Movie Review: The REVENGE OF DOCTOR X

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revenge of doctor xToci Company
1970
NR

“How in the hell can anybody be so utterly stupid as to build a rocket base on the coast of Florida?”

 

Usually, when you mention celebrated director Ed Wood, the very first thing that pops into your head is probably Plan 9 From Outer Space. As well it should, as it’s easily in the Top 5 of famous So Bad It’s Good movies. While that may very well be his ultimate legacy, most don’t realize his prolific output, not only as a director, but also as a writer. There were several movies made that were strictly written by Ed Wood, like the subject of this review, The Revenge Of Doctor X.

In this instance, Ed Wood was uncredited for the screenplay. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

Anyway, filmed in 1966 and released in 1970, this movie also has gone by the titles Venus Flytrap, and Body Of The Prey. As always, the version I watched went by the title of The Revenge Of Doctor X, so that’s the title I’m going with.

In The Revenge Of Doctor X, a burned-out NASA scientist whose introduction we see raging against a rocket taking off on the Florida coast, is ordered to take a vacation. So, he decided to fly out to Japan for some R&R, but then picks up a Venus Flytrap plant before heading out. I don’t know, that seems to be something that would have a bit of trouble with customs officials, I would think. Anyway, he takes his new-found interest in botany and stays in an abandoned resort that’s situated next to an active volcano. So, the guy decides to fully embrace his mad scientist vibes and goes ahead with tinkering the Venus Flytrap, thinking this is the next evolutionary step between humans and plants, and creates a humanoid carnivorous plant monster by cross-breeding the Venus Flytrap with an undersea carniverous plant he picked up after diving with a bunch of locals. Soon, the plant monster escapes, does some damage at the local nearby town, and the doctor goes and tries to stop the carnage. Goofy wackiness ensues.

As campy, low budget sci-fi movies go, The Revenge Of Doctor X is pretty campy. The lead actor constantly chews up the scenery, flying into angry outbursts at the drop of a hat. It’s actually rather amusing to witness this guy. The rest of the acting from others is hammy, there’s some surprise topless nudity that is beyond gratuitous (I don’t know if they were trying to exploit the Japanese culture with that, but still…thanks for the mamories, there), and the creature effects are…well, they’re what you would expect from a low-budget 60s sci-fi flick. Cheesy, campy and right fun to look at.

Bad directing, bad acting, momentous leaps in logic…meaning, you have to see this to believe it. Sure, The Revenge Of Dr. X languishes in obscurity, and I would have never heard of this had this not been on the Amazon Prime streaming I was browsing through, but really this movie needs to be watched at least once just for the experience alone.

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Movie Review: A QUIET PLACE

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a quiet placePlatinum Dunes
2018
PG-13

Hey, remember Jim from the American version of The Office? You know, the character who kept pursuing a relationship with the secretary, and instead of being slapped with a sexual harassment lawsuit, ended up marrying and having a family with? He was played by John Krasinski, who, as it turns out, also writes, produces and directs other movies and television.

You’re probably rolling your eyes and groaning, “I know, idiot.” Fair enough. I just needed a way to start off this review, and I went with the Pointless Trivia Everyone Already Knew route. You probably also already knew that Krasinski doesn’t like the horror genre. Which I find fascinating, because his recent movie, A Quiet Place, is an amazing horror movie.

