Let us drop hyperbole for a moment and admit that this is the best feature film Stephen King has ever directed. Those of you who don’t have your hymnals open to page 19 won’t get that joke, and if you didn’t bring your hymnbook with you, I’m not going to explain things. This is, however, King’s single best directorial effort with no mistake or argument. I’ve heard that the impetus was a bet between King and George Romero after King commented that making a movie didn’t look all that hard. At the time, King was working with Dino De Laurentiis, who I will always love because the man never turned his nose up at a stupid idea. DEG Produced both Evil Dead II and Cat’s Eye as well. Without him, there might not be a Maximum Overdrive and the world would be a darker place. Based on the short story Trucks, King pulls double duty as both director and writer of this magnificent piece of Grade A 80s era cheddar.
The man, the myth, the stupid clip-on sunglasses.
Maximum Overdrive is a film that challenges you as a viewer. It’s a movie that asks “Am I really a bad movie?” to which you are expected to answer “Well, yeah, obviously.” Except, if you dismiss it like that you’re going to get hit right between the eyes with “Yes, but are you sure that wasn’t deliberate?” and then you’ll have to stop and think. Because there is this sense that maybe it was supposed to be like this, that maybe King got exactly what he was going for with this movie. Go watch Creepshow again and tell me this man doesn’t have a screwy sense of humor. Twenty years before Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez were hailed as heroes for failing with Grindhouse, Stephen King failed with Maximum Overdrive. Not artistically, financially. I think it was too early, and too many people didn’t quite get the idea of winking comedy and horror put together yet. Odd, because Creepshow had come out almost five years before this.
Ah the 80s, when an entire movie could be explained with a single paragraph.
The movie begins with a text wall explaining that a comet made everything happen. This isn’t really important, because the rest of the story will more or less follow the story of Trucks in that the characters don’t actually know why the machines have decided to rebel. The first person to have any lines is King himself, getting the cameo out of the way to complain about and ATM calling him an asshole. And then the AC/DC music starts and you have to love King all the more. Who else gets one of the best rock bands in the world to score his movie? The first sign that the machines have more than profanity in mind when a drawbridge decides to raise itself. This movie isn’t 6 minutes old and we’ve had asshole, what the hell, shit, goddamn, Jesus Christ and fuck all spoken by characters. Shit doesn’t get a mention until later. If only there was a naked woman this would be everything I love about crappy 80s movies. Okay, technically, there are naked women, there are some photos from dirty books taped up to a wall in the truck stop. It’s not quite a later day Pearl, but you’ve got to make allowances. You don’t get everything in the first 6 minutes, the gratuitous machine guns don’t show up until later. We did get a blond in a white headband though, and that was awesome. It’s like we’re witnessing the Citizen Kane of 80s horror.
It’s not so much hard to come up with a joke for this shot as much as it’s hard to pick a joke.
After the opening madness at the bridge, we go to the Dixie Boy Truck Stop where the bulk of the movie will take place. Good idea, a single shooting location in North Carolina provided a lot of economy in those days and made it possible to show more of America than just New York and L.A. in the bargain. We’re introduced to our hero, a fella named Billy Robinson, who we are told is an ex-con. While we’re introduced, the games room of the truck stop is going nuts and braking, where upon a young man tells the machines how he feels explaining, “Your momma!” before stuffing his pockets with cigarettes that the vending machine begins to spit out. After that, a man is sprayed in the face by a malfunctioning pump hose and screams and screams. The reason Billy being an ex-con comes into the story is that there is a subplot that, in true drive-in fashion, fails to go anywhere about the boss of the Dixie Boy being a corrupt so and so. This reflects the deep seated corruption we remember from Chinatown, only it’s more personal and believable here.
It’s like Film Noir. Only, you know, not.
While Billy is talking to the boss, a waitress is taking care of the grill, until she’s attacked by an insane electric knife that is. The knife effect is really neat since it turns towards her before switching itself on and cutting into her arm. Blood sprays all over the place and Billy takes a hammer to the knife, killing it after several blows, proving him to be a kin to St. George who slew the Dragon of Silene all those years ago. Only Billy has no horse, or sword, or armor and goes off on an electric knife with a hammer. Still though, in this modern age without noble heroes, we take what we can get. Now while that’s going on, the fellow in the game room manages to get himself electrocuted and Sir Billy of Robinson is sent in to deal with him.
All he says is “Yo momma!” but when he says it, we believe him.
Suddenly, the focus of the movie shits to a little league game, where a young man has just hit what is sure to be the winning run of the game. This scene would later be mirrored in Kitano Takeshi’s 3-4 x Jugatsu only that movie was a fantasy of yakuza violence and retribution where a looser imagines himself to be slightly less of a looser where as here the kid makes the run and wins the game. The coach goes to buy some sodas (which I assume it a southern word for pop) and is attacked by the machine in a way that Jamie Hyneman would later use for a 7 Up commercial. As you are no doubt becoming aware, Maximum Overdrive is both the alpha and the omega of pop culture. The machine attacks kids left and right, before a steamroller comes for them. How awesome is it to still hear the under 16s using phrases like “Oh shit!” and “What the hell?” in a movie? We don’t get that anymore. Mom’s groups have fits and don’t let us have any fun these days. Once the kid who was good at baseball gets away, we shift story lines again. These interweaving story lines will come together in the end, focusing into a single thread, much like L.A. Confidential would do later. We’re introduced to a lecherous bible salesman and the girl he’s picked up names Brett. Point of order, why did girls stop wearing suit jackets with the sleeves pushed up and fedoras with their jeans and white shirts? She looks so good, and other girls looked great when that was the fashion.
Incredulous cuttie is incredulous.
When they get to the Dixie Boy, the big truck attacks. You shouldn’t be surprised that they get to the Dixie Boy. Everyone in this movie eventually gets to the Dixie Boy. Like Rome, all roads lead to the Dixie Boy. Once again the movie shifts and we meet Curt and Connie, a nice couple on their honeymoon. I don’t know about the guy, but Connie sounds a lot like Lisa Simpson, so I’m assuming that The Simpsons used an actress that imitates her voice with out the southern drawl in an obvious homage to this film. As the two of them stop at the wreckage of a filling station, they’re merciless attacked by an enraged tow truck. Curtis, at first, tries to reason with the truck, missing the patches of blood that adorn the front of the cab. For the first time, we get a confirmation that there is no one actually in the vehicles that are attacking people. One wonders why the cars aren’t acting up like the trucks and knives, but perhaps being more domesticated they don’t rebel as easily.
Please Matt Groening, get your show started and save me from all this.
Billy, being the heroic type, goes to investigate the big rig that tried to kill the bible salesman and Brett a scene or two ago. He’s still of the belief that someone must have gotten into the rig, but the facts don’t bear that out. As he investigates, Brett sneaks up on him and that have a Lead Male/Lead Female sort of conversation. She actually does just look at him and say “You’re cute” as an opener. It’s the sort of sparkeling dialogue I’d expect from My Man Godfrey, not some b-grade horror flick! She then asks “Did you ever see that much nothing at 10:15 in the morning hero?” which you must admit, is a hell of a philosophical question. Think about it for a moment. Have you ever seen that much nothing at 10:15 in the morning? I haven’t. These sort of weighty questions harkens back to The Seventh Seal and the questions that picture raises for the viewer. Only, instead of asking the question with impenetrable symbolism, it asks it outright through the medium of insane machinery on a rampage. In that way, it makes these questions more accessible to the mainstream audience and thus creates a more palatable sense of dread when facing a cruel an uncaring universe.
You’re the lead male
Yeah, and you’re the lead female
And this is the 80s. You know what that means don’t you?
We get to shoot guns later?
…Yes, that as well.
