Here's an award-winning little film from
down under, a labor of love by Chris Jones, who took roughly six years to
complete it. To simply quote what he himself writes at his website, "Chris Jones
has been wasting time on this silly drawing, animating, [and] music-making
nonsense virtually since the day he was born in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia.
Whilst mucking around getting an Industrial Design degree at Swinburne
University of Technology, he began working as a freelance children's book
illustrator, and following graduation continued illustrating and animating
before becoming a computer game artist at Beam Software (later to become
Infogrames). He left Infogrames in May 2000 to work full-time on The Passenger, which he didn't complete
until 2006. He is still recovering from the ordeal."
A little, funny tale of horror and revenge,
The Passenger is both effective and entertaining,
while the entire set up and editing of scenes reveals an eye that would
probably serve a life-action horror movie well. It seems rather a shame that
the filmmaker doesn't seem to have ever recovered from the ordeal to become a
productive filmmaker, live action or animation. (Although he did complete the
extremely short, one-punch "short" found here.)
Chris Jones only ever uploaded a low-res
version of his film, so should you want to see it in finer quality, you should
buy it from him. Info for doing that is found here.
The American thespian treasure known as Dick Miller, one of our all-time
favorite character actors, entered the Great Nothingness on January 30th, 2019.
A Bronx-born Christmas Day
present to the world, Miller entered the film biz doing redface back in 1956 in
the Roger Corman western Apache Woman (trailer). He quickly became a Corman regular and, as a result, became a
favorite face for an inordinate amount of modern and contemporary movie
directors, particularly those weaned and teethed in Corman productions.
(Miller, for example, appears in every movie Joe Dante has made to date.)
A working thespian to the end,
Miller's last film, the independent horror movie Hanukkah (trailer), starring
fellow low culture thespian treasure Sid Haig, just finished production. In it,
as in many of Miller's films, his character is named Walter Paisley in homage
to his first truly great lead role, that of the loser killer artist/busboy
Walter Paisley in Roger Corman's classic black comedy, A Bucket of Blood (1959).
What follows is a multi-part
career review in which we undertake a highly meandering, extremely unfocused
look at the films of Dick Miller. The films are not necessarily looked at
in the order of their release... and if we missed one, let us know.
A.k.a. Naked Fist. Ah, the great Cirio H. Santiago (18 Jan 1936 – 26 Sept
2008), Filipino trash-film director extraordinary. Officially, Dick Miller has
absolutely nothing to do with this project. But the fact of the matter is: Firecracker is basically a remake of
the Blaxploitation trash anti-classic T.N.T.
Jackson (1974, see Part IV), but with a white babe (Jillian Kesner [9 Aug 1949 – 5 Dec 2007]) as the avenging angel instead of the chocolate delight that is Jeanne Bell.
Dick Miller, you might remember, is officially credited alongside Ken
Metcalfe as having scripted T.N.T. Jackson.
Ergo, although Miller isn't credited here (but Metcalfe is), we still see this
as a movie involving Miller, if once or twice removed and un-credited. (Ditto
with Angelfist , which we'll
look at in Part VII.)
Kult Eye Bleeder, which rightly bemoans that "they don't make movies like this
anymore", has the not-very-complicated plot: "Our heroine Susie
Carter (Kesner) has a 6 dan black belt in karate and she has come to
Philippines to find her sister (Carolyn Smith of H. G. Lewis' Something Weird [1967 / trailer]), who has
gone missing. After numerous fights and some investigation work, she finds out
that her sister is dead. Now it's revenge time."
"[...] An entertaining romp
from the prolific director Cirio H. Santiago. It mixes unintentional laughs
with quite a bit of natural beauty as it works in some great scenery and
documents images of traditional native culture from stickfighting training to a
parade with garish masks. Maybe they got more production value by skimping on
the music budget. [...] Although the score is credited to Susan Justin and Paul
Fox, it's mostly tracks lifted from Shogun
Assassin (1980 / trailer). [Daily Grindhouse]"
Rubber Monster Fetishism offers "Five reasons why Firecracker probably is the best movie
ever made", and we agree with all of them. In the end, however, they also
admit that "No, Firecracker is
not a good movie. Actually, it hasn't any qualities that would make it come
even close to being a good movie. But all that cheezy acting, the nudity and
the violence and the general throwing in the kitchen sink feeling of it all
just makes it so damn fun to watch." So true, so true...
Firecracker aka Naked Fist should not be confused with
the indi art film Firecracker (2005
/ trailer below), from the underappreciated indi auteur Steve Balderson, the director of Pep Squad (1998).
(1981, dir. Alan Arkush)
"In the late 70s, comedian
Andy Kaufman (17 Jan 1949 – 16 May 1984) was at the top of his game [...]. But
he'd yet to prove himself capable of carrying a feature film on his own,
despite a blink and you'll miss him appearance as a gun-totin' cop in Larry
Cohen's God Told Me To
(1981 / trailer) and a larger role as the improbably named Armageddon T.
Thunderbird in the Marty Feldman vehicle In God We Trust (1980 / trailer). Kaufman had wanted to build a film around his obnoxious alter
ego, Tony Clifton which he pitched to Universal. The studio were unwilling to
allow Kaufman to take a lead role until he'd had a hit but were willing to sign
a blank cheque for this witless science fiction comedy, scripted by John Hill
and directed by Allan Arkush, to capitalise on the success of Star Wars (1977) — the
company's research had suggested that the kids loved the Star Wars robots so a film
just about robots was bound to be a box office smash, surely? No. The film was
a massive flop at the box office and pretty much killed Kaufman's ambitions for
a big screen career — he only made one more film, turning up as himself in the
barely seen experimental comedy My
Breakfast with Blassie (1983 / film), a spoof of Louis Malle's [unbelievably boring] My Dinner with Andre (1981 /
trailer). [the eofft review]"
robots, ValCom-17485 (Andy Kaufman) and AquaCom-89045 (Bernadette Peters), meet
on a factory shelf, decide to explore the great wide world, and fall in love
along the way.
Though hated by most when
released, some people now see the film with less critical eyes. Over at All Movie, for example, Donald Guarisco says, "[…]
Time has been a little kinder to Heartbeeps
than one might expect. John Hill's script has some significant problems (the
plotting is weak, the human characters are ciphers) that were exacerbated by
studio tampering but there is a sweet, naive quality to the romance between the
two robot heroes that is genuinely intriguing. Allan Arkush's direction brings
a nice visual sweep to the film, a tactic that is aided nicely by lavish scope-format
photography by Charles Rosher, Jr. Tina Hirsch's editing gives everything a
punchy pace and John Williams contributes an unique orchestral/electronic
musical score that does a lot to set the film's unusual mood. Most importantly,
Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters manage to infuse their necessarily mannered
performances with a level of heart that makes the proceedings more compelling
than one might expect. The end result is definitely a specialty item but Heartbeeps can be an amusing if deeply
twee diversion for those viewers in the right forgiving mood. One's reaction to
it will depend a lot on nostalgia for this era, the performers involved and
eccentric Hollywood misfires."
That's Bernadette Peters below,
by the way, but from a Playboy
pictorial and not the movie.Dick Miller shows up as a factory
watchman somewhere in this generally reviled kiddie film ritten by John Hill,
who later wrote the not-too-bade Aussie western Quigley Down Under (1990 / trailer).
Smokey Bites the Dust
(1981, dir. Charles B. Griffith [23 Sept 1930 – 28 Sept 2007])
"Similar to the Porky's
(1981 / trailer) sequels and early Troma efforts,
the comedy is over the top to the point that it starts to become painful to
watch. [Varied Celluloid]"
Miller is in this car-crash time-waster playing "Glen Wilson", the
guy whose car gets stolen. Despite the movie's title, director Griffith's
second-to-last feature film has nothing to do with the once popular and now
mostly forgotten Smokey and the Bandit
trilogy, Part One (1977 / trailer), Part Two (1980 / trailer), and Part Three (1983 / trailer).
