Great Television Analyzed : Boris Karloff’s THRILLER (1960-1962)

THRILLER is a tv series hosted by the late, great Boris Karloff, that even for fans and students of cinema and television, is more rumored of than actually seen. So imagine my happy surprise to come home from a hard day of work and find the first season of this perennially hard to find show, available on the Roku Streaming Channel for free.

Very much an attempt to ride the popularity of Rod Serling’s TWILIGHT ZONE (1959-1964), THRILLER ran only two seasons, starting out as a crime/thriller series before drifting into pure horror. The show never truly finding its footing or audience, but is remembered fondly by fans of classic television.

After watching the first episode “Twisted Image” I can see why. WoW! As someone watching this episode for the first time, 59 years after it was first aired, I was absolutely riveted. Everything here, works, the cinematography, the direction, the performances, the writing, the undercurrent of sex, dread and desperation… I mean we have seen variations on this theme, in the decades since, and yet this episode  still manages to own every single minute of its 48 minute run-time.

I can only imagine how powerful this episode must have seem in 1960. To a generation just coming off of shows like LEAVE IT TO BEAVER it must have felt nearly X-rated. And yet 60 years removed from that relatively simpler America, the show somehow magically still has power, and is still oddly relevant to our world now. A world of desperate people, doing desperate things, in an attempt to find someone to hold them through the night.

Directed by the esteemed Arthur Hiller, from a teleplay by James Cavanagh, from a novel by William O’Farrell, this is as good a 48 minutes of television as you will find.

And a quick aside about Arthur Hiller, while his cinematic filmography is impressive (see some of his movies below) it is filled mostly with comedies.

It is his little seen early television work that is imbued with this seedy, nightmarish intensity.

Tobruk (1967)The Out of Towners (1970)Miracle of the White Stallions (1963)Man of La Mancha (1972)

Al Pacino, Dyan Cannon, Tuesday Weld, Bob Dishy, and Alan King in Author! Author! (1982)

Liam Nielsen, long before becoming known to a younger generation as a comedic lead, cut his teeth doing serious, often mirthless roles. And this episode of THRILLER is one such role.  He is great here, as is the rest of the cast, but the real draw for me is actress Natalie Trundy, her beauty and fragile madness is the spark, that burns the whole world down.

Just a phenomenal episode. I would buy the boxset of THRILLER on Dvd/BLU-RAY  just to own this episode. It is that good. I put it right up there with the first episode of the original ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS. Now as I mentioned not every episode is a hit. Every great episode seems to be followed up with two mediocre ones, but the series is worth having for the great ones. Try it for free courtesy of Roku, and if as impressed as I, use the link below to get the box-set, while you can.

 

https://amzn.to/2IjIrsF

 

 

 

Streaming VOD Channel Review -BLACK NEON- And a review on WOLF and the films of Robert Bresson!

So while I advocate always keeping things you LOVE in physical media, DVDs , Blurays, CDs, etc; the benefit of Streaming and Digital is that it is GREAT for exploring, and finding out what out there is worth having. Most things are not worth having or keeping. So Streaming is great for a try before you buy methodology, or simply finding new things to watch right now.

This installment, the channel that is up for review is…  BLACK NEON.

BLACK NEON  – first thing that strikes you about this channel, is unlike the hundreds of options of other channels, this one has a very limited number of movies. Many I have to confess to being unaware of or not having seen on other channels. Always a plus in my book.

To avoid the mishap of doing a lengthy listing of its titles, only to determine the actual streaming service is crap, or ad infested. I decide to pick a movie and test it out.

Wolf (2018)

My eyes gravitate to a film called WOLF, a thriller of some type seemingly, and without reading the description I just start the film. From frame one I’m captivated. And over sixteen minutes in and not a single ad.

I’m loving the movie and the channel so far.

BLACK NEON may be a home-run. I’ll update after finishing the movie and looking around a bit.

***UPDATE*****

Okay I just finished watching WOLF courtesy of the BLACK NEON channel. Do a search for new streaming movie channels to add and you will find BLACK NEON.

Wolf (2018)

They do not have much content, maybe a dozen movies.But it is worth getting the channel just to see WOLF. What an incredibly strange film. Very off kilter, and always has you on the edge and not knowing where it is going, which I find refreshing.

It is very Bressonian. Robert Bresson was a French director, little known, and unfortunately little remembered today, but he used most effectively and most notably the idea of the pregnant frame. An empty frame, and the emptiness, the waiting for it to be filled would create tension.  And while not a horror director, his films such as A MAN ESCAPED and PICKPOCKET (both absolute masterpieces) build incredible amounts of tension by using the empty frame, and our desire to have it filled.

It has been used by directors since, and is used here in WOLF to great effect.  It is a slow burn movie, and has a WTF turn, that you never quite recover from, and is never truly made clear. You leave the film arguably with as many questions as you came, the final meaning of the film, and of what actually happened left up to individual interpretation.

