Endgame (1983)

ENDGAME (1983)
aka Endgame – Bronx lotta finale
Article 3876 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-16-2012
Posting Date: 3-25-2012
Directed by Joe D’Amato
Featuring Al Cliver, Laura Gemser, George Eastman
Country: Italy
What it is: After-the-apocalypse action

It’s after the apocalypse. While roving bands of the military gun down mutants, the rest of the world enjoys a violent game show called ENDGAME, where violent warriors square off against each other in hunter-vs-hunted scenarios. One of the reigning champions of the game is recruited on a mission to save a handful of telepathic mutants by leading them on a journey to a meeting place where they can be saved.

Here’s another one of the many ROAD WARRIOR clones of the eighties, though, truth be told, I’m beginning to think they owe as much to ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK as they do the other movie. It’s nonstop action, loud, violent, and, if not quite stupid, I can say that it’s obvious. Still, if you take this all into consideration, then I think I can say that it’s at least not too bad for what it is; it neither takes itself too seriously or too lightly, and even though the themes are obvious, it does set them forth with a modicum of wit. I have to admit that I even liked the somewhat open-ended ending, largely because the movie manages to find just the right degree of character development to make it work. I usually hate movies like this, but at least this one left me with a little smile on my face, and that’s saying something.


Eating Raoul (1982)

Article 3875 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-15-2012
Posting Date: 3-24-2012
Directed by Paul Bartel
Featuring Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Robert Beltran
Country: USA
What it is: Black comedy

When a down-on-their-luck straightlaced couple (with dreams of opening a country restaurant) accidentally kill a couple of swingers, they discover that their victims had lots of money on them. They hit on the idea of financing their dream by posing as swinging prostitutes and knocking off their respective customers. All goes well until a opportunist discovers their secret and decides to horn in…

This is the third movie I’ve seen from Paul Bartel, and I marvel a bit at the way he can deal with sleazy, shocking and taboo subjects in a way that is witty and fun; I don’t feel my nose is being pushed into the slime when I watch his movies. Of the movies I’ve seen of his, this is perhaps the one that qualifies the least for genre; though it does deal with serial killing and cannibalism (among other things), this is not a horror movie. In fact, the whole style feels like a sitcom; I could actually imagine a laugh track being grafted onto this movie. Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov are excellent as the “too-square-for-words” couple; one of my favorite moments in the movie is seeing the arrangement of their bedroom. Another of my favorite moments features Billy Curtis as one of the couple’s prospective clients. I also like Susan Saiger as Doris the Dominatrix, who has a surprisingly normal home life. All in all, this is a genuinely amusing black comedy that doesn’t really feel like one.

The Elephant Man (1982)

Article 3787 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-15-2011
Posting Date: 12-27-2011
Directed by Jack Hofsiss
Featuring Phillip Anglim, Kevin Conway, Penny Fuller
Country: USA
What it is: Photographed stage play

A horribly deformed man is taken in by a doctor who hopes to help him live a life of normalcy.

Though I have a great affection for the David Lynch movie version of the John Merrick story, I did have one problem with it that I mentioned when I covered that movie, and that is that every once in a while it tries just a little bit too hard to tug the heartstrings. That is not a problem with this version of the story, which strives for subtlety and comes across as more realistic and less fanciful than the Lynch version. Granted, it is a photographed stage play, and though the camera does more than just plant itself in one spot and record a performance, it does come across as drier, less cinematic, and talkier. Nonetheless, the talk is good and often very clever, it delves a little deeper into certain issues that the movie avoids (such as Merrick’s sexuality), and is equally powerful in its own way. Of course, the two versions do have a lot in common; in particular, they both deal with the possibility that the title character is ultimately being used in the same way by the doctor and the hospital as the showman did. I’m glad I’ve seen both versions, and I would watch either one again. My favorite moment in this one is when the actress decides that she is going to shake John Merrick’s right hand.

Erdgeist (1923)

aka Earth Spirit
Article 3776 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-4-2011
Posting Date: 12-16-2011
Directed by Leopold Jessner
Featuring Asta Nielsen, Albert Bassermann, Carl Ebert
Country: Germany
What it is: Drama

A woman named Lulu destroys the lives of all the men she meets.

This title sat on my hunt list so long that it eventually got shuttled off to my “ones that got away” list; however, I finally did manage to get a hold of a copy. And, as is often the case where I do find a movie after this long a wait, the copy I found didn’t have English title cards; the ones on this are in Russian, so I couldn’t even pretend that I was able to read them. To help me a little, I checked a few of my resources, and discovered that the movie was largely based on the same stories that resulted in PANDORA’S BOX, and that the fantastic content was that it featured the character of Jack the Ripper. If it does, then I wasn’t able to pick him out from the rest of the characters, so this title may be a false alarm. The movie itself mostly shows people going through emotional turmoil against black backgrounds while actress Asta Nielsen wears strange costumes, including one that makes her look like some sort of bizarre black angel. To be truthful, this got old very quick, and, despite the fact that the movie has a fairly strong rating on IMDB (7.2), I found myself fairly bored by the whole thing. Maybe it would have helped if I had been able to understand the title cards. One thing that did occur to me is how much tastes change over the years. Asta Nielsen was reportedly one of the most popular and beautiful actresses of the silent screen, and no doubt she was; however, every time the camera got close enough to her that I could get a good look at her, she looked for all the world like a female impersonator to me.

