Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Santo y Blue Demon contra el doctor Frankenstein (Santo & Blue Demon vs. Doctor Frankenstein) (1973)


I've never been to Mexico, but I like to think of it as populated by an array of colorfully masked wrestlers tirelessly protecting the country against various monsters and aliens, between taking on opponents in the squared circle. This impression has been greatly influenced by the dozens of lucha-libre films produced in the area throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s, many of which starred the most popular mexican wrestler of all: El Santo. Santo first began wrestling in the 1930s, but it was when he began wearing his trademark silver mask that his career really took off and by the 1950s (when he was already well into his 40s) he began his foray into cinema with Santo contra el cerebro del mal (Santo Vs. The Evil Brain, 1958). The following two decades saw him starring in over 40 films, often battling zombies, mad scientists or other demonic creatures. By 1973 the genre had definitely become a little formulaic, but Santo y Blue Demon contra el doctor Frankenstein (Santo and Blue Demon Against Dr. Frankenstein, 1973) is a fine starting place for those interested in the genre and what it has to offer. Certainly cheap looking, but featuring a surprisingly spry Santo considering he was in his late 50s, the film has lots of cheesy fun for genre fans.

To understand El Santo, you have to picture a combination of Batman and James Bond. He's super smooth, a snappy dresser, and gets all the women when he's not acrobatically dispatching a variety of opponents and saving the world from supernatural threats. As well, he - along with his luchadore partners such as Blue Demon in this film - never remove their masks. They wear them out to dinner, when relaxing by the pool, or even when just driving around. This status as a real life superhero made Santo an icon in his home country where lucha-libre (which is a particularly acrobatic form of pro wrestling) is a cultural institution. Santo's son, logically named El Hijo del Santo, continues to wrestle wearing his father's trademark mask and cape, having taken over the mantle after his father's death in 1982.


This film begins with a string of attacks and kidnappings of young women, who often reappear in a zombie-like state, attacking their loved ones. While the police are baffled, it's revealed to the audience that this is the work of Dr. Irving Frankenstein, who - since it's family tradition - is trying to crack that pesky mortality problem. After watching a wrestling match featuring Santo, Frankenstein decides that what his creatures need is the intelligence and dexterity of the masked wrestler so he sends his henchmen - including the towering creature Golem - to kidnap the beautiful bacteriologist Alicia in order to lure the wrestler to his hide-out. El Santo, not always the brightest bulb, gets tricked but before his brain can be removed he's saved by Blue Demon who cleverly disguises himself ("As you can see, i'm not the Anesthesiologist") before taking out the bad guys. They find Alicia and escape as the authorities storm the compound. But that's not all! Frankenstein decides that the only way to get revenge is to have Golem (wearing a black mask and with his skin pigment changed) attack Santo in the wrestling ring, with Frankenstein himself (also wearing a generic mask) acting as coach. Things don't go according to plan, and soon Santo and Blue Demon are fighting with Frankenstein and his monster in the rafters of the arena. Tragically, the two baddies fall to their death, though nobody seems too upset about the victorious luchadores murdering folks in cold blood. FIN!

The joy of a lucha-libre film doesn't come from the direction or the production value - both of which are rather flat - it comes from the bizarre logic and subject matter, and this film certainly provides that in spades. The characters in the film simply accept the idea of two masked wrestlers dining, or walking down the street like it's the most normal thing in the world. When the police are having difficulty, of course they reach out to El Santo and Blue Demon to help. And what better way for a mad scientist who has almost achieved eternal life to find vengeance than a ridiculous wrestling scheme? Why not just shoot El Santo in the head? Blow him to kingdom come? Or create an army of zombies to take him out? Because then we wouldn't get extended lucha-libre wrestling scenes, which are actually quite impressive considering the age of the protagonists. Santo tends to bring out the head-scissors and other acrobatic wrestling moves in his regular fight scenes as well, which is half the fun. Just like in lucha-libre, or really pro-wrestling as a whole, the world of these movies is a slightly heightened reality and giving in to the rather ridiculous elements provides most of the fun.