So, we’re dropped right into Day 86, and the majority of the Earth’s population has been hunted almost to extinction by extra-terrestrial apex preditors that hunt primarily by their ultra-hightened sense of hearing. If you make the teeniest of sounds, they can zero in on you and take you out in the blink of an eye. We follow a family of five scavenging for supplies in a deserted town, making no sounds, as at this point they’ve figured out some tricks to keep under the sound radar, if you will. That is, until, due to an unfortunate act of affection by the older sister, their youngest son is taken out by one of the creatures on their way back to the farm they live at. Jump forward about a year, and the family is not only surviving, but thriving, as the mother is pregnant and is a short way off from the due date. Pretty ballsy choice, given how infants are not exactly paragons of complete silence. But, they prove themselves to be up for the challenge, devising a sound proof box that the baby can sleep in, to keep from attracting the creatures to their already heavily modified homestead. The daughter is deaf, and is more than a bit on the angsty side, as she’s on the cusp of puberty, and she also blames herself for her brother’s death, as well as believing her father doesn’t love her because of that, only caring for her out of obligation. Nothing could be further from the truth, but because of all the silence needed, it’s hard for the father to really express his love for his daughter, outside of trying to build better hearing aid devices to try to help her hear. Everything comes to a head one afternoon when the father takes their middle oldest son out to teach how to fish, the daughter goes off to the spot where the youngest son died to do some brooding, and the mother goes into labor a couple of weeks early, which is bad enough…but then she steps on a nail getting to the safety of the basement, which is when everything really hits the fan.

And, I’m going to just stop there, and let you go ahead and find out what happens.

It took me a week from the release date to finally catch A Quiet Place, but I’m glad I did so. John Krasinski seems to know what he’s doing, as he’s crafted a tense, taunt and utterly genuine horror movie that’s incredibly effective. The entire cast carried the script wonderfully, having to act without words, building up and fleshing out their characters with hardly any dialogue, and it works. You get drawn into the family, tangibly feel the love and affection they have for each other, especially with the tension between the father and the daughter. The use of the sound — and sometimes the utter lack of it — is incredibly effective with building the tension.

The monsters themselves were wisely kept in the shadows, out of sight, until the very end, letting us piece things together through the movie. When they show up, though…yeah, pants-wetting nightmare fuel.

Overall, A Quiet Place is a very effective, well-made horror movie that will draw you in, and won’t let go until the very final scene, which will leave you wanting to know what happens next. Highly recommended.

Movie Review: GODZILLA (2014)

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Godzilla 2014 Movie PosterWarner Bros.
2014
PG-13

“I think Godzilla was only listening. The MUTO was calling something else.”

From visionary new director Gareth Edwards comes a powerful story of human courage and reconciliation in the face of titanic forces of nature, when the awe-inspiring Godzilla rises to restore balance as humanity stands defenseless.

I don’t think I have to explain why Godzilla is such a cinematic icon. Since he climbed out of the Pacific ocean to lay waste to Tokyo in 1954, when anyone thinks of giant monsters, first and foremost to spring to mind is the radiated bipedal lizard, regardless of whether or not you’ve seen any of the movies. For me, I discovered this Japanese import by way of a book series on classic movie monsters that I checked out of the local library as a 7-year-old. And, of course, there was the Hanna Barbara cartoon featuring Godzilla, Godzookie and a bunch of kids for some odd reason. It really wasn’t until college when I watched my first Godzilla movie–the 195_ original, as a matter of fact. Of course, back then we still only had the “Americanized” cut that was shown here in the states: where they inter-cut extra shots featuring Raymond “Perry Mason” Burr reacting to the destruction, but not really part of the actual movie.

As far as a full-on American version of the Godzilla franchise, this 2014 movie is actually the second attempt to bring the big guy to the States. The first time in 1998 was…um, I’ll just hold on to my thoughts for that particular review. Let’s just say that this 2014 American Godzilla is not only heads and tails better (see what I did there?), but this time out we’ve finally done the franchise proud, I think.

