D effects? Some of these scenes are never even resolved, such as the one in which the giant ape interrupts the filming of a martial arts film.

6) When the giant ape is carrying around Joanna Kerns, her screams are constantly looped in the soundtrack. If this doesn’t annoy the hell out of you, you’re probably deaf.

7) Every time the military comes out in force, you will hear an endless loop of a “drum and bugle corp” melody that is sure to drive you up the wall. And that’s not the only musical motif that gets overworked during the course of the film.

8 ) Every time the giant ape battles the military, he waves his arms around in a meaningless manner that will leave you wonder what he’s trying to do. Is he conducting an orchestra? Swatting flies? Performing an interpretive dance? Trying to get his underarm deodorant to dry? Occasionally he manages to knock a helicopter out of the sky, but I’m sure it’s coincidence. But whatever his intention is, it’s pretty annoying.

9) The movie features puppet antics. And children whose sole dialogue in the movie is to laugh at puppet antics. This is never recommended.

10) And finally, there’s the moment when the giant ape flips off the audience. Yes, ostensibly it’s aimed at a helicopter he’s just destroyed, but I’m not fooled – I know it’s directed at me and at anyone else who sat through this movie. As my friend said before, this movie hates you.

Alien Predator (1987)

ALIEN PREDATOR (1987)
Article 3716 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-2-2011
Posting Date: 10-17-2011
Directed by Deran Serafian
Featuring Dennis Christopher, Martin Hewitt, Lynn-Holly Johnson
Country: USA / Spain
What it is: Alien invasion flick

SkyLab crashes in Spain near a small town in Spain called Duarte. Five years later, three young Americans become stranded in the town and discover, with the help of a NASA scientist, that the residents have been infected with an alien virus that makes them psychotic before dying horribly. Can they find an antidote and escape before the whole of Europe is infected?

I saw this movie (which I’d describe roughly as a cross between ALIEN and THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN) many years ago, and all I could really remember was a crude gross-out moment and an attempt to come up with a variation on ALIEN’s gut-busting alien effects. I thought it was bad then, though I don’t think I could really pinpoint back then what I didn’t like about it. Watching it now, I realize it was a whole combination of things. Most of the horror focuses on gross-out sights and sounds, the tepid love triangle subplot adds nothing to the movie (as they usually don’t), the attempts at humor are ineffectual, the pop-culture references (including several to “The Twilight Zone”) are witless and pointless, the acting is sometimes downright awful (especially an angry soliloquy in which the female character announces her disgust with being treated like a “floozy”), and not an iota of real suspense is generated, at least partially because many of the scenes are so darkly lit that you can’t see well. The movie had been made three years earlier, but was reportedly left on the shelf after its original distribution company was dissolved. The movie also apparently had a troubled production history which ultimately caused its producer to retire from filmmaking.

Valley of the Lions (1961)

VALLEY OF THE LIONS (1961)
aka Ursus nella valle dei leoni, Ursus in the Valley of the Lions
Article 3715 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-1-2011
Posting Date: 10-16-2011
Directed by Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia
Featuring Ed Fury, Moira Orfei, Alberto Lupo
Country: Italy
What it is: Peplum

When a usurper takes the throne, the surviving son of the original king manages to survive by being raised by wild lions. When his existence is discovered, he becomes embroiled in a rebellion that wants to remove the usurper… but will the usurper destroy the son before he can lead the rebellion?

This one is a little skimpy on the story, problem because the movie spends quite a bit of its footage showing Ed Fury’s stand-in playing with the lions while Ed Fury carries on a comic patter about his feline friends. It’s actually quite a ways into the movie before he is captured by the usurper (played by Alberto Lupo, who played the title character in ATOM AGE VAMPIRE) and then meets the rebels. As you might guess, Ursus has super strength, which is especially noticeable when he takes on some trained elephants; the concept of his having been raised by lions adds to the fantastic elements. There’s no evil queens in this one, though there is some intrigue among the slave girls. At least Ed Fury adds some light-heartedness to the proceedings. My copy of the movie is in black and white, though it was shot in color. It’s a minor entry into the sword-and-sandal genre, but it has its moments.