Monday, December 31, 2012

X-MAS LOOT: 2012

Merry Christmas… Happy Holidays…. Happy Festivus…. Or whatever happy greetings you festive nuts prefer. It’s time to show off my X-Mas Loot!

Christmas has come and gone and now I’m left with a shitload of new movies for my collection, thanks to my generous family and that fat bastard named Santa Clause. It’s time for The Lucid Nightmare’s yearly rundown of loot that I’ve managed to collect over the holiday festivities and, like usual, there’s some rather fine gems in the mix. Prepare for an epically long list, because this year was kind of ridiculous! Ho Ho Holy Shit! I love movies!

Director: Saul Bass
Year 1974

Killer Ants! I’ve always been interested in checking out Graphic Designer Saul Bass’ first and only stab at a feature length film and thankfully I’ll finally have a chance to satisfy that urge. Phase IV focuses on a phenomenon where ants mysteriously begin showing signs of intelligence as they wage war on the denizens of a desert town. To me that just sounds like ridiculous fun and the fact that Bass’ visual style and impeccable eye is behind the camera, only adds to this film’s appeal.

The movie stars Michael Murphy and Nigel Davenport as two scientists who are desperately trying to figure out what is going on. As far as “Nature attacks” movies go, Phase IV looks to be an artistic effort at the genre that hones in on the more cerebral aspects of such an event taking place. As I finally have my hands on a copy of Phase IV, it reminds me that I need to get my ass in gear and purchase my Day of the Animals DVD. Curse you “Nature attacks” genre and your greatness!

Who's up for a Christmas high-five?

Sayonara Jupiter
Director: Koji Hashimoto & Sakyo Komatsu
Year 1984

Here’s another film that I’ve been dying to check out for years, but could never seem to get it together, for whatever reason, when looking to wrangle up a copy. The reputation of this curious sci-fi gem is something of an enigma and I’m always up for some strangeness, especially when it comes from the land of the rising sun. Luckily Sayonara Jupiter, AKA Bye Bye Jupiter, is finally in the collection and I can get down to watching some good old wacky Japanese Toho science fiction.

Sayonara Jupiter tells the unusual tale of a black hole on a collision course with the Earth. In true wacky science fiction cinema fashion, the only way to stop this terrible catastrophe is to blow up Jupiter, changing it into a sun and diverting the black hole’s trajectory. This is the overall summarization of the film, but the movie seems to cover a lot of ground within that rather general frame of mind. Aliens, naked space hippies, and stupendous effects are all I can muster from the few reviews out there of this film, and for me that has already peaked my interest. I’m really looking forward to finally seeing this insanity for myself. Now the next Japanese obscure gem I need to track down is Latitude Zero. Now there’s a crazy looking movie!

Merry Christmas Jupiter!

Cherry 2000
Director: Steve De Jarnatt
Year 1987

Now this is an underappreciated gem! Cherry 2000 is a campy science fiction film starring David Andrews and the super sexy Melanie Griffith. Unusually, I never really cared for Griffith’s looks or acting, but in this fun sci-fi entry she makes one hell of an impression. Obviously filmed with a tongue firmly placed in cheek, the movie focuses on Andrews’ character as he desperately scours this futuristic landscape in search of a replacement part for his domesticated sex robot. Yep, you heard that right! With a crazy premise like that, how could you not be interested?

Melanie Griffith takes on the role of E. Johnson, an easy on the eyes renegade tracker, who is hired by Andrews’ character to track down a replacement model for his now inoperable android wife. After many crazy antics, the two become close, and this entertaining gem of a movie begins to morph into a romantic comedy adventure that is sure to please those out there that appreciate the weird world of cinema. I’m thankful to get another chance to check this one out, for it truly is a wild gem of a flick.

Thanks for the rocket launcher Santa!

Arn: The Knight Templar
Director: Peter Flinth
Year 2007

It’s been a while now, but this international epic is finally in my hands. Arn: The Knight Templar is an ambitious collaborative production which features a grand tale about a Templar Knight and is journey for redemption. Contributed by an international crew of filmmakers from Sweden, United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Germany, and Morocco, this is definitely not your average Crusade movie.

I was initially intrigued by the prospect of this film when I first heard about it going into production. Then when it was finally completed and I saw my first visual taste of what the end product would look like through the form of a trailer, I was rather impressed. Unfortunately I never got around to checking it out and that was something that always bothered me. Shot with such an epic feel and centered around one single Templar’s journey, it seemed to be right up my alley, and now I can finally sit down and absorb it all in. Should be an interesting ride!

Santa.... Have I been naughty or nice?

The Odessa File
Director: Ronald Neame
Year 1974

Jon Voight you beautiful bastard! The Odessa File is an absolutely outstanding espionage thriller that tells the story of freelance journalist Peter Miller (Voight) as he is recruited to go undercover and infiltrate an organization of former SS members called Odessa. With a small bit of training and the will to learn more about this mysterious group, Miller is thrust off into a world where danger is around every corner and the next breathe you take could be your last.

