Friday, 3 May 2013

Forgotten: The Wizard of Speed and Time

Yeah, you didn't forget this one. You never saw it. Shame on you.

The Wizard of Speed and Time (1988)
Staring: Mike Jittlov
Directed by: Mike Jittlov

Man, is this film good.

The Wizard of Speed and Time (WOSAT, for short) is the wonderful movie of a film maker, trying so desperately to get a break. Mike Jittlov, playing himself (who seems in turn to also be playing himself) is an effects guy trying to get work. He succeeds when a big time Hollywood company sees his effect reel and hires him to do a SFX slot. Which turns out to be The Wizard of Speed and Time (short) and also, as it turns out, the movie that you are watching. I think.

It pre-dates meta anything.

The Amazing Mike Jittlov

So the film is a comedy, laden with amazing stop motion SFX, SFX about making SFX, musical numbers, good-guys, bad-guys, movie references everywhere, and a solid, if almost unheard of cast.

Mike Jittlov did nothing of great recognition after the fact, but did almost everything on set, from being the star to the director and most things in between. Deven Chierighino is Mike's friend and associate in the movie and has had a long career in film and TV, although behind the camera. Most of the cast seemed to do little before or after. Which is a shame, because they are all very good. Philip Michael Thomas - the only immediately recognizable actor in the film - (Tubbs from the original Miami Vice) cameos.

The thing is, this film is warm, touching, it is suitable for most ages - all of whom will take something else away from it - it is funny, and leaves you wanting more.

But sadly you will probably never get it.

I am the Wizard of Speed and Time...

I've had a look around and cannot find any news of Jittlov himself since 2007, when according to the internet, he was looking after his elderly mother.  Mike, if you're out there, I'd love to say hi.

I have this film on, gulp, VHS, and it is available on laserdisc. I have heard that the torrents that are available of it were shared by Mike himself, and therefore legal to download. How true that is? I have no idea.

But if you do get the chance, watch it. Take the family. This is a beautiful film that needs to be shared.

See you in the lobby, film fans. 

Friday, 26 April 2013

Forgotten: Baby Blues (2008)

Also known as 'Cradle will Fall' this true story contains scenes of graphic violence towards children and infanticide.

You won't find films that people consider extreme on here very often. Mostly because they aren't so much forgotten, as brushed under the rug. No one remembers A Serbian Film anymore, right? Well, it's not forgotten, but with that many people trying to stop us from watching it... anyway. Moving on.

Baby Blues (2008)
Starring: Colleen Porch, Ridge Canipe
Directed by: Lars Jacobson, Amardeep Kaleka


Postpartum Depression is obviously a real thing. Ever seen a horror movie where it's the antagonist? No? Well, welcome to Baby Blues.

On a remote farm, where the father is a truck driver - away - Mom has a breakdown. Clearly brought on by postpartum depression, she snaps and decides to take care of the problem. The kids.

Mom? Can you put that down... Please?

What sets this movie out beyond other cat and mouse horrors, is the acting. It's top notch. Mom, and Eldest son, Jimmy, play the largest part in the movie, and both are outstanding. Collen Porch, Mom, had a slew of film come out - most notably she was in Transformers - but seems to have turned to TV work now, and even that is lean. Ridge Canipe is still a working child actor, and we have yet to see where his career goes. But he was 'Young Dean Winchester' in Supernatural. 'Nuff said.

Colleen Porch

Running in a short time (IMDB quotes 85Min, but without the end credit time that ends nearer 70) the shocks and thrills are thrown in your face. The film has a wonderful pace, it is fast and frantic. It also crosses lines. Like I said in the opening line: This is not for the faint of heart.

Ridge Canipe

So for the horror fan, this is where it's at. The ending is, shall we say... chilling. In fact I watched this nearly a week ago and I'm still processing it.The 'true story' part of it is based on the case of Andrea Yates. The true life ending and movie differ. Obviously.

It's a horror film.

It's readily available on DVD (I got it under the name 'Cradle Will Fall' here in the UK). And as a bonus it's cheap.

See you in the lobby, film fans...