Jorge Russek as Irving Frankenstein actually does a really solid job, even managing to bring a bit of pathos to the role - his Phibes-like motivation for his actions comes from wanting to bring his late wife back to life - and ranting appropriately when he isn't barking orders at his minions. Santo has a charisma that is rather hard to pin down, and it's difficult to take your eyes off of him when he's onscreen. It's hard to judge his acting, particularly considering that most of his facial expressions are covered. Blue Demon doesn't fare quite as well, looking uncomfortable in most acting scenes and showing little of the grace that he was able to provide in the ring. Of course, constantly playing second banana to Santo is sort of a thankless role.

Of course, none of this is meant to imply that the film is actually any good. While entertaining in its goofiness, the entire genre was starting to get a little shoddy at this point, and this is obviously a very low-budget production with flimsy sets and excessive padding. Dr. Frankenstein provides some name value, but he could really be almost any generic mad scientist and Golem makes a rather poor substitute for Frankenstein's monster. It feels a bit like a television production, and many of these luchadore films would fit quite well next to campy productions like the 60s Batman series, though here the characters play things totally straight.


Brought to DVD by Rise Above Entertainment, El Santo y Blue Demon Contra el Doctor Frankenstein is presented in its original 1.37:1 aspect ration in a rather shoddy print featuring occasional damage and inconsistent color throughout. Despite the low-budget this is a bright and colorful film, and this is still represented in the print despite its inconsistency. The audio is presented in Spanish with optional English subtitles which feature rather a lot of spelling and grammatical errors, though few will be watching this for the dialogue.

It's still surprisingly difficult to find many of the dozens of lucha-libre films n DVD, so it's quite a treat to see this one released with subtitles, and even a few special features. Here we're treated to The Best of Santo, which is really just a video package featuring clips from a variety of his films. A fun diversion, but slight. The included photo gallery leaves a lot to be desired, but the inclusion of trailers: for Santo y Blue Demon contra Dracula y el Hombro Lobo (Santo & Blue Demon vs. Dracula & the Wolfman) (1973) and the amazingly cheesy looking Santo: Infraterrestre (2001) (starring El Hijo  del Santo) are a nice treat for fans.


Silly fun for all ages, Santo y Blue Demon contra el doctor Frankenstein is cheap but rarely boring. While the more cynical among us may have trouble accepting this rather quirky view of reality, for those on the right wavelength these movies provide huge amounts of preposterous entertainment. We're lucky to have access to these films, and I hope future generations can continue to appreciate the odd allure of El Santo.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bloody Nightmares #21: This Darkness: The Vampire Virus (2003)


This Darkness is a film filled with potential, and in a few moments spread throughout it even manages to reach it, but too often what was almost a fresh spin on the vampire myth gets bogged down with production problems. Director, writer, producer, and lead Dylan O'Leary does an admirable job, but spreads himself much too thin, making the bigger set pieces fall flat until the entire thing gets exceedingly messy in the final twenty minutes.

O'Leary stars as Dr. Van Helsing VII (sigh), a University Professor being funded handsomely for his work with DNA and vaccines, apparently in trying to create a working AIDS cure. Meanwhile, guess what mysterious creatures of the night are beginning to randomly attack surfers and cheerleaders in broad daylight? If you guessed Vampires, than you've obviously read the title of the film. In fact, the title gives a lot of information that the film dances around for a good 45 minutes. Y'see, Van Helsing (his friends call him Van) has really been working on a cure for death as a whole, but a side effect of his research has brought some vampires out of hiding - leading to them slaughtering his family for reasons that i'm still a bit sketchy on. Oh! And Van's friend Ron Little - a Vietnam vet who runs a martial arts studio - is out for revenge on the vampires who killed his daughter. Also, there's a sassy black friend, a Vietnamese FBI agent, various lab assistants, and a young man who aspires to be a drummer. It's a rich tapestry. It all comes to a very Shakespearean head with just about everyone dying, and Van finding out that he had sex with his mom. Eww.


