The Monster and the Ape #4: Uninteresting Things and Uninterested People

The Monster and the Ape #4 The Fatal Search   For those of you playing The Monster and the Ape Home Game, the episode should start at approximately 1 hour 10 minutes in the OV Guide video. This chapter begins with our narrator, an obvious espresso fiend and probably the star of Dwain Esper’s Caffeine Madness!, telling us pretty much nothing of substance in this recap except the showcase action of last chapter — a fistfight — and we get to see the fight all over again, because there is no excuse The Monster and the Ape will not take to show a few punches being thrown: That’s Ken’s feet splayed proudly for our viewing enjoyment, one almost off the right side of the frame, the other planted snugly inside a henchman’s armpit. Soon after, he is knocked out on the conveyor belt, where he can be seen both unconscious and carefully adjusting his feet and shoulders, so he can easily slide into the furnace. Such a polite young man. When we last left what this pathetic serial calls our hero, Ken was gliding gently into the world’s largest Easy-Bake Oven, the doors closing behind him. A refresher screencap: We think we’re going to see him get sent into the furnace again, but no! The serial cheats! He jumps off the belt before he gets anywhere near those doors! Those bastards just cut the film about five seconds earlier than they did in the last chapter. Oooh, serial, I am disappoint. … Continue reading

Hitchcock Halloween Blogathon: Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

This is the SBBN entry for the Hitchcock Halloween Blogathon, hosted by Backlots. Check out their blog today for all the great entries — and Happy Halloween, everyone! *** Charlie Newton (Theresa Wright) has decided in a fit of late-teen pique that her family life needs some shaking up, that the small-town drudgery — and her father caring more about money than souls — was hurting them all. She decides Uncle Charlie was just the one to shake everything up and fix their problems. Unbeknownst to her, at the same time, her uncle Charlie Oakley (Joseph Cotten) is heading straight for her in the quiet town of Santa Rosa, California. Uncle Charlie is well-loved, his sister Emma (Patricia Collinge) having doted on him as a child, his niece Charlie idolizing him, and the entire small town of Santa Rosa impressed with his charm and business acumen. Soon it becomes clear that Uncle Charlie has a terrifying secret, and young Charlie finds herself in danger as she pieces together the truth about her uncle’s life. Director Alfred Hitchcock often said that Shadow of a Doubt was his favorite of all his own films, and it must have pleased him greatly to receive such positive reviews on its release. Many critics in the UK felt the film was the first to show Hitchcock had finally settled into his new American artistic life, while American critics fell toward praising its wartime message of being cautious of slick evildoers hiding in plain sight. Hitch … Continue reading

The Vincent Price Blogathon: The Tomb of Ligeia (1964)

This article on The Tomb of Ligeia is the SBBN entry for Nitrate Diva’s fantabulous Vincent Price Blogathon, held October 25 through 27th. Check out all the terrific entries! *** It is a clear, cold day in the early winter of 1838, and Verden Fell, current owner of the Castle Acre Priory, an astonishing 11th century monastery, is burying his beautiful young wife Ligeia. Verden (Vincent Price) tells the few assembled of his wife’s extraordinary beliefs: that mankind can shake off the shackles of the Christian God and embrace the Egyptian idols, and return from the dead. Ligeia (Elizabeth Shepherd) is not meant to be buried in consecrated ground for her sins, but Verden defies tradition and the church, and remains fully committed to the idea of her secular resurrection. After all the humans leave, a black cat watches over Ligeia’s grave. Nearly a year passes since her death when the spunky Lady Rowena Trevanion (also Elizabeth Shepherd) finds herself, after a fox hunt, amidst the beautiful ruins of the ancient abbey. She is thrown from her horse and lands directly atop Ligeia’s grave, briefly knocked out. Rousing herself from the garden of wild red asphodelus atop the tomb, Rowena sees the sleek black cat, still guarding the tombstone, but is shocked into a faint at the sudden appearance of Verden, so ashen his skin is the color of bone, and in dark glasses to ward his delicate eyes from the light. In the real world, we’d say Verden was … Continue reading

The Italian Horror Blogathon: Orgasmo (1969)