Friday, 19 April 2013

Forgotten: Blacula (1972)

"A hunger for human blood... Here you will starve for an eternity, torn by an unquenchable lust I curse you with my name. You shall be Blacula!" - best line of dialogue ever committed to celluloid.

Blacula (1972)
Starring: William Marshall
Directed by: William Crain

Poor naive me. I never experienced blaxsploitation until recently. I don't know why, but just the name, "blaxsploitation" made me think it had racist overtones to it. Exploitation, and Blacks.

I didn't know that it was cinema made by and for (at the time) the urban audience. Of course that has changed and the films are now widely available on DVD and some have reached cult status.

Oh, man. Blacula is a good film.

Mamuwalde - an African Prince - is bitten by Dracula himself, turned and locked away to suffer an eternity of thirst. Awoken in the present day (read: 70s) Mamuwalde seeks a bride, tries to come to terms with this new fangled L.A. and generally vamps around.

Sure, this is a movie that has aged, and not very well. It looks and feels as old as it is. But that is also part of its charm.

As a horror film it falls short in the scare. The thing is, I don't think it was ever supposed to be scary. It is shy on gore, suspense and all things in the middle.

But shit, is it bonkers.

This film just works.

It is a retelling of the Dracula/Vampire mythos with a confused hero/anti-hero. Mamuwalde - Blacula - is a confused soul, fighting himself as much as the world he has found himself in. And that is why it works.

Don't get me wrong. It's bandy, big time, and with a couple of beers you can't help but watch and laugh, and enjoy. But the fantastic portrayal of a monster by the wonderful William Marshall is touching, whilst 'scary', and believable. Right down to the twist ending.

The thing is, Blacula can be taken in two ways. It is a horror movie, just a tame one, played more for story than scares, but also it can be seen as a light-hearted, almost parody of the Dracula mythos.

What more can I say?

If you like horror, comedy, a dash of daft, and a side of extra cheese, check it out. It's widely available on DVD. Mine even came with the sequel. Scream, Blacula, Scream.

See you in the lobby, film fans... 

Friday, 12 April 2013

Much Maligned: Freddy vs Jason (2003)

What is so wrong with this picture, people?

Why do you detest it so?

And before I start, I'm a Freddy man. Just so you know.

Freddy vs Jason (2003)
Starring: Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger
Directed By: Ronny Yu

Okay, before I start banging on about acting and actors, don't be fooled: there is no one in this film that you need to be concerned with except the two leads - Freddy and Jason.

Honestly, the supporting cast of teenagers are fine. They do the job. Using the amazing power of Imdb I found one of them was Jason Ritter - son of the late (and one of my personal fav's), John Ritter. They do the job. Hey, it's even got Kelly Rowland in.

She's a singer, right?

Anyway. Maligned for not being the film everyone thought it should be, Freddy vs Jason has gone down in history as being awful. But I don't understand quite why.

Is it the story?

Freddy ain't scarin' no one no more. The whole dream thing is past and Freddy has no power over the residents of Elm Street anymore. He needs to scare up some business. So what better to do than goad Jason from the grave (of course) to bring a murderous rampage to the town and get the fear running again? It's a genius plan.

Except once you have let the dog out, how do you control it?

What is there not to like about the plot? Freddy goads Jason, the two hack up bewildered teenage girls, then go at each other. And it's for adults (*cough* AvP *cough*)

Is it that the characters - our great and true loves F and J - have been mishandled?

Well, no. There is no other way I can say it. Let's be honest (remember I'm a Fred Head) the Nightmare on Elm Street series is a bit of a joke, isn't it? The first was a classic, a couple in the middle were cool (notice I skipped over part 2) but the further it got, the sillier it got. It wasn't until Wes Craven's A New Nightmare (1994) came along, that the series even started to look like a horror show once again.

We all loved the character. But I feel it was with rose tinted glasses.

Freddy in FvJ is actually a horror character.

And Hell, Jason is Jason. He doesn't speak. He hacks. Limbs are strewn aloof. He is Jason - unlike, say part 5 - he's cruel, wielding, and murderous.

Are we not given an 80's/90's horror?

