Monday, July 31, 2017

In Search of the Castaways (1962)


Teenager Mary Grant and her younger brother Robert, accompanied by the older Frenchman Jacques Paganel, are convinced of the survival of the seafaring father, lost at sea some time ago. After some trial and error, they successfully enlist the help of Lord Glenarvan and his youthful son John, and the party sail to South America, where a message in a bottle leads them to. Dangers abound in the wild Patagonian mountains, yet landslides, man-eating tigers, and torrential floods will end up being the least of their worries as their quest takes them across the globe, hoping it will ultimately not be in vain...


In Search of the Castaways is a really good Buena Vista/Disney yarn, and does the spirit of Jules Verne well. I've never read the source material, so I don't know how faithful it is, but it's at least got the feel down pat.

Castaways is a very globetrotting movie, traversing from the Patagonian mountains (the Andes?), to the dark and menacing continent of prisoners known as Australia, and the volcanic tribal lands of New Zealand. The South America segment lasts so long to the point where I thought it was the whole movie, and I may have actually preferred that to what we got. I think what it is is that I would've rather had is an adventure throughout the width and breadth of the one large location, rather than needless globetrotting caused by idiocy, as ends up happening.

Beyond that, my biggest hassle with this movie is the unbelievability factor. The avalanche scene instantly stretches credulity to breaking point, and is immediately followed by the cliff and eagle bit, which is a stunning case of good and bad luck. Then, before the impending search for the missing Robert can gain any tension, the bird is immediately shot down by someone, saving him. From then on, everything that can go wrong for the party seems to go wrong, and it's all very convenient (well, 'convenient'), yet still greatly enjoyable.


I wasn't really a fan of the New Zealand section. The volcanic resolution paints the leads as massive assholes, even if the script doesn't realize it, and the scene also continues to showcase from where Journey to the Centre of the Earth left off regarding Jules Verne's..ah...lack of expertise when it came to geology.

The presence of the...uh, 'certain' prisoners of the Maori tribe is not very well explained, partially due to the writing, and also because it's hard to make out what Bill Gaye is even saying, due to his leery nattering. In any case, I have no idea why he was a prisoner of the Maoris, nor why they were still keeping him around. Or why he went to crazy, for that matter, when the 'other prisoner' we see later on is fine, and has spent just as long in captivity. And how did Gaye's hair grow so long after only two years?!

Oh, and may I say that for a party who wanted to go to the Indian Ocean, I find it rather strange they sailed to the East side of Australia!

Onto the acting. Maurice Chevalier is somewhat annoying, but also fun, and Wilfrid Hyde-White is very amusing. Hayley Mills is great, Keith Hamshere is barely noticeable as the younger brother, but isn't bad, while Michael Anderson Jr. fares better as the Lord's son.

George Sanders makes for an ok villain, but takes forever to show up, doesn't really do much after the mutiny scene, and is defeated very easily, with little fanfare. Wilfid Brambell of Steptoe and Son fame plays the deranged Bill Gaye with the grungy lunacy you'd expect, and Jack Gwillim shows up briefly before the end, delivering some decent emotions.


One casting decision of note is that the filmmakers actually got a Maori actor to play the tribal chief in the New Zealand segment! As for the Indian chief Thalcave, well, they got an Italian actor, and...err, Italian is basically Spanish, and Spanish is sorta South American, kind-of?...

The effects on display in this movie are fantastic! There are many great locations, sets, matte paintings, and other fabulous visual moments to behold.

Something that confused me about Search of the Castaways is its status as a musical. Is it? There are a couple of songs, which I suppose you'd expect from a Disney film, but then we only get those two and nothing else for the remainder of the film. Strange, but the songs are nice, sung well, and work within the context of the story.

While it has its problems, In Search of the Castaways is still a rousing adventure, and highly recommended. And who doesn't like Hayley Mills, I tell you?...

Sev Kardeşim (1972)


The poor but earnest working-class Güler family's household is threatened when unscrupolous businessman Cemal Çaliskan attempts to have them evicted, so he can demolish their house and finally have all the land in the area to himself for his own ends. The family isn't going down without a fight, however. Meanwhile, the daughter Alev, unwittingly working at the factory owned by the man making life difficult for everyone, falls for his attractive son Ferit...