Smokey Bites the Dust:
"With Smokey and the Bandit and its sequel being huge hits […] it comes
as no surprise that rip-off king producer Roger Corman would jump on the
comical 'good 'ol boy' chase film bandwagon (like you couldn't tell what film
it ripped off from the title). This alone doesn't mean it's going to be unwatchable,
as Corman produced many loveable rip-offs in his heyday: Piranha (1978 / see Part V) was a loveable rip-off Jaws (1975 / trailer) and Big Bad Mama (1974
/ see Part IV) was a
loveable rip-off of Bonnie and Clyde
(1967 / trailer). Well Smokey Bites the
Dust is from the director of the mega-lame Jaws rip-off Up from the
Depths (trailer below) and is a pieced-together project stitched around
stock footage of previous, much better Corman productions. In other words this
royally sucks. [...] Smokey Bites the
Dust is bad, god-awful. It's so god-damn bad that it even makes Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 look like
a respectable sequel. It's a cluster-fucked mess that insults redneck audiences
that even like the southern good 'ol boy chase flicks. [Blood Brothers]
Up from the Depths:
DVD Drive-In has the plot: "Set
in the fictional Cyco County in the deep south (actually Southern California),
mischievous teenager Roscoe Wilton (Jimmy
McNichol of Night Warning [1980 / trailer], with Susan
Tyrell) steals cars on a
daily basis to make fools of the local Sheriff (Walter Barnes [26 Jan 1918 – 6
Jan 1998] of Day of the Animals  and Daddy's Deadly Darling aka Pigs [1973 / trailer], seen below from his football days in he '50s) and his bumbling deputy Bentley (Kedrick Wolfe).
He also has his eye on Peggy Sue Turner (Janet Julian of Humongous [1982 / trailer]) who happens to be the Sheriff's daughter. On the
day of the homecoming parade at the high school, Roscoe steals the main car
owned by Glen Wilson (Dick Miller) and with Peggy Sue in the passenger side,
it's a wild, non-stop chase through five different counties and police cars
careening in every direction."
Trash Film Guru didn't like the movie, but does find one positive
thing to say about it: "If there's one thing — and I should stress
here it's one thing — I found
rather charming about this idiotic mess of a film, it's that director Charles
B. Griffith takes the 'idiot cop' stereotype so popular at the time to absurd,
self-parodying heights, and God help me if that doesn't fill this reviewer with
a warm dose of nostalgia. Today, of course, the boys in blue are pretty much always portrayed as 'heroes' in
the popular media, and even the most flagrant excesses and abominations these
guys commit on screen are shown in a sympathetic light — after all, these are
the good guys, and sometimes you gotta go to extremes to protect 'us' (meaning
God-fearin' middle-class Christian white folks) from 'them' (everybody else).
If they gotta cut a few corners, bust a few heads, and wipe their asses with
the US Constitution along the way, well — it may not be pretty, but it's all in
a day's work, and it's all for our own good."
He also goes on to point out what
should be obvious about the movie's nominal hero: "While Smokey
Bites the Dust does feature a relatively talented cast of actors,
the characters simply don't inspire any kind of conviction or interest to
endear them to the audience. In fact, outside of the confines of a comedic
action movie the character of Roscoe really isn't much of a hero. Here we have
a kid stealing car after car, damaging private property, buying ten packs of
cigarettes for a seven year old (in possibly the funniest bit of the entire
movie, and also the most morally questionable) and all of it for no real
purpose whatsoever other than the fact that things are boring in small-town
America. When you really start to look at motivations, this movie doesn't
really hold up that well. Roscoe literally travels across the country in order
to evade boredom and in the context of the movie he potentially ruins the lives
of a handful of people and we ultimately have no idea why."
(1981, dir. Joe Dante)
ever so slightly on the novel of the same name by Gary Brandner (31 May 1930 – 22
Sept 2013), The
Howling is a modern werewolf classic. Numerous sources list this film as one
of Dick Miller's favorite projects: he has a small but pivotal part in it as Walter
Paisley, occult bookstore owner (and not a wanna-be beatnik artist), who both
explains how werewolves can be killed and also happens to have some silver
bullets lying about. (By the way: in The
Howling, werewolves can change at will, not just when the moon is full.)
when we first saw The Howling, the
year it was released, it bowled us over despite an ending we thought shit: the
movie was both scary and funny, and but for the werewolf sex scene it had
mind-blowing special effects. We recently re-watched it and found that the
ending is still shit and the werewolf sex scene still embarrassing, but despite
the movie's now creaky bones it still holds up pretty well in most places.
True, now more than then we find that PTSD or not, the lead female character,
Karen White (Dee Wallace of Popcorn  and Boo  and soooooo much more), is a whiney wet rag* and not the woman
of the film that should have survived — that would be her friend Terry Fisher (Belinda
Balaski) — but the movie still enthralls and is never boring (rather unlike
the last werewolf movie we saw, The
Wolfman [2010 / trailer], which both bores and seldom enthralls).
admit, we seem to be almost the only person that finds her so. Further down, Zeta Minor also is one of the less enamoured.
"Silver bullets or fire, that's the only way to get rid of the damn
things. They're worse than cockroaches."
Keep your eyes open for Robert
"Doc" Picardo (of Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus ) in his
feature-film debut: he's always in the shadows or transforming into a werewolf,
but he plays a very important character, namely Eddie Quist, the "sex-murderer"
werewolf whose early appearance drives the whole plot.
Supposedly the late Golden Age
porn icon Annette Haven, above, was offered
the role of Marsha Quist, Eddie Quist's hot and bloodthirsty sister, who isalso
integral to the plot, but turned it down due to the violence. The part
ended up going to the beautiful Elisabeth Brooks [2 July 1951 – 7 Sept 1997)],
below from the movie, who died much too young of cancer and, likewise, whose captivating screen
presence promised a possible future that never really materialized.
A financial and critical success,
The Howling went on to spawn a
franchise consisting of another six movies and a failed re-boot — The Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf
(1985 / trailer), The Howling III: The
Marsupials (1987 / trailer), The Howling IV: The
Original Nightmare (1988 / trailer), The Howling V: The
Rebirth (1989 / trailer), The Howling VI: The
Freaks (1991 / trailer), The Howling: New Moon
Rising (1995), and The Howling:
Reborn (2011 / trailer) — all of which pale in comparison to the first film.
plot, as found at the AV Club: "Played by Dee Wallace […] the film's Karen is vulnerable, but
she's not a damsel in distress. Introduced taking part in a sting operation
designed to lure serial killer Eddie Quist […] out into the open, Karen
knowingly puts herself in harm's way for the police and her TV station, getting
more than she bargained for when Eddie turns out to be more than your
garden-variety lunatic. In fact, their encounter — during which Eddie is shot
to death by the police — so traumatizes her that her therapist, Dr. George
Waggner (Patrick Macnee [6 Feb 1922 – 25 June 2015], one of a number of actors
playing a character named after the director of a werewolf movie), recommends a
stay at the Colony, which he reserves for his 'special patients.' This turns
out to be code for werewolves, and in short order her husband, Bill
(Christopher Stone [4 Oct 1942 – 20 Oct 1995], Wallace's real-life husband), is
bitten by one of the locals, the alluring Marsha (Elisabeth Brooks), and Karen
appears to be next on the list — should she prove receptive to the idea."
