Friday, July 06, 2007

Movies, movies, movies! And a new post on my animation blog!

The return of the "Mystery Science" guys is highlighted in this week's DVD column.

The Film Crew: Hollywood After Dark

Like many people, I mourned the passing of "Mystery Science Theater 3000," the innovative television show set up hundreds of cheesy movies. Now, though, three of the Mystery Science" principals are back doing essentially the same act, only on straight to DVD releases.

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett are "the Film Crew," three guys who've been hired to provide commentary tracks to obscure movies because their boss has decided that every film deserves a commentary track.

Their first assignment is perhaps one of the very worst films I've ever sat through which through their work became one of the funniest something called "Hollywood After Dark." Shot apparently in 1961 or '62 but not released until 1968, this black and white exploitation film wants to have its intellectual cake and eat it, too it's supposed to be deep and philosophical and titillating at the same time.

Director and writer John Hayes apparently had the idea he was going to tell a hard-hitting emotional story of two people on the fringes of Hollywood. Rue McClanahan (yes, from "The Golden Girls") stars as a would-be actress making a living as stripper who falls in love with a bitter junkyard attendant. The result is a pretentious, poorly acted, terribly edited movie punctuated with nudity-free strip routines.

The Film Crew does a great job with this subject and it's the kind of production that's gets better with repeated viewings.

It's great to see these guys back in action.

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This is Tom Jones

You have to hand it to Tom Jones. While many of his contemporaries from the 1960s music scene have become parodies of themselves, Jones has ridden the wave of musical trends and stayed afloat. Like Tony Bennett, Jones is actually relevant to the current generation of music lovers.

Time-Life has now released a three-DVD set of eight of Jones' ABC variety shows from 1969 and 1970. The set includes new introductions from Jones as well as archival interviews.

The only reason to watch these shows is the music. Jones looks a little overwhelmed and uncomfortable gabbing with guest stars or participating in skits. The moments where he looks most at home is when he is singing.

Performers such as The Who, Mary Hopkin, Burt Bacharach, Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin, Little Richard, and Aretha Franklin joined Jones on his show, providing the set with some great performances.

For Jones fans, this set is essential and is probably the first of a series.

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Engineering An Empire

My mom always tried to get my brother and I to do something constructive during summer vacations by insisting completing math and English workbooks would be "fun."

I love my mom.

I've got a 2007 suggestion that might work a bit better. This 12 documentary set might be the cure for those kids who think history is boring.

"Engineering an Empire" is a great combination of travelogue, mystery, archeology and history and looks at civilizations from the British Empire to Russia under the Czars to the ancient Mayans.

Peter Weller, the actor known for his role as "Robocop," is the host of the series and has some legitimate history chops himself he lectures at Syracuse University on the Roman Empire.

This is fascinating stuff that kids and adults should like. You'll learn and not even realize it!

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My friend Frank Lapointe lent me a copy of this recently- released colorized version of the 1935 adventure/fantasy film and I was pretty excited about the prospects of viewing it.

"She," for many years had been considered a "lost" film. There are literally thousands of movies most of the silent era that no longer exists. Negatives and prints were either trashed years ago or allowed to decompose.

Generally the motion picture industry has done a pretty lousy job of preserving its own history.

Sometimes these films do turn up in private collections or in foreign archives. Some have proven to be well worth watching while others might deserve to stay lost!

"She" was a major film produced by Merian Cooper, the man who brought us the original "King Kong." The movie adapted a popular adventure novel by H. Rider Haggard about the queen of a hidden nation who can live forever thanks to a mysterious blue flame. The queen, known as "She Who Must Be Obeyed," is waiting for the return of her great love and he arrives in the form of a distant ancestor who is following up on a cryptic story passed down in his family.

This is a lot of fun for those of us who enjoy movies from the 1930s. Helen Gahagan's performance as the queen is deliciously over the top and the film has a handsome epic look to it.

And the color? I hate to say this, but I liked it. It was tastefully done by people who actually wanted their color choices to have reflected the time this film was made.

The disc has extras including a feature of the colorization process and has an interview with special effect legend Ray Harryhausen, who endorsed this process.

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Pumpkinhead: Ashe to Ashes

This will be the last Sci Fi Pictures release I will ever watch. I just don't have enough time left to endure yet another cheapjack piece of tripe from the cable channel.

This one is the third "Pumpkinhead" movie. The first, directed by Academy Award winning make-up artist Stan Winston was a great little film about a grieving father who turns loose a demon of vengeance on the teenagers who accidentally killed his son. The father, played by the great Lance Henriksen, quickly regrets his decision and battles the monster himself in order to save others.

The film had a deep emotional core, which made it a cut above the typical monster movie. It also had Winston's great make-up for the demon.

This new film does have a cameo by Henriksen we all have to pay the rent but has none of the attributes of the first film. It's merely an excuse to present a series of gore sequences that get old and stupid very quickly.

Director Jake West doesn't even have the skill to let us know when and where the action takes place. It's supposedly today in the deep, deep South, but who knows?

And who cares? In the old days this film would have received third billing at the drive-in and shown at about 2 a.m.


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Mark Martin said...

You can at LEAST answer my EASY question! Is it YOU that cares, if Clear Channel does not?

Jeez, it's like pulling teeth here!

SRBissette said...

Hey, Mikey's busy watching Sci-Fi Channel movies. Go out and play, you kids!

SRBissette said...

Note that Tom Jones avoided becoming a self-parodying by -- parodying himself. His role in MARS ATTACKS was a highlight, and a deft bit of career rebooting.

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