The tension and intrigue of this flick is at its maximum, and the general atmosphere of the movie is top notch as we follow Peter Miller deeper and deeper into enemy territory. As usual, Jon Voight puts out a great performance and he is able to surmount a tremendous amount of sympathy within this complicated dramatic thriller. It’s been a few years, but I’m looking forward to revisiting this one and I’m especially excited to be able to finally add it to the collection.

I can't believe Santa brought you that stupid ass hat.

Yokai Monsters: 100 Monsters
Director: Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Year 1968

WTF?!?! That’s what your reaction will be when you sit down and watch the movie trailer for this most unusual of films filled with grotesque creatures and other worldly beings. To say that I’m as excited to see this one as I am creeped out to, is an understatement, but it looks like the time has come to get down to viewing this nightmarish and monstrous fantasy film, even if I feel that I might pee myself when subjected to the horrific disturbing visuals of Yasuda and his weird 100 Monsters.

As far as I can figure it, the film is about a land developer who wants to bulldoze a shrine and an apartment building in order to redevelop the land. That’s where the Yokai monsters come in, which are creatures pulled from Japanese folklore. They are angered by these destructive actions and they make their presence known in the most atmospheric and eye-popping ways imaginable. Think a wild fantasy induced nightmare and that’s what you get with this film. There are two other entries of films in this series, Spook Warfare and Along with Ghosts, and I figured 100 Monsters would be a great introduction to this wild world of insanity, one that I’m thinking I will be blissfully happy with. Damn you creepy monsters! 

Merry Christmas you creepy little bastard!

Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection

Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Director: Robert Wise
Year 1979

Growing up, I’ve always been a Star Wars fan and with that comes an unexplainable tendency to shun other science fiction movie series that tread on similar ground, case in point the Star Trek universe. I’ve never in my life seen any of the feature films that sprung up from the heralded television series, aside from Abrams recent entry, and I’ve yet to see a single episode of the shows, but seeing that I’m more open to the idea of taking on the franchise, I’ve decided to overwhelm myself with every cinematic offering the franchise has to offer. With the inclusion of both the Original and The Next Generation movie boxsets into my collection, I’ll be able to explore these engaging stories for the first time ever and I have a feeling I’m going to love every second of it.

Of course Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the television series’ first attempt at producing a feature film and with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy at the helm, it’s sure to be an entertaining introduction for myself. So far all I know about the film is that it centers around a destructive space entity that is spotted approaching the Earth and Admiral Kirk must resume command of the Starship Enterprise in order to stop it. Sounds good to me! Coming into this series with only the basic knowledge of who the characters are, is going to be exceptionally thrilling for me as the world of Star Trek opens up before me and unveils a whole new world of science fiction goodness for me to feast on. It should be an exciting journey.

All Ilia wants for Christmas is hair.

Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Year 1982

The second entry in the Star Trek Motion Picture series is probably the one that I’ve heard referenced most about. I can’t imagine how someone could get through this pop culture wasteland without hearing the words, “KHAN!” and this film is what made that overacted yell so famous. The film follows James T. Kirk as he goes on a two-week voyage on the USS Enterprise, which is now a Starfleet Academy training ship. Unexpectedly, the training mission turns deadly as one of Kirk’s old enemies, Khan, pays the crew a visit, threatening to use a weapon called the Genesis Device to destroy them all. KHAAAAAANNNN!!!!!!

For me, this is the film that I’m most excited to check out. The general consensus is that it is one of the cream of the crops of Star Trek films, so I’ve had an expectation of for this movie that hopefully will match what I’ve conjured up. I’m not too worried though, because William Shatner never seems to disappoint in my opinion. Though the guy’s acting style is a bit off-kilter and camp, he’s always entertained me and that’s all that matters in my book.


Star Trek: The Search for Spock
Director: Leonard Nimoy
Year 1984

Directly following the events of Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock picks up depicting a battered USS Enterprise, a war ravaged crew and a hollow heart. In this third entry of the series, Admiral Kirk is determined to disobey orders and return to planet Genesis in order to retrieve Spock’s body. Sounding deeply dramatic and morbidly curious, I’m looking forward to seeing this defiant crew of space travelers embark on this dangerous journey and to see all of the ill effects on screen.

The more I read the summaries for these films, the more I get excited about immersing myself in the Star Trek world. Having purposefully avoided anything to do with Star Trek, I have the unique opportunity of diving right in to the thick of it, absorbing it all in at once. I have a feeling that the ignorance of my youth, believing that Star Trek was too talky and serious, is about to pay off, as I’ve now come to appreciate the more contemplative side of science fiction films and the futuristic worlds that they can create. That’s thanks in no small part to the Soviet and East Germany science fiction films that I’ve been viewing over the last couple of years, specifically my gateway cinematic drug Solaris.