Let's start with the good. This Darkness is actually, considering its pedigree and the films that surround it in this collection, quite well written. The plot is sometimes a little confusing, and there is lots of scientific jargon that gets a bit tiresome, but the material feels fresh and the characters tend to be amusing throughout. Even when it gets a bit corny - as in every scene that features a vampire speaking - there's a sense of humor that keeps things from getting too bogged down. Van Helsing is written as a bit of a loveable goof-ball, and while I derided O'Leary's choice to play the lead himself he actually pulls it off fairly well. He gets most of the difficult dialogue, and seems to be unafraid to make himself look silly or less than heroic (a scene of him "training" at the dojo may exist solely as padding, but is pretty funny nonetheless).

I also admire the ambition of the project. While most of the films in this collection only make use of a handful of locations, This Darkness includes some unique scenery - most notably some really visually interesting caverns in the climax - which gives the whole thing some much-needed production value. There's also a "let's put on a show" attitude that I really respond to in low budget movies, with the filmmakers obviously using everything at their disposal, whether it be the dojo (which leads to some amusing fight scenes), extended scenes of butterfly knife prowess, surfing, or awful rock bands there's a willingness to include anything that might possibly be of interest. Of course, there's also a sprinkling of gore (vampires eat internal organs? Who knew?) and some boobs for those who enjoy such things (i.e. me).


But remember when I mentioned O'Leary stretching himself too thin? This comes out rather heavily on the production side of things, as while it's a fairly tight production compared to, say, Nightmare Asylum (1992), there is the usual iffy sound, dark photography, and often choppy editing that really should have been tightened up a bit. A number of the locations are quite spacious which might explain some of the sound problems, but the lack of continuity between sound as camera angles change is distracting. And for a movie with a credited cinematographer, there's really no excuse for some of the murky photography and grainy, underlit scenes. It doesn't make things unwatchable, but getting someone to watch a no-budget shot on video vampire movie is a difficult proposition in the first place, so minimizing technical problems is really a necessity. As with a number of other films in this collection there are also a few odd digital glitches, but i'll chalk that up to problems with the mastering.

It's getting a bit repetitive to complain about acting quality, but the problem here lies more in inconsistency rather than persistent badness. As I mentioned, O'Leary is shaky but obviously giving it his all, while David Everritt as (sigh) Tarquin the Vampire thankfully camps things up with his delivery. The rest of the cast tend to be either bland or wooden, especially Amanda Cook as the eventual damsel in distress, who spends most of the film talking like an android. Son Nguyen as the skeptical FBI agent does a good job as a typical stick-in-the-mud, and gets some of the film's best lines.


The process of packing four movies onto each disk of the Bloody Nightmares collection plays havoc with the presentation of some of the films, but This Darkness holds up quite well and - when the lighting is good - looks pretty decent for a shot on video production. The sound problems I mentioned pop up quite often, but the post-production soundtrack, which includes quite a few actual songs, sounds decent. Incidental music if forgettable, but gets the job done. 

There are a few fun outtakes during the closing credits which imply that this thing was a blast to make, but as usual you're not going to find any extras here. Not even chapter stops. Lame.


A step up from some of the recent films in this collection, This Darkness: The Vampire Virus is a strong effort that is hampered by production issues and some jerky plotting, but still has some fresh ideas and an entertaining script. The acting won't win any awards, but there's obviously some love for the genre on display and it certainly makes me interested to see more of O'Leary's work. Lots of potential, but doesn't quite make it. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Capsule Review: The Evil Dead (1982)

While the effect has been somewhat dulled by incresingly humorous sequels, it's important to remember that the original Evil Dead plays almost entirely as a straight horror film. While there are moments of comedy – both intentional and not – the tale of a group of friends camping in an avandoned cabin who accidentally unleash kandarian demons was and is a rollercoaster of gory horror, with inventiveness to spare. Still, while a cut above its competition, what makes the Evil Dead a modern classic is the wild low-budget camera work of its director Sam Raimi, and the charisma of its lead – future cult hero Bruce Campbell. Some memorable shocks, particularly a nasty scene involving a pencil and an ankle, a great soundtrack, and plenty of goopy dismemberment all work in the film's favor.