Since almost everyone who has
ever seen The Howling likes the
movie, let's hear a voice of dissent. Despite the movie's "rather nifty
cast", the easily distressed Zeta Minor hates the
movie, arguing that: "Joe Dante is a director […] unable to stick to a
single genre within one film. He always manages to mess it up — for instance Gremlins (1984) starts off as being
quite a good horror/thriller… but slowly descends into black comedy, and then
back to horror again. […] And then there's The
Howling — at first seemingly a horror film but again it slowly lowers
itself until by the end you're left with a film so very confused that it even
goes against its own werewolf rules. […] I've not seen this film in almost
fifteen years and it really hasn't aged well. I used to love it, but watching
it fresh now has made me realise it's really not the film it's remembered for
being. The effects and make up are laughable and while one could blame that on
the era, Bottin's work in Carpenter's The
Thing (1982 / trailer) still looks bloody good and there's only a year between the two.
[…] It's impossible to put the film of a woman being raped in a porno house at
the beginning of the film, and the final minute of the film together. What the
hell is that all about? I'm not sure these two plot devices belong in the same
film. […]While none
of the main characters have any real background or soul to them, the side
characters, as is typical in a Dante film, are well developed. Dante stalwarts
Dick Miller and Robert Picardo turn up and actually deliver the best
performances in spite of very limited screen time. Patrick MacNee is also on
hand to prove once again that he really is only good in The Avengers (1961-69, trailer). Add to that […] Kevin McCarthy, Slim Pickens and Robert
Carradine and you're doing well — but alas Dee Wallace Stone was not a good
choice to lead this film. […]"
"In the context of Dante's
broader filmography, The Howling
does seem something of an anomaly given that, for the most part, it's outwardly
played straight. The script from John Sayles and Terence Winkless […] seems to
be aiming quite high for much of the time, taking stabs at the post-hippy trend
for gurus, alternative therapy and pop occultism. Efforts are also made toward
a realistic portrayal of a marriage in breakdown, via Karen and Bill's strained
relationship. However, it seems clear that the director is far less interested
in the psychodrama and any pretence of social commentary than he is in making a
simple, fun B-movie; which, as we know, has always been Dante's strength. […] Better
to focus on this and have fun than get too worried about a script which tends
to get a little bogged down with dull subplots, the worst offender being the
investigation thread back in the city, with Dennis Dugan and Belinda Balaski's
characters. [Warped Perspectives]"
"[T]he opening scenes
reflect a grimy, urban sensibility and sense of real-life monstrosity close to Taxi
Driver (1976 / trailer) and The Driller Killer (1979 / trailer) — 'I don't
know where they come from but they've got to where they're going,' [Kenneth]
Tobey's veteran cop notes gruffly as he surveys the mean streets from his
cruiser — as Karen ventures into Eddie's hunting ground. Karen, in turn,
anticipating media philippics like Nightcrawler (2014 / trailer), is taking
a chance in the name of netting a great story to prove herself more than a
decoration for the news desk, entering into a foreboding pas-de-deux of sick
obsession as the shadowy pervert (Picardo) has insisted on her because he loves
watching her on the news. Dante and Sayles correlate their own on-the-make
enthusiasm with Karen's careerist escapade, flirting with the seamy side of
life to get their own, more specific ambitions off the ground. Eddie's calling
card, a smiley face sticker beaming out with blank cheer in the midst of
decadent surroundings, might well have inspired the same device in Watchmen
(2009 / trailer). The core of Bradner's novel is still present in the depictions
of Karen and Bill's crumbling marriage being subjected to a truly cruel and
gruelling metaphorical amplification. [This Island Rod]"
Seen in The Howling,
the public domain short Pigs in a Polka (1943):
"The Howling came out
after a decade in which science-fiction and horror cinema started to loosen the
shackles. […] Not only was it a second generation building on the backs of
their predecessors and improving what inspired them but also filmmakers that
started paying tribute to their inspirations, quoting from and spoofing the
originals. […] Without the jokes, The Howling would otherwise be a competent B film — but for
one scene. It was a scene that made audiences at the time sit up and pay
attention and turned The
Howling into a cult film — this being the scene in the middle of the
film where Robert Picardo transforms into a werewolf. It is a show-stopping
set-piece that for once and all put the old Lon Chaney-type lap dissolves into
their grave. […] It is a dazzling showstopper of a set-piece.[Science
Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review]"
"The Howling is an incredibly intelligent and
entertaining werewolf movie. Scriptwriter John Sayles' clever skewering of pop psychology
and the media aligned with Dante's
considerable directorial talents and soft spot for sight gags and referencing,
topped with the beauty that is anything Rob Bottin
comes into contact with and the audio wonder that is Pino Donaggio makes this a
must own (and must watch repeatedly) classic. [Kindertraume]"
(1982, writ., dir., prod. & starring Steve
Zombie Aftermath — and once banned
in Great Britain as a video nasty. Death count: 32. Supposedly made in 1978,
but (supposedly) massive reshoots resulted in a much later release date —
assuming it was ever officially released as anything other than
straight-to-VHS. One can only wonder what was re-shot, for it looks very much
like a one-shot-only-per-scene movie…
ain't gonna see Dick Miller anywhere in The
Aftermath, but you do hear him: he supplies the familiar Bronx-accented
broadcaster voice. Some claim that Survivor (1987) is a loose remake of this film, as both feature astronauts
returning to a post-apocalyptic earth… but if such similarities indicate a
remake, then this thing here must be a loose remake of the original Planet of the Apes (1968 / trailer) — which it probably is, but without apes and/or any budget.
astronauts crash land and find that civilization is gone. The Apocalypse
happened while they were gone and no one told them. The cities are empty,
there are hordes of hungry mutants wandering around, and the few normal people
are at the mercy of the evil Cutter (Sid Haig [14 July 1939 – 21 Sept 2019] in yet another vicious role) and
his gang. So naturally, there's murder, violence, lots of blood, major characters
die left and right, and there are also two cute little kids who both happen to
be Steve's real-life kids. [Rivets on the Poster]"
The Aftermath is one of those kinds of films that
assumes that if nothing else is still around post-apocalypse, clothes washers
will be: everyone in the movie wears totally spotless clothing."You
really don't need to see the film after watching this trailer. [The Big Movie House]"
"A 1980s post-nuclear action
flick as good, as bad, as macho and as pulpy as they come: Basically, the
storyline is very thin and overly clichéd, and the more thoughtful sequences
seem out of place — but the plot serves as a good hanger for action and
violence, sprinkled with bits of nudity, and all of this is charmingly in your
face, with blood squirting from every wound, fights not always following the
laws of nature when pure brutality doesn't permit it, plenty of stuntwork and
grappling, mean shootouts, and quite a number of killings. So no, it's not a
very brain-heavy affair — but massive nostalgic fun!!! [(re)search my trash]"
The Big Movie House might add: "The
Aftermath is a film that was made because the filmmakers have a love for
the craft and the sci-fi genre. So it should be a good film […]. Yes, it should
be a good film, but it isn't. The Aftermath is one of those rare films
where love and respect don't mean a damn thing. The film wasn't made for the
money, but the heart and respect that the filmmakers have doesn't really show
up on camera. What we are left with is a film that has almost nothing going for
(1982, writ. & dir. Beth B. & Scott B.)
here's one that we find listed everywhere but for which cannot find any
confirmation. Dick Miller supposedly has a "Bit Part" in this,
"the last no wave film" and last film that the New York
"transgressive" filmmakers Beth B and Scott B made together before
they went their separate ways. His presence goes unnoticed in all online
write-ups we found, so if he really does do a bit part in the flick, it must be
really teenie weenie, sorta of like a yellow polka dot bikini. More likely, however, is that some other Joe Schmoe in the movie simply has the same name as our Dick Miller, thus the confusion.
