Friday, May 31, 2019

King Of The Monster Movies!

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Finished school, wrapped up the paperwork and cleaned up the room, but my main mission yesterday was to catch the debut of Godzilla King of the Monsters.

The Avengers can play all the endgames they like and I don't really give a fig who sits on the Iron Throne, but I do care mightily who is the King of the Monsters, and despite a powerful bid for the role by "Monster Zero", the vile Ghidorah, we all know that there can be only one.

That one is Godzilla and this movie was an absolute feast for fans of the franchise and featured many shout outs to fans of the older movies, especially the movies of the Heisei Era. If there is a flaw in the movie, it's that there are too many of these wonderful features, one appearing almost before the last one faded out. It only means I need to see the movie again and again...which I will.

There are monsters galore in this movie. In addition to Godzilla and Ghidorah, we get close looks at Mothra and Rodan, both of whom play significant roles in the movie. The human story which always must parallel the monster saga in these things is a little scatterbrained at times, with a family broken by Godzilla's first appearance trying to cope and doing so in some decidedly dangerous ways. There is a sense that humans are debris in this movie and that's always sad to see. We are gifted with what I'm dubbing the "impossible human", the person who by hook or by crook gets to all the most pertinent places in the movie, and that stuff wears on me a bit in epics this large, but played against tableau this large I get the reasoning.

We get glimpses of creatures (or "Titans" ) named Baphomet, Typhoon, Abaddon, Bunyip, and Methuselah. The movie makers invested nearly all the featured "Titans" with a bit bit more of a recognizable human personality, more so than the 2014 Godzilla which really tried its damnedest to give us an exotic but almost believable Godzilla. When the Big G takes back his throne (you know he would), we see behaviors not alien from animal life, but invested with a sprig of humanity. It's not exactly "Monster Island", but you can see it from here. Speaking of islands, clearly Skull Island will be the center of attention next year when Godzilla and Kong clash at long last.  

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I've seen some early reviews are negative about the movie. Sheesh! What do you want? This movie delivers monsters baby! Great big old giant monsters! I say yes to that!

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Thursday, May 30, 2019

The King Of Monsters Is Here!

Today is the last day of school for this year. I close out all accounts and then begin enjoying two full months of relative lassitude which I plan to fill with science fiction, comic books, and adventure and monster movies. I kick off the holiday right after work today by going to see the debut of the latest Godzilla epic. Godzilla, King of Monsters is the direct sequel to 2014's Godzilla and adds to the plate Kaiju favorites Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah. I'm agog to get to see this movie from the safety of my plush seat swilling coke and munching popcorn thrilling to get a good look at the havoc they monsters wreak on the world of man. 

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Creature From The Haunted Sea!

Creature from the Haunted Sea was a bonus movie for Roger Corman. To take advantage of some tax breaks he'd taken a few folks down to make two movies -- Attack on Blood Island and Last Woman on Earth -- and after those films had wrapped they still had a little time and some film, so he cajoled the cast from Last Woman on Earth to hang out and make another quickie, this time a vintage monster flick. Ripping off the plot of Beast from Haunted Cave and cobbling together one of cinema's most hilarious and inept monsters they made a movie.

They were smart enough to keep the  outing light and play it for laughs. Creature from the Haunted Sea is a true farce with inept heroes, damsels who don't desire saving, and baddies who make animal noises and kill their enemies with toilet plungers. The "action" rumbles along with a helter-skelter energy until the cast stumble across a real "monster". But it's certain that the monsters in this movie are all mostly humans.

This movie has been included on most public domain monster movies and like much of the Roger Corman material from the Filmgroup era is often overlooked because of its cheapness and relative easy access. It's a dopey monster movie that is just looking to have some fun and consequently allows the audience to have fun too.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Last Woman On Earth!

When is a science fiction movie not a science fiction movie? The Last Woman on Earth directed by Roger Corman is a good example. While the poster would have the potential viewer believe they are about to see another apocalypse movie, what you actually get is a surprisingly complex character piece with three actors running the whole show because everyone else has taken their last breath.