Both franchises are born from - and have their best work - in the eighties and nineties. Have we been given something less?

No. Jason is renowned for hacking the heads off of the campers a Crystal Lake: Generally teens, stoners, those that lose their virginity, wasters, the jock... yadda yadda yadda... and yes FvJ gives you that, boobs and all (very nineties). Freddy was all about the dragging of the character into familiar situations and making them suffer, build the fear. It's all there.

Director Ronny Yu (51st State, Fearless) puts together a wild ride. There are fights and gore, the teens get cut up, the leads hack away at each other. The fight scenes are well choreographed, the special effects good.

There is nothing wrong with this picture.

The thing is, given enough time and speculation, fan fiction and fan desire, no film will ever be what you want it to be.

And that is why Freddy vs Jason is much maligned... and why it'll never get a sequel.

See you in the lobby, film fans...

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Forgotten: The Black Room (1935)

Ah, Boris Karloff. Frankenstein's Monster. Infamous in cinema, and yes, largely horror, Mr. Karloff will to many reign as a supreme icon of horror.

We all know him in one guise or another.

But The Black Room? Never heard of it?

When I was a young man, still living with my parents in a one VCR house - as many of us were - I was dashing out of the house for the evening. It was a Friday, I was meeting my friends for the usual evening of debauchery in the local ale house, when I remembered. There was a late night horror on that I would not be home to see - so, casually - on the way out, I asked my parents to video it. It was, after all, their recorder.

When I resurfaced - the next day - it was relayed to me that the film had been taped.

It was Body Bags. An anthology horror starring no less than Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame and David Naughton - a certain American Werewolf in London.

I was told: There was another scary movie on afterwards - an old one - we left the tape running.

Bedashed, I thought, for I would not want to see an old horror film.

The Black Room (1935)
Starring: Boris Karloff
Directed by: Roy William Neill

Roy William Neill - who you'll all remember as directing many Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies - does a stand out job with this little remembered, and hard to find odd little horror movie.

Karloff plays twin brothers Gregor and Anton. The premise of the film is simple - especially with its short running time (70min) - a power struggle between the two brothers/wanton misuse of power/call it what you will. Of course one is good and the other ostensibly evil. Oh, and there is a prophecy that one brother will kill the other. The usual.

The acting is stand out. Karloff's supporting players do a wonderful job and the man himself is amazing. It was one of my first looks at a master of horror. Playing two different people, with their differences is done by a master of cinema who proves in this near unheard of film that he could match any actor today.

He's also terrifying, and electrifying.

Gregor - the evil brother - is a typeset bad guy. He's a murderer, rapist, cad, bounder... and Karloff seems cast to play him with such glee and wonderful abandon, however, seems equally cast as the good natured and benign Anton.   

The story plays out in the imaginable way until - no spoilers here - about halfway through when the inexplicable happens. Literally, all pre-conceptions dive out of the window and the film becomes ten times more chilling.

Then there is the twist at the end.

Mind. Blown.

Leaving aside the amazing acting, direction and story telling involved, there is also one stand out thing that will always set this film apart in my mind.

Do you remember this, and the jaw-dropping amazement that came with it:

The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

Well here it is 63 years earlier, and may I say, flawlessly done.

The Black Room (1935)
The Black Room is a fun watch, for its time it is dark, terrifying and skillfully executed. You can buy it on region 1 DVD in the Boris Karloff Collection, Icons of Horror, here, or, if like me, you can always track it down on video. Good old VHS. Yes. I have a cardboard slip-cased video somewhere near as old as me.

See you in the lobby, film fans...

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Welcome to Dead Celluloid

Film has changed a lot throughout history. Some works are forgotten, dropped into the ether of those destined not to get a DVD, Blu Ray, or hell, even VHS release.

If you don't know what a VHS is, some of the things that I have to say here over the coming months will be particularly pertinent.

Some of the works are mocked.

Sometimes, these two things can mean that a classic movie goes unseen, or under appreciated.

I intend to put that right.

I will highlight the good, the bad and the ugly. Put right what once was wrong. I will show you the way...