Monday, April 28, 2014

The Road Warrior

You know, most of my posts begin with a nostalgic story on how I came about the film that I discuss.  It’s only because I remember little things that happen before, during, and after viewing the film.  When I first saw Superman: The Movie back in 1978, I’ll never forget that it was the mother of my brother’s friend, Brian, who’d driven us to the movie theater and dropped us off to watch it.  I even remember when we stepped out of the theater and Brian kidded with me that I’d developed a spit curl like Christopher Reeve had had in the movie, having a good laugh about it afterwards.  The same year, my brother and I were treated to the re-release of Star Wars by our grandmother’s husband, John.  I’ll never forget how Corvette Summer was playing in the same multiplex and he thought we might’ve wanted to see that instead, giving us the option to go see that while he went to see Star Wars.  I guess he thought kids wanted to see the other movies because it was the cool one to see, but we assured him it was Star Wars that struck our fancy.  In 1984, my mom had dropped off my brother and me to see The Terminator at the popular Meridian Quad multiplex and after picking us up, witnessing an 81-year-old man getting run down—later passing away—by some idiot who ran the red light. 

Yes, every movie has a memory behind it, either some minor detail like me inadvertently having a spit curl or a vast event where an elderly man lost his life.

Well, watching The Road Warrior back in 1982 was no different.

Another popular multiplex my brother and I frequented was the Hacienda Six in Sunnyvale, California.  At that point in time, I’d never been able to see an R-rated movie, both forbidden by my parents and not being able to get in one of them because of my 13-year-old age.   However, my brother and I found ourselves at that theater one day with another friend of his named Wesley.  Probably there to see some other movie besides The Road Warrior, we were hanging out by the arcade games while waiting for the movie to start.  For some reason, Wesley (who was one of my brother’s trouble-making friends) was talking it up with one of the theater workers there and saying something to him, while they were taking turns on a video game.  After a few minutes, when he came over to us, he informed us that the worker was his friend and that he was going to let us watch The Road Warrior because he lost a bet on the game they were playing.  Of course, we were all excited, and at the same time a little scared, to see our first R-rated movie in a theater.  So, when the time came, we found ourselves in the seats of the theater and widened our eyes as the movie began.

We’d sat and saw a good portion of the film, taking in all the curse words and terrified, yet excited, when we saw the girl getting her clothes torn off and seeing her bare naked breasts, and just enthralled at how much of a bad-ass we saw in Mel Gibson.  Even though Wesley assured us he’d gotten the okay for us to be in this theater to watch this age-restricted movie, I still had a bit of apprehension about it, thinking that someone was going to come in and kick us out.  After a while, I had stopped worrying and figured it was smooth
sailing until the end of the film.  But just as we had started getting comfortable, thinking we were going to see this film through—and around the part where the villains of the film try to take the compound and the little feral boy throws his boomerang, slicing off the fingers of one of the bad guys as he tried to catch it—the same worker, who Brian claimed gave us the okay to see the movie, walks up to us and tells us to get out.  I was embarrassed, upset, and a little scared, all at the same time.

I can’t remember what happened afterwards, if we went back to the movie that we’d paid for or if we were kicked out completely, but I’ll never forget that first taste of seeing an R-rated movie in a theater setting.  It’d be another year or so before I was able to see the film in its entirety—most likely on Showtime—but I’d finally seen it and I’d become a fan of Mel Gibson all over again.

One thing about this film at the time that I hadn’t discovered was that it’s actually a sequel to an Australian film called Mad Max.  As a matter of fact, when looking up this title, has it listed as Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, and I believe I actually saw the Blu-Ray in the store the other day with that actual title printed on the cover.  I guess back then, the first film wasn’t that well known in America, so Warner Bros. packaged this film to look like a stand-alone film.  And it works, because I hadn’t known it was a sequel until the first film gained some popularity in the States.  But anyone can watch this film without the knowledge of the first one, due to the recap or explanation as to why the world (in Australia anyway) went to hell in a hand basket.

So that’s how The Road Warrior begins, with a narrative voice-over (by Harold Baigent), explaining how war ravaged the world as the oil and fuel economy collapsed, leaving gangs of scavengers killing and pillaging for fuel.  In the midst of all this, it left Max (Mel Gibson) a shell of a man after gangs of scavengers took the lives of his wife and infant child.  But Max drives to survive, as he and his faithful (and clever) dog scavenge as well to get fuel and whatever other necessities they can find.  After Max is attacked by, then gets the upper hand on, a man who calls himself the Gyro Captain (due to him using a gyrocopter as his means of travel), they come upon a compound containing a refinery.  The place is under siege by a large gang on motorcycles and hot rods, all led by a big muscular masked man who calls himself Lord Humungus, and Max decides to help the compound and the people living there to protect their fuel as long as he can get some in return for his services.