Our baseball player rides through the suburbs of his small North Carolina town, witnessing the violence that has be fallen his neighborhood and following in their wake like the narrator of War of the Worlds, dodging death at every turn when even the lawn mower comes after him. As it turns out, the baseball player is the son of the man who got the facefull of diesel in his face. He decides that he has to get to his son, announcing that “I gotta find my boy” to the world entire. This sort of fatherly dedication is right out of The Godfather. His dedication is short lived, since a rig runs him down almost upon the instant, killing him and driving the inmates of the Dixie Boy into the building. All but the bible salesman that is, who runs out to confront the evil like Don Quixote tilting at windmills, only in this case the windmill actually is the imagined giant. The reward for his gallantry is a blow that sends him right out of his shoes and into a ditch.
Just a little hay fever.
The group tries to raise help, but the radio is a machine and the machines have risen against them. This story line would later be mirrored in the Terminator series, and while the first movie came out before this, the original story of Trucks is clearly the inspiration for that movie’s back-story. The trucks now begin a campaign of terror by driving around and around the Dixie Boy in an attempt to break the spirit of the humans within. Meanwhile Curtis and Connie head inexorably toward the Dixie Boy, only to be menaced by another of the phantom trucks. Connie cries out “Why is this happening?” which is both a reasonable question and a great demand to the gods for an explanation for the entirety of the mortal world. Curt and Connie barely make it into the Dixie Boy parking lot. Connie then engages in a stream of profanity hardly seen outside of a Tarentino movie. As Billy and Brett attempt to get Connie and Curtis from the wreckage of their car, the first of the weapons come out. The boss of the Dixie Boy pulls out a bazooka, yes a bazooka and fires a round into one of the trucks which destroys it. Score one for the human race. They then fire a second rocket and boom goes another truck. It’s like Rambo, without the muscles, the mullet or the knife fetishism.
It took hours for them to realize that the first one in line was following the last one.
This leads to a tender male lead/female lead moment between Billy and Brett. This is because there must be a love story and they’re the lovers for today. Then they investigate the armory in the basement and discuss how Billy got to be an ex-con for a bit. It’s a confession that will be mirrored years later when George Lucas would borrow the scene in Episdoe Two, having Anakin explain his murder of the Sand people to Padmé. Meanwhile, the baseball player continues his Odyssey like journey toward the Dixie Boy, but finds his progress stymied by a series of obstacles put before him by the almighty. We then cut back to Billy and Brett, who have consummated their Male Lead/Female Lead status in the back of the truck stop, because romance happens anywhere. I was going to put a TV Tropes link here about how everyone always falls in love, but I can’t seem to find it and frankly, after 10 minutes I don’t care anymore. You’d think that’d be the easy one to find, but no. I guess it’s so obvious that there is ALWAYS a romance they don’t even bother to mention it. So fuck them, let’s get back to the movie. They then discuss the idea of going to a small island which is free of motor vehicles for the duration of the madness. One sentence? I continued for one sentence?
Nice to see Dee Synder kept working after the operation.
Sadly, the waitress has decided to go insane. She bangs a beer bottle on the table as she demands “They can’t do this” and then runs outside screaming “We made you!” to the machines demand that they can’t do this. The machines however, like the slave revolting in Spartacus, insist that they can. Once the machines decide they’ve had enough, they cut the power and leave their former masters in the dark. After a moment of that, the bible salesman proves that he isn’t quite dead by screaming in pain. The Dixie Boy inmates, or at least Billy and Curtis decide to go and rescue him. Connie complains that he should go and tells him not to make her a widow on her wedding day. He begs her “Do not forsake me, oh my darling, on this our wedding day”. It’s just like Gary Cooperonly without him selling a load of crap to McCarthy in hopes of ruining a lot of people he didn’t like. In greatest 80s fashion he and Billy strap on a bazooka and an M-16 before they run out to save the day. The guns aren’t immediately useful as they only want to get to a large shower drain in order to sneak along and find the salesman while AC/DC rocks along with them.
I will not make a lit fart joke, I will not make a lit fart joke, I will not make a lit fart joke…
It’s always great seeing in a movie when someone waves a small flashlight and it results in a grip off camera waving a large halogen light to create the illusion that the room is being lit by the single bulb. Billy and Curtis come out of the drains to discover that the bible salesman has passed on, but they do find the young baseball player and thus complete the trinity of useful male characters in this movie, bringing them all together at last. We are then left and the characters are all allowed to sleep for a while.
He actually believes this is a “Yee-Ha” situation we’ve got right here.
The morning of day two begins with a little military mobile platform and a bulldozer pulling up to the Dixie Boy. The dozer gets their attention by pushing away the wreckage of the destroyed vehicles and then attacking the front of the Dixie Boy. There is a small attempt to fight back, but the platform has a machine gun. Ho, ho, ho. The military scoot then pulls up and honks out at them inmates in Morse Code, delivering terms to them. The baseball player got a merit badge in Morse recently, so it’s up to him to translate. Interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be a merit badge just for knowing Morse code. There is the Radio Merit badge, which requires knowing Morse, but none for the code itself. The machines explain that if they pump gas, the inmates of the Dixie Boy will be allowed to live. They agree because, well, what else can they do? A rock montage then ensues of them filling the trucks all day long. “They don’t understand how a man gets tired” Billy complains as the unending stream of trucks just keep on coming. This of course is the symbolic complaint of the proletariat against the uncaring factory owner who constantly uses men and grinds them into the dust. There will be no union to help them though, because the trucks won’t allow such a thing. This is more or less where the original story ended, with them filling up the trucks, slaves forever under the wheels of the trucks. However, here there is a little more going on and besides it’s the 80s and we have rocket launchers. Billy suggests that a race of aliens is controlling the machines to destroy the humans and wipe the place clean before infesting the planet. From there, he begins to form a plan.
See? Heat, camel, it’s all symbolic.
A hand grenade into the platform removes the issue of the machine gun. Once they remove that threat, they run from the Dixie Boy, slipping away through some of the other drainpipes. Once the trucks realize that they haven’t seen the humans for a while, they start to smash into the Dixie Boy, turning it into a big pile of kindling. The destruction of Dixie Boy reminds me of the destruction of… oh hell, I don’t know. Pick something. I mean I could mention a lot of things, but it’s all a bit silly at this point and I can’t think of anything good at the moment. I mean damn, I’ve compared this movie to enough things, you think of one for a change! Why is it always me that has to do all the heavy lifting around here?
Can I a get a Woo Hoo?
The Dixie Boy escapees then run away to a marina where they finally finish off one of the main trucks and escape on a sailboat to the island we talked about earlier. I haven’t really talked about it, but you know what truck I mean. What’s perhaps most surprising is the sheer number of survivors there are. In most movies the group is picked off one by one until one three or four remain. Now there is a certain amount of picking off, but there are a dozen or so survivors by the end of this movie. Far more live than died. The end claims that a large UFO was destroyed and that six days later the world passed through the tail of the comet and everything was alright after that. The survivors of the Dixie Boy, we are told, are still survivors. And what better way could you end a movie than that? It makes the Triumphant ending to Star Wars seem small potatoes by comparison.
There! I showed the Green Goblin Truck! Happy now?
I guess I can understand why someone might not like this movie. It’s not funny enough to be a pure comedy, but there are too many jokes for it to be a straight horror. It’s not an easy movie to categorize. It also addresses too many of the greater questions that face humanity, which could scare away the sort of person who never looked into the abyss and found the abyss looking back. There are also some people who have no taste in music at all. Those folk might not like the AC/DC songs, but those people are bastards and should be punched in the crotch. If the movie has a flaw, it’s that the story telling is very much the “Tab A into Slot B” style with action around the story points to pad the run time. That’s not really a problem for me though. King was a first time director after all and at least his movie makes sense. Had he made more, I’m sure he would have done even better. No, in the end, this is the finest movie of its kind to come out of the 80s and it’s everything I love about cheap cinema. It’s filled with screwy ideas, a lot of “yeah, whatever” explanations as to why some very convenient things happen, and it lets the scrappy good guy win in the end. What’s not to love? Yesterday’s review was painful, but this was joy.
