Friday, January 28, 2011

Film #53: The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)

The Statue of Liberty is such a slut.

Just look at her, standing there all sultry like with her pursed lips and painted on dress.

No wonder this harlot keeps attracting so many destructive monsters to New York City.

Bad girls pick up bad men, who in turn do bad things to impress them… like destroy the country's biggest city.

Once again, Liberty’s loose ways leads to disaster in this week’s flick, “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.”

The US Army is up to their old tricks again in the Arctic Circle, conducting non-descript experiments with nuclear weapons. But after firing off a Jap-Zapper on a huge hunk of ice, the blast de-ices an enormous prehistoric dinosaur that's been frozen underneath (20,000 fathoms underneath, to be exact) the ice for 100 million years. Like any man awakened from a long nap, Dino comes out pissed and hungry!

Scientist Tom Nesbitt, exploring the nuked area, sees the Dino-Beast but isn’t believed by his superiors, including leading state-side paleontologist Thurgood Elson. Not believed, that is, until reports of the beast heading down the North American Atlantic Coast start to appear.

Seems the “Sea Serpent” has been treating ships that cross his path like a box of sardines. He peels away the lid and snacks down on some man-meat.

Nesbitt doesn’t have to convince Elson’s lovely assistant Lee, who immediately sides with the handsome Tom and his crackhead theories of atomic freed dinosaurs. Ah, what looks will do to a gal.

Finally, the army believes Tom’s stories and begins to make preparations in case the dinosaur decides to vacation in the US.
Plotting out the Beast’s path of destruction, the Army determines the monster is headed right for…gasp!... New York City!

You know what happens next. One glimpse at that aforementioned independent whore standing at NYC’s waterway entrance sends the Beast into a horny, destructive frenzy.

Can the US Army stop the Dino from massacring Manhattan? Will Tom Nesbitt and Lee sustain a relationship based on dinosaurs? Who hasn’t crawled up inside Lady Liberty?
Find out, in the 1953 atomic-age classic, “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms”

RDHP Ratings and Reviews

C-Rating: 2.1
Chris Dimick roars:
“Ice cream is delicious. In fact, given the right circumstances – long day, hot apartment, raging Man-struation – I might just kill a man for a frosty pint of Ben and Jerry’s Americone Dream. But as the saying goes, if I ate ice cream every night, I’d probably get sick of it.

Such is the case with The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms plot. I’ve ingested too many atomic-bomb-unleashes-giant-beast-on-NYC movies to enjoy the experience when another one slides down my movie-hole. It is just so tired.

To be fair, Beast is the first of the atomic-age creature features, and actually was the inspiration for the Japanese knock off Godzilla (at least according to IMDB). This knocked the picture up .6 points in my book… you have to respect original originality.

The other 1.5 points comes from the beautiful effects created by FX master Ray Harryhausen (seen below), who would go on to become a legend in Hollywood for his work on films like Jason and the Argonauts, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and 20 Million Miles to Earth. Even today, and in a borrrrrrrrrrrrrrring movie, Harryhausen enchants with his monsters and models.

True, this is the first of its kind and spawned decade’s worth of atom-age monster flicks. But watching Beast in 2011, the originality has since faded, due to countless knock offs, into just a completely predictable and unentertaining watch.
So many films have copied this template that in retrospect the film seems cliché and worn. At one point in the film, Nick and I got into a spontaneous debate about the modern day relevance of news organizations that spanned a good 10 minutes.
After agreeing to disagree and returning to the movie, we realized we didn’t miss a single plot point. Yep, it was that predictable.

I’m sure at the time this monster movie was as innovative as Cloverfield – the best and most gripping of the modern day monster movies.
But a man can only eat so many pints of ice cream before he longs for a different flavor. Cloverfield provided a new creamy concoction of the old classic.
With this old classic, I’ve just grown tired of the taste.

N-Rating: 1.9
Nick Rich roars:
"I must say, for a film that had a 'cast of thousands' and was 'over a year in the making' The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms was a bit of a disappointment. However, it did provide me with just what I wanted for this week's viewing (a no thinking, brain vacation)... but for me to recommend this film to anyone based on its merit alone would be just plain irresponsible.