The director, George Miller, certainly had what it took—and of course he still does—to make a blow-em-up, ass-kicking action flick of Hollywood proportions.  Being that this was a foreign film—an Ausploitation flick to boot—you’d think it’d be a little subpar.  But, on the contrary, this movie went above and beyond Hollywood movies of its time pale in comparison.  Miller just knew how to film this, obviously mounting cameras on the sides of the vehicles or even building platforms on the sides of the cars and trucks to place him in the action as he filmed.  But all that he did unquestionably made the film what it was, dangerous or not.  He knew what the audience wanted to see and feel, giving them front row in all these crazy scenes, and it worked terrifically.
with the chase scenes, explosions and stunts…so much so, that

Speaking of all the action and stunt work in the film, there was an over indulgence of it, making any fan of the genre happy beyond belief.  I don’t think the film would’ve been as successful if all these stunts weren’t in the film and we might’ve never heard of Mel Gibson today (I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad).  I’ll say this about the stunt work in this film: the one memorable stunt we see in this film is the guy flying off the car and flipping head-over-foot in the air and, to this day, I’ve never seen a more fantastic stunt in a movie.  Side note, however, I heard that was a mistake in coordination and the guy accidentally hit the car and the flipping was unintentional, causing the stuntman to be seriously hurt (I believe you can tell that he broke his leg in that scene if you put the DVD in slow motion).

With all the intense action and dystopian themes involved in this film, my favorite part is actually a funny lighthearted scene involving Max’s dog.  After getting the edge over the Gyro Captain, Max ties him up and puts him in the backseat of his car.  A shotgun is positioned with a string tied to the trigger, with the other end
tied to a dog toy that Max’s dog has in his mouth.  As they’re all driving along the Outback, a rabbit hopping in the distance catches the dog’s eye, worrying the Captain.  I’ve got to say, that dog was well-trained.

Anyway, I’ve gushed about The Road Warrior long enough, so let’s get my final “bit” on it.

The film is a classic, definitely putting Australian films on the movie-making map.  George Miller made something here that outshined most other futuristic films, making us believe the world might come to this one day.  Although there are some silly get-ups and situations involving the villains, overall it’s a scary look at a very dystopian world the planet might come to if we ever run out of necessary resources.  This is, by all means, my favorite Mel Gibson film…you shouldn’t miss it.

Well…that’s it for now.  So thanks for reading and I welcome any comments!

Please check out my Cinema Bits Facebook page here...and you can also tweet to me on Twitter: @CinemaBits.

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

 that I believed that that was the final chapter (as the title references).  Sometimes I enjoy part five for what it'd tried to do, going off in another direction and away from the Jason Voorhees narrative, much like John Carpenter tried to do with Halloween III within that franchise.  But other times, I just get angry that they thought that Friday the 13th fans would accept this entry and think everything was hunky-dory.  But that's where 1985's Friday the 13th: A New Beginning goes and we have to accept it.  For all the problems that it has, Danny Steinmann had done a good enough job directing it with what he had to work with.

Before I get too far into my critique of this film and give away too much, let me synopsize the story.

The film opens, optimistically, with the return of Corey Feldman as Tommy Jarvis, walking up to the cemetery where Jason is buried in a crude grave.  The rain is pouring down as he spies a couple of teenaged boys coming up, whooping it up as they arrive with some shovels.  Tommy hides in the brush and watches as the boys dig up the grave, only to have Jason rise up out of his coffin and kill the boys.  He then turns towards Tommy and starts making his way in the direction of him, closer and closer, until Tommy screams.  The adult Tommy (John Shepherd) wakes up from the nightmare in the back of a state institution van as he's
brought to Pinehurst Halfway House, where he's met by Pam Roberts (Melanie Kinnaman) and Matthew Letter (Richard Young), who run the house.  He's quiet and reserved, not talking to anyone and keeping to himself, but seems to be set off easily when provoked.  One day, one of the members of the halfway house, Joey (Dominick Brascia), is brutally attacked and killed by another member, Victor Faden (Mark Venturini), with an ax.  Soon after Victor's taken away, people start getting murdered.  Is it Tommy?  Did Victor escape and go on a killing spree?  Or are the visions of Jason that Tommy experiences real?  One thing for sure, someone is going around dressed like Jason Voorhees, complete with hockey mask, and killing people off.

Now, I've got to say, this movie affected me quite a bit.  Not because it was scary or gory or fascinating in any manner, but because it made me not want to go to another Friday the 13th movie for a long time.  I did feel cheated after leaving the theater way back when and didn't return until part eight showed up in movie houses in 1989.  I had seen the downfall, right away, that the franchise was going into and didn't think there'd ever be a future with someone other than Jason being the masked killer.  Of course, I was right about the downfall, but wrong about the change in killer.  We all know that Jason comes back, but the box office returns were never the same.

