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 WOOLEY's Pre-Horrorthon Movie Extravaganza! 
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Yup, went there.
This movie was on HBO a bunch when I was young, but to be honest, I assumed it was gonna be just awful when I revisited it. It is actually apparently out of print and on no streaming services, almost certainly for obvious reasons.
The movie stars George Hamilton as the titular swashbuckler and his brother... Bunny. But I get ahead of myself.
Don Diego de la Vega is summoned home from Spain to his birthplace of Los Angeles in the 1840s. Upon arrival he learns that his father has died and he has inherited the ancestral lands and home... as well as the family legacy and his destiny. His father was the famous Zorro and his dying wish was that he - or his long-lost brother - take up the mantle of El Zorro and fight for the rights of the pipples. Unfortunately, his childhood friend is now the evil Alcalde whose tyranny knows no bounds and so begins his path into legend - until he is injured showboating and is unable to buckle any swash. While he recovers, the people suffer mightily under the Alcalde, who knows no mercy and has become obsessed with finding Zorro.
Things seem hopeless until one day he receives a surprise visitor: his long-lost twin Ramon. Well, er, Bunny. Bunny Wigglesworth. You see, Ramon actually ran off and joined the British Navy and, while ascending to become an officer, also learned something about himself... Diego urges him that the mantle of Zorro was his legacy as well and he must take up the cape and mask and defend the pipples in Diego's absence. Bunny reluctantly agrees, but under the stipulation that if he is to be Zorro, Zorro is going to need a bit more panache. And so is born Zorro, The Gay Blade.

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"Gay blade" is a term dating back to the 1600s when it meant a skilled swordsman. It later came to refer to a dashing young gentleman, later as more of a dandy, and finally as a more flamboyant homosexual. It is used in the title and in the film for literally ALL of these reasons, a clever idea that plays out, which his why Hamilton pressured the studio to keep the title.

So now, to answer the question... how was it?
Honestly, it was pretty damn fun. It's a surprisingly good little movie. And by that I mean that it is a small film without a huge budget, but it doesn't require one and is just a helluva lot better than I expected.
For the most part it rides on Hamilton's shoulders and I was left wondering, "Was George Hamilton always this good and if so, why didn't he get more serious work?" (Of course, it turns out he was nominated for a Golden Globe 3 times and at least one BAFTA). Here he plays Diego, a dashing, skilled, yet not-always-the-sharpest, upper-class Spaniard and, obviously, Zorro, the suave swashbuckling hero of the people. He also plays Bunny Wigglesworth, a somewhat flamboyantly (I live in New Orleans so he wasn't that flamboyant to me) homosexual British Naval Officer, who is the smartest person in the movie and quite the swashbuckler himself. But Hamilton also plays Bunny PLAYING ZORRO. For which he does not merely go back to Diego but plays a new version that is trying to mimic Diego but is always just having too much fun to help himself. Bunny also goes in disguise as a woman to a masquerade ball. So you have Hamilton as Diego and Zorro and Bunny and Bunny-playing-Zorro, as well as Bunny playing a ridiculous woman to boot. There is a great scene where Bunny is trying out being Zorro in front of a mirror and has only half of his face/hair made up to look like Diego and the other like himself and he actually does a back and forth dialogue between himself as a female peasant calling for help and Zorro coming to the rescue. It's really surprising.
Yet I guess it shouldn't be since, if I had done my homework I would have known that George Hamilton was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor for this performance.
He is not the only standout, though. Ron Leibman was, I thought, hilarious as the tyrannical, obsessive Alcalde and Brenda Vaccaro gets her laughs in as well. (Lauren Hutton, sadly, is given very little to do as she quickly goes from Champion of the People, to Lovestruck Fool.)
But all of the performances work because the script is surprisingly sharp. The dialogue really kinda whips (sorry) and while it's really, really silly at times, it almost comes off like a decent Mel Brooks movie, which I would say really was the inspiration for this. You can kinda feel the lineage between Blazing Saddles and this film, not to compare the two in greatness in any way, but there's a shared spirit, especially between how Blazing Saddles features an African-American character who is really the sharpest person in the movie and ultimately the hero, despite facing the usual racist barbs and setbacks and how Zorro: TGB features an openly-flamboyantly-gay character who is really the sharpest person in the movie and ultimately the hero, although there are a lot fewer jokes at his expense compared to BS, beyond a little mocking of his mannerisms. It's especially strong that upon his introduction, when Diego has not seen him for years, he is completely unfazed by Bunny's sexuality and flair and just embraces him as his long-lost brother and sets about scheming with him. In fact, to my amusement, the first time anyone refers to his behavior despairingly, that guy gets punched in the face. Whether they pulled off the same fine line that Saddles did with a sensitive subject, I don't know, but it seemed to me like they tried and it worked more often than not. The script's jokes about Diego's absurdly thick accent may not play so well today however. I don't know if jokes about a Spaniard having a really thick accent are inherently racist (I work with a guy I still can't understand after knowing him for 15 years and even HE jokes about it), but I did read one modern Latin American review that didn't take all that kindly to it. I suspect it doesn't play as well when the actor is not Spanish.