And the whole epilogue is explained in one paragraph too. God, I miss those days.
This may just be the best movie ever made.
Did you come? I came.
Happy Halloween everybody!
Hercules and the Captive Women (1961 Dir. Vittorio Cottafavi) Episode 12 of Season 4 which was shown on September 12th, 1992
Now squeal for me piggy! (yup, a sodomy joke right out the gate)
Flaming Crab Cakes! It was hard finding any information about this. The name of the movie is actually “Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide” and that is not the same thing as is written on the side of the box, let me tell you! I got an Italian Language Wikipedia page when I put it in and only someone who speaks Italian could tell me if it’s even about Hercules or this other cat Ercole. Is that an Italian name for Hercules? Who can tell? As Hercules Unchained is called Ercole e la regina di Lidia in Italian I’m going to guess that Ercole is Herc. I did find one page, but I didn’t really bother reading it because I’m in enough pain already and the movie hasn’t even actually started yet.
Did we really have to meet in this parking structure?
We start with as short historical narration about who ruled Thebes and how Herc and his son lived there. Now this isn’t Steve Reeves as Herc, this is Reg Park. A big red filter goes over the screen, while someone tries to start the plot, but I can only see a screen of red and I worry I’m probably missing something. The sound and color are horribly washed out and it’s hard to hear what’s supposed to be going on. It doesn’t help that we’re five minutes in and the only scene of dialogue is a bunch of people asking each other what the hell is going on. I think they’re being threatened, but it could be that the gods are giving life, so maybe they’re being threatened with life giving goodness? Seriously, I have no idea what the hell is supposed to be going on.
And here he is napping
Okay! A fairly clear dialogue scene has told me that a great evil is approaching to attack the Greeks. Sort of en mass I guess, but the Greeks can’t decide if they should unite against evil or just have a sammich. Androcles decides to go alone, worrying that someone will take over his kingdom. So Herc, being the helpful guy he is, announces no one will sit on his throne. He then proceeds to lift it up and hurl it to the ground, breaking it into pieces. He says they’ll rebuild it, but they can’t exactly go to Ikea to get another one. So the king decides that Herc is gonna go with him, and of course he doesn’t take no for an answer.
I think Herc’s son put a sleeping powder into his drink and shanghai’d his dad, but again, the audio is so bad it could be anything. Had they left in the original Italian, or possibly used a Portuguese dub, the sound might be worse, but I doubt it. Herc isn’t ticked though, he sort of finds it amusing that the king has just him and his son for an army against the enemy they know nothing about. No really, they even mention they know nothing about and have never even seen the enemy. No one knows who he is, what he wants, if he exists. Yeah, I said it. Maybe there is no enemy and this was all just a trick. If it turns out I was right, I want to say I called it right now. Umm, yeah, I’m watching as I type. I can’t take watching this and then watching it again to write the review so I’m reviewing as it plays. You’re getting it realtime baby! WOOOO! It’s the future! Well, actually it’s the past because I’m reviewing this in July.
Still napping. There is a lot of him sleeping in this movie.
So Herc sleeps while someone cuts the water pouches. Actually, there’s a lot of that. War starts, Herc Sleeps, they drug his wine, he sleeps, they travel the high seas, Herc sleeps, they cut the water skins, Herc sleeps, they kidnap the king, Herc sleeps. Herc only wakes up when it’s clear the guys are stealing the boat, and then he gets up and drags the boat back into shore via the anchor chain. As Herc’s name is in the title though, he wins and takes the boat back. AND THEN… Herc goes back to sleep. What a surprise. Waaaah. I just noticed that we’re only 22 minutes ion and have 72 left. Whimper. Why do I do this to myself? How many people are really going to read this?
Oh look! He’s standing now!
Okay, so a storm kicks up, but I can’t understand anything that anyone says because the storm noise kills all the voice work. Herc’s son gets swept off the boat though. Then the boat gets wrecked, and if you’re ready for a shock, Herc goes back to sleep. YUP! He goes to sleep on a bit of driftwood. I have no idea how he got to be such a big deal, since all he does is sleep. He has a dream about the king, begs Zeus for help, has a nap and then swims to an island, presumably because he thinks there will be better naps there.
Scrooge looked in amazement at how bad this movie was.
Huh? What’s he doing here? Weird. Anyway! On the island we have the eponymous captive women, or woman. It’s one girl in a fake looking bit of plastic rock that has bits cut out so you can see her face and hands. The girl tells him to run away, after asking him to kill her and end her torment. I know how she feels. An old man also tells him to leave and turns into the fakey-est looking fake iguana monster I’ve ever seen and then a wall of flame. There is also some talking, but I can’t understand much more than every third word. I hate complaining about the audio so much, since I’m sure most of what’s being said isn’t worth listening to anyway, but it’s really a problem here and I’d like to be the one to decide.
Are you guys even trying?
Herc kills he monster, saves the girl and… is there a plot to this? I mean I know Herc Unchained had problems but really! I can’t even tell if there is a plot, much less the seven or eight unchained had. Anyway, Herc walks to Atlantis, without even taking a break for a nap and surprise, surprise, the Queen of Atlantis is wearing a cocktail dress and has a beehive hairdo. She’s less thrilled than you’d think to have the girl, who turns out to be her daughter, returned to her. It seems if the daughter of the queen lives then Atlantis shall be destroyed. She let the daughter get this far because this is Herc’s world and we’re just livin’ in it. See, if there weren’t a full-grown girl for Herc to get interested in, then he wouldn’t save the day. Pretty much all of Herc’s motivations are sleep and tits.
Seven days after watching a video with her in it, you die!
Herc’s Son turns up with his midget, oh yeah, there’s a midget, and they fight the soldiers that are supposed to kill the daughter. Mostly they do this by hitting their shields with rocks and knocking them out. NOT KIDDING! They save the girl, and talk to her, but I can’t understand anything they say because of the lousy audio. I could claim the audio got really bad and had to turn on the MST3K episode, which has better audio and video to boot. BUT NO! I’m going to keep up this pretense of professionalism and watch this bitch. Even if there is only really audio on the left channel, even if the colors only come in the palette of “Washed out” and even if what little of the movie I can understand makes me long for the moments I can’t. I will do it, because I’m the baddest mofo ever to review a crappy movie. Eye of the Tiger baby!
Herc is actually very short.
So anyway, someone tires to kill Herc in his sleep. Big surprise there, him being asleep and all. Oh yeah, it’s the king that wanted to kill him except it’s not really the king, just some guy who looks like him. Or maybe it’s really him. Who knows? I don’t. The queen tries to mack on Herc’s hot bod and gives him some wine. When he falls down asleep, I want everyone to know that I called it. Of course it’ll be hard to know if he was drugged by the wine or just laid down for another nap! BUT WAIT! For once it wasn’t a nap. Ahh, bet you didn’t see that one coming, did you?
Sleeping AGAIN! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie were one character sleeps so much.
Oh yeah, the son and the girl and the midget all walk along together while son and girl fall in love. No love for the little guy though, they never let the short guys fall in love. They run around in the desert, trying to avoid soldiers… for some reason that I haven’t quite worked out yet, and fall in love. I’m not just being contrary, the audio is so bad that I honestly am having trouble following the story of this movie. Assuming the movie has a story you understand, which is something I’m not willing to concede just yet. Another problem is that there are actual breaks in the film which were just spliced together. So there are missing bits of movie here, along with everything else. I should have just watched the MST3K version, that at least had clear sound and video.