For what it's worth, however, this is not a bad movie by Friday the 13th standards.  In fact, there are some great kills, inventive and terrifying, and the film has almost the same feel as the first four.

Okay, so here are a few questions or concerns I had about this movie.

First off, within the film, the "Jason" introduced has a different hockey mask than what was featured in the previous three films.  Maybe it was because an identical mask couldn't be found by whomever was copying Jason's modus operandi, but Tommy was able to get an identical one at the end of the film, so what gives?  I guess I can accept that the filmmakers wanted to give the killer his own identity and make it different than the previous Jason.?  I don't know.  But one glaring issue I have is that the movie poster presents a completely different mask than the one in previous movies and the one in this movie!

Another thing that sticks out is the gratuitous nudity within the film, which is included in a few scenes.  One scene is understandable as it shows how two of the kids in the halfway house, Tina and Eddie (Debi Sue Voorhees and John Robert Dixon), are constantly having sex (I guess that's the problem that led them to a halfway house? Nymphomania?) and go out to a remote location to do so, making the scene seem normal.  But later on, after Robin (Juliette Cummins) laughs at Jake (Jerry Pavlon) as he tells her he wants to be with her, she heads to bed, feeling bad for what she had done, and strips to her undies, going to bed bare-breasted.  I know people out there choose to sleep in the nude, but in a halfway house?  It seemed a little too gratuitous.  And let's not forget the "it's showtime!" scene when Lana (Rebecca Wood) opens up her blouse in the mirror to expose her breasts.  Even though I'm a guy, I think it's a little much and doesn't belong.

Lastly, why feature a little outspoken kid to be the sort of sidekick survivor?  I guess the filmmakers felt they needed some street-smart adolescent like Reggie (Shavar Ross) to spice things up.  Or maybe because of his star power he had on "Diff'rent Strokes" at the time as Dudley?  Who knows?

The movie is definitely and unquestionably 80s in a lot of scenes, but in others, I wonder what the wardrobe staff was thinking.  Like, for instance, why the hell were those two guys, Pete and Vinnie (Corey Parker and Anthony Barrile) dressed like Marlon Brando from the film, The Wild One?  Were they going to meet up with Demon (Miguel A. Núñez Jr.) and head off to a leather fashion party?  Even back then, when I usually ignored things that didn't make sense, I wondered about their choice of attire.

Overall, this movie could've gotten some respect if it just laid off the comedy-or their futile try at it.  The whole scene with the leather-clad Vinnie singing that stupid made-up song as he's trying to start the car is so lame, it makes me feel sorry for the actor.  Also, who can forget the neighboring hicks, Ethel and Junior (Carol Locatell and Ron Sloan), that live adjacent to the halfway house?  What about the paramedic, Duke (Caskey Swaim), who jokes when looking at the hacked up body of Joey?  All of these scenes fell flat and were not funny at all.  The only scenes that crack me up involve the institute worker, Billy (Bob DeSimone).  The first is when he arrives at the halfway house and tries to get Tommy to get out of the van is pretty funny, especially the little tongue waggling he gives Pam behind her back.  The other is when he's waiting for Lana and the little routine he goes through to coke himself up...I can't help but laugh every time.

My final "bit" on Friday the 13th: A New Beginning is that the movie had good intentions and you can see that when watching it.  In comparison to the films before it, they belong together in cinematography and direction, but the omission of Jason Voorhees from the story is a definite detriment to the film.  If they'd only gone with the resurrection aspect of Jason, like they did in part six, this movie would've been a whole lot better.  But I do remember what a cheat it was when I first saw part six, thinking it was impossible because Tommy must hacked him to pieces in part four.  But this one was a good try and it's still a blast to watch.

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments!

You can also tweet to me on Twitter: @CinemaBits.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) vs. Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
As a kid, I had liked horror movies and knew of some classics that I hadn't been allowed to watch because of how horrible they were-and when I say horrible, it's not referring to them critically but more along the lines of their content in a positive light.  At that time in my life, I was only allowed to watch movies-horror or otherwise-on television, not on cable television and definitely not in theaters (there was no way my parents would ever entertain the notion to take me to a horror movie).  I'd knew of some horror movie classics like The Exorcist or Jaws, but when thinking about seeing any of these movies, nothing-in my opinion-terrified me more than a movie I'd heard about called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

The title alone was enough to strike fear into me and made me avoid it for years and years.  I'd believed it was a movie about people getting mutilated by way of chainsaw, so that deterred me alone.  Many times I had seen bits and pieces of it, as part of a documentary or some other televised show that talked about horror movies, but I'd never went further than that.  Eventually, as I'd grown older and soon became a horror movie enthusiast, I knew I had to venture into this film and finally get it under my belt as an accomplishment.  I really can't recall when that was, but I know that it became an instant favorite as soon as I viewed it.
Sometimes, when movies enter the "Video Nasties" list of other countries, or just stand out as violent horror films that are classified as such, some people tend to get a preconceived notion about it that makes them avoid it, embrace it, or let them down because they believed it was going to be better than what it was.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, however, surpassed my expectations and left my jaw hanging during so many parts of this film.