Capsule Review: The Shining (1980)

While A Clockwork Orange dabbled in it, i'm sure audiences in 1980 were awfully curious to see what a Stanley Kubrick directed horror film would look like. What they got – an adaptation of Steven King's haunted hotel novel – must have been rather surprising, as the film hardly resembles any other horror film, particularly the ones being made at the time. Filled with foreboding steadicam shots, long takes, and dazzling (and disturbing) imagery, Kubrick turns the hotel itself into a character, and the actors – particularly Jack Nicholson who is totally unhinged – are obviously fighting hard to not get lost next to their massive co-star. Shelley Duvall can be a little much to take, and those looking for a straight adaptation of the source are best directed to the (middling) made-for-TV version, but The Shining somehow looks better as the years go by.

Capsule Review: Freaks (1932)

While Tod Browning was never a visual stylist, he did have an obvious fascination with outsiders and deformity - as demonstrated in his films with Lon Chaney - however his most revered and reviled film may be this horrific melodrama featuring a variety of actual circus people in the leads. The storyline isn't anything special, dealing with a beautiful trapeze artist who attempts to marry the midget leader of the circus freaks in order to get at his fortune, but its climax featuring the array of performers stalking the woman in a rainstorm retains its ability to shock. Paced like an old Tales From The Crypt comic, the film is actually quite sympathetic to the circus folk who are shown to be compassionate and kind people, but this didn't prevent the film from being repeatedly banned for decades. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Special Place In Hell: The 10 Best Movie Scumbags

Before we get to the nitty-gritty of this list, I want to preface by mentioning that we've made the decision to exclude anyone who crosses the line from being an asshole/prick/scumbag to being actually evil. Sometimes it's a fine line - you won't find Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest on here - but we've considered true scumbags to be the loathsome sorts whom the audience wishes to have their eventual, spectacular comeuppance.

#10. The Lieutenant (Harvey Keitel) in Bad Lieutenant

"Hey, listen to me. I'm the boss, not Aunt Wendy. When it's your time to use the bathroom, you tell Aunt Wendy to get the fuck out of the bathroom! What are you, men or mice? She's hoggin' the bathroom - call me! Call me, and I'll throw her the fuck out!"

Harvey Keitel's bad lieutenant is the prototypical scumbag with a heart of gold. I mean, he's an absolute piece of shit, a drug-addled booze hound who's waist deep in debt, alienated from himself, his family, and any true sense of purpose. A man so corrupt in his heart that he cannot even recognize the possibility for forgiveness in himself anymore. Keitel really amps up the lieutenant's douche-baggery, his character is just dripping sleaze, but not in a goofy, over-the-top way, but in that wrenchingly real and heart-breaking way wherein it is possible to accept that he may just find the redemption he feels he doesn't deserve. And it is easy to argue that he doesn't deserve it.


#9 Caledon Hockley (Billy Zane) in Titanic

"My fian... my fiancée! Yes, you are, and my wife. My wife in practice if not yet by law, so you will honor me. You will honor me the way a wife is required to honor a husband. Because I will not be made a fool, Rose. Is this in any way unclear?"

You can't really fault Caledon for reacting the way he does in the early goings of the movie, Titanic. He's got his head so far up his own ass that he doesn't realize that Rose (Kate Winslet) actually despises the ground he walks on. He reacts the way someone with common sense would react when he discovers that Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) has been fooling around with his fiance, but it is during the climactic sinking of The Unsinkable where Hockley shows his true self.

In true douchebag form, Hockley escapes the doomed ship by pretending to take care of a young child and confirms every assumption about his character. He's a self-absorbed coward that will stop at nothing to preserve his own hide.

I recall people in the theater actually clapping when Rose mentions that Hockley fell into financial ruin in the Stock Market Crash of '29 and commits suicide as a result.

In order to keep Hockley's more loathsome personality traits ambiguous until the end of the movie and reveal them in a more gradual progression, James Cameron wisely decided to omit a scene in which Hockley orders his bodyguard to murder Jack and Rose in exchange for the Heart of the Ocean when he realizes that not only has Jack slept with Rose, Jack has also claimed Rose's virginity.

Kudos to James Cameron for not playing his hand before it was time.

- J.T.