This fun and imaginative neo-noir offers one of the best illustrations of how
to make an interesting genre picture for very little money. Private eye Angel Powers
(punk musician Lydia Lunch, of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks) gets hired to
investigate a case where two nefarious corporations are competing with one
another for an elusive government defense contract. The head of one of the
outfits is a physically impaired, Howard Hughes-like weirdo (William Rice [17
Oct 1931 – 23 Jan 2006]) who manipulates people and situations while sealed up
in his private office; he orders the murder of a corrupt congressman (David
Kennedy), and instructs his cronies to present plans for an interstellar weapon
to a defense subcommittee ahead of his competitors. Meanwhile, his thuggish
subordinate (James Russo of American Strays  and Voodoo Dawn ) recoils from the boss's
attempts to dominate his life and behavior, and finds his way into Powers's
bed…. [All Movie]"
"The very accomplished (and
self-consciously wry) first 16mm feature by NY new wave underground film-makers
Scott and Beth B […]. Made on a tiny budget, with striking chiaroscuro visual
effects, the movie pulses with punk sensibility. It meanders and is sometimes
chaotically makeshift, but it's all of a part: tough and buzzing with New York
zip. [Time Out]"
(1982, dir. Sam Fuller)
last Hollywood film directed by Samuel Fuller (12 Aug 1912 – 30 Oct
1997). Dick Miller appears as an animal trainer. This movie got critically
vivisected with dull knives and unsharpened pencils before it was even
released, which resulted in its blink-and-you-missed-it release and eventual
shelving. Dick Miller appears briefly as a dog trainer.
"No movie is
ahead of its time, just ahead of cultural gatekeepers. Sam Fuller knew this
better than any other filmmaker after his 1982 White Dog waited
almost ten years to get a theatrical release. Despite Fuller's career-long
penchant for giving controversial subjects a punchy, exploitation-movie spin, White
Dog(his twenty-first feature) was the first to suffer
outright suppression. Due to the film's impudent premise, in which a Los
Angeles actress, Julie Sawyer (Kristy McNichol, seen below with her brother, Jimmy, of Smokey Bites the
Dust ), innocently discovers a guard
dog trained to attack African Americans — a metaphor for socially indoctrinated
racism — Fuller met with extraordinary industry and public resistance. His
deliberate provocation, indicting social naïveté as well as film industry
routine, worked too well. The film couldn't slip under Paramount's radar like
earlier Fuller outrages, since B-movie exhibition no longer existed by the
1980s. Instead, White Dog was [initially shelved and then] dumped in a
television graveyard, before it was eventually released to theaters as a
specialty art movie in 1991. [Criterion]"
knee-jerk reactions resulted in the profoundly anti-racist film being labeled
racist. Today, however, White Dog is
even held in relatively high critical regard as one of Fuller's better movies.
How things change...
White Dog is based on the 1970 novel of the same
name by Romain Gary (21 May 1914 – 2 Dec 1980). According to imdb (Date: 26.08.19): "The film is
based on a true story. While she was living in Hollywood with her husband,
writer Romain Gary, actress Jean Seberg (13 Nov 1938 – 30 Aug 1979, of The Corruption of Chris Miller [1973 / trailer]) brought
home a large white dog she had found on the street that seemed friendly and
playful. However, when the animal saw her Black gardener, it attacked him
viciously, injuring him. Afterward, the couple kept it in the backyard, but one
day, it got out and attacked another Black man on the street but no one else.
After this happened a third time, they realized that someone had trained the
dog to attack and injure only Black people. Gary wrote a magazine piece about it
for Life in 1970, which eventually
became a fictionalized full-length book."
"White Dog begins as aspiring young
California actress Julie Sawyer […] befriends an injured stray dog she finds
abandoned on the highway. Soon she finds out that hers is no ordinary white
dog, it's a white dog. This German shepherd has been trained by its
previous owners to attack all black people. The discovery of this chilling
truth is horrifying in its disturbing bluntness and its dog's-eye point of
view. Julie takes her dog to Noah's Ark, a training center for movie animals
run by the equable Caruthers (Burl Ives [14 June 1909 – 14 April 1995], of Zalman King's Two Moon Junction ). There,
animal trainer Keys (Paul Winfield [22 May 1939 – 7 March 2004] of Gordon's War [1973 / trailer]) […] takes
on the task of retraining the white dog by exposing a tiny bit more of his own
black skin to the animal on repeated encounters. It's tedious, treacherous,
exasperating work that truly puts Key's body on the front lines of the race
wars. He'd just as soon shoot the dog but knows that tactic would only shift
the battle line to someone else's backyard. He believes in scientific
reprogramming, in possibility, in the capacity for change. But by the end of
the movie, we're forced to wonder if the basic emotions of love and hate can
ever really be altered. Perhaps they can only be redirected. [Austin Chronicle]"
Dunno if the critic here is
Afro-American or Lily White, but over at Black Horror
Movies, they were not impressed by White
Dog plays like a twisted after-school special, ripe with
heavy-handed allegorical content, hate crimes and Burl Ives. If this movie had
been more popular, it would've been the subject of countless high school
English papers about how the dog symbolizes racism and how hard it is to control.
The A-plus students might've brought up the fact that dogs are color-blind, and
the uber-nerds may have even
mentioned that Winfield ironically played Martin Luther King, Jr. in the
Sure, the message of White
nice and all, but watching a man 'break' a dog for 45 minutes could only be
considered entertainment below the Mason-Dixon line."
"White Dog shines in its silence, breathes in Ennio Morricone's plaintive
background score, all through mocking the hatred that only a human can harbor.
It's tragic that perhaps the most poignant soul-searching motion picture
against racism was deemed too dangerous for public viewing and shelved for a
fair decade before it was re-released. [Dog with
(1982, dirs. Bob Giraldi & Henry Jaglom)
Original poster illustration (above)
by Rick Meyerowitz. Dick shows
up in the episode Success Wanters,
playing Dr. Hans Kleiner.
We took a look at this flick way
back in 2013, in R.I.P.: Harry Reems, Part V (1980–84), where we scrounged the
Once upon a time there was a
humor magazine called National Lampoon,
and they made a flick called Animal
House (1978 / trailer) and it was such a big hit that they thought they could shit
gold. So they shat this film out and had, well, shit.
Originally a four-segment film
meant to satirize popular film genres, the movie was trimmed down to three
segments upon release. Music video and commercial director Bob Giraldi did the
segments Growing Yourself and Success Wanters, while Henry Jaglom, who
hasn't made an interesting film since his mildly interesting début hippy-film
oddity A Safe Place (1971 / trailer), directed
the other two, Municipalians and the
cut segment The Bomb.
The praise for this film is
fairly consistent, always of the same tone as over at Reel Film, which says
"The folks at National Lampoon
have released some awful movies over the years (i.e. Van Wilder [2002 / trailer], Gold Diggers [2003 /
trailer], etc), but
this is surely the worst." Blogger Jerry Saravia, who admits not making it
through to the third and final segment (the one with Reems), says: "[...]
I cannot imagine a single soul finding anything of comedic value in National Lampoon Goes to the Movies,
which is the worst comedy I've ever seen. Let me make that painstakingly clear
once more: it is the WORST COMEDY I'VE EVER SEEN. EVER. In the history of the
comedy genre, nothing is WORSE than this movie. NOT ONE!"
Bad Movie Planet, which says the movie us "is
a poorly conceived anthology that falls flat on its face early on and stays
there", is particularly put off by the episode in which Harry Reems flits
by somewhere playing a Vice Squad Cop: "As bad as the previous segments are,
nothing can prepare you for Municipalians.
Not a moment goes by in which it this section doesn't make you feel like
someone is shoving a dead possum in your face, and this is mostly director
Henry Jaglom's fault. [...] Jaglom's whiny, navel-gazing autobiographical style
doesn't lend itself to the silly excesses of a low brow comedy. Jaglom has no
comic timing and keeps the film moving at a snail's pace. [...] Municipalians also boasts the film's
worst performances." And, according to Uncle Scoopy, the final
segment of this "totally unfunny movie performed with desperation by people
begging the audience to laugh [...] doesn't even have the gratuitous nudity
which spiced up the other two vignettes."
A crappy film, in other words,
and not exactly a stepping stone to a career in films that doesn't focus on
your meat lollipop.