Looks like someone got coal in their Christmas stalkings.

Star Trek: The Voyage Home
Director: Leonard Nimoy
Year 1986

In the fourth entry of the series, The Voyage Home, the crew are branded fugitives for their actions in the previous film and charged with their crimes committed while rescuing their fellow crew member Spock. But if you think that is bad, you haven’t seen anything yet. It turns out that there is a space probe on Earth, ravaging the planet to get a response from a lifeform that no longer exists. To make things even crazier, Kirk and crew commandeer a captured Klingon Bird of Prey and travel back in time to the year 1986 in order to recover two humpback whales that inexplicably can communicate with the probe that is decimating the future planet Earth.

Holy shit! Is that the craziest synopsis you’ve ever heard? After reading that, I’m more than ready to see how all of this comes together and I’m a sucker for a good time-traveling yarn, so without a doubt I’m looking forward to this unusual fourth entry. It seems that from the summaries of these films, that they tend to continue directly off from where the last movie ended and that is a tremendously cool thing. That’s the one thing that kind of bugs me about Star Wars, in that whole years go by between each entry, making you wonder just what the hell happened to all of those characters in those missing moments. It’s nice to hear that with the Star Trek series, they’ve kept it rather seamless from one entry to the next, which is refreshing in my eyes.

Looks like these guys aren't too thrilled about Christmas.

Star Trek: The Final Frontier
Director: William Shatner
Year 1989

In the fifth entry of the series, Star Trek delves into some interesting concepts, namely religion and the origins of existence. The film is centered on Spock’s renegade brother named Sybok, who obsessively commandeers the Enterprise in order to journey to the center of the galaxy in search of the Supreme Being. Say what? Once I heard this synopsis I knew I was on board. I’ve always been intrigued by this concept and wished that more science fiction films focused on these kinds of origin stories or creation myths. Prometheus for one recently tackled this subject and I personally loved that film.

I guess you could say that the fifth entry of the series truly does dare to boldly go where no man has gone before. Modern science fiction movies aren’t known for tackling religion or the concept of creation, and it’s intriguing to see that the Star Trek series bravely tackles the subject and makes it the centerpiece for its fifth movie. No matter what the outcome is with this film, I’m sure I’m going to be a big fan of this entry. Big ideas should always be rewarded no matter what the end results may bring.

Up yours Spock! I hate Christmas!

Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture Collection

Star Trek: Generations
Director: David Carson
Year 1994

Enter the new era of Star Trek, with Patrick Stewart at the helm and a whole new slew of space adventures to be had. I have even less knowledge of this Next Generation series of films, but it does look as if the creators of Star Trek wanted to bring more action to this era, with a space opera-like feel. Passing the torch so to speak is Captain James T. Kirk (Shatner) as he opens the film and then bows out to make way for the new front runner of the series, Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Pacard.

The film appears to be a very strange combination of things, both past and future, as we have both Captains represented in this interesting story. There is even a hint that suggests that Captain Kirk is a ghost of sorts, guiding Picard and his crew to thwart the actions of a renegade scientist named Tolian Soran, who is inexplicably destroying entire star systems. An intriguing proposition to say the least and it’s nice that this series can allow for this kind of cinematic handoff, where one lead actor can pass the reigns of the series over to the next. It should be an interesting entry in the long standing franchise and one that I’m looking forward to see play out.

It's a Christmas staring contest! GO!

Star Trek: First Contact
Director: Jonathan Frakes
Year 1996

Again replacing Kirk’s character, Captain Jean-Luc Picard fully takes the reigns of the series, officially ushering in a fresh group of colorful characters who are all as diverse and as interesting as the original crew who contributed to this long standing franchises popularity. First Contact looks to be a handful of fun as it deals with a great many aspects that appear inherent in the previous admissions of the series while also adding a race of beings that are highly intimidating.

In this entry the film focuses on a race of cybernetic beings known as Borgs, who find a way to travel back in time to manipulate man in the mid-21st century at the cusp of the discovery of faster-than-light travel. Determined to counter the effects of the Borg, Picard and crew travel back in time to assist Zefram Cochrane, the founder of faster-than-light travel, in hopes that they can defeat the Borg menace. It sounds intriguing, and like I said before, I’m a sucker for time-travel flicks, so I’m highly anticipating this one to be an entertaining sci-fi romp.

Santa got us cool ass space suits for Christmas.

Star Trek: Insurrection
Director: Jonathan Frakes
Year 1998

Rebellion looks to be the name of the game in this entry, as Captain Jean-Luc Picard openly defies the Federation by siding with the inhabitants of a unique planet after discovering a disturbing plot against them spearheaded by the Federation’s personal interests over the planet’s regenerative properties. Sounds like fun to me and who doesn’t like an underdog story. It always seems like the Star Trek captains are defying the Federation or ignoring orders in order to complete a more personal mission, which is always nice to see in a more grounded sci-fi franchise.

