Graduation Day (1981)

GRADUATION DAY (1981)
Article 3724 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-11-2011
Posting Date: 10-25-2011
Directed by Herb Freed
Featuring Christopher George, Patch MacKenzie, E. Danny Murphy
Country: USA
What it is: Slasher film

A high school student dies upon the completion of a race at a track meet. Shortly after that, the other members of her track team begin to be killed off one by one. Who is the killer? Is it the deceased student’s strange sister? The bad-tempered coach? The harried principal? The father of the deceased girl? The stupid pot-smoking cop? One of the students?

Right before I watched this movie, I read a couple of blurbs about it from some of my sources, plus I recalled a short review that I’d read about it some time ago that purported to give away the end of the movie. After having actually watched the movie, I found myself a little amused by the fact that each of the blurbs had been inaccurate. The ending given away by the one source turned out to be wrong, though I’m willing to entertain the idea that it may have been purposefully inaccurate in order to throw off the reader. One emphasized the use of field and track equipment as murder weapons, but I’m not aware of any track and field events that use boards of spikes, switchblades or swords. And one review magically concocts an elaborate backstory (involving a “Dear John” letter, some pitchfork murders, and a the revival of a traditional Graduation dance as the event that sets off the murders) that simply doesn’t exist in any way, shape or form in the movie I saw. Maybe they weren’t from faulty memories; after all, many of these slasher movies come off as clones of each other, and I bet it’s hard to keep them straight at times. As for the movie itself, it’s pretty bad. The murder scenes are singularly devoid of suspense, some of the murders are pretty silly, there are too many unnecessary characters, and its handling of some of the slasher film cliches is pretty clumsy (especially the cliche about the discovery of the dead bodies at various times and locations being used for shock effect). There’s a few interesting tricks in editing that would have been effective had the rest of the movie worked, but I’m particularly disappointed on how the movie fails to use the killer’s gimmick (he carries a stopwatch to time out the murders) in any way to increase the tension. At least it doesn’t hint at a sequel, and none was forthcoming.

Advertisements

Goodbye Charlie (1964)

GOODBYE CHARLIE (1964)
Article 3690 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-6-2011
Posting Date: 9-21-2011
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Featuring Tony Curtis, Debbie Reynolds, Pat Boone
Country: USA
What it is: Comedy, adapted stage play style

A philandering screenwriter is shot by a jealous movie producer, but returns to life as a beautiful woman, much to the frustration of the writer’s best friend.

This is one of those movies that is an adaptation of a stage play, and feels like it for most of the length of the movie, and considering that the movie runs just under two hours, that’s a lot of time to watch two people talking endlessly in mostly the same location. I think the biggest missed opportunity here is Debbie Reynold’s performance; she never once gives me the feeling that she actually is a man in a woman’s body because she plays the character as just too much of a woman, and without that sense of the maleness of the character, the movie never comes across as convincing. Tony Curtis does what he can, but the story is a little too muddled to give him a real and consistent personality. In the end, the only performance that consistently amused me during the movie was Walter Matthau’s as the movie producer; he’s the only one who seems to have the energy and timing to really make his scenes speed along. Unfortunately, he’s a secondary character and is not present for long stretches of the running time, so I’m afraid that I found the movie a real bore.

Ganja & Hess (1973)

GANJA & HESS (1973)
aka Blood Couple

Article 3676 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-23-2011
Posting Date: 9-7-2011
Directed by Bill Gunn
Featuring Marlene Clark, Duane Jones, Bill Gunn
Country: USA
What it is: Art movie masquerading as blaxploitation horror

An archaeologist becomes a vampire after having been stabbed with a ceremonial knife. He tries to cope with his affliction and finds himself involved with the wife of his now-dead assailant.

It features the lead actor from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and is a movie about a black vampire made in the same era as BLACULA. But anyone walking into this one expecting the usual blaxploitation horror vibe will be severely disappointed. Granted, I can’t speak about the 78-minute edit, which reportedly comes across as almost a completely different movie; I opted to watch the complete 110 minute version. There is much to admire here; the acting is strong, the use of sound and music is truly creative, and it adds some interesting wrinkles to vampire mythology (incidentally, the word “vampire” is never used once during the movie). Yet, it remains an art film, and a fairly long one; there is a lot of talk, and not all of it is interesting enough to hold the attention. There are scenes that are confusing, and other scenes that go on too long; despite the positive qualities of this movie, I often found myself quite bored. It is also a movie steeped in black culture, and as such, I may simply not be one of its intended audience. Some people consider it a masterpiece; others think it’s awful. Me, I find it unique, but not quite satisfying overall, though it may be one of those movies that requires more than a single viewing.