Earth Bound (1981)

aka Earthbound
Article 3689 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-5-2011
Posting Date: 9-20-2011
Directed by James L. Conway
Featuring Burl Ives, Christopher Connelly, Meredith MacRae
Country: USA
What it is: TV series pilot that somehow made it to the big screen

A family of aliens and their pet green monkey end up stranded on Earth where they befriend a hotel manager and his orphaned grandson. Can they find the crucial element to fix their spacecraft, avoid capture by government officials, and solve all of their friends’ personal problems in the two and a half days they have left?

I actually caught this pathetic little science fiction comedy when it played in the theaters, albeit not from my own choosing; it was what is known as a “family” night at the movies. It’s like one of the Disney shopping cart movies except it never once approaches the energy level or the lunacy of those films, despite the fact that they have given the alien family an array of convenient super-powers. Its acting is competent and uninspired, the writing is cliche-ridden, and it never works up an iota of momentum or suspense. It’s the type of movie that is mildly comic at its best, blandly dull at its worst. The ads highlighted the green monkey, but the animal is practically a non-entity; other than the fact that he seems to eat light bulbs (talked about but never seen), he adds little to the proceedings. And, after reading the user reviews on IMDB, it’s primarily championed by people who like it because it doesn’t have violence or foul language and is a true family movie. All I can say about that is if this was the type of movie they had to champion, it says something about the decrepit state of family movies at the time. And had it become a TV series, I’d have given it six weeks at best before cancellation.

E.T.: The Extraterrestrial (1982)

Article 3654 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-1-2011
Posting Date: 8-16-2011
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Featuring Dee Wallace, Henry Thomas, Peter Coyote
Country: USA
What it is: Children’s science fiction movie

A young boy takes in a stranded extraterrestrial in the hopes of saving him from authorities that are searching for him. He develops a bond with the alien, and tries to help him find a way to return home.

It took this second watching for me to realize it, but I have a soft spot in my heart for this one. It’s one of the few movies from the era that I took the trouble to catch in the theater, and I did so before E.T.’s image was plastered over everything, so my first sight of him was in the movie itself, which I consider a real plus. For years I’ve been expressing some disappointment with the movie due to my problems with certain plot elements (especially with the levitation powers of E.T.), but at least one of my major issues turned out to be due to me misremembering certain details, and I’m glad I gave it a rewatching.

Of those that I’ve seen, this is perhaps Spielberg’s most manipulative film, and as such, I’m always a bit tempted to dismiss it on principal alone. Yet, I can’t deny that while the movie is actually playing in front of me, I find myself totally caught up in the actions and the situations; I laugh when it wants me to laugh, I cry when it wants me to cry. If nothing else, it makes me respect Spielberg’s skill at handling this sort of thing, and the only time I felt the movie pushed too hard while I was watching it was at the appearance of a rainbow near the very end. Once it’s all over, there is the temptation to pick it apart, if for no other reason than to avoid admitting that the movie did a number on me while it was on. But that’s what I did after the first time I saw it, and it still worked just as well on my second viewing. So I think I’ll just let it be and enjoy it for what it is.

Engineer Garin’s Hyperboloid (1965)

aka Giperboloid inzhenera Garina, The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin

Article 3568 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-29-2011
Posting Date: 5-22-2011
Directed by Aleksandr Gintsburg
Featuring Evgeni Evstigneev, Vsevolod Safonov, Mikhaie Astangov
Country: Soviet Union
What it is: Science fiction thriller

An engineer has developed a ray that can penetrate the earth’s crust and find an unlimited source of gold… and can also be used to destroy his enemies.

You know, there’s nothing quite as disappointing as going into a movie with a word like “hyperboloid” in the title in the hope that the word will describe some clever new science fiction concept, and then to discover it stands for a concept as trite and overused as a death ray. In fact, for part of its running time, it looked like the death ray was going to be just another in a long line of Gizmo Maguffins, in which the whole plot revolves around people getting their hands on it rather than its actual use. To its credit, the movie actually does more with the concept than that; and it’s a lot of fun when the death ray is actually put to use. The movie is light on propaganda, has some nice stylistic touches, and sets its actions in the twenties, when the death ray concept was much more prevalent. On the down side, the movie is more than a little confusing; I was a good ways in before I could sort out the characters, and it may take an additional viewing to sort out the whole plot. Still, this was one movie that I liked better as it went along.