At this point it seems that Patrick Stewart is comfortable with taking the helm and for being such a theatrical actor, it should be a real blast to see his commanding performance as the rebellious Captain Jean-Luc Picard. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m really looking forward to absorbing in all that the Star Trek world has to offer and I can see myself being a steadfast fan of the series. With such a longstanding franchise, it’s quite intimidating taking it all in at once, but I think that I’m up for the challenge. Bring it on you Trekkies!

I outta punch you in the mouth for getting me that lame-ass tie!

Star Trek: Nemesis
Director: Stuart Baird
Year 2002

And now we come to the last entry in the epic Star Trek franchise, Star Trek: Nemesis. I had the strange opportunity to introduce myself with the world of Star Trek through the solar flare lensed J.J. Abrams production as he attempted to re-imagine the series for a whole new generation in 2009. It’s going to be interesting to see the differences between this latest entry Nemesis to Abrams Trek film, to see how much difference seven years and a different director’s take on the material makes. In my experience it will be a backwards experiment, taking in the franchise first from Abrams point of view and then back tracking to the start of the series, ending with Nemesis.

Aside from my personal experience with the franchise, the actual film in question tells the story of a supposed truce between the Romulans and Earth, which turn out to be anything but peaceful once the Enterprise arrives at the Romulans home planet of Romulus. A baby faced pre-Bane Tom Hardy takes on the role of Shinzon, the main villain of the piece and it will be interesting to see how he handles such a demanding role at such an early stage of his career. The man can bring intensity with the best of them so I’m interested to see what he can bring to the film. With this being the last of the Star Trek films, I’ll leave you with this. If there is one thing that I have come away with after researching the Star Trek series for this write up, it’s that Marina Sirtis is a knock-out! Holy Christmas Shit! That is all.

Another Christmas staring contest! GO!

Cult Camp Classics 4 – Historical Epics

The Colossus of Rhodes
Director: Sergio Leone
Year 1961

It’s Peplum time! I’ve been meaning to get my hands on this little collection of historical epics and finally it’s mine. I haven’t seen any of these films featured in this collection, so it should really be a treat to sit down and watch all three of these very interesting looking features. Sergio Leone kicks off this wild bunch with a cinematic reiteration telling the destruction of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Colossus of Rhodes.

What’s most interesting to me about this film is that I’ve only seen Sergio’s Western output, so this should be an eye-opener for me on what kind of work he did outside the Spaghetti Western genre. Needless to say that the combination of Sergio Leone with the cinematic destruction of Apollo’s giant Colossus statue is something that has definitely peaked my interest and one that I’m fervently getting ready to dive headlong into. Should be one hell of a fun Peplum time!

So how come Santa Clause didn't bring you any pants?

Land of the Pharaohs
Director: Howard Hawks
Year 1955

As much as I’ve been looking forward to checking out The Colossus of Rhodes, I’ve been equally enthralled with the idea of witnessing Ancient Egypt through the eyes of Howard Hawks. Of course most of my excitement can be chopped up to the fact that the lovely Joan Collins portrays Princess Nellifer the second wife of Pharaoh Khufu in this ambitious looking sword and sandals production.

I’ve always been fascinated with movies based on Ancient Egypt, or placed in Egypt, or even building off of the intriguing culture of the Egyptians. From the fun and silly romps of the Brendan Fraser Mummy films, to the creepy and atmospheric horror gem that the original Mummy film was, to even the wacky sci-fi premise of Stargate, I’ve enjoyed everything that has sprung up from the inspirational civilization of the Pharaohs, so to be able to see this sprawling epic of a film, lensed in a serious theatrical sense, is going to be one hell of a treat. I just can’t get enough of the mysteries that lie behind the pyramids and the people that made them. This film should satisfy that curiosity, while looking absolutely spectacular!

It's a Christmas Day Parade! Yippie!!!

The Prodigal
Director: Richard Thorpe
Year 1955

Rounding out the Historical Epics Collection is The Prodigal. The film features a sordid tale of a wealthy young man who travels to Damascus in hopes of trying his luck in the big city, only to fall from faith and fortune after meeting a pagan priestess named Samarra. With lavish looking sets and an equally impressive sense of scale, this production should be a real sight for sore eyes.

Lana Turner plays the role of Samarra, and it’s always nice to witness one of her classy performances, especially one so iconic in imagery and presence. Fortunately for me, I’ll be going in to this feature with little to no background because I’ve not done too much research on the film other than watch a short trailer which presented the visual prowess of the movie and nothing more. I think that by going in with a fresh pair of eyes, the viewing experience is going to make the production that much more epic and magical and I look forward to taking this ambitious film on even if I don’t really know what to expect. Bring it on you Sword and Sandal Gods!

