Thursday, October 18, 2012

Buddha Man's Tricks or Treats 2012!

It is high time we get the Golden Headed Movie Reviewer into this Halloween Horrorfest - and he's raring to go!


The Crater Lake Monster (Crown International, 1977) In this nostalgic throwback to the Creature Features of the 1950’s, a meteor sets things off by landing in an Oregon lake coincidentally near a dormant dinosaur egg. The incredible heat from the space rock raises the lake’s temperature considerably, so of course the still viable egg hatches. The little bundle of joy that emerges from the shell reveals itself to be a plesiosaur, and one growth spurt later, the local residents find themselves on the menu for the big flippered beastie. While the local scientist type tries to convince the local authorities that they now have a local dinosaur, a parade of goofs wander into the dino’s mouth and two yahoos work overtime to provide some comic relief. Eventually the good guys come up with a plan to stop the big lizard and it consists of two words: Heavy Equipment. Let the battle commence!

I have been a huge fan of stop motion animation ever since I first saw the original 1933 King Kong as a wee lad. It was also the effects process that got me interested in special effects, which informed a lot of my reading in those days. As a result, I was always gung ho to watch any movie with stop motion effects. Here we have another example of a movie I was aware of and champing at the bit to see that escaped me for something like three decades. It didn’t make it to any local theaters; and I never found it for rental at any of the dozens and dozens of video stores I frequented throughout the 80’s and 90’s across five states. I finally found it on a used VHS a year or so ago and bought it, throwing it onto my watch pile. Then, this year, after having had no access to the movie for all those years and finally owning it, imagine my surprise when it came out – not on DVD – but on Blu-Ray as a double feature with another Crown International classic: Galaxina. My mind boggles at some of the movies I now own on Blu-Ray.

But I digress.

So, after roughly 10,000 days of not watching the movie, how did it finally stand up to being watched? Okay, I guess. I’d heard over the years that the stop motion in the movie was minimal, and that pretty much everything else about the movie was pretty bad; so my expectations had been sinking lower and lower across the intervening time. Everything in the movie that isn’t stop motion is pretty bad, and it’s easy to see why this movie represents the only cinematic output for most of the people involved. For the effects they hired David Allan, one of those journeymen special effects guys and stop motion gurus from the 70’s like Jim Danforth who never got quite as famous as Ray Harryhausen but who turned out some really good work on films of varying quality. Allan’s work is here is not his best – I imagine he was at least somewhat hampered by budget and schedule – but it’s serviceable; and there’s actually a pretty good amount of it. I’m not 100% thrilled with the plesiosaur’s design either – I think the flippers are goofy and that legs would have looked cooler – but it’s still neat to see stop motion in these days of rampant CGI. So, based on that and a general nostalgia for nearly anything filmed 1977-1980, I give this one a qualifed recommendation – it’s mainly for stop motion fans and 70’s completists, but anyone looking for some PG rated low budget thrills might find this worth a look, so check it out!

Chewy Sweet Tarts.

Lady on a Train (1945) Mystery loving Nikki Collins (Deanna Durbin) witnesses a murder in a building outside her train window, then can't convince anyone she saw it in this entertaining comedy mystery. When she can't get the police to believe her, (they think the death was an accident) she turns to mystery writer Wayne Morgan (David Bruce) but he is also skeptical. Nikki then mixes herself up with the dead man's family (including Ralph Bellamy-Trading Places) to try to prove there was a murder, even as the murderer continues to kill, making each murder look like an accident.

They could have called it Legs on a Train as far as I'm concerned.

This is a very entertaining blend of comedy and mystery, which was a vehicle to move singing star Durbin away from the romantic musicals she was hugely popular in. To ease the transition Durbin does sing three songs, which are spaced out well and aren't too obtrusive. The mystery is fun, there is some suspense, and Durbin is a very attractive lead. If you like a good old fashioned movie that throws in a little of everything to entertain, this is a safe bet.

That will complete our time together. And always remember - a kiss is but a kiss...


  1. Both of these are quite good. I just recently re-watched Lady on a Train. I've seen almost all of Durbin's singing films and this was a nice change of pace.

    On a gory note, the oldest nephew has now been exposed to Jason Voorhees and the world of slasher flicks. Auntie Mo is the coolest LOL

    1. I had no idea you were a Deanna Durbin fan! This was my first exposure to her - but she's a cutie - I'd watch her anytime!

      Awwwww, that is fantastic news! Part 3? A goodie for sure! Auntie Mo IS the coolest!

  2. If a dormant dino did awaken in the Pacific Northwest, there's no way they'd go after it with a bulldozer. Nope. They'd pin the poor sucker in the shallows and sell admission.

    I'm with you on stop-motion--love it! The original King Kong is my favorite monster movie of all time. I recently read the novelization (it was one of if not THE earliest media tie-in novel. And you know, despite poor reviews, I thought the book was well done.

    I'd never heard of Lady on a Train. Mystery/adventure-comedy is my favorite genre, and this just shot to the top of my watch list. Thanks for another awesome movie suggestion!

    1. You're right - they'd have him on display next to a deep fried Snickers concession in a hearbeat!

      Stop motion was not only my first favorite special effect - it was the method I used to make my first Super 8mm movies!

      It's a pretty cool little flick for sure!

  3. Never seen Lady on a Train, but I own Crater Lake Monster on one of my Mill Creek. Super-silly, boring rubbish with a horrible plot. At least, the climax is fun :)

    1. CLM isn't a great movie by any means - but for monster kids who grew up watching anything stop motion on Sunday afternoons it has a positive nostalgia factor. I don't think you'd enjoy Lady on a Train - she sings too much! ;)