#8. Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss) in Memento

"You sad, sad freak. I can say whatever the fuck I want, and you won't remember. We'll still be best friends. Or maybe even lovers."

Carrie-Anne Moss was the definition of working actress before The Matrix came along. Taking bit parts in TV movies and syndicated shows for 10 years prior, when The Matrix hit it appeared that her ticket to stardom had finally been punched.

What followed were well-acted turns in interesting movies that should have pushed her into serious consideration for any female role requiring an actress in her age range. Perhaps the best of these roles was the character of Natalie in Memento.

Memento is a difficult movie to try to explain in a paragraph, so I will just say that it involves a man , Leonard Shelby (played by Guy Pearce in an award-worthy turn), suffering from extreme short-term memory loss, who uses tattoos, notes, and Polaroids to find the man that killed his wife. Keep in mind that it would take several pages to actually give the story justice. This is the movie that will keep director Christopher Nolan steady work for the next couple of decades, moreso than The Dark Knight in my opinion.

Into this story comes Natalie. Involved in the local drug trade, Natalie discovers the perfect way to get rid of some competition by pointing Leonard in the right direction, knowing that should he be caught either by the cops or by her rivals, he wouldn't remember her anyway.

If Moss had played this role with even a hint of sympathy, it wouldn't have worked. It would be easy for anyone watching to say, "Well, given the same circumstances, who's to say I wouldn't do the same?" But by playing the character of Natalie as one of the meanest, nastiest villains of the past decade, she is more than worthy of being remembered on this list.

- Isaac

#7. TIE - Pat Healy (Matt Dillon) in There's Something About Mary

"Those goofy bastards are about the best thing I've got going."

There are a lot of slimeballs out there in filmdom. So why Pat Healy? OK, so he does quite a few remarkably sleazy things in order to get to Mary: he lies, he cheats, shit, he even drugs an innocent dog. But, after years of watching movie scumbags, those actions just don't cut it.

But there is one thing.

It's when Healy caps all of his teeth. If you remember, he's been listening in to Mary and her friends, and while discussing Magda's dog Mary emphatically states how much she loves big teeth. Healy thinks she's talking about a person, and so he gets all of his teeth capped.

Jesus, maybe that isn't the scummiest thing I've ever seen, but it certainly is one of the most pathetic. And being pathetic, well, that's one of the big parts of a being a scumbag. Healy essentially mutilates his face, at no small expense to himself, for the incredibly slim chance that this will make him somewhat more attract to a woman. It's sad, it's manipulative, and it's really creepy. It's also one of the biggest laughs of the film.

Oh, and he also pretends to work with and care for mentally challenged individuals. That's pretty rough.

- Brad

Ernie McCracken (Bill Murray) in Kingpin

"Hi... not you... hi."

I am convinced that bowling is the sport you take up if you have very good hand to eye coordination but are too lazy to run the length of a basketball court.

Enter Ernie McCracken. A self-styled bowling god that shamelessly promotes himself and honestly believes that he is God's gift to women despite physical evidence to the contrary. A complete jackass that constantly shows that the only thing more misaligned than his hairpiece is his moral compass.

The thing about Big Ern is that he walks the talk and delivers when the pressure is on. When other scumbags fail at the moment of truth, McCracken backs up his own press with an amazing display of clutch.

Like him or not, McCracken plays to win, and does...

Good does not always triumph, folks. Thus endeth the lesson.

- J.T

#6 Biff (Thomas F. Wilson) in Back to the Future

"What are you looking at butthead?"

Sometimes you want your antagonist to be a many-layered, finely shaded individual who you discover to have childhood trauma that explains his prickish behavior, eventually leading to them earning your sympathies. And other times you just want to see an asshole get his, and Biff is one spectacular asshole. While being perfectly happy to simply be a dickhead for most of film, it's his attempted rape of Marty McFly's mother in the climax that makes him a full-fledged scumbag. The sequels play this up even more, particularly the second film where we see a grown Biff in an alternate future who has turned out particularly sleazy.

Thankfully, being such a great scumbag makes his eventual (and repeated) comeuppance all the more sweet. While repetitive, nothing quite gives me the pleasure of seeing Thomas F. Wilson covered in manure.