Make your own Creepy Crawlers with the Creepy Crawler Playset.
So it turns out that the Alantians are trying to form a master race abusing the men of the valley while doing it. I’m pretty sure the men of the valley only just turned up in this movie, though I could be wrong. Herc agrees to help stop the people of Atlantis and save the men of the valley while his son stays behind to mack on the chick. The problem is that the men of the valley have decided that today is a good day for someone else to die and decide to attack the city. Herc’s son thinks this is bad because they need to wait for his father. Not to beat an already dead and decaying horse, but because of cuts and bad audio, I have no idea what the problem is. I still have half an hour of movie to watch and I’ve yet to work out the plot.
Frankly our colors are so washed out, I don’t know what side we’re supposed to be on anymore.
There is a magic rock, made of the blood of Uranus, which kills people. Herc wants to destroy the rock, but some old guy will only let him if he proves to be a man of great power. The old man then tells Herc that sunshine is the best disinfectant and that if he can shine the light of the sun on the stone then its power will be destroyed and so shall Atlantis. I wish you were here, partly so I could prove this insanity but mostly because watching these things alone can’t be good for me. After the old guy tells Herc about the Sun, there is a battle we don’t see. No, really. They actually fade out, as if there was a commercial, and when we come back, all the men of the valley have been slaughtered. The only reasons for these old Sword and Sandal movies is to have the big battles at the end and they skipped it! Maybe it’s because there is still 20 minutes left. 20 minutes? I was sure this movie should have ended an hour ago!
This man no longer believes in the movie he’s starring in. I don’t even know why he bothered being awake for this scene.
It would be so easy to just walk away. You could just fake the rest. Just pretend like you watched it, just pretend. Who is ever going to watch this to make sure your review is accurate? They’ll never know, just throw in the last twenty minutes of Seven Samurai. Fake some screen caps, put some suggestive comments. No one will ever know, I’ll keep the secret, you can trust me. Not only will it be easier, but everyone will thank you in the end. C’mon, it’ll be so easy, just walk away. Think of it, you could be watching The Evil Dead right now! Huh? Huh? Maybe even the Seventh Seal, or The Rocketeer. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Hmmm?
You could be watching a movie that doesn’t suck right now…
Ma-Movie that doesn’t suck? Are there such things? Are there movies that don’t suck? I can has non-crappy movies?
Are you going to let this crappy movie win? Is this all there is to you?
I… but it sucks so much.
I thought you were made of sterner stuff. I thought we could depend on you.
It just… I hurt so bad.
… No! Weirdo! Please, you can’t quit now. Think of Camo-Ninja! What would Camo-Ninja say? Would he give up? Would he quit?
You can do it Sailor Moon!
Camo-Ninja? Is that you?
C’mon! You can beat this movie! THINK! What would Marlowe do?
Can I? He’d… what would he do?
He’d do it for God, for England, and St. George!
Wha? Would he?
Do it for Tiny Tim!
But surely, Mike, Joel, Crow and Tom could…
They are not standing on the square sir! You are.
Will no one help the widow’s son?
Now wait! I’m not even a Mason.
Will you let this evil movie have it’s way with this cute little hottie?
I don’t want to, but what can I do? It sucks so bad.
We’re going to enjoy her, just step away and we’ll end this now.
…Don’t worry. It’ll all be over soon. Don’t worry about this riff-raff, we’ll just pretend like they didn’t even exist after this.
Don’t look baby, you don’t want to see this.
Look! I’m sorry, okay? I’m just a small time writer with ADD and a tiny readership. Even if I did somehow wrestle this movie to the ground, what could I do? Warn fourteen people of the danger? I’m not Stephen Fry you know. This isn’t even really what I do, this is an off-shoot, a side project. I only post here maybe four times a year normally. I’m sorry if evil seems to have seeped out and is currently destroying the world, but I can’t do anything about it. It’s not as easy as you seem to think. I’m sorry. I’m not as strong as you thought. I’m sorry everyone, I just don’t think I can keep going on. This is the sort of movie that just rips your soul out. Even if the color wasn’t screwed, and the sound wasn’t some of the worst I’ve ever heard, and it wasn’t re-edited to within an inch of it’s life, it would still be just a crappy cash in.
Confound it sir! Will you simply sit there idle while evil deeds are afoot? If you do, then you shall receive NO SANDWICHES!
TINY LITTLE CAPSLOCK OF RAGE!
Must… go… ON! Must… finish… crappy… movie! How the hell… does Shatner… do this? I guess that’s why he’s The Shat and I’m not. Never… mind that, must… not… quit! This movie must be watched, no matter the cost. If I can just open this Autobot Matrix of Leadership, it’ll unleash the power of Stan Bush. If only there was a mystical token, a bright shining emblem that could help me. If only I had a metallic fish backed up by a funk fiber optic reflection superimposed under it. I need a golden fish. Must reach for a golden fish. Help me Obi-Wan Ken-Sadko, you’re my only hope.
If I can just get a golden fish…
Did he say a golden fish?
Oh yeah, that’s the stuff. I feel cleansed now. To be perfectly honest, that’s actually a recreation of how I felt while actually watching this mindless pile of dreck. I really did have a crisis of conscience where I contemplated just turning on the MST3K episode and following along from there. I even considered saying to hell with it filling in the rest of this review with bullshit and pretending like I watched it. But I knew that you, my audience, would want to know you could trust me. I needed to finish this, not for you but for me. And besides, I know you depend on me to tell you what movies you should see. You rely on my interpretations to tell your friends what things to watch and what to avoid. Besides, what would Peter Cushing say?
Let’s finish this.
Word up Pete!
Now, where was I? Oh yeah, the queen of Atlantis tells Herc that her soldiers are all Super Soldiers ala Captain America and that all of them have his strength. I wonder if they also has his weakness, that being the constant need to nap. It doesn’t matter because the fight is now officially on! Or maybe it isn’t because Herc jumps through a trap door, finds his son and then you think the fight must really be on right? You’d think that, but you’d be wrong. The movie never really gets going unfortunately. What we do get is Herc and son trapped in a room full of magic gas and a progressively lowering ceiling. Yeah, they went there, they went for the crushing ceiling. Pity there aren’t any spikes.
Wait? So the Master Race is Amish?
It doesn’t matter of course because Herc and son easily push the ceiling back and crawl away from the evil magic mist. Then they travel through some caves before finally Herc Announces that he has had it with these melon farming snakes on this melon farming plane and goes all out balls to the wall… no, actually he doesn’t. He just steals a chariot and goes joy riding. *Sigh* Steve Revees, where are you? Hell, I’d take Bruce Li at this point. Herc gets to the chamber where the stone made of blood is and starts breaking through the ceiling to let the sun shine in. Meanwhile the midget tells the son that the girl and the king have been kidnapped so they go to try and pretend that they’re going to wrap up the B-Plot even though this movie doesn’t really have an A-Plot to deal with so there can’t very well be a B-Plot to sort out.
So close, and yet so far.
Herc breaks open the ceiling and sort of sets a time bomb since the sun shines down about two feet away from the spot where the stone is. The old man tells him that the sun will move and destroy the stone, even though, really, why should Herc believe that? Let’s think about this for a moment, who has been trustworthy in this whole movie? No one that I’ve seen. So why believe the old man? I guess because the plot says so. Also, the light does shine down, the island explodes, everyone on Atlantis dies, the joint sinks and only Herc and company escape. The island takes about nine hours to be destroyed though, which is strange because there’s only five minutes left to the movie’s runtime. HOWEVER! The girl is among the company so the son does get the girl. So that’s nice. The King remembers Herc, the Son gets the Girl, The Midget gets nothing. And I get deep psychological scarring that will haunt me for the rest of my life. Ah well, it’s not like I’m able to sleep at night anyway.