Sev Kardeşim is a marginally entertaining romance picture, though not without issues. Getting to the positives first, the acting is fine, with everyone delivering decent performances. Famed local actress Hülya Koçyigit does very well, as do others, such as Münir Özkul, and the iconic laughter of Adile Nasit. Koçyigit and Tarik Akan share pretty good chemistry together when the movie finally gets around to it.

The story is pretty fun to start with, though the whole meet-cute part didn't really go the way I was expecting/hoping, and Alev ends up being an almost unsympathetic character with her actions in manipulating and ensnaring Ferit. Following that, the romance then gets a bit weird and annoying once her actions are discovered, given how both leads act. I'm also a little unsure if the film was perhaps unbalanced in how much story was devoted to the blossoming romance, and how much to the nefarious businessman's plans plus the family's struggle against them. There are long swaths where we seem to go without one or the other. I also felt the movie went on a little too long. It could've naturally wrapped the plot up earlier than it did, yet it keeps going.


The look of Sev Kardeşim is very good, and the film quality has clearly been kept well over the decades, rather than stuffed in a barn occupied by a bucking horse with a grudge against film nitrate. As for the look of the movie itself, it's fine. Being a romance, it's not effects heavy, but what there is is fine. The police station holding cells near the end look pretty funny though. They're the most delightfully coloured jail cells I've seen!


The soundtrack is the best part of the movie, with some  scoring, and a really good main theme, sung by Şenay (Yüzbaşıoğlu). The movie certainly likes it, as it plays just about four times! Thankfully at least one of those reprisals is only partial.

One cool thing to mention is how certain scenes here look a lot like Laverne and Shirley! A bunch of spunky working-class women working in a factory, wearing standard overcoats over their snazzy outfits? Sev Kardeşim has that in spades. If you watch parts of this, and scenes of that show, you'll definitely see a similarity. "Typical, then", you think, "Why should I be surprised that this Turkish movie ripped off an American TV series?". Well, perhaps because it predates Laverne and Shirley by four years! Quite a fascinating little coincidence!


On that note, Sev Kardeşim seems like an original story, and while I've seen plenty of Turkish movies so far, only a few have been like that. Most have been pulpy knock-offs, so it was certainly neat seeing something actually its own thing!...

...Yeah, about that...

According to IMDb, Sev Kardeşim is a remake of the Frank Capra movie You Can't Take It With You. Now at first I was disbelieving about this, as 'warm and idealistic relative of heartless businessman falls in love with a woman whose quirky home and/or family is being threatened by said tycoon' is a super common plot, to the point where I barely need to even stretch my arm from where I sit to grab my DVD of the Love Bug movies, the second of which is exactly like that, to a tee. So case closed, these two movies simply have similar stories, as do a hundred others. All sorted!...Well, until I read You Can't Take It With You's wikipedia page anyway. Yeah, Sev Kardeşim is totally a ripoff. Well, let's be generous and keep saying remake...


Sev Kardeşim isn't a great movie, and its ending is more than enough to sink it, but it has its good qualities too. Hülya Koçyigit is a super adorable and plucky lead, the whole proto-Laverne and Shirley aesthetic is great, and it's overall harmless...

Before I Hang (1940)


A scientist on death row tries to save his life by injecting himself with a serum made from the blood of a homicidal maniac! How's that for a horror concept! Certainly made me laugh, and made me want to watch the film immediately. How could that synopsis not immediately draw you in?...


'Mercy killer' Dr. John Garth has been sentenced to death for euthanizing a terminal patient, and the man is despondent at not being able to continue his potentially life saving research. He's given a chance by the sympathetic warden however, to spend his final weeks working on his project, with the help of the prison doctor. The tests seem to be a success, and Garth desperately tries it on himself before his execution, not realizing his sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment. The serum works wonders on the doctor, rejuvenating his older body, but he learns too late the error he made using the blood of a madman for the process...