I'll take that sweet-ass present under the tree anyday!

From Beyond the Grave
Director: Kevin Connor
Year 1974

Here’s a sweet little Amicus anthology for you horror lovers out there. From Beyond the Grave tells four twisted tales, cultivated by R. Chetwynd-Hayes, which outline the fates of four customers who try to cheat an antique dealer of a shop called Temptations Ltd. The stories are varied and delightfully devilish entitled The Gate Crasher, An Act of Kindness, The Elemental, and The Door, and they are all told by the proprietor of the shop played by Peter Cushing.

As always Peter Cushing is in top form and his collaboration with the stories being told is pure British horror movie bliss. The rest of the cast is absolutely perfect and star studded, featuring memorable roles by David Warner, Diana Dors, and the legendary Donald Pleasence. There has been an empty hole in my British Horror section of my collection and I’m happy to say that it has now been filled by the inclusion of this wonderful little anthology.

Christmas! Bah Humbug!

Rodan / The War of the Gargantuas

Director: Ishiro Honda
Year 1956

It’s time for an Ishiro Honda Double Feature! As one of the most prolific and legendary directors of Japanese cinema, Honda has directed a ridiculous amount of cult films in his career and I’ve been struggling to keep up with his tremendous output of quality movies. This double feature is a real treat because these are two of his films that I have yet to see, but I’ve been dying to get a chance to check out. If you’re ever on the hunt for quality science fiction films then give an Ishiro Honda Toho produced movie a try. They are pure entertainment!

The first entry in this two-film pack is Rodan, and it looks to be an insanely fun time. In true Kaiju form, the story centers around a giant monster, in this case Rodan, who terrorizes Japan and creates widespread panic. It’s a pretty standard formula that works every time and what really stands out in these types of entries is the stupendous craftsmanship in the miniatures, effects, and creature designs. With Rodan, it looks to be hitting all the right elements and I’m sure this will be a great addition to my Kaiju collection of films, not to mention a worthy movie in my Ishiro Honda library.

Merry Christmas bitches!

The War of the Gargantuas
Director: Ishiro Honda
Year 1968

Twelve years later and that crazy nut Ishiro is still at it! The War of the Gargantuas is the second entry in this double feature set and one that looks truly and unbelievably out of control. Also known as Frankenstein’s Monsters, this loopy looking movie pits two gargantuan creatures against each other but the real strange part of it is that they are not dressed in the traditional rubber suit that has been the custom with these kinds of Kaiju films. Instead the main two monsters are essentially humanoid creatures, just oversized.

My first reaction to seeing this strange approach kind of made me think that this was ridiculous and silly, but then I remembered that this was an Ishiro Honda production and I knew that if anyone could make it work it would be him. Hopefully the end result is another masterpiece for Honda, but if not it still should be a hell of a fun time watching two giant human-beings pummel the shit out of themselves, while bulldozering everything in their path as they rain destruction down on each other. I say…. Lets get it on!

Knock it off you two! It's Christmas!

Conquest of Space
Director: Byron Haskin
Year 1955

You can never have enough science fiction goodness! Conquest of Space is a 50’s sci-fi film that I’ve been meaning to check out for a while now. There was a pretty decent copy floating around on Youtube as of recently, but I just could never find the time to sit down and give it a viewing. Luckily I can take my time now that I’ve finally managed to snatch a copy for myself.

Produced by the legendary George Pal, of The Time Machine fame, and directed by cult filmmaker Byron Haskin, who brought us such gems as The War of the Worlds, From the Earth to the Moon and Robinson Crusoe on Mars, this particular production looks especially inviting. Conquest looks to be an outstanding movie that really thrives in its Technicolor presentation and otherworldly visuals. Plus the film seems to feature a mission to the planet Mars and in my book that is always a good thing. The fanciful ideas that came about around this time period in history about that mysterious planet are always fantastic and entertaining. To me it looks like Conquest of Space could be a sci-fi gem and I’m looking forward to giving it a try.

Looks like one hell of a Christmas party!

Battlestar Galactica – The Feature Film
Director: Glen A. Larson
Year 1978

Let me start right out with saying that I’ve never seen an episode of the series Battlestar Galactica. Not the original late 70’s series or the newer iteration, and from what I understand, this stand alone film is actually the pilot for the original series or something along those lines. Being the curious science fiction movie fan I am, I thought that this would be a great place to start, so here we go with Battlestar Galactica - The Feature Film.

From the looks of it this is right up my alley, featuring a fun space adventure that pits a crew of survivors against a race of robots as they search for a mysterious planet called Earth. What’s there not to like? The model work, special effects and overall style look great and the concept catches my attention right from the gate. I may be late to the party, but I think the world might just have gained itself a new Battlestar Galactica fan. And was that Jane Seymour that I spotted in the trailer? SOLD!