Is it me, or does that guy on the right seem about to scream that this is Sparta?
I need to say, this really was a tough movie to watch. Strange as it may seem, I actually like these movies. For all the teasing I gave them, I liked The Atomic Brain and The Transparent Man. They’re sort of cheep, but they’re still entertaining. It’s fun to watch that stuff and take the piss out of it. You can like something while admitting all the flaws that dog it at every step. A lot of time, you need these crappy bits of garbage, just to give the truly great movies a place for comparison. This however, this wasn’t fun. This was really hard and painful to watch. Also, I can’t really watch something for a review with friends. They get resentful when I pause the movie to write a paragraph. So watching it alone, my reviewing space became a very lonely place indeed. When the movie is this bad, and you’re alone, it hurts you and that hurt is a lonely hurt and this here truck is alone in the world. Yeah, a real live, genuine literary references in your Hercules review. Suck on that! It hurt bad and there was no help for it. This movie derailed plans I had to do a whole month of MST3K movies without the bots. Instead, I ended up with what you got, which wasn’t perfect in my mind. Still, there is tomorrow, and I’ve got something sort a treat planned. A treat to me anyway. Although at this point you must feel like you’re opening one of those puzzle boxes every time I post now.
What’s your pleasure sir?
PS- I do hope you noticed the voice of evil is Comic Sans MS. I thought it a particularly nice touch myself.
Hercules Unchained (1959 Dir. Pietro Francisci) MST3K Episode 7 Season 4, August 1st, 1992.
Hurts so good, come on baby make it hurt so good!
Oh Steve Reeves, why did you have to leave us so soon? You had so much work to do. This movie opens slightly differently than the riffed episode does, starting with a group of soldiers carrying their dead leader to a woman who really isn’t dressed in the fashion one would suppose a woman in ancient Greece might affect. Not so much a toga as a mid-50s cocktail dress. Oh, my mistake the guy isn’t dead, she wakes him up and then the soldiers kill some guy who, I don’t know who he is and it doesn’t seem important as he’s dead and we’re only 2 minutes and 22 seconds into the movie. Then the credits begin, this is where the episode starts. Well, that’s where the movie part of the episode starts anyway. Interestingly, it seems to be a different version of the movie since the opening credits are in a different order and use a different font.
Easy come easy go,will you let me go?
This is a sequel to the original Steve Reeves Hercules movie, so his wife Iole is in here with them and a young Ulysses. Now I can’t help but think that Iole was a young woman Herc was smitten with and that caused his actual wife to shoot him and be dragged away by police crying that she killed him because she loved him so much. Now I don’t seem to remember Herc being a teacher of Ulysses, but this clearly isn’t a documentary. And does it really matter since the chick playing Iole is such a little cutie? That’s actually one of the problems these movies have. They claim to be based on all these myths of ancient Greece and even mention specific books, but when it comes down to it, they’re a mish-mash at best. What I’m saying is that you can’t use this movie to crib the fact that you didn’t read the book and expect to pass high school English. Shocking, I know.
Bismillah! No! We will not let you go!
It takes forever for this movie to get going, for a while it just meanders as they travel from the shore to Thebes where they want to get to. They muck around, Iole sings a song, Herc fights Antaeus, and this movie seems to be taking forever. I don’t want to dwell on the fight between Antaeus and Herc, because there isn’t much to say about it unless you want to see a big muscled guy roll around and wrestle with a guy who is big, but nowhere near as fit. Even if you’re totally into slashy style yaoi, it’s not anywhere near sexy.
LET HIM GO! (yeah, I’m done with that joke now)
They get half way to Thebes and find King Oedipus hiding in a cave because his sons… Huey and Duey have ousted him. Those aren’t really their names, but I think you’ll find that they’re not really important to the story anyway. I’ve seen this movie three times now, and I still can’t keep straight who is who and which one is what. Huey and Duey were supposed to swap the throne of Kingship every year, only now that his year is up Huey won’t give up the throne and Duey is kinda ticked about it. Oedipus gets Herc to go ask Huey to give up the throne and Duey gives him six days to get him to give it up or he’ll march on the city and presumably destroy it. I would like to point out that we’re 20 minutes into this movie, which is only 96 minutes to begin with, and the plot has only just now been described. No, I’m really not kidding. 20 minutes and what has come before is the equivalent of a pre-credit sequence in a Bond movie.
Don’t let those suckas fool you none bro. Pimpin’ is as easy as you let it be.
The problem is, what follows is about as relevant to the plot as what has come before. A longish scene with a big cat trainer playing with some tigers fills some time to show that Huey is a bad king. Once Herc tells him to leave, Huey agrees, but no one believes him because he talks sinister and throws his head back to laugh a lot. At least, I think that’s what’s going on, it’s sort of hard to tell because things just happen here. I doubt the dub can be to blame, because I’ve seen one of these in their original form and it was pretty bad then too. I think Herc and Ulysses leave Thebes to go tell Duey that the city is all his, and deliver a note proving all is groovy. Soooo, 8 minutes after the plot is described, it’s pretty much all cleared up. Good, good. What do I do for the next 70 minutes now?
Aww guys, did you put vodka in my water of forgetfulness again?
Oh come on, you know it can’t be that simple right? You know something is going to pop up, yeah? Like Herc will come to a fountain shaped like a face that spews “The Water of Forgetfulness” and won’t remember to do any of the things he promised and we’ll start yet another plot almost a third of the way through the movie or something. Why are you looking at me like that? What? Do I have something on my face? Oh crap, he does, doesn’t he? Herc drinks the waters, forgets all and the movie is extended an hour isn’t it? Oh crab cakes. Yeah, Herc forgets who he is, what he’s doing, why he left, anything written in the script. Everything.
The problem is, she’s not even that hot.
Well, it seems that the reason for the soldiers at the beginning of the movie was to gather up who ever drank from the fountain because Herc passes out and the guys from the beginning of the movie show up and put him on a stretcher. Ulysses pretends to be deaf and mute, because… you know, I have no idea why. I really have no clue as to why he pretends to be deaf and mute. I don’t know the reason for a lot of this. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why do I have to do these reviews sober? You’ve probably had a few drinks, why can’t I? It’s not fair, having to watch these movies without the buffering power of booze to cushion the blow. It physically hurts sometimes to watch these things. It hurts here, right at the temple. Add to my pain the fact that there is a sudden shift in my copy and it becomes like when they’d stretch a film during the credits. You remember that? When a wide screen movie would be squished and stretched so the credits could all be shown on the TV screen? I wouldn’t complain, but it’s pretty noticeable. Fortunately it doesn’t last very long, but still.
Oh baby, don’t be that way. I love your new sculpture. It’s great. No, really.
Well it turns out this is Queen Omphale, whom we’ve heard so much about. Oh wait, this is only the second time she’s been on screen and the first time we’ve heard her name uttered. My mistake! She’s the queen of Lydia, which is in Asia Minor, and as far as I can tell… nowhere near Thebes. They have to take Herc on a boat to get to Lydia though, so I guess they were just wandering around other people’s kingdoms with an army and no one bothered to ask them what the hell they thought they were doing being all armed and stuff during a time of political unrest when invasion seemed imminent.
You know something? It just occurred to me that while there might be screen caps of this movie that don’t involve young women who clearly aren’t wearing any bras running around in outfits made of very thin material stretched across their firm young bosoms… those caps don’t interest me.
Well, now that a hunky new piece of beef has shown up Omphale’s old flame is being like Prince in Thieves in the Temple and he’s all like “You said you loved me, you said I was your friend, you were supposed to take care of me, you lie, lie LIE!” and then the soldiers kill him. Why they do this is a question I leave to the reader. It could be she’s just a one man woman, or it could be she’s bunny boiling crazy, or possibly she’s supposed to be some kind of evil temptress. Whatever the reason, she trades up and gets Herc all to her slutty self. She tells him he’s her husband, king of the land, and then a dance number starts. Not kidding. A three minute dance number starts, just a bunch of girls dancing around in tights for three minutes.