In this Godzilla, we have the story of a man who tragically lost his wife to the destruction of the nuclear power plant they both worked at in Japan back in 1999 (in one of the more heart-breaking scenes I’ve ever had to sit through). Fifteen years later, and he’s still in Japan, convinced that there was more to the destruction of the plant than a simple core meltdown, and is constantly getting in trouble trying to prove his theory, while his son–who was only 10 years old when the tragedy happened–has moved on with his life, with a wife and a young son of his own, working as a bomb specialist in the Army. After his dad is once again arrested for trespassing in the forbidden radiation zone around the ruins of the plant, he travels to Japan to spring him, only to accompany him back into that zone, where they not only discover that there is no radiation whatsoever, but there seems to be a rather odd conflagration of scientists gathered at ground zero, where a strange giant irradiated cocoon is being monitored. Of course, said cocoon hatches, and a gigantic insectile winged creature (which is not Mothra, I’d like to point out) lays waste to the science expedition, and flies out over the ocean, heading east. Seems Tiny has a taste for radiation, and likes targeting things and places that uses said radiation for power. Like, say, nuclear subs. And power plants. You getting the idea? The military and the scientists who were studying the creature immediately give chase…as does a certain giant green lizard creatures with atomic breath. There’s a showdown in Hawaii, then it’s off to the mainland in San Francisco, where they’re joined up by the winged creature’s girlfriend, who’s looking to lay her eggs underneath the city that gave the world Rice-a-roni. Among other things, I’m sure. Big honkin’ monster battle ensues, it looks like we’re all doomed, but then [SPOILERS] Godzilla saves the day and then swims off to his trailer to await the sequel. The end.

I’m going to say this as a tried-and-true fanboy of the Godzilla franchise, the good the bad and the ugly: Godzilla 2014 was awesome. I’ve heard all the complaints and the nit-pickery, and while I concede that this movie has its flaws and shortcomings, comparatively, this is classic Godzilla kicking it old school in a modern telling. Maybe I’m not Trve Geek by admitting this, but for the most part seeing this play out on the big screen (watched it at the local Second Run theater, mind you, but still worth it) was very satisfying. The character stories were compelling, and the build-up to the final battles were deliciously tense and action packed. Yeah, I enjoyed every minute of this thing. It’s a fun Godzilla movie, period. Give it a shot.

Movie Review: EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS

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EIGHT LEGGED FREAKSWarner Bros. Pictures
2002
PG-13

“Get back you eight legged freaks!”

In a small, dying Arizona town, a bunch of different spiders from a collection grow to ludicrous sizes due to toxic waste, and immediately start to sample the local cuisine (i.e.- humans). Wackiness…and David Arquette…ensue…

Let there be no mistake: Eight Legged Freaks is a tongue-in-cheek homage to the gigantic bug movies of the 1950s. No more, no less. And it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than that. Like Gremlins and Tremors (but with less scares) before, Eight Legged Freaks has ridiculously large CGI spiders running amuck (Amuck! Amuck! Amuck!), a motley crew of wacky townsfolk (including Doug E. Doug as a radio announcer who gives a freaking hilarious anal probe monologue), some cool Spiders Vs. Humans (and at one point, a cat) action sequences (check out that scene with the kids on the motor bikes), all with winks to the sub genre it’s emulating. I found myself enjoying this…and apparently I was the only one, as I saw people get up and leave the theater during the film. These were probably the same people who don’t get Monty Python, so it’s not really a reflection on the flick…

I do admit, though, that the film seemed to loose steam about halfway through. It was like the filmmakers played everything they had for the first half, and then spent the last half coasting, throwing in concepts that have been played out before. Like, for instance, the obvious People Holed Up In The Mall rip from Dawn Of The Dead. I also would have appreciated the script to go more for the jugular with the material. Other than that, though, Eight Legged Freaks is a great mindless slice of B-movie cheese that revels in its lactose. Go ahead and sample…

Movie Review: C.H.U.D.

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chudNew World Pictures
1984
R

“Are you kidding? Your guy’s got a camera. Mine’s got a flamethrower.”