Before I Hang is an interestingly paced horror film in that nothing horrific happens in the first third.   more concerned with setting up its characters and plot, and only when an inciting event kicks things into gear do murdernanigans start a'brewing. Then, as if to make up for the lack of action, Karloff racks up a sizable murder count pretty quickly, including the lurking prison guard who I at first thought would be the murderer that Garth and co. get the crazy-blood from, then thought might be a decoy protagonist, taking up the role of the hero once Dr. Garth goes crazy! That'd certainly be an interestingly unexpected direction, and he certainly puts up quite a fight, but he ends up as victim No. 2.


The driving force of the script is the aforementioned hilarious idea behind it. Sadly, the film never goes off-the-rails into crazyville with that plot point, instead treating it with utmost sincerity. This could work really well, as it's a high class of horror film (or indeed any genre) that can take a goofy concept and make it work in a serious context. Before I Hang doesn't quite succeed though. Because it doesn't go loopy with the concept, or explore in more detail the ghoulish nature behind it, the movie ends up hampered by being an overly serious story based on a silly idea.

Because of its slower pacing, Before I Hang feels way longer than just an hour. This isn't a bad thing, thankfully, though I wish a little more happened. There's one unexpected plus though. The film surprisingly actually has a denouement, and it's a whole 30 seconds long! Shocking, I know! The climax itself though isn't hugely satisfactory, but it's not awful or anything.


Boris Karloff delivers an effective and conflicted performance, and when he turns killcrazy, the man does not look like an idle threat. You totally believe that this kindly doctor is now going to turn you into a shishkebab! Edward van Sloan seems to be a supporting lead, but doesn't survive the first third, and is missed. Evelyn Keyes and Bruce Bennett don't really get the screentime they deserve, but are decent, and the former gets a little more to do once the movie changes settings from out of the jail. The rest of the acting is sound.

Before I Hang is a slightly flawed movie, but still a worthwhile spooky watch, with the legendary Karloff in top form, even if it doesn't live up to its laughably ludicrous plot description...

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Blackie the Pirate (1971)


I've been a huge Terence Hill-Bud Spencer fan for nearly 10 years now, but I still haven't had the time to spotlight any of their movies on this blog. It's finally time for that to change as I dig into 1971's Blackie the Pirate...

Don Pedro is a down on his luck 'nobleman', who encounters the corsair Blackie during a barfight in his girlfriend Manuela's establishment. He decides to help the man out in order to make some money, and ends up embroiled in quite a caper as Blackie buys some women in a pirate auction, one of whom turns out to be the wife if the local viceroy. Isabel is more than happy to make a deal with Blackie, especially after he beds her, but following that, the rogue seems interested only in sending her back to her husband and getting a reward, earning the woman's ire. However, it turns out that was a wise movie, given Isabel's duplicitous nature* and with the begrudging assistance (in-between hostile encounters) of another pirate, Skull, Blackie and his crew vie to make the theft of the century against the viceroy and the vast shipment of gold he's moving...

*I think?


To start off, Blackie the Pirate is considered the odd Hill-Spencer film out in that they're not a buddy duo in this one, instead being full-on adversaries. They do end up on the same side most of the time, but not like in their other movies. There are long patches of film where Spencer isn't even present, with Hill getting much more to do, though he does at least get a decent amount of screentime. The other thing making this a strange/unique entry in their extensive canon is that it's a pirate film! Not a western, or a present-day set story, but rather a swashbuckling tale of corsairs and doubloons, fair maidens and dashing rogues.


This movie isn't really a comedy, but more of a lighthearted swashbuckler. There are some amusing moments, and funny lines, but overall it's not trying to be hilarious or anything. The plot is unfortunately the weakest link present. I knew what was happening, but a lot of the time I was sketchy on the why.  Compounding matters is that the so-called 'villains' get neither the screentime nor motivation they deserve. Edmund Purdom's viceroy doesn't even do anything wrong, besides want to see the pirate lead behind bars, and the dude gets stabbed! Quite quickly and anticlimactically too. Blackie the Pirate has quite a high body count, given what it is! As for Isabel, the problem with her is that she and Blackie really don't share enough screentime to have much of a connection, and the somewhat confusing plot regarding her doesn't help matters.


Another issue I have with the movie is George Martin's character, who's supposedly the lead, but since he's neither Terence Hill, nor in the title, there are quite a few scenes in the first half where he's fighting for screentime. I kinda wish his character would've just been excised entirely, and made the whole affair be less muddled, but on second thoughts, I like his arc and contributions, as well as Manuela, so I guess he can stay.