(1983, writ. & dir. Jim & Ken Wheat)
debut of the bros Jim and Ken Wheat, who went on to write Pitch Black(2000)
and have a hand in its sequels. Dick Miller shows up to play the
"Producer" (of the film the female character bales from at the
beginning of the movie).
"[…] The brothers Jim and
Ken Wheat, […] produced and jointly directed (and wrote) this intricately
plotted story about a young actress (the very good Ann Dusenberry), struggling
to make both a decent living and a living decently in Hollywood, who is
unexpectedly hired by film-maker Gail Strickland. The actress is to play the
life story of a young woman whose plight opens the film; a girl traumatized by
witnessing the brutal killing of her mother and father. Her brother (Bruce
Davison) burst onto the scene, killing the attackers and saving his sister, but
not her sanity. Since this horrifying incident, (which earns the film its 'R'
rating), the young woman had been in a mental institution and had only recently
committed suicide. [LA Times]"
"A little fun can be had
with this mediocre horror. But ultimately it's too convoluted to be taken
seriously. […] Similar to both 1976's Scalpel
(a better version of this sort of thing) and Dead of Winter (trailer), this has a few good moments, but tries to be too clever for its
own good; its twisty plotlines lose you in the end. Think of 16 different
editings of the classic Vertigo (1958
/ trailer) running
all at the same time and you have an idea of how this one plays out. Actually,
that might sound more complimentary than it's meant to be. […] [The Terror Trap]"
"The story follows a
struggling young actress named Robyn, played by the talented Ann Dusenberry
from Jaws 2 (1978 / trailer) and that
fine picture Cutter's Way (1981 / trailer)! After
walking off the set of a zombie movie being produced by none other than Dick 'Sorority
Girl' Miller (see Part I), she gets what she imagines to be the role
of a lifetime: playing a young heiress who had committed suicide after a
violent break-in took the lives of her parents! A very stern lady is evidently
the director of this heiress epic, and what do you know, Clu Gulager himself,
the dad from A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (1985), shows up as the late
heiress's psychiatrist! [Ha ha, it's Burl!]"
(1983, dir. Allan Arkush)
follow-up film to his flop, Heartbeeps.
Dick Miller shows up as "Susie's Dad". (Susie, in turn, is played by
Stacey Nelkin, who came fresh off the set of that misunderstood flop known as Halloween III: Season of the Witch
[1982 / trailer].)
2009 interview at the Hollywood Interview Blogspot, Arkush says "Everything in [Get Crazy] is based on real stuff, and
I wish I could remake it as a realistic movie. But the only way I could get it
made at the time was to do the Airplane! (1980 / trailer) version of
it. […]There was this small company called Sherwood Productions that
had some capital. We had meetings, and they liked my idea of a comedy set in a
theater like the Fillmore. Airplane! was really big then, and what they wanted was that kind of
whacky comedy. We started working on the script… and I realized during that
process that the executive, Herb Solow, was pretty much of a jerk. […] Then the
company was taken over by David Begelman,* who was already on his way down. In
the end, they never really understood the movie, and the scam they came up with
to release it was to sell the shares in it to some Wall Street tax shelter
group, and then put it out so it would lose money… just like The Producers (1968 / trailer)! So nobody saw it—on purpose!
It was so horrible to work so hard on something, and then see it just thrown
*"David Begelman (26 Aug 1921 – 7 Aug1995) was an American film producer,
film executive and talent agent who was involved in a studio embezzlement
scandal in the 1970s. [Wikipedia]"
Get Crazy had a limited theatrical run,
was eventually released on VHS, and has yet to be released on DVD (a format
itself which will soon become obsolete).
The plot: "Max Wolfe (Allen
Garfield) is the owner of the Saturn Theater, and has been for a long time. On
New Year's Eve, Max plans to throw a HUGE party, yet his plans are slightly
dampened when he finds himself on his death bed, much to the delight of Colin
Beverly (Ed Begley, Jr.) and his nephew Sammy (Miles Chapin of Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse [1981 / trailer]), who want
the Saturn torn down and turned into a large office building. However, Max
decides that the show must go on and puts Neil (Daniel Stern of Leviathan ) and his newfound love interest Willy
(Gail Edwards) in charge. The show does go on as planned, but little do they
know that Colin has planted a bomb set to go off at the stroke of midnight! Can
the two lovebirds stop Colin's evil plans? Will Max survive? Will British punk
rocker Reggie Wanker (Malcolm McDowell of Tank Girl  and so much more) get the emotion
back into his music? And most importantly, will the show go on as planned? [Obscure Cinema 101]"
"Made during a time when
superficial mayhem wasn't even close to being frowned upon, the little seen Get Crazy is a stark reminder of how
playful music used to be. Of course, I'm not saying that music isn't fun
anymore (Karen O. seems like
a fun gal), but the music world presented in this film is not same as the one
we live in — you know, the one where a teen pop star gets scolded for
displaying her naked back, or touching a pole in an erotic fashion. For one
thing, sex and drugs are openly pursued, and behaving irresponsibly in public
is not only encouraged, it's mandatory. Hell, even the seemingly straight-laced
Paul Bartel jumps willy-nilly from a lofty balcony at the behest of a screaming
punk singer named Piggy (Lee Ving — the most Aussie-looking Minnesotan ever). Promoting the
convergence of rock and roll, new wave, blues rock, glam rock and punk,
director Allan Arkush presents a universe where these distinct styles can
commingle and thrive all under the same roof. [House of Self-Indulgence]"
Seen in the
background of Get Crazy: The Sunshine Makers (1935),
directed by Burt Gillett (15 Oct 1891 – 28 Dec 1971) and Ted Eshbaugh (5 Feb
1906 – 4 July 1969)*:
* Interestingly enough,Ted Eshbaughis
credited in many places, like here at Frankensteinia, as having directed, in 1933, a fab short animated horror film
entitled The Snow Man. Just as many
websites, however, claim that Mannie Davis & John Foster made The Snow Man in 1940, as does the Internet Archives here. With the latter info, we presented The Snow Man as our Jan 2019 Short Film of the Month.
at All Movie, Donald
Guarisco says, "Though it rarely gets mentioned in round ups of rock and
roll movies, Get Crazy is one of
that genre's best outings. The script offers a savvy satire of the rock
business, put forth in an appealing lighthearted style that makes it
accessible. Allan Arkush directs the proceedings with flair, keeping the
multiple plotlines moving forward while still delivering plenty of music and
laughs. Get Crazy further benefits
from a fun cast: Daniel Stern makes an appealing average-Joe lead, Malcolm
McDowell delivers a sly comedic turn as an egotistical Mick Jagger-styled
rocker and Ed Begley Jr. is a deadpan delight as an evil mogul trying to steal
the concert hall's real estate. Rock fans will also want to look out for punker
Lee Ving and alternative-rock legend Lou Reed in fun cameo roles (Reed in
particular has fun satirizing Bob Dylan). In short, Get Crazy is a funny and fast-paced rock and roll flick that
deserves a bigger cult following."
reviewed this film way back in 2010, and were not impressed. Click on the title
above to go to our typically wordy, long-winded review. Oddly enough, we made
no mention of Dick Miller, though he is credited as playing someone called
Crazy Mel in the flick. We don't remember seeing him… but then, we hardly
remember the movie anymore, either.
Twilight Zone – The Movie
(1983, dir. Joe Dante, John Landis,
George Miller and Steven Spielberg)
once (in)famous and by now relatively overlooked big budget film version of the
classic TV show with four different segments by four different directors. Dick
Miller appears very briefly as Walter Paisley in the second-best segment of the
film, Joe Dante's It's a Good Life (the
arguably best segment is George Miller's take on Nightmare at 20,000 Feet).