In conclusion, and damn I write way too much in these... write-ups, I will say that Zorro: The Gay Blade is a fun little parody with a fairly witty script, an impressive central performance, some good supporting characters, and a surprising complexity with regard to how people are portrayed on-screen.

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Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:31 pm
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Wooley wrote:
Zorro: The Gay Blade

Dang, I haven't thought about that one in forever. My mom was a fan if I recall. You're really diggin' deep, I like it.

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Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:06 pm
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Captain Terror wrote:
I think the Bava comments weren't any deeper than "it's foggy", but I've watched movies based on less, let's be honest. :)

Some of the early scenes are halfway atmospheric in a certain way people associate with some Bava movies (the fog helps), but it doesn't go much further than that.

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Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:58 pm
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Captain Terror wrote:
Dang, I haven't thought about that one in forever. My mom was a fan if I recall. You're really diggin' deep, I like it.

Yeah, the month has started to take a weird turn into early-80s deep-nostalgia, I gotta try to get it back on course. Which I shall.


Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:38 pm
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Rumpled wrote:
I need to see Class of 84 again (i actually was class of 84 as well) ;)


It's well worth it just for the bravura finale alone. :up:

So, the Nun wasn't utter nunsense?


Sat Sep 15, 2018 4:45 am
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Apex Predator wrote:

It's well worth it just for the bravura finale alone. :up:

So, the Nun wasn't utter nunsense?

I don't know man, I feel like that long-ass review I wrote basically said it was utter nonsense. Not without some pleasures, but not enough for the utter nonsense.


Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:22 pm
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Predominantly, but not entirely, utter nonsense.

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Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:24 pm
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Wooley? It pains me to inform you that Ganja & Hess is no longer available on Prime. I don't know exactly how they do these things, but I've noticed that some titles are far more limited than others, probably for promotional purposes. G&H was available for barely two weeks or so. Meanwhile I've had other titles on my watchlist for well over a year, patiently waiting for my sweet time.

But they've also recently added one of the Paul Naschy "Hombre Lobo" werewolf films, Fury of the Wolf Man. So if you haven't seen any or many Naschy Lobo films, then, well, good luck with that.


Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:35 pm
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Jinnistan wrote:
Paul Naschy


Even I don't understand the appeal of this guy.


Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:37 pm
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crumbsroom wrote:

Even I don't understand the appeal of this guy.

I kinda do. 1) He looks like a sober John Belushi; 2) Werewolves are cool and their fans are desperate; 3) Voluptuous actresses; 4) Utterly bizarre editing schemes.


Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:40 pm
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If I wanted to get in on these utterly bizarre editing schemes (or points 1-3), what would be a good place to start?

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Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:44 pm
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Jinnistan wrote:
I kinda do. 1) He looks like a sober John Belushi; 2) Werewolves are cool and their fans are desperate; 3) Voluptuous actresses; 4) Utterly bizarre editing schemes.


1) A sober John Belushi sounds like a terrible thing.

2) Fair point

3) I guess.

4) Don't make me watch more of these.


Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:52 pm
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Rock wrote:
If I wanted to get in on these utterly bizarre editing schemes (or points 1-3), what would be a good place to start?

Probably either the first one, Mark of the Wolfman, or Curse of the Beast, or The Werewolf vs. The Vampire Woman (with Barbara Steele). They tend to all have four or five different names each, so be careful. For example, Curse of the Demon is one of the very worst, not to be confused with Beast.

crumbsroom wrote:
1) A sober John Belushi sounds like a terrible thing.

Correction: a terrifying thing.

crumbsroom wrote:
4) Don't make me watch more of these.

I thought that vaguely psychotic amateurism was right in your wheelhouse. Anyway, the films are not so different as to require seeing more than a handful. You should know when you've seen enough.