- Doug

#5 Walter Peck/Prof. Jerry Hathaway/Richard Thornburg/Dr. Noah Faulkner (William Atherton) in Ghostbusters/Real Genius/Die Hard/Bio-Dome

"Everything was fine with our system until the power grid was shut off by dickless here."
"They caused an explosion!"
"Is this true?"
"Yes it's true. This man has no dick."

William Atherton has a commitment to dickishness that you can't help but applaud, and he put it to great use in a series of scene-stealing roles in the 1980s. His style combines a commanding sense of superiority with an absolute commitment to being 100% correct, no matter the evidence to the contrary. In Ghostbusters his character of Walter Peck singlehandedly releases a wave of ghosts on the city of New York (after opening the ghost containment unit), and still tries to place the blame on the Ghostbusters in one of that film's most memorable scenes. Atherton has an unusually deep voice and cadence of speech that demands attention, and he makes great use of this voice in several other roles showing off his ability to be loathsome - from the immoral douchebag Dr. Hathaway in Real Genius (one of his largest roles) to the slimy reporter Richard Thornburg in Die Hard (and Die Hard II).

Making a career out of being despicable might not be everyone's cup of tea, and I imagine Atherton is sick of people calling him "dickless" a this point, but there's no denying the mans ability to create a series of truly unforgettable scumbags.

- Doug

#4. Douglas C. Neidermeyer (Mark Metcalf) in Animal House

"You're all worthless and weak! Now drop and give me twenty!"

If there is a distinct "villain" in National Lampoon's Animal House, it is Doug Niedermeyer.

Not only is he the epitome of the archetype of 1960's privileged entitlement, he is a ruthless bully that constantly abuses his station. The arrogant son of a bitch even tries to get away with attempted murder by carrying live ammo for his ROTC carbine in his uniform pocket and then trying to shoot Flounder (Stephen Furst) during the Delta-sabotaged Founder's Day parade.

I remember feeling a wave of euphoric catharsis when I saw the caption, "Killed in Vietnam by his own troops," at the end of the movie. That is how much I hated the character of Doug Niedermeyer.

Niedermeyer's venom lived long after Animal House, as Metcalf single handedly put Twisted Sister on the musical map by bringing back the character in the form of an oppressive father figure who repeatedly and comically gets his comeuppance through several of the band's videos.

- J.T.

#3. Pig Vomit (Paul Giamatti) in Private Parts

"I call him Pig Vomit because he looks like a pig and he makes me want to vomit."

Paul Giamatti is such a total dickweed in Private Parts that I still think of him, to this day, as Pig Vomit. I mean, at one point, Stern says "He looks like a pig and makes me want to vomit," and that about sums it up (sorry, Paul). And that's saying something. Honestly, there's nothing remarkable about the character; he's just a snide, disgusting little man, the type that populate films the world over. He's a fucking archetype. But Giamatti--who later become renowned as a serious actor for such films as American Splendor and Sideways --shows off his acting chops in a big way. In the hands of a lesser actor, Pig Vomit would have been a forgettable antagonist for Stern's charismatic shock jock; with Giamatti, he's one of the top ten scumbags of all time.

- Brad

#2. Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) in Aliens

"Okay. What if that ship didn't even exist, huh didn't you ever think about that? I didn't know. I went in and made a major security issue out of it, and everybody steps in, and the Administraor steps in., and I made a decision and it was a bad call, Ripley, it was a bad call."

The corporate scumbag ranks up there with the prostitute with a heart of gold in the "most often used movie stereotyped staple" category.

I have yet to run into a corporate scumbag in a movie I despise more than Carter Burke. He is a ferret-faced son of a bitch and the poster child for the evils of capitalism. Karl Marx would be proud.

He's also perfectly willing to sacrifice the lives of innocent humans (including a child) in pursuit of the perfect bio-weapon. How arrogant and dumb do you have to be to believe that you could actually control the Aliens? They have two mouths, are super strong, can walk on ceilings, and bleed acid for crying out loud! Acid!!!!