Nope. This movie was terrible and I deserve some eye candy.
Can I go on a bit of a tangent for a moment? Why is her hair, make-up and costume all out of the 1950s while everyone else is done up in togas and not much else? Everyone other girl is in a bouncy toga, running in such a way as to make bouncy the only word you could use to describe what’s going on. Yet the dastardly lead looks like she could be the temptress in, say a movie about New York. She’s the girls who would try to seduce the ad executive away from his wife or something. This isn’t an isolated incident either. The evil seductress is always dressed in the latest fashions from Milan while everyone else has to do with two meters of colored cloth and a leather belt. I’ve never understood this, but it is a fact.
What? Did you think I was kidding?
Meanwhile, back on the ranch Iole is nervous because she hasn’t heard from Herc in sooo long. How long? Three days. Yeah. She gets so anxious when she doesn’t hear from him. Someone needs to explain to her that this is like 800 BC, where you can go years without hearing from your husband. Odysseus went 20 years and had a pile of junk mail taller than himself to deal with when he got back. If she’s anxious after three days, she must be a real handful to deal with. I only mention this because it always bugs me when they do things like this.
It’s just suggestive shots of women from here on out.
Ulysses manages to talk Herc down to earth, but he just babbles incomprehensible gibberish at Herc instead of talking any kind of sense. So instead of trying to actually convince him, he grabs a brazier from the door and brings it over to Herc, telling him to bend it, which Herc fails to do. Later, when the waters of the fountain starts to wear off… or something, Herc does manage to bend the bar of the brazier and remembers he is Hercules.
The more suggestive, the better.
While that’s going on, Ulysses’ dad gathers up half a dozen people, putting them all in one chariot, and takes them to go find Herc. They show up in Lydia, present their credentials, and are accepted into the palace by the queen. Now, when the queen gets a glimpse of one of the guys they brought with them she gets all interested in him. That’s when we discover that the queen has an interesting kink. She liked to preserve men in wax, or maybe they’re dipped in silver or something. Point is, she turns hot men into statues and we’re supposed to believe that Herc is in danger, but he isn’t really. Her is never really in danger.
Little known fact: In the unaired pilot for Captain Planet, there were going to be 10 scouts and the last power that would summon the hero would be “skank”
Herc eventually wakes up (It feels like it takes about nine months of real time viewing) and decides to leave the island. The queen, she just sort of lets them leave. The chief of the queen’s guards puts up a token resistance, but they’re shoved out of the way by Herc’s great might and his ability to throw around fairly light props that are made to look heavy. They get away and the queen cries to see Herc leaving. Then, for reasons that aren’t really clear to me, she jumps into the pool of stuff that she was going to dip Herc in. All I can think is that they wanted to punish her for being bad.
I’m just keeping up the captions as a pre-text incase my mother is looking in but not really reading.
Now, you might remember that there was a plot to this movie once upon a time. Huey and Duey get ready to duke it out on the front door of Thebes when Herc shows up. Huey, decides to throw Herc’s friends and family to their deaths while holding Iole to throw her to the tigers. Duey runs away and they agree to have a duel the next day. Herc sneaks into the city to save his wife and the two brothers duel to the death. It’s a really terrible fight too, I mean tremendously bad. You might be wondering who wins the duel, but really, does anyone win? I certainly don’t, I have to suffer through this movie. It occurs to me now I should have called them Heckle and Jeckle, or Frick and Frack. Since there is no Louie in this movie, I should have gone with a double instead of a trio.
Mmmm delicious cheesecake!
Actually the two brothers manage to kill each other and the only real winner is the guy who gets money for selling me this, the evil clever bastard. There is a token attempt to have a battle scene, right at the end, but no one cares by this point. Everyone knows the movie ended six minutes ago and this is just a last dash effort at some padding and fighting. It’s all over pretty quickly though and we’re freed from this film. I can’t believe this movie had so many plots, and that it felt like it took so long, and that so little seems to have been said or done. If it weren’t for the young un-bra’d women in the very thin material, I don’t think we could have made it.
Yeah, I know. I don’t care. This movie was awful and I refuse to treat it with any dignity.
It took me way longer to watch this movie and write this review than I should have. I can only explain myself by saying that I kept finding other things to do instead of watching the movie. I mean, the shower wasn’t going to re-grout itself, was it? The main problem of course is that this movie is just all over the place, we don’t even get to the main plot until the movie is nearly a third over and then that plot just sort of goes away for half the remaining run time. It’s such a hard movie to watch on your own, that I felt compelled to walk away. It should come with a warning or something, stating the dangers of trying to watch this without friend can lead to suicidal thoughts. With Joel and the bots, you’re fine. Watch with pals and you’ll be okay. Watching it alone is something you do at your own peril though. In conclusion, I shouldn’t have to do this sober, it’s not fair.
Okay, look. The movie didn’t treat the women any better than I did. It was horrible to me, the women, everyone. Look at that? A balding man threatening a barely dressed girl! If they don’t feel bad about what they’ve done, why should I?
I’ll kill you all! Wherever you are!
ARE YOU READY? We’re going with an AIP movie today, so expect this to suck like a Hoover. The movie starts off with machine gun fire! AWESOME! Bet the rest of the movie won’t be this exciting. Actually, there is a problem already. This is a prison break, some guy is trying to get away, the searchlights are sweeping, looking for him, and some guard is just spraying the compound with automatic fire. You’d think he’d wait until the lights shined on him, but no, he just fires into the darkness. Going to be a lot of cop funerals this month I think. Actually, there were a lot of cop funerals back in the 40s when that stock footage was shot. Of course, when that footage was shot, he might have been able to see what he was shooting.
See the USA in your Chevrolet.
Anyway, it turns out that this jail break was done for a reason, but we don’t know what the reason is yet. Dude’s name is Joey Faust of all things. We learn this when our intrepid criminal is introduced to Major Paul Krenner of… no particular army. During the announcement of Faust’s career for the purpose of exposition, we’re told that Faust has a child he’s never met. The first crack in this movie’s writing then appears as he freaks out, announcing that if the guy mentions his daughter’s name again he’ll kill him. Faust has just given me almost more information than the Major has at this point. No one mentioned the child’s name or sex. Proof reading was not a priority on this script. See the cracks have begun to show. More cracks will appear later, and we’ll find that what little writing did get done wasn’t given much attention.
Look closely at this house, it won’t look like that later in the film.
It seems that they’re doing experiments in making people turn invisible, but the stuff they need to continue the experiments is rare and they have to steal it. They even call it Atom Bomb stuff and mentions that the government has it locked up tight. This is what they need him to swipe it. Now, if it’s 1960, and you can make people invisible, why wouldn’t the pentagon just fund you up the ass? I mean really! Still, they get Faust… Faust? For reals? Joey Faust? That was the best you could come up with? I mean it’s not even like there’s any kind of deal with the devil going on here. His movie has no such deep meaning. Was Falstaff too literary? It makes as much sense after all. Faust? Really?
Faust? My name is Faust?
…Okay. They get Faust out of the clink so he can be turned invisible and steal materials they need to keep turning people invisible, so they can steal more materials, so they can keep turning people invisible, so they can steal more materials and so on. It sounds sort of dumb, and that’s only because it is. Well, Faust pulls a gun and tells Krenner that he could just shoot him and Krenner’s bodyguard pipes up that he could shoot Faust. The guard is holding a Winchester rifle, the sort seen in a hundred westerns and probably borrowed from one, but he talks about it like it’s a shotgun. The guy has a Winchester, talks like it’s a shotgun. The script wasn’t read very carefully is all I’m saying.