Sat Sep 15, 2018 2:21 pm
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Jinnistan wrote:
Wooley? It pains me to inform you that Ganja & Hess is no longer available on Prime. I don't know exactly how they do these things, but I've noticed that some titles are far more limited than others, probably for promotional purposes. G&H was available for barely two weeks or so. Meanwhile I've had other titles on my watchlist for well over a year, patiently waiting for my sweet time.

But they've also recently added one of the Paul Naschy "Hombre Lobo" werewolf films, Fury of the Wolf Man. So if you haven't seen any or many Naschy Lobo films, then, well, good luck with that.

Well, I actually have a LOT of streaming services so I may still be able to find it.
And I will definitely get on the Paul Naschy stuff, I have let them remain a mystery far too long.


Sat Sep 15, 2018 10:54 pm
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Jinnistan wrote:
I kinda do. 1) He looks like a sober John Belushi; 2) Werewolves are cool and their fans are desperate; 3) Voluptuous actresses; 4) Utterly bizarre editing schemes.

Sold.


Sat Sep 15, 2018 10:54 pm
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Jinnistan wrote:
The Werewolf vs. The Vampire Woman (with Barbara Steele).

Sold and sold!!!


Sat Sep 15, 2018 10:56 pm
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Wooley wrote:
Well, I actually have a LOT of streaming services so I may still be able to find it.

Yes, I see now that it's on Shudder.


Sun Sep 16, 2018 10:51 am
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So I watched another movie and I said, Oh man, you gotta start writing down what you watched since sometimes you're coming back to write about them days later, and I thought, nah it's not like you're gonna forget you watched a movie.
So I forgot the last movie I watched. Cannot for the life of me remember what it was. Pretty sure I watched it from Prime, but that doesn't seem to let you track what you watched unless you had to pay for it.
So I have no content at the moment. I'm hoping it'll come back to me and hopefully tomorrow night and certainly Monday, I can get some more movies in.


Sun Sep 16, 2018 12:58 pm
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Wooley wrote:
So I watched another movie and I said, Oh man, you gotta start writing down what you watched since sometimes you're coming back to write about them days later, and I thought, nah it's not like you're gonna forget you watched a movie.


Did you watch it on a streaming service? Should be in your history if so.


Sun Sep 16, 2018 9:27 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:

Did you watch it on a streaming service? Should be in your history if so.

I looked, I can't find any history in Amazon Prime (which is what I think I used) or iTunes. But I may have actually watched it on YouTube, but I definitely don't see it in my history there.
I actually started to watch Survivors and I thought, "This'll be fun but you're too far afield and undermining the purpose of this exercise. This is supposed to be a wind-up to October, not a nostalgia for forgotten 80s movies." So I turned it off and watched something more thrillery, I think. But I cannot remember what it was. And I was sober. Weird.


Sun Sep 16, 2018 9:44 pm
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Wooley wrote:
I looked, I can't find any history in Amazon Prime (which is what I think I used) or iTunes. But I may have actually watched it on YouTube, but I definitely don't see it in my history there.


I don't remember about Prime, but for some weird reason, Hulu's watch history is only accesible via mobile device (cell phone, tablet). Don't remember if Prime is like that also, but a quick Google search should help you find it.

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Mon Sep 17, 2018 12:06 am
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Jinnistan wrote:


I thought that vaguely psychotic amateurism was right in your wheelhouse.

That's a pretty fair description of what whets my appetite, but I never found that with the handful of Naschy's I watched. I thought they were dull in the way the worst Jess Franco movies are (a la Orloff Vs. The Invisible Dead). It's possible I watched the wrong ones. I don't even remember what they were, to be honest. Probably some wolfman shit. But they didn't leave me with any great sense that I should be investigating any further.


Mon Sep 17, 2018 12:55 am
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I watched my first Naschy film last year, The Hunchback of the Morgue. It was terrible, but definitely a memorable experience. Here's a couple of tidbits from the IMDB trivia page:

Permission was given to use a real corpse for the head-severing scene. However, Paul Naschy took two swigs of whiskey because he couldn't get past the first cut into the throat. A dummy head was used thereafter.

In the most talked-about scene, Paul Naschy was set upon by real rats. He had to be inoculated against possible rabies. It was also María Elena Arpón, and not a mannequin, lying on a slab with the rodents nestling and nibbling all over her. Some of the rats were burned alive on camera.

I'll let you decide if this is a recommendation or not.