Sure, there were a few times where I thought "wow, I bet this really wowed people back in the day" and sure, the main character had a random accent that came and went (which is just good corny fun), but as I've expressed in the past, this is not nearly enough to make a film a winner in my book. There has to be some pizazz, some razzmatazz in order to coax a decent rating out of this half of the RDHP... and TBf20kF just didn't deliver.

Like Chris I too enjoyed and respected the artistry of Ray Harryhausen displayed in this film. His Beast was really something to behold and waiting for its next appearance was just about the only thing I had to look forward while watching the paper-thin story unfold. But no matter how impressive the Beast was, the story was equally not and even though this flick only weighed in at a moderate 80 minutes it felt way too long.

Yes, I know it is significant because it was the first flick to explore this storyline and I'll give it said props... but props don't make for an entertaining ride. Harsh, but true! Such is life in the big city I suppose (as our Beast found out)! Honestly, I don't have much more to say, so unlike TBf20kF I will keep my runtime down to an appropriate length.

The Skinny: Check this flick out if you're not in the mood to think and have absolutely nothing else to do... or if you'd like to host a MST3K party and need a film for fodder.

Things We Learned From The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms:
-The 1950s loved them some Army.
-Nick gets disappointed when Chris agrees with him on an issue.
-Scientists don’t believe in monsters, but UFOs? Maybe.
-Sexy scientists were abundant in the 1950s.
-Monsters hate boats. Really hate ‘em.
-You can make “coffee so strong it can enter the Olympics.”
-Phone operators listen to your conversations.
-Radiation is the cure for, and cause of, all of life’s problems.
-In a fight, an Octopus can kick a Shark's ass.
-Smoking looked so satisfying in the 1950s.
-Old ballads can warm you even when the fog is a foot thick.
-Destruction is pretty:

Quote of the Viewing:
[As the Beast tears ass through New York City, one brave cop tires to be a hero by firing his six-shooter at the giant dino. The Beast picks him up and chomps him down, looking satisfied.]

Chris: “(In Dino Voice) Mmmmm, tastes like bacon.”

RDHP Presents:
Other Monsters Who’ve
Destroyed New York City
The Beast is just one of many to go on a rampage on the streets of New York City. And we aren’t even counting Lindsay Lohan on a bender. Below, we examine some of the other monsters who have taken a bite out of the Big Apple.

King Kong
At least he did it for love.

Paybacks are a bitch, aren’t they “Allied Forces.”

Cloverfield Monster
At least he did it with originality.

Donald Trump
Who could forget when his Ego broke free of his hair trap and ran amok in the 1980s, and again in the 2000s. Ironically, the fickleness of America, the very thing that created his rampage, eventually banished this beast to obscurity.

Mother Nature – in The Day After Tomorrow
Don’t piss off Mama. Cause Mama gets maddddddd.

Redcoat Army
They burned and raped their way up Manhattan while Washington’s troops sunck out the back door. What a bunch of "American" pussies.

Rudy Giuliani
Times Square’s porno and drug district was decimated when Giuliani “Disneyfied” the area in the early 1990s. Rest in Peace, sticky floored theaters.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Film #52: Burnt Offerings (1976)

Some summer vacations just never go right.
First your Great Aunt dies in the car seat next to you somewhere outside Mesa, and you're forced to strap her to your roof.
Then your Dad launches your car 50 yards off an out of order road.
And then, when you finally get to your destination, the house you’ve rented uses demonic spirits to force Dad to nearly drown his wussy son and sexually assault his frigid wife.

Wait, are we getting two movies confused here? That's right, the latter of the aforementioned plots takes place in this week’s scare-spectacle, Burnt Offerings.

The Rolf family thought they had the summer made. The city-slickers stumble upon a summer long vacation package at a historic, sprawling mansion in the countryside that only costs $900.

The place has it all, Olympic size swimming pool, historic gardens, refrigerator filled with meat, and enough dusty rooms to keep any 1970s woman busy cleaning her vacation away. My, they could even bring up their snappy Aunt Elizabeth (played by an ancient Bette Davis) for the adventure.