"Twilight Zone: The Movie is in the upper tier of anthology
films. It starts with science fiction and fantasy then slowly escalates into
terror. It was written and directed by the best filmmakers around and is way
ahead of its time. On a technical level, this production is nearly flawless. If
the two first tales don't stick with you long after you've watched this, the
last two will... [Tales of
Original, boring trailer to
Zone – The Movie:
plot of It's a Good Life: "Helen Foley
(Kathleen Quinlan of Event Horizon ) accidentally knocks
young Anthony (Jeremy Licht) off his bicycle outside a diner. Concerned, she
drives him home. She meets Anthony's family who seem to live in terror of him.
She then learns that he keeps them prisoner, as he has the power to manifest
anything he wishes. [The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review]"
spoke a bit about Twilight
Zone – The Movie, and It's a Good Life, in our blurb to our October 2011 Short Film of the Month, Sally (née "Sarah")
Cruikshank's Face Like a Frog (1987), where we wrote:
"Remember that big budget remake of the Twilight Zone from 1983?
The infamous one for which the actor Vic Morrow and two child extras lost their
lives to a helicopter while filming the John Landis segment? Among the various
segments is one directed by the ever-entertaining Joe Dante, a remake of the
1963 episode It's a Good Life about a mutant kid (Bill Mumy) with the
powers of god. (The episode was also the subject of a sequel episode It's
Still a Good Life in the 2002 revival of the TV show in 2002.) In the
remake, at one point the little brat [now played by Jeremy Licht] sends one of
his 'family', Ethel (Nancy Cartwright), to her demise by popping her into a
cartoon hell on TV, where she ends up being eaten by demonic monster rabbit. The
episode itself may not have been as good as the original TV version, but damn!
That cartoon hell was great! And it was created by Sally (née 'Sarah')
Cruikshank, the animator behind a wasted life's Short Film of the Month for October, 2011."
Over at Spirituality and Practice, they are less enamored by the segment:
"Joe Dante directs the third segment which is centered around the demonic
exploits of a young boy (Jeremy Licht) who has strange psychic powers. […] The
surreal dimensions of this portrait warp the tale."
And warped it is: "One of the best episodes of the series is also one of the best
segments in the movie, adapted here by director Joe Dante. […] Visual effects
had grown by leaps and bounds in the 20 years since the original episode aired,
and Dante uses puppetry, makeup, and special effects to achieve some memorably
gruesome and shocking moments that weren't possible to depict on television in
the early 1960s. With wacky sets and sound effects, the segment plays out like
a live-action cartoon, populated by creatures that resemble a Looney
Tunes version of hell. It's pure lunacy, but it's also fraught with a
profound sense of dread for anyone in Anthony's life who unintentionally
displeases him.* [The Horror Honeys]"
Anthony's mouthless "sister" Sara, played by Cherie Currie, seen
below not from the film.
justifiable quibbles, however, regarding the segment's ending: "And while there are some pleasingly nasty shocks, the end is kind
of ridiculous. The teacher decides to become a real mother to the boy and he
promises to no longer use his powers for evil — she'll look after him and give
him a proper life. […] Sounds okay, doesn't it? But then the teenage years will
hit and bad things will happen. Just think about it. Say there's a girl in
school that he likes but then she turns him down. Is he really going to accept
that? I don't think so. He'll do something hideous to her. Or even if he has a
girlfriend but she won't perform an act that he desperately wants. For example,
say he wants her to perform oral sex on him but she doesn't like it. He'll
probably go and have her mouth turned into a vagina and have her transported into
a maximum security prison. […]"
original story to It's a Good Life
was written by Jerome Bixby (11 Jan 1923 – 28 Apr 1998), who
among other things wrote the screenplay toIt! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958 / trailer), the movie that inspired Alien (1979 / trailer); the cheap
but oddly depressing and underrated sci-fi flick The Lost Missile (1958 / trailer); and the guilty pleasure that is Curse of the Faceless Man (1958 / trailer below).
Curse of the Faceless Man:
Heart Like a Wheel
(1983, dir. Jonathan Kaplan)
The feature film biographical story of Shirley Muldowney: "Shirley Muldowney (born June 19, 1940), also known professionally as 'Cha Cha' and
the 'First Lady of Drag Racing', is an American auto racer. She was the first
woman to receive a license from the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) to
drive a Top Fuel dragster. She won the NHRA Top Fuel championship in 1977,
1980, and 1982, becoming the first person to win two and three Top Fuel titles.
She won a total of 18 NHRA national events. [Wikipedia]"
Heart Like A
We caught this one at the movies years ago…
don't remember a thing about it, 'cause it was/is a totally forgettable film.
Dick Miller shows up to play someone called "Mickey White".
Drive-In has the plot: "Shirley (Bonnie Bedelia of Needful Things
[1993 / trailer])
started drag racing as a young woman in the late 1950s to make a few extra
bucks. Because she was a woman, she wasn't supposed to succeed, but
she ended up winning a lot of amateur drag races, and decided to turn pro
against the advice of practically every male she came across. Married to her
high-school sweetheart, Jack Muldowney (Leo Rossi of Maniac Cop II [1990 / trailer]), Shirley
started out racing just on weekends with Jack as her mechanic, but did well
enough in competition that she eventually wanted to make it a full-time
pursuit. Her determination to become not only the first woman racer in the
National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), but a champion as well, eventually
was too much for Jack to handle, leading to the dissolution of their
marriage. With Jack out of the picture, Shirley, by this time nicknamed
'Cha Cha,' began a long relationship with fellow hot rodder, Connie Kalitta
(Beau Bridges of Village of the Giants [1965 / trailer below]), who turned out
to be an incorrigible, lying womanizer."
Village of the Giants:
Jonathan Kaplan wisely avoids trying to hit all the 'key points' in Shirley's
life; instead, he takes the time to develop a three-dimensional character with
real-life goals and heartaches. Shirley is portrayed as a strong, independent, driven woman who 'finds
disappointment in her relationships with men' yet continues to strive 'for
triumphs in her profession'. [Filmfanatic]"
Rod Stewart: Infatuation (1984)
Miller shows up in the original music video to Rod "Gag" Stewart's
generically 80s song, Infatuation.
But then, the video was directed by Jonathan Kaplan.
(1984, writ. & dir. James Cameron)
first of six films to date, it is easy to imagine that many of those who see
the latest installment, Terminator: Dark
Fate (2019 / trailer), have probably never seen the film that started it all; and if they
did or do, they would also find the special effects extremely dated. But when
this movie was first released, it pretty much blew everybody away — and that
despite some effects that even looked laughable at that time, namely the
segment in which the Terminator (Arnie) "fixes" his eye at a mirror.
(OK, the stop motion effects at the end were sort of dodgy even then, but by
then the adrenaline the film instigated saved everything.) Dodgy aspects or
not, the original Terminator is
probably James Cameron's first "masterpiece" and a fucking good film,
regardless of its roots (it was, basically, a B-film… only the subsequent ones
were A productions). Time Magazine,
which was once considered a conservative news magazine,* even did the
unbelievable and placed it on its "Ten Best Films" list of 1984. In 2008, the
Library of Congress chose The Terminator for preservation
in the National Film Registry as "culturally, historically, or
it still is conservative. Unlike the average American conservative of today,
however, Time has somehow managed to preserve its ability to think and is thus seen, like most the press,
by the braindead masses of our doomed nation as a liberal enemy of America.
"Cameron originally wanted
Lance Henriksen to play the Terminator, reportedly enlisting the actor to dress
the part as part of Cameron's pitch. The studio wanted O.J. Simpson, perhaps
because they knew a killer when they saw one. The role eventually went to
bodybuilder-turned-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had supporting roles in a
few movies before breaking out in Conan the Barbarian (1982 / trailer) two years earlier.