This is the SBBN entry for the 4th annual Italian Horror Blogathon hosted by our good friend Kevin at Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies. The ‘thon runs for a week, so keep checking in! *** Actress Carroll Baker spent 1967 reeling from a series of Hollywood setbacks, all of which began, somewhat ironically, after she achieved the biggest commercial success of her career. Having had a solid film and stage career for nearly a decade, Baker accepted the role of a Jean Harlow-esque blonde bombshell in The Carpetbaggers (1964). As she later said, she took the role because it was far removed from her iconic appearance as Baby Doll a decade earlier in the infamous film of the same name, and because she had thought the book was “great fun.” The soapy, scandalous Carpetbaggers went on to become a massive success, earning over $28 million, the fourth highest-grossing film of the year. It resurrected the careers of a few aging Hollywood actors, and briefly shot Baker and her leading man George Peppard into stardom. Carroll Baker in Harlow   Thinking Baker was on the cusp of international fame, Carpetbaggers producer Joe Levine signed Baker to a multi-million dollar contract, then immediately screwed her over. Levine was a bully and a hack, one of those long-time Hollywood producers who managed, simply by being around for decades, to produce a few classic films, but mostly spent his time on films like Santa Claus Vs. the Martians (1964) and The Oscar (1965). Thanks to … Continue reading

Slight Delay: The Monster and the Ape

Due to several deadlines and every appliance I have ever touched breaking down on the same day, there won’t be any Monster and the Ape this week. I hope it will resume next week, if time and work permits.

Warner Archive: Phil Spector (2013)

“I’m not standoffish, I’m inaccessible. Always have been.” Al Pacino as Phil Spector in David Mamet’s Phil Spector (2013)   Just past the clumsily-worded disclaimer that opens Phil Spector is a movie that makes very little sense. Its title, its subject matter, its very existence is utterly dependent on the very real Phil Spector, his victim Lana Clarkson, and Spector’s resultant murder trial, yet right out of the gate, the film wants to have it both ways. The first act of the film almost succeeds in its attempt to be both fact and fiction, with some outstanding moments from Jeffrey Tambor, Al Pacino and Helen Mirren. When the trial begins, however, the bullshit starts. Though some attempt was made in the Phil Spector publicity to present the film as a meditation on celebrity and a different take on the facts of the trial, it is, at best, a sad American version of Rashomon for the 21st century, where one of the storytellers is a cheesy made-for-TV movie. At worst, it’s an exercise in revisionist history done for some very specious reasons. With the release of Phil Spector, we finally achieved undeniable proof that playwright and director David Mamet is a cranky get-offa-my-lawn kind of guy, someone who writes a scene that hinges on a character, surely born in the early 1980s, having no idea what a 45 RPM record was. Since 45s were sold as singles well into the late 1980s, it’s almost impossible to believe this character lived his … Continue reading

The Monster and the Ape #3: Slower Than the Speed of Monkey

The Monster and the Ape #3 Flames of Fate Our narrator opens with exciting incomplete sentences! Suddenly! Just then! The wonder metal metalogen! Giant ape!   Spot the homoerotic subtext!   For those following along at home with the OV Guide version of the serial, this episode should start approximately 49 minutes in. During the three minute recap, we watch again as Ernst manages to evade Ken, who has been following him down the highway, by tapping his brakes a little bit, causing Ken to panic, wig out, go crazy, freak, and hurtle his car off a cliff and crash in a fiery, comet-like blaze below. This is hilarious, of course, but the resolution of the cliffhanger irks me to no end: Ken survives. Apologies for the lack of screencaps today. This chapter was almost too dark to watch, with permanent damage over on the right-hand side that obscured quite a bit of the frame.   As you can see — oh wait, you can’t, nobody can see it — this is the kind of crash Mythbusters has scientifically proven would kill anyone, no exceptions, but Ken walks away with nothing but his tie askew. Folks, it seems Ken has the Toomey gene. We will have to watch and evaluate this important development. Fair warning, though: If Ken starts taking naps during filming, I cannot be responsible for my actions. But now, back to the ape! Dick Nordik is in some zookeeper duds as he takes the monkey out of … Continue reading

