Saturday, October 9, 2010

31 Days of Ghouls!

Buddha Man's Halloween Candy!

Buddha Man takes over again with more mini reviews!

Hershey's Miniatures.

Wicked Wicked (MGM, 1973) - Here we have the first, and to date only movie made in Duovision, a process involving a very widescreen picture split down the middle into two screens, with simultaneous action occurring on both sides nearly constantly. In the story, a masked killer is knocking off blonde women at a luxury hotel in California and making it look like they simply skipped out on their bills. The house detective David Bailey (Above the Rim) starts to suspect these women are more dead than deadbeat, but he's hard pressed to prove it to hotel manager Roger Bowen (M*A*S*H) who wants to protect the hotel from any scandal. Meanwhile, we watch as the killer stalks his next victim, the new hotel singer (Tiffany Bolling-Kingdom of the Spiders). Hearing her sing in the movie, I was almost on his side… I actually enjoyed this movie as it was a rather standard slasher flick told in a way unlike any other. Director Richard L. Bare (I Sailed to Tahiti with an All-Girl Crew) keeps the viewer's eyes moving, running two shots side by side with cuts and changes of scene occurring constantly on one side or the other, and using the two screens to at times show characters in two different locations, at times show flashbacks that fill in the back story, and at times to show the same scene from two angles. There's some tongue in cheek at work too, as some single scenes are accompanied by shots of an elderly lady playing the film's score ("borrowed" from the 1925 Phantom of the Opera) on a large pipe organ!

A Duovision of Duovision in action. Nice, right?

The movie starts out as a mystery, with the killer's identity hidden from the audience by the mask, but after about forty minutes the story and flashbacks has made it pretty obvious who it is so the director ends the game and the mystery angle is suddenly dropped. The acting is fine, and there are several other familiar faces among the supporting cast, including Edd Byrnes (Grease), Patsy Garrett (Benji), Scott Brady (Gremlins) and Arthur O'Connell (The Poseidon Adventure). In reference books this movie (when mentioned at all) is usually not highly regarded, and comes off like a really sleazy flick, but in actuality it was released by MGM and seems like it was fairly high profile at the time of its release. It does have some gruesome moments and a little light gore, but it isn't a skankfest by any means. Of course, the very wide screen needed to see both sides of the action completely prevented this film having a second life on television, cable, or video at the time and into the 80's so it's almost unknown today. Sadly, the expense of shooting what would be a three plus hour movie (if everything played out in one shot throughout), the lack of a second life to recoup costs, and the requirement for the audience to stay alert and follow everything across two screens killed this movie financially, and Duovision died a quiet death right along with the movie. Director Brian DePalma had been experimenting with split screen sequences for a few years by 1973 and very successfully included some in his movie Sisters that same year, and continued the practice with most of his other movies, and several years later director Steven Soderbergh doubled down on Duovision with the movie Full Frontal, with action happening simultaneously in four panes on the screen. But though all of those movies might have been Good Good and Entertaining Entertaining, there's still only one Wicked Wicked, and I recommend it to those so inclined.

Candy corn.

Part of the 2010 Halloween Film Festival

Daughters of Satan  (United Artists, 1972)  Tom Selleck starred in this horror flick early in his career. And even though it was 1972, Selleck already had the hair and mustache of his most famous TV character, making this flick seem at times to be a really off-kilter Halloween episode of Magnum PI. Tom plays Jim Robertson, an American art expert in the Phillipines for an extended stay with his wife Christine to seek out new art treasures for the museum he works for. At one antique store he visits, Robertson purchases a 400 year old painting showing three witches being burned in the local town square because one of the witch figures in the painting looks exactly like his wife. For her part, Christine is less than fond of the painting or the idea of looking like a 400+ year old witch. Then things go all weird-like when figures in the painting begin to fade out, and two women who look exactly like the other two witches in the painting show up. They reveal themselves as the same witches to Christine, and try to coax her to join their coven. But that point becomes more than a little moot when Christine is possessed by ther spirit of the witch she resembles and takes over the coven. And together all three have it in for Mr. Jim Robertson, who it is later revealed , looks exactly like the man who burned the witches. Look out, Magn- er, Jim!

Tom Selleck hunts for the monster who would steal the buttons from a man's shirt.