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Mon Sep 17, 2018 1:06 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
Some of the rats were burned alive on camera.


Hard pass.


Mon Sep 17, 2018 1:16 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
Some of the rats were burned alive on camera.[/i]


I've seen my share of films with such scenes in them, and my reaction is always the same: Never again. It never sticks, but it is always my reaction. Any examples of true life cruelty never fails to enrage me, and keeps me from ever revisiting the work, even if I love the film (there are some exceptions for this, like Andrei Rublev, or Rules of the Game, but that's usually because I usually forget about the scene until it happens). I'm equally adverse to the poor treatment of actors on camera. It's why I'll never go near Deep Throat, why I question if I'll ever watch Last Tango again (one of my favourite movies of all time) and why pigshit like Forced Entry is to this day only one of two films I regret having allowed myself to come in contact with (and forever ended my pursuit of more and more socially unacceptable films). I generally will give a pass to scenes of slaughterhouses, because as a person who does eat meat, it would be grossly hypocritical of me to turn my nose up at what I am contributing to, but it still makes me painfully uncomfortable. As hardened as I am to fictionalized acts of vile behavior, I'm pathologically sensitive to actual cruelty. An episode on 60 minutes about a mother lion having to abandon her cub kept me bedridden for days. I can barely even bring myself to watch a Maury Povich paternity test without burying my head in the covers until the universe disappears. So that particular film won't be happening in my near future.


Mon Sep 17, 2018 1:31 am
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crumbsroom wrote:
As hardened as I am to fictionalized acts of vile behavior, I'm pathologically sensitive to actual cruelty.

Same here. In this example, the screen is full of rats scurrying around and some of them are clearly on fire but it happens so fast that it's enough to put some doubt in your mind. I had to go to IMDB to confirm it. So it's not quite as traumatizing as a prolonged closeup of a burning rat or anything, but its still disturbing enough when you learn the facts.
I always wonder about the mentality that leads a director to believe that this shitty movie is worth actually killing animals for. Not that a "better" movie gets to do it either, but this one? THIS one? Hunchback of the Freakin' Morgue was worth it?

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Mon Sep 17, 2018 1:55 am
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Captain Terror wrote:
I watched my first Naschy film last year, The Hunchback of the Morgue. It was terrible, but definitely a memorable experience. Here's a couple of tidbits from the IMDB trivia page:

In the most talked-about scene, Paul Naschy was set upon by real rats. He had to be inoculated against possible rabies. It was also María Elena Arpón, and not a mannequin, lying on a slab with the rodents nestling and nibbling all over her. Some of the rats were burned alive on camera.

I'll let you decide if this is a recommendation or not.

Nope.


Mon Sep 17, 2018 5:50 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

Hard pass.


There's nothing particularly hard about that pass at all. Now I'm not as protective of animals as Takoma or Z would have been, but having been adopted by cats for most of my life, I just don't see the point of it. Who gets that on camera and decides that it's entertainment?

If I do decide to see a Naschy, I'll have to make sure something like that doesn't occur in the film.


Tue Sep 18, 2018 2:27 am
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Yet another movie my parents failed to prevent me from seeing far too young. When you're 13, things like this seem so edgy and dark, and I guess the subject matter is, but I remembered there being a lot more darkness in it than there was.
I also remember it being a lot better movie. A lot.
But let me get to the plot, which is not the worst I've seen.
The story centers around a man known as The Doctor, who is the world's greatest expert in the field of torture. He is paid well for his services and knowledge by Second World dictators and the like and is well-situated in Guatemala where he enjoys a symbiotic relationship with the imaginary military government the movie suggests. The man is so evil that the film opens with him giving a lecture to a room full of military officers on the best way to torture people. The lecture ends with him electrocuting a journalist in front of his audience.

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Unfortunately for him, the journalist was a friend of Charles Bronson.
Bronson plays Holland, a retired killer living a peaceful life in The Cayman Islands. The great Jose Ferrer, Cyrano De Bergerac himself, who was clearly handed the script and his paycheck as he walked on set, informs Holland of his friend's death and tries to recruit him to avenge the death of his friend and put an end to The Doctor.
Somehow the ensuing events are stretched to a theatrical-release time of 1h25m, largely with a sort of side-quest of killing each of The Doctor's elite bodyguards, none of which are elite enough to not be killed almost immediately by a 62 year-old man (yeah, he looks pretty good for his age, but that's how old Bronson is in this film) and then some other business about Holland and the wife and daughter of his late friend
But along the way, Bronson does what Bronson does.