“I’m waiting for the catch,” says skeptical Rolf patriarch Ben to the mansion-owners (one of which is legend Burgess Meredith).
There is no catch, they claim, unless they are afraid of some housework (they’re charged with fixing up the dump) or mind caring for their shut-in mother who lives in the secluded third floor loft.
But she isn’t a bother at all; the Rolf’s probably won’t even see her once during their four month stay.

They’ll take it, Ben claims! And take it they do, right up the YingYang. It’s not long before their peaceful paradise, charming though completely run down, starts to show it’s a lot dirtier than it seems.

At first, they love cleaning and repairing the old place, stopping to enjoy a cold Coors on the lawn or admire the old-timey photo collections. But then they start to flip their shit, psychologically speaking.

Some pool roughhousing between Ben and his 12-year-old son Davey devolves into Ben uncontrollably trying to drown his spawn.
The next night, while getting frisky near the pool, Ben’s wife Marian changes her mind inexplicitly and screams rape.

But that’s nothing compared to what happens to poor Aunt Elizabeth. The weirdest thing, any time a horrific episode occurs, the family’s suffering seems to cause the house to magically regenerate its rotting shell and grounds!

Could the Rolf’s pain lead to house paint? Will they escape this mysterious, soul-sucking dome? Just what the hell is wrong with Marian's (plastic-surgeryed out Karen Black) face?

Find out, in the 1976’s haunted house horror, “Burnt Offerings.”

RDHP Ratings and Reviews

C-Rating: 3.8
Chris Dimick offers:
“There is always a catch. Always.
Life won’t ever do you any favor’s, kids. If something seems too good to be true – like a beautiful mansion for rent at $900’s 1976-money – then it probably is.

I’d be nice if life was simple. How great'd it be if you could draw out your course, plot A and B, and drive straight through marveling at the passing scenery.
But where would be the fun in that? Trials, detours, heartbreak… that’s what one gets when embarking on life’s road.

The optimists say we should be thankful for such catches. They build character, put things in perspective, and make your desired outcome that much sweeter when preceded by a mouthful of shit.

Burnt Offerings teaches a the true, valuable, unavoidable life lesson of "catch" in pure form. The Rolfs worked hard, earned a wonderful vacation in a country mansion with their young son and spry Aunt. They had it all planned out, and it was going to be flippin’ wonderful. And then life happened.

Though this flick could have been a good 45 minutes shorter and still delivered its message (runtime 1h55min), it did take a tired haunted house format and turn it on its ear a bit. Just enough, actually, to build tension and keep the viewer watching.

You’ll come for the acting legends like Burgess Meredith, Karen Black (above), Oliver Reed and Bette Davis, but you’ll stay for the tone-perfect soundtrack (nearly non-existent, in a good way), well timed scares, and the fun ending.

What’s the catch in watching Burnt Offerings? When you are done, you’ll be 1h55min closer to death. Such is the fact with anything in life. Was it really worth it. Is ANYTHING really worth it?

Embrace it, optimists say. I guess what is the alternative?”

N-Rating: 3.6
Nick Rich offers:
“For my money, there are two things that scare the holly jolly right out of my Christmas stockings:

1. Unexplained children singing in dark, remote woods:

2. Horribly awkward scenes between husbands and wives showing love lost.

Mercifully there were no category 1 type situations in this weeks offering, but to the chagrin of my squeaky seat, there was a decent amount squirming to be had due to category 2 content in Burnt Offerings.

What was it about the 70s that bred films which showcased the horrible, horrible state of affairs a marriage can degrade into? I mean, it's not like there was anything bad happening at that time in history (I mean, when is there ever?). I'm sure my university film prof would wet his pants with excitement at the chance to explain why 70s cinema was so doggone depressing (yeah, I'm talking to you RDHP film #7 Let's Scare Jessica To Death), or as he would probably refer to it as: real.

Bah. Real isn't why people go to the movies, they go to the movies to escape. While a sense of reality can definitely be an asset to any film, as it grounds the characters and makes the film more believable, too much of a good thing (as they say) can be flat out depressing.
Take Synecdoche, New York for example - while not a horror movie per (or any other) se, I propose that it should be classified as such due to the singularly soul-crushingly depressing experience it is to watch the film. Bah! I'm getting depressed just remembering what it was like to watch it!
Maybe in my more emo days that's an experience I would have coveted, but alas, no more.