The action is decent here and there, some moments less so than others. The first ship battle is unengaging, mainly due to the lack of music. Bud Spencer's final scene makes up for that though! The fight choreography is good, however the final sword battle is laughable, as the footsoldiers are only wearing skimpy vests, making it all the more apparent that they're not really being stabbed. The funniest part of this scene is when one soldier being stabbed by a pirate is achieved by the latter actor passing the sword along in his lunge for the other guy to clutch between his arm and chest, facing the other side of the camera so it 'looks like he's been impaled'. Ah, that old trick!


The dub acting isn't that great. It's decent sometimes, and stiff in others, seemingly because of the performers trying to sync up with the original actors. Regarding them, they all look fine, though I can hardly judge their vocals. Sigh, I do so prefer it when Hill is dubbing himself, or when they at least get the dub actor who did his voice in My Name is Nobody, and the Trinity movies, because that guy actually sounds like Terence Hill!

There's quite the cast here, with Hill and Spencer of course, George Hilton...err, I mean Martin (I swear, I'm always getting those two mixed up!), Edmund Purdom, Luciano Pigozzi, Diana Lorys, Sylvia Monti, and Mónica Randall!...Yes, I'm aware most of those names are likely completely unfamiliar to you...


Blackie the Pirate is most certainly a mixed bag in the looks department. The sets and costumes are all excellent, but it seems like the budget was sunk on those, as all the ship battle footage is pinched from other movies. The use of stock footage is obvious given its grainy look, and nowhere is the   more apparent than in the sinking of the Fury, where we never even see the ship, just the cast reacting to its destruction. There's also when the Erebus is being emptied of its contents, cutting back from the high quality Bud Spencer, to the low-quality stock footage, also looking like it's been put through a wacky filter.

The score is a fun, rousing addition, and possibly the best thing about the film next to its aesthetic, especially the main theme, which I guarantee you'll be humming for days afterward!


Blackie the Pirate isn't the best Terence Hill-Bud Spencer movie. Not bad, but you could do a lot better. I still recommend it, but just don't start with it if you're interested in the duo...

This has been a review for Movies Silently's Swashathon...

The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942)


Good horror-comedies can be hard to find, especially so in the 1940s due to the genre's abundance (meaning lots of garbage), but a sure sign of a winner is certainly the presence of the master of horror himself, Boris Karloff, especially when aided by Peter Lorre!...

Professor Billings (Karloff) wants to sell off his rickety colonial property on the cheap, to pay off his mortgage to the town magistrate Dr. Lorencz (Lorre), and finds a very willing buyer in Winnie, an eager young woman keen on turning the place into an inn. The only condition is that the Professor would like some extra time to stay on the property and finish his experiments. Later on, Winnie's annoying ex-husband Bill shows up, pissed that his former partner is 'wasting' her money on her new venture. In his bid to get Winnie away, he discovers the remains of one of the Professor's test subjects and hurriedly calls Dr. Lorencz. The magistrate/sheriff/everything else in the small town is more than happy to run Billings in, but when the Professor tells him the whys of his experiments in aiding with the war effort, he decides to side with him. Hjinks ensue as they try and cover everything up and continue with the tests, all the while a murderer is prowling the grounds...

The Boogie Man Will Get You is a highly amusing flick, with numerous great moments. Not all of the humour lands, and a couple of scenes are a little annoying, but for the most part it's a thoroughly entertaining watch, with many a funny and ghoulishly amusing line.


It was certainly a nice surprise that this 1940s movie is about a divorcee lead, and it never shames her for being one, nor tries to get her back together with her old partner. I was worried the whole movie that it'd do that, thanks to the Hays Code breathing down the production's neck, no doubt thinking something along the lines of "This filthy young slut can't go on being a divorcee! She needs to be remarried to her ex-husband immediately to restore morals to these tawdry proceedings!". Ugh! I need a shower just thinking of that!