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On the one hand, I feel like I've been way too harsh on this film because it is yet another of the movies from early days of having HBO, from, say 1981-1986 or so, that I have memories of being much better than they actually were. This is a pretty low-budget film, the actors who are not pretty well-known are not very good and the ones who are really do seem like they learned their lines about 90 seconds before the director yelled "Action!". The only one who seems like he's trying is The Doctor, and I suspect it was just that the actor thought this might finally have been his break. It's really not that bad, considering what it actually is.
On the other hand, it does kinda suffer from things I've already talked about a lot in this thread, movies (like Killer Fish and Megaforce, for example) that stretch out unnecessary scenes in order to break the minimum run-time for theatrical release. The acting is often poor and mostly wooden and the story is a really simple revenge story that kinda comes off as just too easy. This movie falls in between Death Wish 2 and 3, when Bronson was kinda cashing in before he got too old to even be in a movie, so you kinda know what you're getting. Maybe I'm just disappointed that this wasn't as dark and edgy as I'd remembered, although it does have plenty of people getting killed and I guess I've seen a lot worse movies, really.
Anyway, if you've watched any of these kinda movies, you could watch this one and it wouldn't hurt you or anything, but I'm not sure there's a ton to be gained by it. I'm kinda glad I went back and found out and kinda sorry I did too.


Fri Sep 21, 2018 12:17 pm
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Haven't seen that one, but I feel like J. Lee Thompson's relative competence was a hindrance in his work for Cannon Films. Death Wish 4: The Crackdown is somehow almost as ridiculous as Death Wish 3 but infinitely more boring, while The Ambassador seems like it's playing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict fairly tactfully until it completely shits the bed with the ending.

Picture a massacre of unarmed students by PLO militants, but played like the climax of a Chuck Norris movie.

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Fri Sep 21, 2018 12:26 pm
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Saw it as a kid. Found it difficult to get through. In addition to the journalist being tortured to death they also torture an innocent young woman to death. And they play videotaped interviews of the Doctor's surviving victim's for Bronson's character to encourage him to hunt the guy down.

Distasteful. And, sadly, there are people like that who have and do exist in real life.

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Sat Sep 22, 2018 1:00 am
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Death Proof wrote:
Saw it as a kid. Found it difficult to get through. In addition to the journalist being tortured to death they also torture an innocent young woman to death. And they play videotaped interviews of the Doctor's surviving victim's for Bronson's character to encourage him to hunt the guy down.

Distasteful. And, sadly, there are people like that who have and do exist in real life.


All that's kinda true. The movie suggests more than it shows, to be honest. It's funny because I remembered the movie doing things it actually doesn't. Maybe that's what the director was doing, there's so much horror suggested but never shown that he is able to get away with this not actually being a snuffy kinda deal and in fact making the idea of what the torturer is far worse than anything that takes place during the film.


Sat Sep 22, 2018 1:32 pm
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I finally remembered the movie I completely forgot watching the other night.
Funny thing is I really liked it.
Review to follow, but probably not til tomorrow morning.


Mon Sep 24, 2018 11:39 am
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This one is a bit special because it was one of my late brother's favorites and he had some quirky tastes, but it's always meaningful to me to watch one that he really liked.
That said, I have not seen this movie in 30 years and, while I think I'd seen it in its entirety, it is possible that I only saw it in parts as I came in while he was watching it this time or that.
So coming to this, I remembered very little and had high hopes but low expectations.
Perhaps that is why I enjoyed it so much.

This is the story of a boy named Vic, I wanna say he's only 18, living alone in the post-apocalyptic world. Alone, that is, except for his dog.

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You see, he and his dog share a very special gift: they can communicate telepathically. This is not a common trait in the wasteland and it creates an obvious bond between them, even thought they don't always seem to like each other. The dog, Blood, is a cranky, moody, condescending, misanthrope, and Vic is a reckless teen, basically following his dick wherever it takes him and dragging poor Blood along with them. But Vic is a good shot and a good survivor, while Blood, aside from being hyper-intelligent, has all the tracking abilities you'd expect. They need each other to survive but there's more to their relationship, even though neither would ever admit it. They are more like brothers that grudgingly tolerate each other, silently knowing that their relationship is much deeper than their constant arguing would suggest, and they keep each other alive.