Always thought there was something funny about New York City, and this film proves it. This was the first “horror” movie that my mother let my sister and me buy, back when I was the tender age of 13. Didn’t scare me much then, and it still doesn’t now. Though, looking back at this quaint radioactive-waste-monsters-eating-subway-bums-covered-up-by-local-government cheeseball, it does have a certain Corman-esque charm to it. First of all, both Daniel Stern and John Goodman make appearances, as The Reverend and an unnamed cop, respectively. We don’t get to see the monsters very often, which is pretty annoying. We didn’t even get to see the diner attack at the end, where John Goodman made his appearance, only the results. The plot does thicken, however…into what I have no idea, but it does thicken. I do applaud this film for killing off the reporter, though. The plot muddles around for a long time on Reverend and George (the photographer who was pals with afore mentioned reporter), running from C.H.U.D. in the sewers before wrapping up with a natural gas explosion. Then we get to see John Goodman as a cop when C.H.U.D. attack a diner…and then the movie ends. Phooey. Anyway, if there’s any lessons to learn from this flick, they are, in no particular order:

-Stay clear of manhole covers…
-Women are much less attractive when they are talking about a pimple on their butts…
-There is nuclear waste buried under New York City…
-When investigating a sewer for monsters make sure you have a good flashlight…
…and finally…
-The New York City Police Department has flamethrowers.

So, there you have it. Go ahead, pop this sucker in, and prepare to cock your eyebrow in abject incredulity. Also be thankful you didn’t get the sequel…

Movie Review: CARNOSAUR

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CARNOSAURNew Horizon Picture Corp.
1993
R

“The last thing we need is a biotech panic about chickens!”

A brilliant geneticist plans to expose a lethal virus to every human being on the planet. Her objective: to destroy humankind in favor of her new strain of prehistoric dinosaurs. Two people stand in the way of her diabolical plan, a cynical night watchman and a lovely idealistic environmentalist. The two must overcome their differences long enough to uncover the scientist’s scheme and fight her carnivorous creations in a desperate battle against the extinction of the human race.

This is one of those movies that made me want to hurt the movie really, really bad after viewing it. I remember renting it with a friend of mine, thinking it would be a good, cheep horror flick to enjoy. It was horrific, all right…for all the wrong reasons. Where to begin? Well, there’s the usual “mad scientist plans on wiping out the human race by bioengineering dinosaurs”, this particular mad scientist in question played by Diane Ladd, who spouts off such monologue gems as, “The earth was not made for us. She was made for the dinosaurs. The earth was scaled to their dimensions. Human beings are ants crawling through their living rooms.” So, uh, what would that make ants? Anyway, some Green Peace knock-off group gets involved, not because of dinosaurs (that comes later), but because of chicken slaughtering for mass consumption. Of course, these are the stereotypical pot-smoking, neo-hippie types, who spout off inane banter such as “Peace, green brother!” (That was uttered by one of the expendable members, who said that to the dinosaur before being duly consumed…so there is good in dinosaurs after all) Not to mention the fact that the dinosaur was very obviously a hand puppet (gah!), and the plot line degenerated into something David Lynch couldn’t follow. Anyway, if you want to laugh for all the wrong reasons, and see some stupendously bad acting and effects, pop in this cheep Jurassic Park knock-off and don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Movie Review: BATS

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BATSDestination Films
1999
R

“Clip their wings? Man, could you just shoot their damn heads off? And don’t miss.”

Dr. Alexandre has infected a bunch of bats with a virus for no other discernible reason than he could. The virus made them bigger, uglier and really, really smart. Enter in the mix a too-hot-to-be-believable bat expert, Lou Diamond Phillips with a bad Texas accent, and token comic relief from some guy named Jimmy to save the day.

Now, normally around this time, I’d be jumping up and down on my chair, spilling popcorn out of my bag, and shouting, “Let the wacky mayhem begin!” Really, this flick had everything going for it to be a fun giant creature feature: Giant bats running amok (“Amok! Amok! Amok!”) in a hick town…a mad scientist who created them…and Lou Diamond “my wife left me for another woman” Phillips. The major problem is, after about 45 minutes of fun giant-bat havoc…it just gives out when you start really having fun with the scenario. By the time the second half kicks in, all the cool stuff has passed, and we’re stuck watching the main actors wandering around with flashlights, driving around, searching everywhere for something we’ve already seen. By the time we get to the big boom at the end, you’ll be wiping the drool off of the guy’s shoulder you fell asleep on (sorry ’bout that, Boz). Not bad for a rainy Saturday afternoon time-waster…

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