It's never explained what happened, but for some matter of minutes all the oxygen was scrubbed from the air and most living things perished. Three people -- a gangster-like business man and his wife and his lawyer were scuba diving and so were spared and lived long enough for the air to return to normal. These three people deal with the demise of the world in different ways. The gangster goes to work immediately seeking to use constant activity to replace his confrontation of the new world. His wife suddenly realizes her new place in the world and uses that new-found power not maliciously but uses it to seek some sort of satisfaction. The lawyer is the most unstrung of the trio and has a hard time finding his footing, seeking to woo the wife but succumbing to the new world order.

We have some really deft acting here, really subtle stuff considering the speed of a Corman production and the cheapness of the movie. You might go to this movie to see the end of the world, but you end up seeing the beginning of a fairly decent love story which starts at a cockfight and ends in a church -- symbol alert.

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Monday, May 27, 2019

Battle Of Blood Island!

Battle of Blood Island is a lurid evocative title for a movie which turns out to be a surprisingly subtle character study of two soldiers isolated on a Pacific atoll after surviving a vicious battle with Japanese forces. Even more surprisingly this Roger Corman produced war yarn was based on the Philip Roth short story titled "Expect the Vandals". The movie stars a familiar face in Richard Devon who does the bulk of the work here as a stalwart Jewish soldier named "Moe", and he is joined by a rookie named Ron Kennedy in the role of "Ken".

We have two survivors who must work together despite one having lost the use of his legs as they hide out in a cave, stealing resources from the Japanese troops they are constantly hiding from. The interplay between the two men is mature for the most part and according to director and writer of the screenplay Joel Rapp made heavy use of the original Roth wording. The two men struggle with each other and as time passes seem at times to give in to despair, but the end is a bit of a surprise. All I'll say is it involves a goat.

This movie was the first of what turned out to be three movies financed and in some cases directed by Roger Corman. All have fallen into public domain, but a collection of the three films supplied great insight into how they were made on location in Puerto Rico, all in the typical Corman tiny time frame. Expect to see the other two (Last Woman on Earth and Creature from the Haunted Sea) in the next few days, but I thought this Memorial Day was an ideal time to review a movie about war which focused not on the battles and sweeping campaigns, but what the day is about, the soldiers who fought and all too often died in those wars.

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Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Wild World Of Bat Woman!

The Wild world of Batwoman is a movie like few others I have seen. It's on one level a farce, a laughable and clumsy attempt to piggyback on the surprise success of the 60's Batman TV show which itself was satire. Produced by Jerry Warren, a huckster movie maker who according to many who knew him was singularly unconcerned about the quality of the work he generated. His focus was to grind out a movie as quickly and as cheaply as possible and dump it into the market  to gather who shekels it might before word got out. Hopelessly incompetent, the utter sheer badness makes it nonetheless on one level a compelling watch.

I first learned of this movie a few years ago and saw some of it online. But a few weeks back I had the chance to snag a copy and I did, along with some other Jerry Warren outings (coming attractions). The movie just sucks, that is unless you like to watch Go-Go Girls. If that's the case then have I got a flick for you -- this is besotted with  Go-Go Girls who never miss an opportunity to shake and twist and fall into the hedonistic throes of 60's dancing. 

Big hair and sleek asses bounce and bounce as these "Bat Girls" perform in anticipation of Bat Woman calling upon them to foil the plots of the villain called Rat Fink. This baddie, clothed in all black from head to toe employs two dopey thugs and a mad scientist named Neon to operate his schemes which seem not to really have much point to them. They kidnap people for random reasons and threaten crimes which seem not to offer much chance of profit, but it does get Bat Woman into the fray. 

This ain't a good movie, it's a really badly made movie,but so badly made that it's incredibly fun to watch. 

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Saturday, May 25, 2019

Planet Of The Vampires!

Planet of the Vampires is one of those flicks I've read about for decades, but for whatever reason have never seen. I fixed that by acquiring a copy and giving it a good going over, a few times in fact with and without commentary. I learned a lot I didn't know or more likely forgot.