The plot is interesting for the most part, but not without faults. Firstly, I disliked the character of Bill, and I think the film could've done without him completely. In his place they could've had more time to focus on Professor Billings' experiments, the murder, as well as extra story with the two servants and their true agenda (which comes completely out of nowhere in the last 5 minutes, by the way), or even the Axis spy (though he feels as equally unnecessary as Bill). There are at least three subplots in this movie which end up going nowhere, or being severely underutilised. There's a hodgepodge of a climax, and an abrupt ending, but overall this is a pretty harmless time.


I loved the characters! The warm and huggable, yet dopily 'murderous' Professor Billings and staunch and firm jack-of -all-trades Dr. Lorencz make for a great duo, being adversaries at first, but then teaming up in a nice way, trying to complete the Professor's experiments, and stumbling into all sorts of setbacks. Winnie is a delight, taking everything freaky and ramshackle about the proceedings in stride, always with a positive look on her face. Even after the annoying direction the story goes, making her sour somewhat on Billings and Lorencz, she still says cheerily morbid lines like "Gosh, it's fun in a way being entombed!". Such a sweetheart!


Bill I didn't like though, and wished Winnie would just kick him out. At least she's frequently ribbing him, and doesn't just immediately swoon in his arms (though they do end up clutching each-other quite a bit whenever coming across anything spooky). It's frustrating though how he still exerts authority over everyone, despite being an annoying nuisance who has zero business being in the tavern.

Next up, there's a place in hell for the person who decided what the inspired pairing of Karloff and Lorre really needed was the addition of Maxie 'Slapsie' Rosenbloom! I tried being generous, but after about 10 minutes, I was yelling at the screen for his character to die. He's stupid to an unendearing degree. At least his presence allows for Professor Billing's experiments to come to fruition. I would've been super frustrated if we never found out whether or not they would've been a success this final time.


Back to something positive, Peter Lorre has an adorable kitten! She has the most amazing instinct for crime and corruption!

The acting is all great! Karloff and Lorre are superb, while (Miss) Jeff Donnell is super fun. The rest of the performers are good, even if I found some of their characters annoying.

One final thing to note is the title. It doesn't make much sense, does it! Oh well, it's a neat title, and I really like it, so I guess I can let its non-sequitur nature slide.


The Boogie Man Will Get You is a flawed but entertaining horror-themed comedy, and well worth a watch! It's great for a rainy day in, when you're in the mood for a macabre dose of merriment...

Friday, June 30, 2017

Beatutiful Stranger (1952)


Beautiful Stranger, aka Twist of Fate, is an early 50s crime film starring Ginger Rogers and Herbert Lom. Not that's a description to get my attention!...

Young socialite and former actress Johnny is engaged to the wealthy Louis Galt, and living in the lush French Riviera. When her old friend Emile arrives asking for money, she gives it willingly, not realizing the money isn't intended for his sick wife, but for paying off a debt with a violent gang. Meanwhile, when Johnny finds out her would-be husband's divorce isn't quite as final as she'd prefer, she goes and in a huff and nearly crashes her car, meeting a dashing young sculptor when recovering. They fall in love, but things are complicated by Louis' underground dealings, especially when it turns out he's the mob boss Emile owes money too. The desperate Emile steals a precious bracelet of Johnny's, not realizing he's paying his debt with the very gift Louis got for Johnny. Coming to the correct conclusion via the wrong evidence, he discovers his fiancee is having an affair, thinking it's with Emile, and intends to do something about it...

I didn't get off on the right foot with Beautiful Stranger, as it broke its promise of starring Herbert Lom by not letting him show up until nearly half an hour in, then vanish for nearly just as long. That's enough of a problem that it understandably necessitates mentioning before anything else!

This movie is often described as a noir, but it doesn't really feel like one. It's more a romantic drama, with crime elements. I found it to be quite unenjoyable . It's plodding, listless, and I never felt it amounted to much.

The character of Emile isn't fleshed out as much as he could've, with multiple plot holes as a result. Why does he owe money? Why's he in the French Riviera instead of with his sick wife in America? Why does he gamble the money he borrows from Johnny instead of just giving it to the mobsters? And the list goes on. It's quite annoying! Meanwhile, the rest of the characters are either uninteresting and get the most screentime, or just the opposite.

Ultimately, Beautiful Stranger's biggest problem is that the story feels awfully overcomplicated for what amounts to a pretty simple plot.