This here rifle’s a shotgun right? RIGHT?
So we find out how they turn people invisible and it turns out to have been done through the magic of SCIENCE! They show how it’s done by turning a guinea pig, an actual guinea pig, invisible through a pretty neat special effect sequence. Some of the invisible effects are a little hokey, relying on actors to act like they’re being hit by someone who isn’t there, or items held by strings, but the vanishing effects are pretty good. Not great. I did not say they were great, but they are a patch above what I thought we were going to get. The demonstration also introduces a poor German doctor who developed the machine and who Krenner is keeping prisoner by holding his daughter locked up in a room right next to him. You know… I’m beginning to suspect that Krenner might not be on the up and up.
Would you trust this man with atomic weapons?
Krenner tells the room that the possibilities of this machine are limitless. Turning rodents and people invisible and then undoing that effect hardly equals limitless possibilities in my mind. It seems quite limited in fact. Sure, the uses of an invisible rodent might be limitless, but the machine itself is just an on/off switch. You hit a button and they vanish, you hit another button and they come back. Only one application really. The doctor, his name is Ulof by the way, claims that things might not be so safe to work with. He’s worried you see, because the process isn’t really as safe as advertised. It seems there are problems, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I’m doing Science and I’m still alive!
Faust is a little worried about the whole being blasted with radiation through a tube thing and wonders if maybe he shouldn’t just say thanks but no thanks. He’s not really given a chance though, as he’s locked into a room with the guard watching over him. The guard of course keeps his trusty “shotgun” which is still an old lever action rifle. Faust messes with the guard’s head and when the guard opens the door, Faust messes with it even more by means of a cudgel of some variety. The video isn’t really clear, so I can’t say exactly what he hits him with. I suppose it could be a fourth century Italian marble dildo, but I highly doubt it.
Yeah, I do the “Gangster Moll” fantasy for a lot of guys.
He goes upstairs, deciding that Doctor Ulof is the one person he could maybe begin to trust. Ulof tells him his story, and how Krenner is holding his daughter. Faust and he start to talk, but they’re interrupted by the girl who helped break Faust out in the first place. She wanders around in what today would be mistaken for a ball gown, but was meant to be a nightdress. She and Faust talk about maybe forming a team and getting away with the invisible machine so he could rob banks and give her a split. They then talk about opening a little restaurant somewhere in Mexico and how she can cook and he’ll run around in a cute cocktail dress… or did I just make all that up? In the middle of talking, the guard shows up and whacks Faust over the head just in time for Krenner to come back. After that there’s a scene that exists for no better reason than for Krenner to slap the girl (her name is Laura) twice. This, I assume, is for the males in the audience who can’t stand to see a woman assert herself in anyway without “being told” by a man. It was a different time you understand.
My self-esteem requires that I slap around a woman to make me feel strong. I’m sure you understand.
So, they lay Faust down on a table, turn on the endless possibility machine and turn him invisible. The problem here is that they don’t strap him down or anything, which means as soon as you can’t see him, he hops up and starts throwing monkey wrenches into plans. Krenner, true to form, tries to threaten Faust with staying invisible forever. The problem for Krenner is that Faust can now smack him around and choke him without being seen. So that’s what he does. Wow! The guy you’ve been threatening since you first met him has turned the tables on you at the first chance he gets… WHAT A SURPRISE!!! He starts messing with Krenner, who acts like a whipped pup now that the tables have been turned on him. Faust demands more money, but it’s not important beyond padding. He agrees to do the job.
Guys! Phone call from H.G. Wells’ estate, something about copyright infringement.
The job is pretty much what you expect from a movie like this. He breaks into the vault, knocks out a couple of guards and steals the stuff. This leads to a truly pointless scene where the guards try to tell their bosses about the heist and the bosses just yell at them for being bad guards. They are then denied cookies and are sent to bed without supper. Okay, that doesn’t really happen. I just wanted to pad this review out a few more sentences. This is sort of what watching the movie is like. Meaningless deviations that don’t serve any real purpose beyond adding a few more minutes to the run time. Isn’t this fun kids?
And this little tube would grow up to be Nomad.
While Faust is away, we learn what Ulof was worried about. It seems that the guinea pig died even though it had built up a resistance against the radiation, which is news to me. I didn’t know you could build up a resistance, I thought you just built up cancer and radiation burns. Evidently, every time you vanish a person it takes more power to make them vanish and less power to turn them back. Now they’ve swiped a new material called… are you ready for this? The new material is called X-13! I know, right? Krenner says that they’ll use the X-13 on Faust, but Ulof claims that X-13 had unusual properties that are different from other nuclear materials and he wants to study it more to make sure it’s safe. What properties? You’re just using the radiation to power your on/off switch with endless possibilities. If you were using it some other way, you couldn’t just replace the materials. Radiation is radiation, some things just have more of it. Srsly! Anyway, Krenner says they’ll use the X-13 on Faust and Ulof puts up a token resistance, but Krenner tells him that he’s willing to sacrifice one man if it means having an invisible army. So they decide to use the stuff on Faust.
Stop reading over my shoulder.
Faust on the other hand has other ideas besides those that Krenner has for him. He decides to rob a bank instead of the atomic vaults and enlists Laura’s help in his plan. The problem is, or turns out to be, that the whole invisibility thing is unstable and he reappears in the middle of his bank robbery. This turns the whole robbery into something of a debacle. When Krenner hears about this on the radio, he’s quite annoyed, but why? Think about this for a second, if Faust had reappeared with a handful of X-13 the guards would have jumped him and he’d have been forced to tell everything. This way he at least got away and no one knows that Krenner is part of it. Still, they get angry about the whole thing and decide to run. While Faust and Laura are discussing how they’re going to get away, Faust vanishes again and walks off.
Oh crap! Can you see me?
Inside the house, Krenner tells Ulof about how their going to take off and Ulof announces he’s going to stay. Krenner says that he’ll just take Ulof’s daughter and figures that’ll get Ulof to come along. Now, we’re 48 minutes into this 57 minute long movie and this is the first time we’ve actually seen Ulof’s daughter. I don’t think she even has any lines besides a gasp. Why have her in this thing? She doesn’t serve much purpose, she’s just a prop. It smacks of bad writing to have this weak plot device in the movie, they should have gone through a few more drafts of the script, strengthened the whole thing up a bit. It doesn’t matter because Faust shows up, hits Krenner and then actually appears again. Ulof explains the whole instability thing and tells Faust that once they get away from Krenner he’ll fix the whole thing. I, personally, can see nothing wrong with trusting a guy who only has one goal in mind.
EEEEK! Put your pants back on!
While that’s going on, the guard (he has a name but I refuse to care) catches Laura and Faust and Ulof and the daughter. Laura tells the guard that instead of having a son in prison he has a son in a graveyard and that Krenner has been using him from the word go. Yeah, I suppose there’s no reason to doubt the word of someone telling me something when I have a gun on them and they have every reason to lie. The guard decides to join the party, and help everyone escape. Faust shoves Laura into a locked room and the group leaves the house.
Again, look at that house!
When outside, Ulof makes an impassioned speech about the evils of science destroying our country and tells Faust he’s dying. You know… everyone in this movie is amazingly trusting. They just go along with whatever they’re told by people they shouldn’t really trust. Anyway, Faust lets Laura out of the locked room just long enough for Krenner to kill her, then a good old-fashioned fistfight breaks out in the lab. Kenner turns the machine on the nuclear materials and a small explosion blasts the house… from the outside. Oh stock footage, we love you so. You remember the piece of stock footage from the atomic bomb tests? Yeah, they use that. So the exploding house is clearly hit by a wave from outside the house.