This movie seems no doubt to have been an influence on the blockbuster science fiction horror film Alien. While I've watched that one many many times since first finding it in the theaters so many years ago, it's not noted by its creators that Planet of the Vampires was a resource, or at least not that I remember. But the similarities are many.

Whether the Atlas-Seaboard comic book  Planet of Vampires was inspired by the movie (at least in title) is unknown, but there are many connections between Atlas-Seaboard comics and films of the time. But there is one thing missing from the movie which is seen in abundance in the comic book, a tale of four astronauts returned to Earth to find civilization demolished, lots of vampires. There are none in the movie despite its title. There are are intelligent and malevolent undead, but they are more akin to zombies than vampires.

But back to the Alien-Planet of the Vampires connections. A space crew answers a distress call and lands on a forbidding planet to find a derelict space ship occupied by long-dead giant astronauts who seem to have fallen prey to something threat which may well likely still be active. In this one directed by Mario Bava, we have our hero Barry Sullivan lead his crew into danger and they pretty quickly start to fall as the threat reveals itself. There are some nifty secrets, so I won't say much more, but this one is a highly recommended and I kick myself that it took so long for me to figure that out.

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Friday, May 24, 2019

Queen Of Blood!

Queen of Blood is the third of three Russian movies picked up by Roger Corman and his Filmgroup and given an English-language brushing to allow it find a new audience. And this one is the most successful of the three by a large margin.

You have a team of astronauts who answer an alien distress call and upon landing on a bizarre asteroid find a crashed ship with only a single dead alien. Later a second team finds a living alien who has a yen for human blood. Th movie has a good solid cast with John Saxon and Dennis Hopper on hand to find English words to slather onto the visuals. Basil Rathbone is on hand also as the leader of the organization which sends the astronauts forth and apparently his role here and in Voyage to a Prehistoric Planet were filmed pretty much on the same day. That's efficiency!

The alien bloodsucker is a bit of looker too. The novel cover above shows off her assets in ways the movie never does, but that doesn't mean that sexual attraction isn't an aspect of her ability to pick off the astronauts as they try to return to Earth.

When I thought of a vampire from space I thought of the movie Lifeforce which in its telling of finding life-sucking aliens in space skips over most of the return trip home. We have that trip here.

And when I think of vampires from space I also think of the lovely femme fatale for Warren Magzines, the erotic Vampirella. Now having that thought is not one in a vacuum because guess who is in this movie as Basil's right-hand man -- Forry Ackerman! The Acker-Monster is silent but present throughout this movie and he has a gleam in his eye at the very end as if a notion has sprung upon him about another "Queen of Blood".

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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Planet Of Storms!

Planet of Storms is a Russian sci-fi movie which was picked up by Roger Corman and his team and transformed into not one English-language movie but two. The look of this movie is really sharp, or at least distinctive and conformed quite well with the pulp notions of space travel.

The story takes place on Venus or very near it when three spaceships from Earth approach. At the very beginning of the film one of three ships is utterly destroyed by meteors and the plan to land on Venus appears to be in jeopardy until a replacement can travel from Earth. I'm not all that certain what this plan was but it creates the need for innovation and as a result two men and a really smart looking robot descend  to the planet leaving a lone woman in orbit to effect their later removal. That goes haywire and then the other ship descends completely in order to help the first party. They then work to find one another, traveling across a landscape of rocks, steam, water and dinosaur-like creatures. They also fight off lizard-men of a sort but almost no attention is paid to the nature of their society if any. The two teams finds one another and eventually lift off, though there are casualties. They find evidence of sophisticated life, but miss living creatures by just this much.

This movie gets lifted by Corman and has some Earth-control scenes added with veteran Basil Rathbone who doesn't really add to the narrative and how could he really. But his name is a lure. Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet is still mostly the same movie, with the same dudes struggling on the same planet, but this time in delightfully dubbed English.

Then the same movie is lifted by Corman's team again and framing scenes featuring a tribe of mute women led by an aging blonde bombshell Mamie Van Doren which attempt poorly to give the story a fresh context by adding the oddball allure of a telepathic romance between a character from the original and the added Mamie.