Burke is so heinous and timeless of a company douche that Giovanni Ribisi seems to bank on the fact that you have already seen Aliens and clearly tries to channel Burke in his role as Parker Selfridge. You cannot convince me otherwise. It is almost as if Ribisi is counting on your loathing of Carter Burke to transcend films and cause you to despise the character of Parker Selfridge more than you would normally.

Ribisi's gamble does indeed pay off... The hate does indeed cross over...

It is said in Dante's Inferno that the lowest circle of Hell is reserved for traitors. There, my friends, you will find the soul of Carter Burke frozen in the lake alongside Brutus and Cassius.

- J.T.

#1 Bill Paxton
(Movie Feast Lifetime Achievement Award for Most Memorable Strides In Film Scumbaggery)

"She's like all these babes, you get their pilot lit, they could suck start a leafblower. And she's got the most incredible body too and a pair of titties that make you wanna stand up and beg for buttermilk. Ass like a ten year old boy!"

I love Bill Paxton. The dude has amazing range.

Consequently, I feel badly for the guy that two of his most memorable role are two of filmdom's greatest scumbags. There are people in the world that would probably like to stab him in the neck with a fork so that he might pay for the sins committed by his various villainous roles.

That, folks, is the hallmark of a great actor.

Invariably, older siblings are usually portrayed as complete assholes in the movies, but Chet Donnelly from Weird Science raised the bar significantly. The things that Chet put his younger brother, Wyatt (IIan Mitchell-Smith), through were so heinous that if you told me that they were codified and collected under the title "The Guantanamo Bay Guide to Interrogation," I would not be surprised.

And then there is Simon from True Lies. It is bad enough that Simon is a car salesman; a profession that doesn't exactly inspire your faith in someone's sense of fair play. What is even worse is that Simon is very good at what he does. He is such a good salesman that he could sell salt water to sharks at a profit and can convince nearly anyone of anything.

Don't' believe me? Watch and learn from a master as he worms his way into the hearts and beds of several women by getting them to believe that he works for the CIA! Say what you like about Simon, but the guy is smart. It is a wise predator that knows how to trap his prey.

- J.T.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


We're giving away one copy of Michael Moore's latest documentary, CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY.

In presenting a “fireball of a movie that might change your life” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone), Moore “skewers both major political parties” (Claudia Puig, USA Today) for selling out the millions of people devastated by loss of homes and jobs to the interests of fat cat capitalists. Moore has “dug up some astonishing dirt” (Brian D. Johnson, Macleans), stories told in the faces of the foreclosed and evicted, in the food stamps received by hungry airline pilots, and in the courage of fired factory workers who refuse to go quietly. But more than a cry of despair, Moore’s film raises the possibility of hope. Capitalism: A Love Story is “The most American of films since the populist cinema of Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life)” (Dan Siegel, Huffington Post ), “a movie that manages shrewdly, even brilliantly, to capitalize on the populist anger that has been sweeping the nation” (Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal).

CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY will be available on DVD next Tuesday, but we are offering a very unique prize package to our loyal MOVIE FEAST readers. The prize package contains:

- One copy of Capitalism: A Love Story on DVD
- One baseball cap, autographed by Michael Moore

How do you enter this contest? Simple! Send me:
- Your name
- Your mailing address
- That's it.

Send it to weeksisaac at yahoo.com. Good luck!

Contest ends on Tuesday, March 9th!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Capsule Review: The Birth Of A Nation (1915)

Universally acclaimed as one of the most innovative and influential of all silent films, Birth of a Nation is equally vilified for its glorification of the Ku Klux Klan and its terribily bigoted view of black Americans following the end of slavery. Featuring so many new filmic devices that it's almost difficult to list them all, the first half of the film contains some amazing recreations of Civil War battles (featuring one of the first instances of night shooting), and an affecting anti-war message of two families at odds on the battlefield. It's then all the more distressing when the material shows such ignorance in its second half. The success of this film led to a widespread increase in KKK enrollment, while its criticism led to director DW Griffith following up with his film Intolerance the following year.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bloody Nightmares #20: Toe Tags (2003)


Acting is hard. I mean, my own experience doesn't go much further than playing Santa Claus in my Grade 6 Christmas play, but my understanding is that being convincing in front of a camera is a very difficult thing. Frankly, it's where many of the no-budget films in this collection falter, and it's something I tend to be quite lenient toward. While more time and planning could improve a script, and a little more money and effort can improve sound and video, when it comes to acting you might simply be stuck with what's available. Darla Enlow's Toe Tags is certainly a victim of bad acting - including a stiff (ha!) performance from the director herself as one of the leads - but it's an unnecessarily confusing plot and a lame twist ending that eventually does the film in.