See? It looks nothing like the house we saw earlier.
The explosion doesn’t even destroy the house since we see people scouring the wreckage. They say that there’s nothing left but ash, but you can clearly see part of the house, a lot of the equipment, standing telephone poles a few feet behind the wreckage, hardly destroying half the county as the script demands they say. After Ulof tells the agents how this whole thing, all this death and destruction was caused by Krenner wanting an invisible army an agent actually says “This whole invisible army thing is an interesting idea, maybe we should make some.” And then Ulof smacks him and screams “WHAT DID I JUST SAY? Am I talking just to hear myself? What the hell is wrong with you people?” He doesn’t really, but he comes close. He gets the last line in the movie, which ends on a “Research is bad and dangerous and you should just sit down and do what the system tells you to” note like a lot of these movies do. That’s what insults my intelligence, that they show someone being vain and irresponsible to claim that all science and research is bad. Like no one could be even remotely careful or responsible with the power of SCIENCE! I’m really offended by that idea, it smacks of stupid people trying to sound clever.
Some days, it’s like I’m talking to the headrest.
Started talking about the Tunguska event and decided to do a comedy Canadian voice for the Russians because my Russian accent is shit and I figure everyone who live above a certain latitude mark probably all sound the same. So We started with an innocent “Oh yeah, there was this explosion eh, and it knocked down all the trees ’round here, but we didn’t think nothin’ of it cause there’s nothing up here.” This ended up with me extending that to “We’re gonna storm the Winter Palace and then go over to Timmie’s for some coffee. Oh, I love that hazelnut roast they do over there.” And then that took us to, “I hope the German’s wrap up warm if they invade, cause it gets cold in the winter donchano. I just hope they put chains on their tanks or they’re gonna get stuck.”
Once Stalin’s clearing came into the conversation I was really into it and had them sending people off to die in the Gulags with a hearty “We’ll see you later, you take care now. Try not to be an enemy of the state anymore, eh?”
I’m afraid it only got worse from there and I was eventually decried as a thing of evil.
The Phantom of the Opera (1925 Dir. Rupert Julian and others)
Welcome my friends to the show that never ends…
Phantom is another movie that I always find to be more tragic than horrific. There are freights to be had, but the movie is much more about the tragedy and the insanity of Erik that always brings me back to it. Erik isn’t just a mad man he’s a mad man who feels that he’s been driven to perform the evils he’s done. You have a sort of early stalker mentality going on where Erik feels he’s owed something by young Christine. He trained her, he loved her, and she cast him aside when she sees his horrific visage.
After this shot, the urban myth of a munchkin hanging himself lasted for decades.
I’ve always had trouble having any sympathy for Christine. She’s not terribly bright, and she is amazingly selfish. It takes her nearly an entire reel to figure out that her masked benefactor is the Phantom, and she figures that out long after she’s taken to the underground lake, and the crypt like lair of Erik’s base of operations. She doesn’t even seem that concerned with the fact that Erik kills lots of people in order to advance her career.
Oh darling, my head is filled with cotton, but my mustache is fabulous!
I mean Christine even fails to follow even the most simplistic instructions. I mean he makes one simple rule, that she can’t ever see his face. Not hard, not tough, very easy. All he does is tell her she can’t ever see his face, fearing that his face would make her freak out, and that all she must see is the mask. So what does Christine do?
One simple instruction, and she fails.
Yeah, she yanks it off the first chance she gets! Then, her attitude totally changes. When before, her eyes were bright and her face in a state of sexual excitement, she reacts only in terror after seeing him. I can admit that she does get a little creped out by the mask, and the room she wakes up in does rather smack of a stalker fan boy palace, but still she’s sort of hot for him right up until she takes the mask off. I mean this is a guy who totally flatters her at every step, what young girl wouldn’t be excited. Still though, I have trouble feeling sympathy for her over Erik. I mean, after all this horribleness, she still goes on stage even though she knows that Erik is out there and killing people.
You ever notice it’s alwas me on the left and you on the right?
Once the unmasking happens though, the rest of the movie really starts rolling. It’s the scene after this, when Erik releases Christine and allows her to go back to the real world that we get the Masque Ball. In the version I used for screen caps, this version is entirely shot in color. I have 3 different versions of this movie on DVD, but the one I used has the most color scenes and for a few other reasons I used it for this. The Masque is the big scene in the movie for me, even more than the unmasking scene which has some major feeling to it. I like the masque because of the technical aspects dealing with the color, but it is a great scene even in blank and white.
Dude, shut up.
After the masque, we get the final opera performance. Christine foolishly goes back on stage, instead of running away, and she pays the price for it. Erik kidnaps her and her boyfriend and a police officer (who strangely has a fez and mascara) follow them. The hero boys get trapped in a torture chamber and then we get one of the oddest bits of the whole movie.
What you can’t see is that he’s sitting on a swordpoint.
As the heroes are trapped in a room that is being heated, baking the boys alive, Christine is given a choice. Erik gives her a pair of brass anthropoids, a grasshopper and a scorpion. If she turns the scorpion, she enslaves her self to Erik and saves her lover. If she turns the grasshopper she blows up the Opera House but is released. As she turns it, her boyfriend and the cop are almost drowned anyway.
My pokemon, let me show you them!
Then there is the death of The Phantom, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. After being hidden for as long as he was, the mob suddenly knows where his lair is and comes to get him. He escapes in a carriage, which falls over and sends him running to the Seine. Entertainingly enough they run in front of the façade of Notre Dame that was made for Hunchback. Of course he’s killed and thrown in the river, but not after making everyone think he had a grenade for a moment.
Why yes! I am interested in lowering my long distance bill!
Sadly, Chaney is the only thing that keeps me coming back. He outstrips everyone else and the movie falls down and dies whenever he’s not on screen. This happens with a lot of Chaney’s movies though. This isn’t a bad movie, but much of the movie looks so much better during the bits where Chaney reputedly took over the direction. The movie isn’t the best thing ever, but it does carry a good mood with it and is a bit creepy.
Pimping ain’t never been easy.
I have three copies of this movie on DVD. These came in two packages and I’ll deal with the oldest first. My first version was built from the 1929 version of the movie, more on what I mean by that a bit later. It has a new soundtrack by Gabriel Thibaudoux, which is something you regularly find with silent movies on DVD. Any old music or possible sound is often gone from the four winds, which requires new music to be produced. The picture has a certain amount of scratches and isn’t as well restored as some later versions will prove to be. It’s entirely tinted, which was a common practice as the time, to show moods. It contains the color sequence for the Masque Ball, but it’s not as large a piece as the version I used for the screen caps here. I’ll provide some comparison later.
This comes from the disc I talked about above.
The other version I have is actually a two disc set containing a more improved version of the 1929 release and a 1925 version. The 29 version is produced from several different prints, because much of the film has gone missing over the years, for this reasons there is a slight cobbled together feel to this version. Fortunately it rarely becomes an issue. The 29 version has a much clearer transfer, free of the scratches that mired the last version. Of course this newer version came something like 5 years later so there was technical advances. This version is freer of scratches and warpings as well. There is a musical score, this time by Carl Davis, and an early attempt at a soundtrack. Some voices were recorded on disc to run with the movie. They took those and fit them to the movie to produce a film with sound for about 2/3rd of the movie. There is also an audio commentary on this disc as well as deleted scenes and some more audio.
Those Vouge photographers just wouldn’t stop hounding him
On the second disc of that set is the original 1925 version, sans colour and with a different music score by Jon Mirsalis. The 25 version contains scenes not found in any other version of the movie, but is a much more damaged print of the movie as a trade off. There are a few interviews and a section of Faust (the opera in the movie) from another feature it seems. All in all, you can get something like 5 different versions of the movie if you really want to collect them all.