It was such a beautiful Christmas Card.

Hercules / Mole Men Against the Son of Hercules
Director: Pietro Francisci
Year 1958

This particular DVD actually features two Hercules films, but I’m only going to be focusing on the original Hercules, seeing as that is the only film that is in its original aspect ratio and in good visual quality. Mole Men Against the Son of Hercules is included, but it is in full frame and not the best condition. Be that as it may, it’s still nice to get another feature film with the original Hercules, even if it is in a less than stellar presentation.

Steve Reeves takes on the role of Hercules in this Peplum showstopper while the lovely Sylva Koscina brings the sexy as only she knows how. I’ve been a huge fan of Sylva’s since I saw her in Agent 8 ¾, That Man in Istanbul, and Deadlier Than the Male, and seeing her in one of her Peplum roles is a thing of sheer beauty. Likewise with Steve Reeves as the man was destined to play Hercules. All in all, this is an excellent addition to my ridiculously small collection of Peplum films. I’ll have to remedy that situation soon.

Can you at least unchain him for today? It's Christmas!

Chosen Survivors / The Earth Dies Screaming

Chosen Survivors
Director: Sutton Roley
Year 1974

It’s time to get bat-shit crazy…. Literally! Chosen Survivors is the first film in this MGM Midnite Movie Double Feature and the premise for this movie is a wild one. On the eve of a nuclear holocaust, a group of individuals are taken from their homes and placed in a futuristic bomb shelter that lies two miles below the surface of the Earth. Built to sustain life and weather anything, the shelter is an impregnable fortress, but there was one thing that the scientists who created it didn’t anticipate…. Bats! Bloodsucking vampire bats to be specific and they terrorize the survivors of the colony, taking them out one by one in bloody and grisly ways. Maybe they should have braved the nuclear holocaust instead.

This is a fun little production that presents the paranoid moments of a nuclear holocaust to perfection and then flips the formula by adding in an army of killer bats. Chosen Survivors is really one of those movies that you have to see to believe, and surprisingly enough the odd inclusion of vampire bats into the film actually works, adding nothing but ludicrous fun to the production. If you’ve been dying to see what happens when a large group of people are swarmed by a colony of vicious vampire bats all in the confines of a nuclear bomb shelter, then my friend you’re in luck!

Please Santa.... bring me some cool glasses.

The Earth Dies Screaming
Director: Terence Fisher
Year 1964

The second entry in the MGM Midnite Movies Double Feature is The Earth Dies Screaming. Directed by Terence Fisher, this interesting looking little science fiction gem appears to have one hell of a plotline, one that definitely has me intrigued. In the film a pilot returns to Earth to find that the planet is now under the control of an alien race who use killer robots and re-animated dead human bodies to terrorize the surviving masses of planet Earth. Determined to take back the planet, the pilot rallies a group of survivors to help fight the alien race and win back the Earth.

I unfortunately haven’t seen this one, but I’ve always been interested in checking it out, especially because it mixes so many ideas together in its sci-fi cauldron. Aliens, zombies, killer robots… that’s one hell of a combo, and to top it all off the film is a post apocalyptic story to boot. I’ve found that most anything in the MGM Midnite Movie collection is worth seeing and I have a feeling that after watching The Earth Dies Screaming I’ll be singing the same tune. Now I just have to find some time to witness this obscure offering in all its ambitious glory.

It's those damn Christmas Carolers again!

Director: Higuchinsky
Year 2000

Get ready for the weirdest movie of your life! Uzumaki, AKA Spiral, is a Japanese horror flick that goes above and beyond the normal strangeness that this particular genre of film is known for. In this entry, people of a small town become increasingly obsessed with spirals and slowly but surely everyone begins to go mad. That’s is the basic premise in a nutshell and for all intensive purposes that is really all you need to know going in to it.

What makes Uzumaki so memorable of a film is the way in which this town descends into madness. It’s as if the whole place turns into one nightmarish and surreal fantasy, where people begin committing suicide, physically changing their appearances, and even going as far as morphing into snails. Needless to say the film is a strange one indeed, and it is this strange atmosphere that really propels this production into another world. If you like the tone and atmosphere of your horror films to be thick with surreal images and a foreboding presence then Uzumaki is your ticket to paradise. Obtaining a copy of this film has been long over due and I’m happy to finally say I own this little bit of obscurity.

It's going to be a weird Christmas this year.

Director: Michael Crichton
Year 1973

Welcome to the wildest vacation of your life! Michael Crichton directs this escapist fantasy gone wrong, which features a futuristic amusement park where you can roleplay, in a sorts, with robotic characters in fully realized theme worlds. In what first seems like a fantasy come to life, the rich vacationers soon come to find that a malfunction has turned the normally subservient robots into armed killers, particularly a robot gun-slinger who begins stalking the vacationing humans.