While Burnt Offerings touched upon the darker side of marriage, it did so merely as an accent to the larger story - akin to a sole violin playing a haunting, recurring theme in a concerto... it doesn't overpower the whole piece, but floats to the top of your consciousness just enough to cause chills. This dash of depression flavored the rest of the film quite nicely as we see a normal family descend into the madness of a subtly desperate situation.

I don't comment on it often, but the acting (save for the 12 year old boy) was quite good and spot on for film such as this. There's something about Oliver Reed that I find incredibly enjoyable to watch, I mean, he's just so British. So British in fact, that it made me overlook the fact that a) he lived in the U.S. (after all he could be a transplant) and b) his 'Auntie' (whom he had presumably grown up with) had an American accent (what the what?!?).

All in all I rather enjoyed this film. It meandered along and doused you with some 70s goodness along the way with surprisingly compelling characters that kept you guessing as to what ghastly fate awaited them at the end of their enchanted vacation. If you're in the mood for a slow boil of 70s horror with a dash of realistic depression, don't hesitate to spend an evening with Burnt Offerings... just be sure not to stay too long.

The Skinny: Check this flick out if you want to learn how to be a creepier B&B owner or if you want to feel better after coming off of a lackluster family vacation."

Things We Learned From Burnt Offerings:
-High-wasted mom jeans are not sexy.
-The underprivileged have never been to the country.
-Never say “Wash off his little hurt cuts” to a boy. It’s pedophile level creepy.
-The British are impossibly rude.
-Auntie just needs to relax at the wheel.
-In the movies, writers have lucrative, glamorous lives.
-Swimming trunks in the 70s were too short.
-Bette Davis looked like a walking corpse near the end.
-1970s women were really trying hard to hold onto the 1950s.
-“Hey Slave!” is not a good thing to say to your vacuuming wife.
-Finding Ding Dongs is a reason to squeal.
-Don’t cry over spilled, or shattered, punch bowls.
-Never use a machete angry:

Quote of the Viewing:
[The opening credits reveal Burnt Offerings was produced by P.E.A. Films. Chris and Nick snicker]

Nick: “P.E.A. Films. Well, this is gonna be a good one.”
Chris: "At least it is not S.H.I.T. Films.”

RDHP Present:
Things that Suck the Life Out of You
Burnt Offerings had a house that sucked the life out of its occupants. Below we examine other things that turn a Suck-and-Cut on your soul.

There is a reason some call them Cubic-hells. Because hell takes place within them.

Don’t let a cat crawl up on your face while sleeping. You won’t wake up. Seriously, cat’s suck out human souls! Why do you think Garfield’s John is so dead-inside?

Small Talk
How many countless hours are spent in a lifetime listening to information you don't care about, will never use and hope to forget... so, how about this weather we're having?

Ever watch someone while they watch TV. They look like a zombie, sitting motionless for hours, barely blinking while the electronic scream-box drains ones time and life-force. TV’s great and all, but so is Four Loko. Use both moderately, and with caution.

The Morning Commute
We imagine it is what it would be like to wait in line for the executioner in olden times.

Is it ironic that life sucks the life out of you? Maybe, probably not. More than likely that is just stupid. But is it true, yes. There is nothing that makes a person more tired than life.

One minute you are a 20-something who closes the bar every Friday, talks to four friends a day, and has enough energy left to catch a midnight movie at the local cinema. Then you have kids, and the only energy you have left after working and caring for them every second of your life is reserved for crying yourself to sleep each night. Or so we hear.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Film #51: The Curse of the Cat People (1944)

What a double standard!
A child has an imaginary friend, and she is called creative.
Two grown men have an imaginary friend, and they are called crackheads.

Case in point. The RDHP has a “faux” friend named Frankwolf, a half sensitive werewolf, half reanimated corpse manimal. We’ve taught Frankwolf to roll over, do our taxes, play Hot Cross Buns on a recorder, and tear out the throat of our enemies (and there are soooo many enemies).
And because of one invisible friend we are now typing this from our special white room.
But look on the bright side… the electro-shocks make us piss our pants!