The dialogue overall isn't that great, but "I stole it. I'm innocent!" is a line so hilarious it feels rather out of place, and I'm glad it's here. I needed a laugh with this film!

I think what impressed me least about Beautiful Stranger is the acting. I expected better out of some of these people! Onto the positives, Stanley Baker is good when being normal, and effectively villainous when need be. Herbert Lom delivers an interesting performance as the nervous wreck Emile, which some have compared positively to Peter Lorre. It's just a shame he doesn't get enough screentime to really sink his teeth fully into the role. As for the negatives, Ginger Rogers starts out fine enough, but becomes hopelessly dramatic, as does Jacques Bergerac. The duo's attempts at a romance end up cheapening the entire production.

Attached to the movie in the role of Louis before dropping out a few weeks in was Walter Rilla. There are rumours that he clashed with Rogers, and was pissed at his screentime compared to Bergerac. I don't know about the former, but the latter sounds false, as Stanley Baker gets plenty of time in the film, while Bergerac not only gets markedly less, he also doesn't show up until just about the halfway point.

Despite her age, and the role being intended for a 24 year old, Rogers does look young enough for the role. I mean, she ain't 24, but she also doesn't look older than her 30's, so this isn't too egregious of an issue. And hey, if male celebrities can keep playing younger roles well into their older years, then so can Ginger Rogers!

Finally, the French Riviera is a pretty location to be set in, even if the black-and-white nature hampers it a bit.

Beautiful Stranger isn't really worth watching, even for the actors. One the other hand, you have to watch this for the actors! Quite a paradox. How about this. If you're trying to watch the entire filmographies of both Ginger Rogers and Herbert Lom (good luck!), save this for last, or close to last, depending on your levels of tolerance/tolerance levels regarding the latter Pink Panther sequels...

Super Xuxa Against the Down Mood (1988)


Xuxa, popular celebrity and friend to all children, is going around Brazil spreading joy and merriment, which the villainous Down Spirit cannot abide, sending his monstrous henchmen to kidnap her talking pet dog Xuxo. Tasked by her sentient bed to go to the land of dreams, Xuxa ends up on a strange odyssey, going through various bizarre landscapes and meeting their kooky denizens, and acquiring a sidekick in the form of a Gypsy caterpillar, all while questing to find the lost Xuxo...


Super Xuxa Contra Baixo Astral is a real gem of a fantasy film as far as I'm concerned! It's known more commonly in English under its bootleg title of Super Xuxa Versus Satan. As admittedly awesome as that title is, the original is better, as the last word in Super Xuxa Against the Down Mood can possibly alternatively be translated to Spirit, which is a great double meaning. You know I'm always down for puns! Not sure if it's intentional, but fortuitous and unintended English puns in foreign movies get extra points!

The film has been compared with Labyrinth quite a bit, with some deeming it a ripoff, but really it's not that much like Labyrinth. It's about a female lead on a quest to reclaim a kidnapped loved one in a bizarre land, and there's an advice-giving creature living in a wall (in this case a caterpillar, not a worm), as well as an optical illusion involving said wall, and a 'things aren't always what they seem' type line (in a song, not as dialogue,) but besides that, the movies differ greatly, and if taken to court, you could totally see a case of plagiarism being tossed out.


Super Xuxa Against the Down Mood is uniquely both a goofy  kids movie, while also being somewhat messed up in that wonderful way kids media from the 80s could be, ala Return from Oz, or The Dark Crystal, The NeverEnding Story, etc. It's highly imaginative, for sure!

While being childlike, the film also doesn't talk down to kids, and makes it quite clear how horrid adult things like heartless corporations, bureaucracy, and sensationalistic news programs can be. It has a good message come the end, and one that absolutely still applies today. This is a VERY relevant movie!


In-between all of this, there's a child character in the form of Rafa, and thankfully he's not annoying or cumbersome in the slightest! He may have been picked by Baixo Astral due to his potential for meanness, but not once does the kid ever side with the villain, so we're saved the awkwardness of seeing him commit horrid acts, and this also serves to make him a likeable addition, counter to all the movies where the child supporting character is annoying and unproactive.

The villains are an entertaining bunch, and we see plenty of them as the film goes on. Baixo Astral is equal parts goofy, and intimidating and creepy, given his looks and demeanor. One small gripe I have though is that it's a little annoying how Xuxa never interacts with the villains until the last half hour, when she reaches their domain.