I had seen this movie listed in the late night section of the TV Guide several times over the years, but had never managed to watch it. As it turned out, the movie's a mixed bag at best. There are some good creepy moments along the way (the figures appearing and disappearing from the painting; a nighttime encounter between Robertson and the three witches as they perform a fireside ritual). But by the end of the movie they're spread pretty thin. After a solid opening, logic goes right out the window until the closing moments of the film. Unfortunately the lack of logic is not of that cool dreamlike quality some great horror films have, this is more "the character needs to do this stupid thing so the plot advances." It's neat to see Selleck in his 20's, and funny to see him looking just like Thomas Magnum, down to a couple of scenes where he wears a polo shirt, shorts, and sneakers with socks, and others where he drives a sporty red car around a beautiful island. But on the flip side he's not as polished an actor as he was on Thursday nights on CBS eight years later. His character is awfully dense too, having no real reaction to stuff like the figures of a dog and woman disappearing from the painting, followed by a dog and a woman who look exactly the same showing up at his house; or his wife trying to kill him with some kind of poison smoke bomb she sets off in their bedroom. He just busts out a window, sucks in some air, and goes outside where she's fled to hug her (?). Helping the film is some good 70's style nudity (boy am I glad I didn't watch this on TV years ago!) and an appearance by the always welcome Vic Diaz (Vampire Hookers) who I think is literally in every movie made in the Phillipines. In the end, however, the negatives outweigh the positives, and Daughters of Satan can only be recommended to Tom Selleck and movie witch completists; all others can skip it.

Little box of raisins.

Part of the 2010 Halloween Film Festival

The Telling  (Prometheus Entertainment, 2009)  I found myself becoming a fan of the cheesy 'reality' show The Girls Next Door on E! after one of the girls, Bridget Marquardt, participated in the 2007 show The Search for the Next Elvira. I don't think anyone expected Bridget to be chosen as the new Mistress of the Dark, her appearance on the show was more for promotional value for both shows. And she was so cute and funny on TSNE that I started to watch her and her pals Holly Madison and Kendra Wilkinson as they cavorted around the Playboy Mansion with the ancient (and rather endearing) Hugh M. Hefner doddering after them. One of the episodes dealt with the production of a horror movie that Bridget was producing and acting in, along with Holly in a featured role. This is the movie that resulted.
    We open with a poolside party hosted by Brianna and her mom to celebrate her pledging Omega Kappa Kappa, the hottest sorority on campus. Then Stephanie (Holly Madison), fetching in a bikini and the leader of the Om Kaps (my nickname for them, by the way) proves herself to be less than a nice person (rhymes with twitch) and reveals that although she and the other sorority sisters have enjoyed the party, Brianna is most certainly not what the sorority is looking for. Brianna runs off crying, and moments later is found dead, a suicide. "One Year Later" the film begins in earnest as Omega Kappa Kappa pledges three new girls chosen (at the Dean's insistence) for their minds instead of their looks. The Om Kaps, still led by Stephanie, treat the pledges shabbily, with lots of insults and catty chatting before settling down to the final test for the new girls: each must present a treat, then tell a scary story to the sorority sisters. After each has a chance to wow the judges, two pledges will make it into the sorority. The first girl brings pretzels, then tells a story of a young woman living with her boyfriend, and much to her consternation, the boyfriend's ex who has come back to town and is looking for a new place to live. After spending a fair amount of its brief running time on this soap opera, the story remembers it's supposed to be scary so the boyfriend brings home a creepy doll that talks when you pull a string, and you can pretty much see where this one is going from that point. The second sorority pledge has wine, and tells a story of an aging actress (Bridget, brave to be acknowledging the years) who travels to Romania to meet with a fabled foreign film director for a part in his new project. Things get really weird after this, with absinthe-fueled hallucinations and a film crew who all share a sinister secret. The third girl baked cookies, and she tells the story of a trio of young women whose prank phone calls bring a serial killer to their house. Finally, the wraparound story becomes a wrapup story and the movie ends.

Stephanie (Holly Madison), wearing the jolliest Roger ever, tells Brianna's
shoulder it didn't get in to the sorority. The rest of Brianna is upset too.

    Well, I liked the episode of The Girls Next Door about the making of this movie, anyway. Before I ever put the DVD in the player, I dialed my expectations rheostat all the way down for this one. But turns out it couldn't go low enough. I don't mind that the movie is low budget. I don't mind that the stories are all well worn, to say the least. I don't mind that the acting is adequate at best. I do mind a horror movie with no scares, no gore, and precious little nudity! Especially one with a Playmate producing and several Playmates onscreen that was shot in and around the Playboy Mansion! As far as the stories go, the first one is best, at least setting up some potential scares with that doll, but it ends up going nowhere. The second story is weird and little else, despite Bridget's presence. The third story is tired, and acknowledging you're ripping off I Saw What You Did by having a character say "I heard what you did" into a phone does not excuse you. The wraparound story fares best, but it's also wearyingly on the nose, and if you can't see where it's going early on, get a new hobby. As far as the production goes, the script is rote the and direction is adequate, no more, no less. The acting all seems pretty good while everyone's healthy and happy, then becomes far less so when anyone has to be upset or scared. It's a horror film, so mark that as "not good." I think everyone wears their own clothes, so no marks for wardrobe, and the makeup and special effects are both so minimal they can't even be judged. Sad to say, but mark this one as a total loss. Sorry girls!

That my friends is all I have to say this time. Always remember, yellow and blue make green.

1 comment:

  1. Too bad the Selleck flick was a no-see. I'm a diehard Magnum fan. But the supernatural did feature heavily in Magnum, throughout the series.

    Love that show.