I feel kind of foolish because as of this very moment, I have yet to see Westworld. It’s been on my radar for so long, but I never got around to snatching it up and checking it out. The reason I feel so bad is because this film is directed by Michael Crichton, the outstanding novelist and phenomenal filmmaker, who’s brought so many stories to life including his very own directed science fiction films, Coma, Looker, and Runaway. These gems are so overlooked and underappreciated that it isn’t even funny, and I find it kind of humorous that I have seen all of these lesser known productions, but have missed out on his most famous effort, Westworld. Luckily I can finally fix that mistake and see what all of the fuss is about. I’m willing to bet that it will live up to the hype and then some.

I definitely don't want that for Christmas!

Director: Ralph Bakshi
Year 1977

Ralph Bakshi… enough said! The man is an animation legend and whenever I obtain one of his efforts for my always expanding collection, it is a good day. Wizards, like much of his output, is set in a world that can only be described as Bakshi-esque. The characters are vibrant, sleazy, strange, and sometimes seductive, and they all inhabit a world that is equal to all of those parts. His style is like no other and he has a strong tendency to lace his films with adult situations and moments that really lift the stories into another realm that is far, far away from any animated feature of its time. In summary his work is outstanding and Wizards is a great example of his morbid genius.

Set in a post apocalyptic future that is half science fiction, half fantasy, Wizards tells the tale of a small in stature wizard name Avatar as he goes on a mission to stop his evil twin brother Blackwolf from controlling all of the realms with his technology infused forces. Presented in the most robust of ways, this animated oddity is jam packed with iconic imagery in its wonderfully imagined world, filled with some outstandingly diverse characters who cover a great spectrum of personalities. I’ve always had a fond heart for Wizards and I love the excess of Bakshi’s style, especially in this effort, so it was a given that I would someday be placing this awesome animated adventure into the collection. Looks like that day has finally come and I couldn’t be happier.

Merry Christmas you little weirdos!

A Man Called Django! / Django and Sartana’s Showdown in the West

A Man Called Django!
Director: Edoardo Mulargia
Year 1971

It’s time for some Django! This double feature includes two non Franco Nero iterations of the character that look to be a whole heap of Spaghetti Western fun. A Man Called Django, AKA Viva! Django, follows the titular character as he trails some renegade outlaws who callously raped and killed his wife. Bad idea! As he hunts for the men responsible, Django comes across a condemned man who is about to be hanged and rescues him. Interestingly enough, the man knows who is responsible for the death of Django’s wife and together they set off on hunting the bastards down.

I have to admit that I’m a virgin when it comes to Django, seeing that I’ve not seen one single version of many of the official and unofficial films out there. I’ve always been intrigued by them and I knew that someday I would finally get off my ass and check them out and I guess that my chance has finally arrived. I would have liked to see the original Django with Franco Nero first, but seeing that these films have nothing really to do with his character, because in all seriousness they are titled Django as more of a marketing tool then anything else, I’m not to worried about spoiling anything. Plus I can never say no to adding to the Spaghetti Western collection.

Looks like someone isn't going to have a good Christmas.

Django and Sartana’s Showdown in the West
Director: Demofilo Fidani & Diego Spataro
Year 1970

The second part of this Django Double Feature is Django and Sartana’s Showdown in the West, otherwise known as Django and Sartana Are Coming… It’s the End. With such lofty titles, I’m hoping that the film is as equally entertaining and robust. As I’ve mentioned before, I have no experience in the Django world of movies and I’m hoping to just jump right into these films and enjoy the hell out of them for what they are.

In this story, Django teams up with legendary gun-slinger Sartana as they hunt down Black Burt Keller and his gang after they abduct a young woman named Jessica Colby and flee to Mexico. The plot seems simple and straight forward enough, and I’m hoping for a great showdown when the two separate crews finally meet. Interestingly enough, Peplum veteran actor Gordon Mitchell plays the role of Black Burt Keller, so if anything else the film will have one intimidating villain to spice things up.

Give me all of your Christmas presents or you're DEAD!

The Woman in Black
Director: James Watkins
Year 2012

It’s Hammer Time! Being a huge fan of Hammer films and relishing in all that this legendary film production has been able to churn out over the years, I was highly excited to learn that they would be returning to the cinema world. When the announcement came that they would be re-envisioning The Woman in Black for a new generation and placing Daniel Radcliffe in the starring role, I was highly optimistic. I enjoyed watching him grow as an actor over the course of the Harry Potter films and I thought that this would be a nice logical step for him in his still maturing career.

After the film’s release, it was described as gothic, atmospheric and a great homage to all of those wonderful Hammer productions that came before it, so I was needless to say stoked to check it out for myself. As I got mixed up in the chaos that is movie collecting, I lost track of this film, but always had it in the back of my mind as one I needed to see for myself. As luck would have it that fat bastard named Santa Clause felt it was the right time, so the balls in my court to give this new Hammer film a go.