There's plenty of great dialogue here, from "The next images are inappropriate to children, but we will show them anyhow", to "That cursed caterpillar ruined everything!", and "Goodbye, infamous monsters! Until never again!". I swear I will use that someday!


The movie's musical numbers are numerous, not too long, and well-paced from each-other. Some are a little too short, seeming to be very nearly cut off (one also going into fast-motion before sort-of petering out), but they're all nice tunes. Some possess lyrics that interestingly focus on subjects like environmental degradation, big businesses, and more. A few of the songs present have a bit of a Kim Wilde/Toni Basil sound to them, and you better believe that's a good thing in my book!

This is in Portuguese, so once again I can't fully judge regarding the acting, but it seems fine, with exaggerated and fun performances. Xuxa's reaction upon discovering Xuxo's kidnapping is pretty bad, but that may well have been intentionally over-the-top]. Speaking of, she's an entertaining lead, possessing charisma, and a nice singing voice. Also, for someone who wanted to hide her past as a nude model (because Brazil apparently wasn't as liberal as its reputation has suggested), Xuxa sure likes showing off her legs, and I am very grateful!


Guilherme Karan gives a delightfully schizophrenic as the lead antagonist, going from grinning and cackling one second, to pissed off and raving the next. I especially loved how the actor has the ability to not just mug for the camera, but to come across as genuinely manipulatively malevolent in places, and can be creepy based on what he's saying, and not just in how he looks.

Super Xuxa looks super neat! Regarding its look, cheap isn't the right word, as this production looks like some money was spent. Unconvincing is a more appropriate descriptor, but in a deliberate and endearing sort-of way. The effects and locations are creative and stylish, with never a dull moment visually. The only one that didn't impress was the first bird man in the treetops, who's just wearing a fake nose and a leotard rather than a proper costume. The animatronic puppet for the caterpillar Xixa (confusing names!) is good, as is the one for Xuxo, which is also simply adorable! My favourite effect in the movie is the great Labyrinth logic scene, which is like that movie, but doesn't copy it, instead coming up with an original eye-bending maze trick, much to my delight.


Super Xuxa Against the Down Spirit is a super fun, sweet all-ages fantasy romp, and it deserved its long-standing position of Brazil's highest-grossing movie. I highly recommend it...

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Ape Man (1943): A Review and Facetious Character Study


Dr. Jim Brewster is a famed scientist, noted for his research into glandular medicine, but his latest experiment has left him changed. Now partly primate, and victim to periods of instability, he needs the spinal fluid of the living to return to normal. Standing in his way is his old partner, but aiding him is his sister Agatha, and his ape sidekick, while a plucky reporter and his photographer investigate the strange goings-on at the Brewster estate...

The Ape Man is a typical example of the kinds of movies poor Bela Lugosi had found himself in after his period of fame had waned. Big name studios didn't really want anything to do with him, while smaller scale ones were all too happy to take on a well known name to fill as many seats as possible for their cheapie horror films.


The story here is pretty lacklustre, and quite simple, though the hour long runtime makes that a bit less annoying. I do with there was a little more to the plot, but I fear that's asking too much of something like this.

Dr. Jim Brewster (Jim?!) is a tormented and desperate lead, and by focusing so much time on him while in a sound(ish) state of mind, we get plenty of time to explore his inner turmoil and develop his character, before he goes ape-crazy. Unfortunately, the film ends up veering a bit in the other direction. Sure, the doc is villainous for much of the movie, killing people, but he's doing so for their spinal fluid, and rarely has the ape-crazy freakouts he feared so much, and nothing really comes from the possibility of him losing his senses.

One thing I dug is Agatha's personal and professional fascination with ghosts, which isn't of any importance to the plot, but fleshes her out. I like that the writer felt the need to give this supporting character such a distinctive hobby, and it helps her have a bit more personality than she otherwise would have. Funnily enough, the ghostly record scene is probably the spookiest thing in the movie!


The reporter and the dame are your typical heroes in a story like this, and they work as audience surrogates, even if we know far more than they do about the proceedings. I actually found it a little fun watching them play catch-up, realizing what was going on.