Our mental problems pale in comparison to whittle Amy Reed, the focal point of this week’s movie, “The Curse of the Cat People.” Amy is a “dreamer,” which is a nice way of saying the little b*$ch likes to make up lies about the world.

Because she is a weirdo, no friends will have her, and soon her parents get sick of the brat hanging around the house. Speaking of Amy’s parents, regular readers may remember them. Amy’s Dad is Oliver Reed, who was married to cat obsessed psycho Irena in this film’s precursor, Cat People.

In that film, Irena believed that she was afflicted with an old country curse that would cause her to turn into a man-eating cat when riled up. Oliver worked with Amy’s mother, the ahead-of-her-time-lady-architect Alice, who eventually stole Oliver away from Irena, sending Irena into a rage that “transformed” her into a cat and eventually led to her death.

Well, here we are several years later, and with Irena buried in an old shoe box (where else would you bury a cat) adulterers Oliver and Alice are living a happy life with a daydreaming grade-schooler.

But Irena obviously has nine lives, and is sprung back into the world of the living after Amy makes a wish for a friend of her very own. Oh the fun they have! Running around, talking about Dads affairs, etc. Amy sees a picture of Irena in her father’s memories box (who keeps pics of their murderous ex-wife?) and shouts, “Hey, look, it is my friend.”

Oliver and Alice start to worry. Oh no, has Irena returned from the grave to haunt their child? Or, possibly even worse, could their daughter be insane for imagining Irena is really her flesh and blood friend?

The more Amy hangs out with Irena, the more she beings to act like her, and the more the 'rents worry. Cue in a subplot about a delusional old woman who lives down the road, and you've got a film packed with more looneys than a Canadian parking meter.

Has Irena returned from the dead to curse the Reed family in revenge? Is Amy a nut job or just “creative”? Just what kind of accent is Irena’s anyway (sounds like Mushmouth!) Find out, in the 1944 Val Lewton classic “The Curse of the Cat People.”

RDHP Ratings and Reviews

C-Rating: 2.5
Chris Dimick purrrs:
“Like a stingy wishbone, I’m split right down the middle and not dish out any magic. Is this movie brilliant or boring? Yes, it is, and that is why I can’t decide which way to turn on this black and white beauty.

Ambiguity in a movie can be alluring, and Curse has plenty of it. Was the little girl making it all up, and Irena was really an “imaginary friend”? Or, was Irena really haunting her from beyond the grave? Or, even more perplexing, was Irena trying to protect Alice?
It’s left up to the audience to decide, and for that I applaud Curse.

However, ambiguity is also the lame-o’s playground. While the film did have impact in its subtly and mystery, it was just too slow and snoozy for me to sing abundant praise.

I feel like a Texas ranch hand accidently walking into a Tranny bar. Sure, all the women look beautiful at first in the low light, even mysterious and intriguing.
But just before he asks that first “lady” to dance, something deep down in that Texan’s core tells him funny business is afoot.

There was just something “off” about Curse. I get what they were going for, and from what I can tell they succeeded in producing an entertaining and thought-provoking movie.
But my gut tells me there is a set of nuts under that skirt.”

N-Rating: 2.6
Nick Rich purrrs:
"While not as good as RKO's first nip at a cat story, I found The Curse of the Cat People to be oddly enjoyable. Whether you will think so too is anyone's guess.

Admittedly, I'm a bit strange (you may have noticed this if you've been reading for a while). As a strange person, there are times when things that others may find... mundane, amuse and entertain me. Honestly, I'm not sure if this is the case with CotCP. Judging by the division in Chris' mind, I think an educated guess would be that most people wouldn't dig this flick. But for me... there was something about it I kinda vibed on- I mean, come on! It had a magic tree mailbox! What more could you want?

What's that you say? A decent plot? Well, don't go getting greedy now!

Maybe what endeared me to this picture was the constant state of expecting something to happen... for a payoff to materialize. I suppose I was taken with the idea of wanting to be taken with the story; that and it was amusingly random at times (case in point: the articulate Jamaican housekeeper who always referred to Amy as 'little miss').