One of the things I liked about this movie was its depiction of life in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. It is wild and wooly, as one would expect, but without the outlandish theatricality that we have come to know through the Mad Max influence. It is grimy and grungy, short on food and water (and black leather), and violence is simply a part of survival. And you get the sense that it's been this way for a long time. No one is trying to make things better. Everyone is just trying to get by and the simplest pleasures, like getting to watch old spliced up film-reels, and actually getting a little bit of popcorn, are worth a days worth of food. Sexual violence is treated with the same matter-of-fact indifference as everything else. Pleasure is a resource and is either traded for or taken. It's all quite grim but played very straight and that's what makes it the right backdrop for when our heroes are pulled apart and the boy has to go on his strangest adventure without his dog.
Because that's when he meets these crazy fuckers:

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I don't think it would be fun for me to tell you what the second-half of this film is about other than to say the Boy is contending with some pretty crazy shit he definitely never saw coming during his life in the wasteland. And for the firs time, he has to do it alone.
I'm not gonna hem or haw on this one, I really liked this movie. I thought L.Q. Jones, always known to me as an actor, did a helluva job on a small budget here, with a great little story by Speculative Fiction legend Harlan Ellison, and elevated (as he always does) by the presence of Jason Robards (one of the great elevators in American cinema, if you ask me). I was so sure this would just be Robards slumming and phoning it in, but he gives Lou Craddock the real treatment and that makes the bizarre second half of this film really pulse and really work. He is sinister without being sinister always at ease regardless of what happens and it just plays. Don Johnson is fun and charismatic and convincing, Suzanne Benton is effective as the constantly scheming Quilla June, and Tim McIntire gives Blood a voice and temperament that are hilariously out of place in the wasteland, as he nearly learns what he deep down he clearly already knows, that a Dog won't survive without his Boy.

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I really enjoy these things, these obscure but well-built fringe movies, ones that actually pull off what they're going for, and especially if it involves science fiction or speculative fiction or also anything gritty and edgy, and this kinda has all that. I get why my brother liked it.


Tue Sep 25, 2018 12:49 am
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I think that what I like the most about A Boy and His Dog is that it fully knows that its protagonist is a total tool. In the unrestrained, wild post-apocalypse, he's just a walking id. And in kind of a nice way, it allowed me to watch the proceedings with a more indifferent eye. Once you've seen your "hero" threaten to mutilate someone if they won't have sex with him, the premise of him not surviving is suddenly a lot more palatable. Everyone in this world is out for number one, and the film wastes no time trying to get us to see the protagonist as somehow more moral or deserving of life than anyone else.

And the dog is totally the best character.


Tue Sep 25, 2018 5:19 am
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I only remember glimpses from A Boy and His Dog, but the choice the boy is forced to make at the end of the film still brings a smile to my face. It's definitely one I'd like to revisit.


Tue Sep 25, 2018 5:35 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
I think that what I like the most about A Boy and His Dog is that it fully knows that its protagonist is a total tool. In the unrestrained, wild post-apocalypse, he's just a walking id. And in kind of a nice way, it allowed me to watch the proceedings with a more indifferent eye. Once you've seen your "hero" threaten to mutilate someone if they won't have sex with him, the premise of him not surviving is suddenly a lot more palatable. Everyone in this world is out for number one, and the film wastes no time trying to get us to see the protagonist as somehow more moral or deserving of life than anyone else.

And the dog is totally the best character.

Yes, absolutely! I don't know if I thought about it quite that way, but I was certainly aware that the movie was aware that he was a total tool. And the dog even tells you so.
But it definitely makes the whole thing much more watchable and actually allows the film to be a little harsher in its depiction. I wonder if that was Jones' call or if Ellison wrote it that way. I'll need to read it and find out.
And yes, the dog is the best character.


Tue Sep 25, 2018 6:51 am
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I haven't seen this movie since I was a teenager, probably because I dislike Travolta (as an actor... and now that I think about it, fuck him for the Adele Dazeem SNAFU, that was disgraceful), but I remembered that I liked it when I was 15 and DePalma so I went back.
Wow.
This is, arguably, DePalma's best film. I mean, I haven't seen Mission To Mars, but it feels to me like it's probably between Blow Out and Carlito's Way. I'm not a Scarface man. The film is well-plotted, well-written, well-acted, well-filmed, well-edited, and has pretty damn good sound to boot. It has great visual style, what may be the single best scene I've ever seen in a De Palma film, and does a great job of building from a place of humor in the beginning through a growing tension throughout the film to an ending that... well, I'll let you see it. There are some music problems, but that might be my only gripe.
This is the story of a "sound-man" who works for a low-budget film studio, who witnesses something he shouldn't have and gets pulled into something he can't let go of. He goes out that night to the lake to record "better wind" and while he is recording, he directs his microphone to various other interests.