What a shitty place to spend Christmas.

Director: Enzo G. Castellari
Year 1976

Keoma! Franco Nero plays the role of half-breed Keoma a man who returns to his border hometown after the American Civil War to find that it is occupied by an ex-Confederate raider and Keoma’s very own half-brothers. To break their tyrannical rule, Keoma joins forces with his father’s former ranch hand to exact bloody revenge and free the town from these newfound and masochistic rulers.

As Spaghetti Western style films go, Keoma is in a league of its own featuring a surreal-like atmosphere and trippy mindset that definitely separates itself from the rest of the genre. I’ve always been a fan of Nero, especially his crime thriller work, and his guilty pleasure actioneer Enter the Ninja is a thing of ridiculous beauty. It’s a shame that Keoma is so underrated, but for me it has always been an entertaining flick.

Keoma says, "You better be good for goodness sake!"

Lost: Season 6
Year 2010

I would call myself a fan of this engaging series, but after my disappointment with the final season, I kind of went into hiding and withdrawal over the lackluster ending. Resulting from my viewing depression, I never ordered the 6th season of Lost, not really looking forward to revisiting such a letdown of a conclusion. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the ending ruined the whole series for me, but it made it extra hard for me to want to put down the money to round out my complete collection of the series, after I was so disappointed with the end.

Luckily my wife bit the bullet and ordered the last season for me for Christmas so that I can finally have the complete set. I could go on and on over the things that I loved and hated about the show, but in the end I don’t want to waste my time. After being hooked week after week with promises of questions being answered and then ultimately being hoodwinked by the end of the show’s run with so many things left untouched, I felt betrayed and abandoned, and if they didn’t feel the need to put the effort in then I’m not going to put any in divulging my thoughts on the series. Sorry, bitter rant almost over.

It goes without question that the ideas that the show brought to light were eye-opening and mind boggling, and for me I will always treasure those special moments of this series, but if you don’t wrap up or connect all of these wonderful ideas or elaborate on the mysteries you conjure up, it leaves the audience with a sour taste in their mouth, or at least in mine. Be that as it may, I still enjoy the series for what it is, but the magic doesn’t burn as bright as it did knowing that it all basically leads nowhere. Even with that sour taste in my mouth, I’ll still treasure the fact that my Lost collection is now complete.

All Jack wants for Christmas are some answers.

Snow White and the Huntsman
Director: Rupert Sanders
Year 2012

Where the hell did this fantastic fantasy film come from?!?! I just recently had the chance to check this movie out and I absolutely loved it. From the effects work to the stupendous characters, the film had it all, and I was quite surprised on how much I really dug the movie. Of course this is a loose retelling of the famous Snow White story, which is infused with a dark fantasy feel that just gives it a superb edge over the other iterations.

The movie is filled with some great and magical moments and it’s performed commendably by a very diverse cast of actors. Charize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Stewart, Sam Claflin, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, all do a tremendous job, with small magical moments provided by Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Toby Hones and the rest of the eclectic cast. Out of all of the movies of 2012, I found that Snow White and the Huntsman was the biggest surprise for my movie loving eyes, and I’m happy to report that it has found a home on my shelf next to my other favorite fantasy flicks.

I bet sugar plums are dancing in her head.

Ancient Aliens: Season 3
Year 2011

Those damn aliens are at it again! I can’t get enough of this show and its alternate look at man’s history. The possibilities that these Ancient Astronaut theorists bring up over the course of this series are so thought-provoking and genuinely mind-boggling that you can’t help but be swept up in the epic nature of it all, whether it’s true or not. I take in their theories with an open mind and view them as an inspirational doorway that showcases what could lie beyond what we don’t know about the universe and our past. The ideas are like something out of a science-fiction film, yet they are always based on some sort of solid evidence or relatable concept so as to give them a tinge of authenticity, and in that process it makes for some compelling viewing.

For me one of the most enduring things about this show is that it sparks so many ideas and theories that you could literally make hundreds of science fiction stories off of the series’ many subjects. I only wish that more sci-fi movies had the same mind set that these scientists and theorists have, as they delve deep into what makes us who we are while contradicting everything that we have been told is true up until this point of time. In my opinion, Prometheus was the closest thing to having an Ancient Aliens live action film and hopefully the ideas in this show will spark a more thought-provoking approach to science fiction films in the future. Whether you’re a believer or not, the series is an interesting look into an alternate history that really makes you think about what is real and what is fiction. So glad that I finally have my Season 3!

What a thoughtful gift!

….. And that concludes this year’s X-Mas Loot segment and if you stayed through the whole thing, you deserve a damn present yourself! Take care guys and have a Happy New Year!