The Ghastly Ones (1968)

THE GHASTLY ONES (1968)
Article 3669 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-16-2011
Posting Date: 8-31-2011
Directed by Andy Milligan
Featuring Veronica Radburn, Maggie Rogers, Hal Borske
Country: USA
What it is: Milligan takes on the “old dark house” genre

Three women and their husbands stand to inherit their father’s fortune if they stay for three days in his mansion. But someone is killing off the heirs in gruesome fashion…

How ghastly are they? Well, to begin with, the last few Andy Milligan movies I’ve seen I felt were redeemed somewhat by the fact that there were some good actors in the mix. They may still be there in this one, but between the wretched script (this is one of those movies where you can safely dismiss ninety percent of the dialogue as chatter), the horrible sound, the hyperactive and jerky camerawork, the awful costumes, the terrible makeup, etc., etc…. well, let’s just say that I really wonder if the movie turned out just as Andy Milligan was hoping it would. If he was actually intending to leave me with a headache and feeling rather nauseated (and not in the “ooooh, that’s really gross!” way, but in the “I think I ate something bad…” way), then he was successful. As far as I can tell, this is the goriest of his movies I’ve seen to date, though it’s hard to tell with the camera careening over all creation during the gore sequences. About the best thing I can say about this one is that, once you filter out the chatter, it’s relatively coherent (for an Andy Milligan film); I wasn’t left scratching my head at the end. Milligan would remake the film a decade later as LEGACY OF HORROR, and I’ll no doubt see that one before it’s all over.

Ghosks is the Bunk (1939)

GHOSKS IS THE BUNK (1939)
Article 3638 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-16-2011
Posting Date: 7-31-2011
Directed by Dave Fleischer and William Henning
Featuring the voices of Pinto Colvig, Margie Hines, Jack Mercer
Country: USA
What it is: Popeye cartoon

After a night of ghost stories, Bluto decides to play a prank on Popeye by luring him into an abandoned hotel and making it seem as if the place is haunted.

It’s time for another Popeye cartoon, and this one takes us back to thirties when the Fleischers were in charge of the series. There’s none of the three-dimensional backgrounds, but there’s still some fun chatter, and most of the best jokes require careful listening. It is, however, a pretty minor and perfunctory cartoon overall; there’s not really a lot of strong gags. Though the ghosts are faked, there’s at least one major fantastic element involving invisible paint.

The Ghost Town (1944)

THE GHOST TOWN (1944)
Cartoon aka Gandy Goose in Ghost Town

Article 3637 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-15-2011
Posting Date: 7-30-2011
Directed by Mannie Davis
Voice actors unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Gandy Goose cartoon

Goofy ghosts terrorize a fraidy cat and a silly goose.

Given even that the cartoons which feature Terrytoon’s most famous character (Mighty Mouse) are frequently lame, what do you expect from a cartoon of one of their lesser known characters? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Gandy Goose, but if I had, it’s easy to see why I forgot him; he is a non-entity, as is the cat he pairs up with. There’s lots of gags here, but few of them are funny, and they aren’t particularly well-timed. Personally, I thought some of the backgrounds were more interesting than the rest of the cartoon, especially near the beginning of it. This is not the animated cartoon at its most inventive.

Glen and Randa (1971)

GLEN AND RANDA (1971)
Article 3622 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-30-2011
Posting Date: 7-15-2011
Directed by Jim McBride
Featuring Steve Curry, Shelley Plimpton, Woody Chambliss
Country: USA
What it is: Post-apocalyptic art film

It’s forty years after the apocalypse. Two young people leave their colony of scavengers to search for a city called Metropolis, which they heard about from a comic book.

This movie opens with two naked young people in the woods finding a car in a tree. This is the kind of beginning that always intrigues me, and I found myself pulled into this slow and melancholy post-apocalyptic film. It’s perhaps the movie that most gives me the sense that it really does take place after a great disaster has nearly depopulated the world. The characters seem barely alive, lost and mostly purposeless. Only Glen seems really driven, but his quest is impossible and foolhardy. The movie is an art-film; there’s no real narrative drive, and much of what happens unfolds in discrete setpieces bookended by blackouts. It’s not for everyone; in fact, it may be for very few people indeed, since its rating of 3.0 on IMDB indicates that a lot of people don’t like the movie at all. Yet, I find some of the setpieces and moments indelible; the scene of Glen and the fisherman staring at the sunset, the scene where Randa recklessly squanders most of the matches they carry, and, my favorite moment, the scene where Glen and Randa climb a mountain only to find another mountain on the other side. To my eyes, the ending is nearly perfect. If it works for you, you might find it haunting, as I did. If not, this will be a waste of your time.