In the tradition of the first film, CotCP keeps you guessing as to
what's the dillio with the plot. In fact, the story is so seemingly random I found myself hoping for a Crash-esq payoff at the end (which does materialize, in case you're wondering, albeit in a lackluster fashion). I think this would irk most people.
Me, I just enjoyed watching the ambling, rambling time-capsule of a story go about its little adventure. There were just enough moments of cool outfits and outrageous 1940's behavior to keep me mildly amused... I suppose it may be like what life is like on Valium. Which doesn't knock your socks off, but it can certainly be a pleasant way to pass the evening (or so I would imagine).

I'm not even going to get into whether or not this is a horror film, but I can most assuredly say that if you're a fan of House of 1,000 Corpses it is probably safe to skip this one. That is of course unless your girlfriend is a hipster with a 1940's lean, then you might score some bookoo points for having a sit-down with CotCP.

The Skinny: Check this flick if you're in the mood for a mood stabilizer... or if you want to know how to not raise your children."

Things We Learned from Curse of the Cat People:
-You can’t mail letters via “magic tree mailboxes.”
-Amy likes to dream.
-It is very easy to ditch a child with the “Look at that…” bit.
-A hoop and stick is the most boring toy ever invented.
-We’ve said it before, but the 1940s had damn great women’s fashion.
-“Any note, no matter how sour, sounds like a song if you hold onto it for long enough.”
-God should use a rose amber spot on the too bright sun.
-Opening Xmas prezzies on Xmas Eve is considered “proper.”
-History is written by the victors.
-Love hurts:

Quote of the Viewing:
[Amy befriends a senile old woman who claims her daughter/caretaker is an imposter. Taking a shine to Amy, the woman and her exchange Christmas presents.]

Old Woman: “Shall I show you your Christmas present, Amy?”
Nick: “[Old Woman Voice] I’ve set your house on fire.”
Chris: “And killed your parents.”

RDHP Presents:
Other Famous Curses
If you thought the curse of the Cat People was bad, just take a look at the following lingering mojo hexed on folks. It is all enough to make you stuff a rabbits foot, four leaf clover, and Kardashian sister in your underwear (you know, all things that are lucky).

Curse of the Billy Goat
Legend has it that Chicago tavern owner Billy Sianis put this curse on the Chicago Cubs in 1945 after ushers refused to let his goat sit next to him at the World Series in Wrigley Field. The Cubs haven't even gone to the Series since.

The Curse of Age 27
The Curse of 27 is the belief that 27 is an unlucky number due to the number of famous musicians and entertainers who have died at the age. Robert Johnson, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, Janis Joplin, Jonathan Brandis and Kurt Cobain are all believed to have been affected by the Curse of 27.

Curse in “Drag Me To Hell”
Help an old lady who doesn't pay her bills, or finally get that promotion. Christine Brown chose the latter, and it only cost her a soul in this 2009 Sam Raimi carnival ride of a horror flick.

Curse of the Hope Diamond
You don't want this sparkler dangling around your neck. Just ask Marie Antoinette.

Curse of the Great Bambino
This curse began after the Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth, The Great Bambino, against his wishes to the New York Yankees in the off-season of 1919-1920. Before that point, the Red Sox had been one of the most successful professional baseball franchises, winning the first World Series and amassing five World Series titles. But after the sale they went without a title for 86-years, as the previously lackluster Yankees became one of the most successful franchises in North American professional sports. Don't cross The Babe.

The Superman Curse
Apparently taking on the role of the Man of Steel is kryptonite for the important things in life, like your career, mental well-being and well... your life.

The Kennedy Curse
Sure, you are rich and powerful. But you're gonna die horribly.
Guess we'd rather be poor and powerless.

The SoCal Curse
Ah, life in sunny Southern California!
Here we are in January and the forecast for tomorrow is 76 degrees and sunny... What a life! Well, that is until the biblical fires come (as they seem to do every 3 years!) and give residents practice for the end of days!

The Curse of Montezuma
(aka "Montezuma's Revenge")
Now here's a curse that really scares the you-know-what out of people!
It's estimated that 40% of foreign traveler vacations in good ol' Mexico are disrupted by Montezuma. Not traveling to Mexico any time soon? Fear not! I'd wager there is a Taco Bell in your neighborhood eagerly waiting to spring this dreaded curse upon you!

(We figured you wouldn't want to see an actual picture of Montezuma's Revenge)