All three of these variations can be found on The Roger Corman Russian Sci-Fi Collection. It's got a fantastic cover and presents the movies more or less in their raw forms. There is a commentary on one which is quite informative. But there's still one to go.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Battle Beyond The Sun!

It seems that Roger Corman saw three Russian science fiction movies somewhere and had an idea. He and his Filmgroup would buy the rights to the movies, and use the visual splendor as the basis for not three English-language variations but four. It all gets quite confusing, but it made for some  weirdly fascinating movies, not necessarily good ones, but  fascinating.

The first up is Battle Beyond the Sun which tells the tale of a future in which the world is divided into two spheres of influence, each competing to travel into space with the destination of Mars.

This an English variation on the movie Nebo Zovyot. How close this version is to the original is hard to judge, but it appears to be pretty coherent. There is a huge space station one power is using to stage its attempt to go to the red planet and then one day a ship from the competing power shows up needing some repairs. There is a cordial offer of help but the ship of the competing power learns a lot and then jets off to Mars, but then runs into more trouble. The "good guys" try too and get into more trouble, but I'll tell you now they don't make it to Mars but get hailed as heroes nonetheless for simply surviving not being sucked into the Sun.

The story is a bit slothful, with the English-language version (spearheaded by Francis Ford Coppola it seems) not wanting to make too much of a fuss of the politics. There is one scene where the hero is alone on an asteroid and confronts an alien creature which looks like nothing less than a walking vagina. That this creature is then accosted by another alien which is best described as a one-eyed monster lets you know something about the symbolism here.

There is heroism in this one for sure, but the mustached twirling by the bad guy is extreme and the heroes seem a little too pure and jovial given their respective plights. The good thing is the message of cooperation wins the day, though how these inept spacemen will ever get to Mars is questionable.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Morning Wood!

What's not to love about this robust buxom Frazetta dame taking a little splash in the altogether in the midst of nature. I have to confess though, that I've always actuely focused on the lady's bountiful assets that I never really took full notice of the satisfied and smiling tree behind her. I am Groot indeed!

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Monday, May 20, 2019

Dojo Classics - The Art Of Flesh!

This is a rather beautiful movie poster for a movie which is really not all that beautiful, though it can be quite funny in places. This gorgeous poster is by renowned science-fiction artist George Barr.

Pornography has become somewhat mainstream in modern society, but alas I find myself too old fashioned to embrace this recent attitude. For me, "porn" is still the stuff of musty theaters, something that operates in the shadows of regular society. With the internet I know that old ideas about pornography have morphed and become somewhat normalized. I'm not offended by it, but I just don't cotton to it.

I however own one legitimate "porno" in my collection, the satirical spoof of the classic Universal serials -- Flesh Gordon.

I'm no great judge of "pornography" as I said, but I can't imagine this flick is much of a great example. It has hardly any scene in it which are actually arousing, but it does have lots of scenes which are funny and which do a dandy job of punching up the absurdities of the classic heroic formula so ingrained in these vintage serials.

One thing Flesh Gordon seems to have yielded though is a passel of really interesting and really well-crafted movie posters. (I've noticed that "porn" flicks seem to get really good posters by and large.)

Here are some of the posters associated with this "erotic" space-opera farce.

This Japanese poster by an artist named Seito seems to take the classic Barr Flesh poses and integrate them into a Star Wars inspired setting.

This French one has a more modern feel, a real part-of-the-70's feel to it. There's also a hint of pulp cover to it.

This version of the classic poster, seems to take some of the original Barr elements and give them a more basic four-color treatment, a bit more in-your-eye pop. Flesh also has a more Supermanish stance.

And finally we have this gem from William Stout which served as a bit of preliminary advertising for the movie. All in all a really fine collection of visual images.

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UPDATE: One thing I forgot to mention all those years ago, is that another reason for picking up this prime bit of legacy porn was the stop-motion work in it by Jim Danforth and David Allen. In these modern times with the awesome might of computers transforming how we see films, it's always nifty to recognize and enjoy some of the old techniques, which might be quaint now, but still work after a fashion.

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