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Finally, he points his mic toward an oncoming car. He hears a loud bang, the car swerves violently and goes off the road into a lake. He dives in to help and saves (Sally) Nancy Allen from drowning... but is not able to save the Governor of Pennsylvania who was a bout to announce his candidacy for the U.S. Presidency.
Back at the hospital, not knowing who the driver was, Travolta is surprised to be treated with such aggressiveness by the police and even more surprised when a mysterious "friend" of the governor's comes in and tells him to forget the whole thing and tell no one that it ever happened.

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But Travolta doesn't cotton to that and has some interest in Sally, so he doesn't drop it. Back at his studio he listens to the recording and is convinced that he hears a gunshot just before the "blow out" of the car's tire. From here, his world spins in to a frantic mix of intrigue...

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...murder...

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... and well-composed shots with cool lighting that prove once and for all that John Lithgow is menacing and Dennis Franz is HOT.

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Really, this was quite good. It's a fascinating film that combines Hitchcockian Giallo (is all Giallo, by definition, Hitchockian?), topical political intrigue (the JFK assassination, grassy knoll conspiracy, and Zapruder film, as well as the Chappaquiddick incident are strongly suggested), and an obviously very strong reference to Antonioni's Blow Up, as well as an amusing subversion of Psycho's famous "shower scene" that seems like a joke at first but becomes critical to the plot. The direction and cinematography are obviously aces and, somehow, I can't fucking believe it but somehow, John Travolta is really good in this. I am surprised that it was kind of a box-office flop in its day but unsurprised that it was a critical success.
I leave you with the words of Roger Ebert:
"...Blow Out... is his best and most original work... De Palma doesn't have just a handful of ideas to spin out to feature length. He has an abundance... Blow Out stands by itself. It reminds us of the violence of Dressed to Kill, the startling images of The Fury, the clouded identities of Sisters, the uncertainty of historical "facts" from Obsession, and it ends with the bleak nihilism of Carrie. But it moves beyond those films, because this time De Palma is more successful than ever before at populating his plot with three-dimensional characters; they're not pawns of the plot. Best of all, this movie is inhabited by a real cinematic intelligence."


Wed Sep 26, 2018 12:19 am
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Blow Out should definitely be considered one of DePalma's best. But there is lots of competition. Carrie, Scarface, Carlito, Sisters, Phantom, even Dressed To Kill. Of course the correct answer is Body Double, but there is no need to be completely and utterly inflexible about this.


Wed Sep 26, 2018 12:40 am
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I saw Blow Out for the first time about a year ago and I thought it was pretty darn good. I love how DePalma chooses to focus on the psyche of the two main characters instead of the whole conspiracy, he features a lot of nifty camera tricks throughout the film, lead performances range from good (Allen) to great (Travolta and Lithgow), and the ending is a perfectly set gut punch. My main complaint would be with the lead-up to that ending; I felt DePalma needed a bit of restraint there, but other than that, it's great.

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Wed Sep 26, 2018 1:04 am
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crumbsroom wrote:
Blow Out should definitely be considered one of DePalma's best. But there is lots of competition. Carrie, Scarface, Carlito, Sisters, Phantom, even Dressed To Kill. Of course the correct answer is Body Double, but there is no need to be completely and utterly inflexible about this.

I like Body Double a lot, but because I like its strengths so much; it has some significant weaknesses if I remember correctly, and Blow Out really doesn't. Same with Dressed To Kill.


Wed Sep 26, 2018 1:12 am
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I am just reading that, before settling on this film, De Palma was considering directing Flashdance. Now how interesting would that have been?


Wed Sep 26, 2018 1:20 am
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New York times review of Blow Out from 1981:

https://www.nytimes.com/1981/07/24/movies/travolta-stars-in-depalma-s-blow-out.html

I also forgot to mention the amusing name drop of a film title purportedly made by the film company Travolta's character works for: Bordello Of Blood.
It turns out that Bordello Of Blood was actually written by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis in 1973 as an exploitation film to help them break into the film industry but it was never made, at least not until the mid-1990s.
Is there any chance De Palma wasn't referencing what eventually became the second Tales From The Crypt movie as a little wink and nod?