Wolf (2018)

That can be frustrating to some, however I really liked it. I loved it actually, the patience of the film, and its willingness to court confusion.

That does not always work for me, sometimes it is the sign of a lazy filmmaker. But I do not think that is the case here, the filmmaker and writer Michael Jones has crafted a compelling story and wanted to let it finish cooking in the mind of the viewer.

Love it or hate it, I do not think it is a film you will easily dismiss.I fall in the camp of being very impressed by this raw nerve, of a movie.  

WOLF (2016 Australian release/2018 VOD release)

A Michael Jones Film

Grade: B+.

Recommended! This is definitely a movie that deserves to be owned on DVD and/or Blu-Ray.

LUCIO FULCI : BEYOND THE BEYOND! A Critical Reassessment! His 7 Best Films!

The Roman born Director Lucio Fulci when remembered today is primarily remembered for his his schlock and gore filled horror films of the 80s such as THE BEYOND, HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, ZOMBI 3, which is a crying shame, because these were the lowest common denominator films of a filmmaker reduced to making dreck to make a paycheck, rather than his films of the  late 60s and throughout the 70s that can be considered his artistic passion projects.

His film-making and use of the camera in this period was ground breaking and incredibly influential, and his best films remain among the best of their respective genre.

From 1966’s MASSACRE TIME (an early inspiration and precursor to the dove filled blood ballets of John Woo) to 1978s rarely seen SILVER SADDLE, was a twelve year period of unbridled creativity  and staggering experimentation, and contain not only Fulci’s best films, but some of the best films by anyone during the period, and films that stand the test of time.

 

Here without further ado our Fulci’s best films and essential films for any true lover of cinema:

 

Perversion-Story-Fr 16392_1_large 8666_1_large 16391_1_large silversaddlebeatricecenci tempo one-on-top-of-the-other-movie-poster-1969-1020488199 the-brute-and-the-beast-movie-poster-1966-1020462907

PERVERSION STORY AKA ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER – Don’t let the salacious poster fool you this is a MAGNIFICENT film. It’s a reworking of a more well known film, a classic film by one of the world’s most respected directors, however I have to say… I prefer this Fulci film. It is an unjustly little seen masterpiece, beautifully shot, and deserves a great and feature rich Blu-ray disk. Fulci’s best film.

 

In second place I put PSYCHIC, just adore this film.

 

I follow that up with his LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN and DONT TORTURE A DUCKLING solidly in 3rd and 4th place.

SILVER SADDLE in 5th place, is the best of Fulci’s three westerns which says a lot. As it beats out the praised MASSACRE TIME in 6th place. (FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE does not make this best of list. It’s overlong, and I can do without its denigrated and stereotyped Black character. But its distasteful parts aside, it remains, like all of his wide-screen films… beautifully shot.)

BEATRICE CENCI, in 7th place, is the director’s own favorite film, his attempt to make a serious Fellini level film, and its poor critical and commercial response was a blow the Director never truly recovered from. The film is solidly good if not great. But definitely deserving of a watch. It’s a solid B/B-.

And those are Fulci’s seven best films, and are must watch films for anyone desirous of the best of Euro-cinema of the period.

 

the-brute-and-the-beast-movie-poster-1966-1020462907

1966’s Massacre Time – This film was the one to put Fulci on the genre/world map. One of the earliest of the Spaghetti Western craze, and one of the best. This is an ultra violent flick, that shows off Fulci’s adeptness and creativity in staging action scenes. You can definitely see in this film with its gravity defying blood laced shootouts and its prevalence with doves, a clear inspiration and precursor to the later ‘blood ballet’ films of John Woo. Made during the glory days of the spaghetti western genre (roughly 1966 to 1968) MASSACRE TIME stands out as being one of the most extreme of these extremist westerns.

 

More detailed reviews to come next installment!

Currently Watching : MONK and LA MANTE RELIGIEUSE

Two very different, yet thematically similar films are France’s THE MONK and LA MANTE RELIGIEUSE.

media

Natalie Saracco’s 2014 film LA MANTE RELIGIEUSE (known by the trivial and clumsy English title of MANEATER) is a modern drama of a woman who burns with an inconsolable flame, and a man of faith, that challenges her toward more. A wonderful film, twisty and enthralling and sensual. Grade: B+.

monk_ver3_xlg

Director Dominik Moll’s 2007 film THE MONK, starring one of France’s most compelling actors, Vincent Cassell is about a man of faith, into whose life comes a woman who burns with an inconsolable flame. It’s a beautiful gothic, baroque painting distilled to film; a gorgeous, horrific, and surreal parable played out in the colors of flesh and blood, and to the moaning of the pleasured and the damned. Grade: B+.