Warner Archive: The Loved One (1965)

The Loved One (1965), a biting satire on American commercialism and the business of death, was billed on its release as “The Motion Picture with Something to Offend Everyone!”, and even today, this still holds true. Based on the 1948 Evelyn Waugh novel, it was written after his “humiliating success,” as he referred to it, when Hollywood showed interest in adapting Brideshead Revisited. Waugh, certain that the people of the United States were both dim and classless — per Wikipedia, he was devastated to learn that lower service classes spoke casually to the rich, for example — set out to skewer an America he clearly loathed, but after publication, Waugh nearly panicked at the possible backlash in the States. It did well, however, and one will always wonder how Waugh felt about the unwashed American masses actually appreciating his biting satire of their own culture. Two decades after the book’s release, the material was still considered too rough for cinematic treatment. Director Tony Richardson filmed it anyway, because in the mid 1960s, that’s what Tony Richardson did. He used the framework of the book for a raucous and not very faithful adaptation featuring tons of in-jokes, tacky ideas, and a cast list to drool over. And for those who think The Loved One would surely be considered quaint and inoffensive today, I direct you to the Rotten Tomatoes page, where plenty of modern-day reviewers wring their hands over the film’s ghastly lack of taste. Liberace, last seen on SBBN in … Continue reading

The Monster and the Ape #2: Bringing a Monkey to a Knife Fight

The Monster and the Ape Episode 2: The Edge of Doom When we last left everyone who bothered to show up for the first day of shooting on The Monster and the Ape, Ken was laying face down in a pit of sparks, Babs was stuck behind a false wall, Prof. Arnold was lying mostly unconscious on the floor, and Prof. Ernst was driving away with the remote control for the robot. Nobody else was paying any attention. Each episode begins and ends with a recap featuring an overwrought narrator accompanied by organ music, so I always expect another episode of Veterinarian’s Hospital (“The continuing story of a quack who’s gone to the dogs!”) but am always disappointed (“Oh, wow, Dr. Bob!”) Yeah, and now you wish you were watching The Muppet Show too, doncha? Haha. Suckers. Worry McNarrator segues us into a prelude that consists of nearly five full minutes of last week’s episode. Fortunately, this scene was shot all at once, thus the break between the two episodes is achieved with fluid editing, rather than by just turning the camera off in the midst of a punch and shouting, “Come back tomorrow!” That makes for a more pleasant segue experience than either Phantom Creeps or Raiders of Ghost City could provide, though I maintain Monster and the Ape including five damn minutes from last week’s show is four damn minutes too many. Movie pickle by Western Electric.   Still, this serial is competent; director Howard Bretherton spent most … Continue reading

Warner Archive: Gummo (1997)

Gummo (1997) is a difficult film that too often feels outrageous for the sake of outrageousness, though fans of the film seem to love it for just that reason. Personally, I’ve never been able to fully accept artistic expression that exploits people in order to show that sometimes our society exploits people. It’s impossible for me to reconcile the hypocrisy in that specific kind of artistic statement, though at the same time I don’t question those who have no moral qualms about it. At the end of the day, Gummo is the quintessential “your mileage may vary” film. Gummo is a series of loosely-connected episodes in the lives of poor families in a Xenia, Ohio that never recovered from the devastating tornadoes of 1974; this is a film that cannot be accused of having a plot. The film was shot entirely in Nashville, and features only a few professional actors, the rest of the cast mostly Nashville locals and friends of director Harmony Korine. Tummler (Nick Sutton) and Solomon (Jacob Reynolds) are the two young stars, such as they are, with supporting stories featuring three sisters (Chloe Sevigny, Clarissa Glucksman, and Ellen Smith), plus arguably the film’s most famous character, Bunny Boy (Jacob Sewell), who undeniably influenced 2001’s Donnie Darko. There is a recurring theme in Gummo, something that is admittedly fascinating on paper, but in practice is pretty disgusting, thanks to centering on the murder, torture and consumption of cats. Despite claims to the contrary, actual dead cats are … Continue reading