A serial killer is hacking up people in a local apartment complex and officers Mark Weiss and Kate Wagner (Marc Page and Enlow) are on the trail. While at first the murders seem random, it's soon revealed that the victims have all had some sort of previous relationship with the two detectives. Meanwhile, back at the morgue the toe-tags of these victims have begun vanishing, and the chief just gets angrier and angrier. Could it all be connected? Probably!


I always get a bit tickled when female directors take a stab (urgh) at a genre that has traditionally been the home for misogyny and sexism, as it's a great opportunity to throw the entire genre on its head. Toe Tags is a fairly grisly whodunnit slasher film that unfortunately never aspires to be more than a particularly lame CSI episode with some - admittedly high quality - nudity thrown in for good measure. While it does seem to be missing some of the nastier elements of the genre (the nudity tends to be incidental and not sleazy), these elements are simply not replaced with anything interesting. Not that I expected a feminist slasher film, but I was hoping the female perspective would be refreshing, and instead this is a predictable retread of elements we've seen dozens - if not hundreds - of times before.

As a director, Enlow brings some visual style, often to the point of distraction. To her credit, the film doesn't get too bogged down by the repetitive murder scenes and there is a thoroughline through the film that (generally) makes sense. If you don't pause to think about the details - isn't that guy a little young to be a police officer? That attractive young woman was supposed to have been Mark's girlfriend? Seriously? And why can't they ever bring anyone in for questioning? - you'll at least stick around to see how the whole mess turns out.  Unfortunately, the actual twist is fairly god-damn ridiculous, and I still don't understand what the missing toe tags had to do with anything.


The acting from the leads is quite poor, with only Larry Scott as the comically angry Captain Blake and Scott Killlman as the irritated mortician able to appropriately chew the scenery. Enlow seems to be having a lot of fun, and she delivers the lines without any trouble, but when asked to portray emotion she falters. In fact, emotion seems to be a particularly difficult thing to pull out of the leads, which is a problem when their loved ones are getting mowed down on a regular basis.

Violence is of the corn syrup and red food dye variety, with plenty of sticky blood pouring out of gaping stab wounds. It's certainly messy (the credits give thanks to Craig Lamb for providing 15 gallons of blood), but isn't particularly gory and after the fourth lovely topless lady covered in blood it all starts to get a little repetitive. On that note, there really is a surprising amount of nudity in the film, and the victims - though they are never developed beyond their introduction and immediate death - are certainly attractive.


Toe Tags is presented in perfectly servicable fullscreen that, since there really isn't much action in the film, doesn't show a lot of pixelation or glitches. Sound is fine, and it's all quite watchable. The soundtrack is quite the mixed bag, throwing all sorts of genres into a sometimes inappropriate mish-mash. Still, it's nice to have some original songs on the soundtrack, even if they come from obviously local bands. The incidental music is servicable, but not particularly memorable.

This is another film in the Bloody Nightmares collection, so there are no extras of any kind. There are a few amusing outtakes during the closing credits, which at least shows that the cast were enjoying themselves, though each mistake is accompanied by a "wacky" horn sound that soon become irritating.


Toe Tags differs from most of the ultra low-budget films in this collection as, while it certainly owes a lot to slasher films, it also borrows from police procedurals and mysteries. The elements don't quite add up, but at least the film is able to bring something a little different to the table, though the central mystery plot only barely holds together. Production values are solid, though weak performances sink any sort of dramatic tension, and the end just sort of fizzles out. While I was hoping for something a bit different, Toe Tags is content with being a middling, often slow-moving serial killer film. Competent, but disappointing.