There is a Flatiron Film Company DVD from 2013 that runs a 100 minutes and has no special features to speak of (at a minimum a DVD or Bluray should at least sport a director’s or cast commentary) so until there is a better DVD release, you can view this movie for free (as of this writing) on the Roku channel THRILLER THEATRE.

NetFlix Movie review : THE EXORCISM OF MOLLY HARTLEY

 

Exorcism-Molly-Hartley-Blu-ray

THE EXORCISM OF MOLLY HARTLEY – There’s a very interesting opening to this film, and a wonderful texture that belies this film’s formulaic poster and unoriginal title.

This is a sumptuously filmed, and quite sexy film. Well performed, well directed by Steven R. Monroe, with a score that is reminiscent in places of John Carpenter or Daria Argento scored films. But particularly the look of this film compels… it is gorGEous.

Exorcism-Molly-Hartley-620-011

This is a film that is less horror and more a taut thriller and in some ways a muscular but dumb action movie aesthetic, crafted onto the bones of what should be just a formulaic possession film.

I like this film, even though the fourth act is something of a misfire, it is not doing anything exceptionally original, and in many ways it is very trite and yes dumb, (the patient gets to take a trip out of the asylum, gets to go back in with his vestments. Really? The demon voice, and pea soup, spitting, it is all this close to parody. I may be twisted but I found the scene with the scissors and the ear, hilarious. So there are definite tonal issues), however compelling visuals and  a quick moving story keep the film ahead of its flaws, and makes for an entertaining watch. 

So while not in the same league (or hemisphere) as the granddaddy of exorcism films… THE  EXORCIST, it’s head and shoulders above more plodding and dire Excorcism films, such as EXORCISMUS,

Grade: Recommended. B. Not worth a purchase, but worth a look if you catch it on VOD or as a rental. Currently showing on NetFlix.

 

 

Movie Trailers of the Day!

 

click for larger (if applicable) Trailer shows promise in this tale of cat and mouse.

The Hours Till Daylight (2015) I saw the first few images of this trailer, and turned it off. Because I was sold on seeing this immediately.

Camino (2015)The trailer plays a bit like THE WITNESS meets FIRST BLOOD. Definitely intriguing.

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Bølgen

This THE WAVE (BOLGEN) Trailer made me go… Awesome. That’s pretty high praise for a trailer.

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Black Mountain Side

 

I watched the first thirty seconds of this trailer, and turned it off. Why? Because I knew this is a film I would be trying for myself. So much of what sepArates good genre movies from bad ones, is do you care about the characters?

Most genre fiction gravitates to the annoying or stupid kids who go exploring usually where they shouldn’t. This trailer in 30 seconds showed more depth to these characters than most genre films ever pack into a full movie. So yeah, I was immediately intrigued by the isolated THE THING like vibe.

All movie trailers courtesy of my new go to spot for watching trailers… Amazon Prime via Roku!

 

If you dug this blog post, leave a like or send an IM, or better yet go here and purchase today’s DEAL OF THE DAY:

Movie Posters Re-Imagined: Alternative Designs for the World’s Favorite Cult Films

 

BACKCOUNTRY by Writer/Director Adam MacDonald


backcountry_ver2

BACKCOUNTRY – If there is one thing that the 24 hour news cycle and a history of mostly bad horror movies teaches us, it is that nothing good comes of inexperienced but overconfident young people hiking in the wilderness. And BACKCOUNTRY is definitely in that mode, with one exception, it is actually a mostly captivating film.

Beautifully shot by Christian Bielz, it is well performed, the actors doing as well as possible with a script that paints them as, at best, brain dead idiots lacking any common sense, unable to take a hint and… at every step walking deeper into their doom.

Definitely superior to similar films such as PRESERVATION, ANIMAL, and FROM THE DARK. However, there is an infuriating nature to the film, watching stupid people do stupid things, that always tends to leave a sour note in such movies, and while BACKCOUNTRY is more capably made, it fails to avoid this sour taste.

Doom waits for all of us, even when we do everything right; but there is comfort in knowing we did everything humanely possible to foil that doom. There is no such comfort in rushing headlong into doom, shortening your life through your own stupidity. And their is no satisfaction in watching such pure Darwinism in action.

What does compell is people surviving their stupidity, by dumb luck, inner resources, or the grace of a beneficial God. Grade:C+. Not one I think is worth purchasing, but if someone asks to see a good Bear attack film… this would be the one.

To try it for yourself it’s available this weekend courtesy of HULU. If HULU with its $8.99 is one of the best deals in STREAMING then the SHOWTIME’s add on subscription for $10.99 is one of the worst deals in streaming.

More than the cost of HULU but offering only a fraction of Hulu’s content? SHOWTIME’s add-on subscription is insulting, and high-way robbery.

So watch SHOWTIME’s free week, but then give the finger to paying for their over-priced streaming add-on service.