Wed Sep 26, 2018 1:39 am
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Blow Out is great. And call me crazy, but I actually like it more than Blow Up and The Conversation, which are great for like, themes and depth and stuff, but don't have as much amazeballs steadicam work. As for the best De Palma, I'm open to the ones being bandied about (except maybe Phantom of the Paradise, which does nothing for me), and will throw Femme Fatale into the mix, which is has top tier suspensing and that great Cannes scene, even though the story ends up being kinda (or maybe total) ass.

Travolta strikes me as someone who probably needs a good director to put him to use. The quality of his performances is way too variable for him to be good or shite deep down.

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Wed Sep 26, 2018 11:36 am
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Rock wrote:
Phantom of the Paradise, which does nothing for me

*hides in attic to compose a gorgeously unrequited rock opera*

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Thu Sep 27, 2018 6:59 am
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Jinnistan wrote:
*hides in attic to compose a gorgeously unrequited rock opera*

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I am actually a fan.


Thu Sep 27, 2018 9:23 am
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Man, this was so much better than I expected.
Yes, I have seen it before, but again, as has become a common theme in this thread, not for about 30 years. I expected this to be at the level of the lowest budget stuff I've actually been watching, maybe right around Killer Fish level (I want to reiterate that Killer Fish is NOT that bad, it's just kinda dragged out to its run-time).
But no, this is a legitimate, Corman-level production, kinda right around the same quality-tier as Humanoids From The Deep.
And I really appreciate it's urgent, but not-too-urgent, self-awareness, as demonstrated in the scene where our lead character's boss is trying to drag her away from playing the arcade game of Jaws.
I'm not sure this requires a plot synopsis, but what the hell. Two young people on a camping trip go missing and decide to go for a late-night swim in a sort of pool they find at some abandoned military installation. It does not go well. Subsequently, a missing-persons private-inverstigator type with a great track-record, Maggie McKeown, is dispatched by the families to find them. What she finds is military mischief in the form of genetically-altered Piranha, the plan having been to breed piranha that could live in fresh or salt water and would breed incredibly fast and dump them into the waters in Vietnam, routing out the guerrilla elements of their army. Or something like that.
Unfortunately before this discovery, she, with the help of a local drunk (who crawled into a bottle after his wife left, so he's wounded but heroic), release the piranha into the local water system which feeds into boating lakes, summer camps, a town's water-resort, and ultimately, the sea (remember, they are both fresh AND salt-water). Attempts are made to stop the spread, but they get through...

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... and wreak havoc on swimmers, fisherman, water-skiers, really anyone in their path.

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Honestly, this was not the worst low-budget "Jaws ripoff" I've seen by a long-sight. There is actually a script. Acting occurs. The narrative makes sense and does not take too many weird detours to bulk-up the run-time. Although why Barbara Steele was cast in this, I cannot imagine.
Anyway, solid fun I wouldn't hesitate to revisit and honestly, amusingly, MUCH less exploitative than the recent remake despite the original being a 70s Corman production. Go figure.


Thu Sep 27, 2018 10:58 am
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Wooley wrote:
I am actually a fan.

A phan, even?

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Thu Sep 27, 2018 11:11 am
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I enjoyed Piranha when I watched it a few months ago. Obviously the piranha attacks are not up to Jaws standards, but a little sense of humour goes a long way in these things. (I also like the movie owning up to its "influence" by having the heroine play a Jaws arcade game right at the beginning.)

As for other Jaws ripoffs, I recently watched The Car and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. It's always been on my radar (a buddy I've known since high school is a big fan) but only got around to it now. It's much dumber than Jaws (and Piranha, for that matter), but it looks really nice and the car looks appropriately mean.

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Thu Sep 27, 2018 11:15 am
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Rock wrote:
I enjoyed Piranha when I watched it a few months ago. Obviously the piranha attacks are not up to Jaws standards, but a little sense of humour goes a long way in these things. (I also like the movie owning up to its "influence" by having the heroine play a Jaws arcade game right at the beginning.)

As for other Jaws ripoffs, I recently watched The Car and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. It's always been on my radar (a buddy I've known since high school is a big fan) but only got around to it now. It's much dumber than Jaws (and Piranha, for that matter), but it looks really nice and the car looks appropriately mean.

Yeah, Up From The Depths and Barracuda (which I already dealt with and was just sorta left in awe of how limp it was in every way) are the real nitty gritty low-budget rip-off of Jaws.


Thu Sep 27, 2018 12:32 pm
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