The whole movie we see a bizarre man watching on, and bugging the players, and his appearances culminate in a truly bizarre ending! I would've loved to see theatrical screenings of this film back in the day. Either the audiences were laughing, or they would've been pissed! Maybe throwing popcorn at the screen even, though it's not that bad.

The effects are ok. There's not a whole lot done to Bela's face besides having fake hair glued to the sides, but he looks the part of a part ape-part man.


It seems there are three methods to showing apes on the silver screen. Either you get real ones and run the risk of them not doing what you want and/or tearing the crew to shreds, or you go the old timey route and get a guy in a costume, or the modern route and use all computers. This film goes the second one, and is all the more chuckleworthy for it. It's a pretty unconvincing outfit, but it brings a smile to the face, so it's ok-ish by me.

William 'One Shot' Beaudine handled the direction in The Ape Man, and he does a fine job. The movie's framed well, and the scenes done in all one take show an extremely confident director! Sometimes it can come across as cheap, and god knows Beaudine didn't do it for artistic reasons, but there are worse ways to cut costs than to leave the camera running as long as possible.


The score is pretty decent, though one track in particular sees far too much use in the final act, being played on repeat constantly.

Bela Lugosi is always worth watching, even if the movie isn't, and this is no exception, though he's not exactly the pinnacle of fun either. He's amusing to watch, but the script isn't quite strong enough to give him anything really good to do, though it is amusing seeing him make gorilla noises, and it's heartening seeing how seriously he took proceedings even when slathered in silly ape-man make-up. The rest of the acting is fine, with performers Wallace Ford and Louise Curry being serviceable, if stereotypical. The American Minerva Urecal is decent as the sister to Lugosi's titular character, though no effort is made to give her a Hungarian accent, and the whole movie you're liable to wonder how and where these siblings were raised! Emil Van Horn is apey as the ape, Henry Hall does ok, while Ralph Littlefield is a bit weird. Apropos of nothing, one last thing to note is-Why isn't Barney A. Sarecky in this movie?...


The Ape Man isn't great, and nowhere near a classic, but for a low-budget B-Movie coasting on its star's name, it's not that bad, and is worth at least a watch. It's guaranteed to not cause a run in your stockings!...

Essay


The fabulous Emma (of Little Gothic Horrors), and lovely Magaly (of her self-titled blog) have organised the Beautiful Creatures blogathon, and I was eager to take part in it, particularly due to the sad lack of May Monster Madness this year. The occasion is a celebration of monsters either tragic, misunderstood, good at heart, and everything in-between. I wasn't sure what to cover, but a glance through my not unsubstantial DVD collection led me to a neat pick...

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The Ape Man offers us a character that is as layered and complex as one could hope for. A good and pure scientist at heart, he foolishly tampered in nature's domain by trying to figure out a way to tun humans into apes. Unbeknownst to him, this process is quite permanent, and the only way to change himself back is through cold-blooded murder! Though prone to fits of animalism, Brewster still holds love for his sister, and entreats her to help him get the spinal fluid of the innocent in order to survive as a true man. The sister, arguably the real monster of the piece, exploits her brother in a way by helping and encouraging his now warped desires, rather than trying to make him see reason. Brewster's old partner, Dr. Randall, is similar, having had the poor sense to assist his friend in his disastrous experiment, but having the morals to know when enough is enough. However, Brewster wanted himself locked up in a cage to manage his condition, while Dr. Randall invites Agatha over, resulting in her brother's 'freedom'. Couple this with the fact that Brewster could only afford the one cage and has to bunk with a gorilla shows Randall's true colours, and they're far from shining. He's clearly orchestrating events to occur in a way suited to him. What could his ulterior motive be?? Perhaps he's trying to steal Brewster's research for himself, and is using the poor doctor as a hapless guinea pig in a grand experiment. There's one thing the bad Dr. Randall didn't count on though, and that's Brewster using his newfound ape-strength, plus his cowed gorilla, to fight back, killing the diabolical mastermind. It's sadly too late for Brewster though, as he succumbs to madness, and has to be stopped. A sad story I know, but the best stories about men (or women) being turned into apes are often the sad ones...

Say, I'm not reading too much into this, do you think?...