Schwarzenegger has stated he was reluctant to take the role, feeling that at
this stage in his career he should only be playing the hero but eventually
giving so much thought to how the Terminator should be played that he knew he
had to do it. The rest is movie history, as it was really The Terminatorthat
turned Arnold Schwarzenegger into a huge superstar and a household name. That's
because he's fucking awesome in the movie: impossibly enormous, flat voice and
cold, dead eyes. [F This Movie]"
Over at All Movie, Hal Erickson has the plot: "Endlessly
imitated, The Terminator made the
reputation of cowriter/director James Cameron […] and solidified the stardom of
Arnold Schwarzenegger. [Seen below, not from the film.] The movie begins in a
post-apocalyptic 2029, when Los Angeles has been largely reduced to rubble and
is under the thumb of all-powerful ruling machines. Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn
of Planet Terror , Cherry Falls , and so much more), a
member of the human resistance movement, is teleported back to 1984. His
purpose: to rescue Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton of The Children of the Corn [1984 / trailer]), the mother of the man who will lead the 21st-century
rebels against the tyrannical machines, from being assassinated before she can
give birth. Likewise thrust back to 1984 is The Terminator (Schwarzenegger), a
grim, well-armed, virtually indestructible cyborg who has been programmed to
eliminate Sarah Connor. After killing two 'Sarah Connors' who turn out to be
the wrong women, he finally aims his gunsights at the genuine article. This is
the film in which Schwarzenegger declared 'I'll be baaaack' — and back he was,
in 'kinder and gentler' form, in the even more successful Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991 / trailer)."
is a cyborg of very few words, speaking only a handful of times throughout the
film, and when it does, it's usually short and to the point […]. But then, this
is a machine that doesn't need words; it may speak softly, but it carries a big
arsenal. Upon its arrival in the past, the Terminator gets right down to
business, murdering one punk rocker (a young Bill Paxton [17 May 1955 - 25 Feb
2017]) before stealing the clothes of another. From there, it's off to a small
gun shop, where it has the proprietor (Dick
Miller [!!!]) pull all his best weapons off the shelf, then shoots the man
with his own merchandise. To ensure the success of his mission, the Terminator
next turns his attention to killing every Sarah Conner in the phone book,
taking out the first one (Marianne Muellerleile) by pumping six rounds into her
as she stood defenseless in her living room. The Terminator is a killing
machine, programmed with a single goal and a driving determination to see it
through. Reese fills Sarah in on just what they're up against when he says, 'It can't be bargained with, it can't be
reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear, and it absolutely
will not stop… ever.' We've seen Schwarzenegger play tough
before, but in The Terminator he's also damn scary. [2,500 Movies Challenge]"
"The time travel concept and
the post-apocalyptic flash-forwards are all window-dressing that masks the fact
that The Terminator is very much
a slasher movie, just one with guns and explosives instead of hatchets and
chainsaws. […] The
to two of the main slasher conceits. First, and most obviously, it follows a
single-minded killer who offs a series of victims. The Terminator even follows a specific pattern — murdering Los
Angeles-area Sarah Connors in the order in which they appear in the phone book.
Second, The Terminatorclings almost religiously to the
concept of the Final Girl. As Carol Clover, who coined the term, describes it, the
Final Girl is a female who 'alone looks death in the face … she alone also
finds the strength either to stay the killer long enough to be rescued (Ending
A) or to kill him herself (Ending B).' Sarah Connor fits this mold perfectly,
especially in regard to Clover's 'Ending B'. She comes into the film an
innocent, and leaves it wiser and perhaps a little more dangerous, having destroyed
the monster with his own weaponry — a piece of machinery. [Classic Horror]"
to end with a voice of contrariety: Derrick Carter of Are You Not Entertained? says, "I did not grow up
with The Terminator and therefore, I
don't have much nostalgia for it. As it stands, I only consider one film in the
whole series to be great thus far and it's not this one. The Terminator holds up as a cheesy, very 80's sci-fi actioner that's
entertaining, but has its share of flaws that stick out to me. […]
Sarah's character is a hapless waitress who is timid, shy and feels like she
belongs in a romantic comedy as opposed to an 80's sci-fi classic. […] She's a
bit bland and Kyle Reese is even more of a dull character than her. He's the
typical hero who's been sent to save the day. When romantic chemistry forms
between them, it all feels forced and bland…just like both characters. […] The Terminator is very much an 80's
movie, too. It's complete with a cool synthesizer score, an over-the-top cheesy
sex scene, and silly dialogue (one character threatening to knock the
Terminator's block off is kind of hilarious). Though a majority of the film
plays out like an elongated chase scene between man and machine,
director/writer James Cameron doesn't skimp out on the action scenes either.
While one futuristic battle sequence drags for a bit too long […], the
finale is truly something to behold. The special effects that constructed
the Terminator hold up very well (save for one rubber Arnie head), especially
what appears to be a blend of stop-motion and practical work during the final
confrontation. […] As it stands for me, the first Terminator is cheesy 80's fun that went on to spawn a far superior
Followed by the excellent Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), the
unnecessary and uninteresting Terminator
3: Rise of the Machines (2003 / trailer), two we didn't bother with — Terminator: Salvation (2009 / trailer) and Terminator: Genisys (2015
/ trailer) — and a
new one, Terminator:
Dark Fate (2019), due soon.
(1984, dir. Joe Dante)
BTW, the original
poster design above is by John
Alvin (24 Nov 1948 – 6 Feb 2008), who designed
many a classic poster we can't stand.
"The worst thing that ever happened to me was on Christmas. Oh, God. It
was so horrible. It was Christmas Eve. I was 9 years old. Me and Mom were
decorating the tree, waiting for Dad to come home from work. A couple hours
went by. Dad wasn't home. So Mom called the office. No answer. Christmas Day
came and went, and still nothing. So the police began a search. Four or five
days went by. Neither one of us could eat or sleep. Everything was falling
apart. It was snowing outside. The house was freezing, so I went to try to
light up the fire. That's when I noticed the smell. The firemen came and broke
through the chimney top. And me and Mom were expecting them to pull out a dead
cat or a bird. And instead they pulled out my father. He was dressed in a Santa
Claus suit. He'd been climbing down the chimney... his arms loaded with
presents. He was gonna surprise us. He slipped and broke his neck. He died
instantly. And that's how I found out there was no Santa Claus."
Kate Beringer (Phoebe
over the violence of this PG-rated movie and the similarly PG-rated Indiana Jones and theTemple of Doom (1984 / trailer) resulted in the creation of the PG-13 rating, which is currently
Strongly Cautioned — Some Material May Be Inappropriate for Children under
13." A financial success, Gremlins
was followed six years later by the Dante-directed Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) which also has Dick Miller pop up
as Murray Futterman, the same role he plays in this movie. Chris Columbus is
credited as the scriptwriter to this anti-Christmas classic, something we here
at a wasted life find hard to believe because the
movie is so typically Joe Dante. We assume Dante added a lot to the script
along the way, uncredited…
Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton [25 March 1938 – 26 Oct 1999]) is searching for a
special Christmas present for his son, Billy (of Eaten Alive ). When he stumbles across
an underground store in Chinatown, it seems that he's found the perfect gift: a
furry, adorable creature called a Mogwai. Billy begins to care for this Mogwai,
named Gizmo, as an unusual pet. However, there are three rules that come with
Mogwai. You can't expose them to bright light. You can't get them wet. Most
importantly, you can't feed them after midnight. Billy accidentally breaks all
three of these rules and soon after, reptilian-looking Gremlins are wreaking
havoc in his small town on Christmas Eve. It's up to Billy and Gizmo to put a
stop to this monstrous mess. [Are You Not Entertained?]"
"PG exteriors harbor an
R-rated dark side in this seminal '80s hit about a cute furry creature that
births an army of sadistic gremlins that destroy a quaint American town. For
all its special effects wizardry, the centerpiece of Joe Dante's Gremlins is the setting:
Kingston Falls, the fictitious small town […]. There's a logical connection
there, as Reagan's America had many '80s filmmakers looking back towards the
country's last period of stifling conformity. But while Dante takes pains establishing
Kingston Falls as an idyllic vision of a by-gone American way of life, there is
a persistent undercurrent of something untoward even before the Gremlins
arrive. Many townspeople are struggling to make ends meet, businesses are
closing, and the picturesque town square is blighted by a jarring Burger King. […]
Gremlins has been
justifiably praised as a showcase for Dante's technical brilliance, as the
mischievous monsters allow him to pack the screen with a frantic chaos inspired
by the Golden Age of cartoons. But while Dante's tonal juxtapositions are
never quite achieves the menace it aims for in scenes where the villainous
creatures wield chainsaws and guns. It's also clear that a lot was left on the
cutting room floor, as Corey Feldman and Judge Reinhold play characters that
are built up in the first half of the film before completing disappearing in
the second half. [Arthouse Grindhouse]"
"[Gremlins] has the awesome feel of the 80's; it has comedy, pure
insanity in the form of marauding hell-bent creatures descending on suburbia,
and even romance for the ladies! It has cute little Gizmo (to fill seats and
sell a million dolls in stores by x-mas), the evil twisted Stripe and his army
of pure clusterfudge, and you even get to see a mean old lady (this xmas
story's Scrooge) get her well-deserved comeuppance. The action is cool, the
story has a positive moral backdrop, and you get to see some badass little
monsters raise hell and blow the hell out of everything! In my opinion the
tavern scene as well as Billy's Mom (Frances Lee McCain) nuking one unfortunate
defenseless gremlin in the microwave is worth the price of admission. [Buried.com]"
"The underlying message is
spelled out for the viewer toward the conclusion, informing audiences that
William and his family did with the Mogwai what society has done with all of
nature's gifts. Failing to understand it, not retaining any accountability for
mistreatment, and being wholly unready for such great responsibility can only lead
to corruption and chaos. It's not terribly far removed from the standard
examination of a superhero's super powers, aided by authority figures
(primarily the sheriff's department) expectedly refusing to acknowledge the
danger. Never has the annihilation of an entire town (dubbed the 'Christmas Eve
Riots') come in such a darkly humorous form (except, perhaps, for the apocalyptic
marshmallow juggernaut in Ghostbusters
[trailer] from the same year). [Gone with
One of the
earliest appearances of a gremlin in film —
with Bugs Bunny in Falling Hare (1944):
As per the changing times Gremlins is now seen as
"culturally insensitive" because "the gremlins 'reflect negative
African-American stereotypes' in their dress and behavior. They are shown
'devouring fried chicken with their hands', listening to black music,
breakdancing, and wearing sunglasses after dark and newsboy caps, a style
common among African American males in the 1980s. [Wikipedia]" Gremlins went on to inspire an untold
number of B-movie deadly little critter franchises, the most well known probably
being Critters (four films from
1986-92 and a fifth on the way), Ghoulies
(four films from 1985-94) and Munchies
(three films between 1987-94).
(1984, dir. Jonathan Demme)
Dick Miller has a super-tiny, uncredited part
in this financial flop as a military man who asks the lead character, Kay Walsh
(Goldie Hawn of Death Becomes Her
[1992 / trailer]), to dance at a military dance
but walks away when she can't stop talking about her absent husband Jack (Ed
Harris of Appaloosa [2008 / trailer], Paris Trout [1991 / trailer] and more), who is In the Navy.
Swing Shift is considered a classic example of "star/producer/director conflict": Hawn, a huge star at the time,
took control of the final product and redhot numerous scenes and re-editted the
movie to put more focus on her character; result, the budget skyrocketed and
the release was delayed, director Demme (22 Feb 1944 – 26 April 2017) removed
his normal "A Jonathan Demme Film" credit, the screenwriters Bo
Goldman, Nancy Dowd, Robert Towne and Ron Nyswaner took the pseudonym "Rob
Morton", and the film flopped (it barely returned a third of its costs).
Speaking of Swing Shift and a then still young and buff Ed Harris, the movie
has one of those kinds of towel slips that keep fans of celebrity penis happy —
as the blogspot World of Male Embarrassment mentions in their article 10 Unfortunate Moments of Male Nudity, whence the image below is taken, "This is one of the most iconic nude accidents to ever happen. Ed Harris,
still young and sexy, comes out of the shower shirtless wearing just a towel.
The 'just' part becomes more apparent when he sits down with his legs widely
open giving us a quick look of his reddish long dick flopping! If it wasn't for
this cute accident we would have never seen Mr. Harris since it's his only nude
scene." (They're actually wrong about the last,
but in his other nude scenes, like that in China
Moon [1994 / trailer] — or was it in Knightriders [1981 / trailer]? — the distance removes the
details.) As Junta Juliel points out, however, "The DVD censors the notorious Ed Harris
balls-flashing scene. I know everybody's really disappointed."
The plot, as described by For It Is Man's Number, which
says the film's "drama isn't all that dramatic, the light moments of
comedy are few and far between and any air of romance that might seep from each
frame is polluted by the fact that this is a story about a married woman":
"Hawn plays Kay Walsh, a woman who ends up discovering a whole new
world around her when her husband (Harris) heads off to war and she lands a job
at an airport plant. She becomes friends with the neighbor (Hazel, played by
Christine Lahti) that her husband had always looked down his nose at and, more
importantly, she starts to hit it off with Mike 'Lucky' Lockhart (Kurt Russell)."
The normally laughable site Spirituality & Practice catches
a few aspects about the "straight-laced and submissive wife" Kay's
story that the Man's eyes missed, in part by asking some questions about the
sudden influx of working women during the war effort: "How did these women
handle responsibilities outside the home? What was the reaction of men who
worked side by side with them in defense plants? And how did the experience of
working alter the women's view of themselves and their future?"
And so they note: "Kay and her feisty next-door neighbor Hazel
(Christine Lahti of Hideaway [1996 /
trailer]) become friends at the plant.
Ignoring sexism on the job, they enjoy their newfound independence. Hazel, a
former dance hall singer, introduces Kay to a wider world than she had
experienced as a housewife. Lucky (Kurt Russell of The Thing [1982 / trailer] and 3000 Miles to Graceland ),
a foreman at the plant exempt from the draft because of a bad heart, seduces
Kay, and despite her loyalty to Jack, she begins an affair with him. [...]
[Demme] convincingly captures the workers' pride in their labors, the suffering
brought by death notices from overseas, and the escape from anxiety to be found
doing the fox trot in dance halls. Swing Shift effectively clarifies
how the war changed men, women, work, and family. When Jack learns of Kay's
adultery during a leave of absence, she must choose between the two men she
loves. [...] The film ends on an ironic note. Following the conclusion of the
war, the working women are dismissed by MacBride Aircraft and told to go home
where they belong. For Kay and Jack and for millions of others, the war made it
impossible for them to resume the status quo; their lives would never be the
Elsewhere, a man not disturbed by cheating housewives says, "Despite
a screenplay that just cannot quite pull it all together and direction that
just does not quite take a grip, the intriguing premise, ideal atmosphere, good
period re-creation and sparky performances still keep it swinging along quite
nicely. It remains pleasant and enjoyable. [Derek Winnert]"
BTW: For years there's been a
bootleg of Demme's original director's cut going around, if only amongst the
type of people most Jane and Joe Schmoes don't know. Over at Salon, they are of
the opinion that: "[...] Hawn's public stance on her
hand in the release cut of Swing Shift
has been that it was 'the best job well-meaning [people] could cobble together
under impossible circumstances.' Releasing Demme's cut would show that stance
to have been bullshit. It would also reveal a big star's fears about how her
public might perceive her. But it could also win Hawn more acting praise than she's
ever had, and might even make her seem like a big person for, at last, allowing
the public to see an authentic American masterpiece that for 15 years has been
hostage to her ego."
The same year Demme directed Swing
Shift, he also released one of the better concert films ever made, Stop Making Sense, with the Talking