Directed by Tobe Hooper, the film is about a group of friends travelling to a Texas graveyard after hearing reports of vandalizing and desecration.  Two of the friends, sister and brother, Sally (Marilyn Burns) and Franklin (Paul A. Partain), have their grandfather buried there and wanted to make sure his grave was untouched.  After seeing that the grave wasn't violated, the friends decide to drive to the abandoned house the family used to occupy.  Along the way, they pick up a hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) that appears to be a little
off, especially after he deliberately cuts himself, and then purposely cuts Franklin.  They stop the van, throw him out and keep going.  Running low on gas after not being able to fuel up at the local service station, they get to the house as the van's gauge reaches "E."  First, Pam (Teri McMinn) and Kirk (William Vail) venture off to a dried up swimming hole, then spot a nearby house and go see if the owner can spare some fuel from their generator they hear running.  When they've been gone too long, Sally's boyfriend, Jerry (Allen Danziger), goes off looking for them.  Soon, darkness falls, leaving Sally and Franklin alone by the van.  However, the siblings decide to go look for the others.but find a nightmare instead.

Man, what an atmospheric and tension-filled film!  Sure, most of the actions the characters perform will leave you shouting the clichéd "Don't go in there!" or "Run!"  But you've got to realize this was a different time (1974) where people left their front doors or garages open all night, never thinking anybody would come in and harm them.  Same goes for anybody knocking on some stranger's door, never thinking there was an abnormal family of killers waiting inside to pounce on you.

Now, if you haven't seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, shame on you.  But I'm still going to post this warning: Spoilers ahead.

Although most of this movie leaves me with a sense of dread for all the characters, two scenes in particular left a mark with me permanently in my mind.

The first one is when the character of Kirk enters the house after hearing some noises coming from inside.  Entering the house, he walks slowly until getting to an opening at the end of the hall.  Leatherface shows up and bashes Kirk on the head with a mallet, dropping him to the floor.  Now, you think he's dead, and in all sense of the word his character probably is, but his nervous system kicks in and he begins to convulse violently as Leatherface drags him in and slides the metal door shut, slamming it into place.  That, right there, is the most shocking entrance of a horror movie icon I have ever seen in film.

The second scene comes soon after, when Kirk's girlfriend, Pam, becomes restless when he doesn't come back out of the house so she goes inside to see what's keeping him.  As she looks around, she stumbles and falls into the house's living room.  What she sees in this room is horrible to her as well as it is to the viewer.  The floor is covered in chicken feathers and animal bones, the furniture is adorned with what looks like human skeletal remains, and there's a live chicken in a small dangling cage.  As Pam screams and retches, trying to leave the room and go for the front door, Leatherface, once again, shows up and lunges for her, grabbing her as she runs out the front door.  He takes her through the same entryway that Kirk met his fate and into the back of the house where Leatherface does his butchering.  He holds her in the air and walks towards a bunch of meat hooks hanging from the ceiling, moving to them with Pam facing them as well-so her character knows what's about to happen-and just as he gets to them, he turns her and hangs her on a hook, obviously having the hook penetrate her back.  To make things even more terrifying for her, she hangs there in pain as she witnesses Leatherface cut her boyfriend, Kirk, into pieces with a chainsaw.

Did those scenes warp my brain?  Maybe.  But I can tell you, I'll never walk into somebody's house uninvited.  And that's something that can be taken away from this film.the helpful messages like how you shouldn't walk into someone's home without their consent.  Or how about never pick up a hitchhiker?  Or the very important rule that you should fuel up your vehicle every chance you get during a long would've helped these five kids.

Now, before anybody can say this is a vicious and gory's not.  It's all implied by sounds and quick cutaways, but you never see anything that violent.  You never see Leatherface's chainsaw penetrate flesh, you never see blood-it's all implied.  That says a lot for Tobe Hooper.  To make so many people-myself included-think they've seen gore in this film is quite an accomplishment.  There are so many movies where people feel ripped off because they didn't get to see any blood and guts splattering off the screen, so kudos to Hooper and his mind games!

I know one thing for sure.this 1974 film is the quintessential film of the series, with none of the sequels or reboots coming close to the bizarre and grainy feel that this film presents.  This brings me to the unfathomable decision to make a direct sequel to this film nearly 40 years later.  Yes...40 years.  Just remember that number...40 years.

Texas Chainsaw 3D
Now although this film was released in 3D, I didn't find enough interest to venture out into the theater to see it and a couple of variables led me to that decision.  First off, the trailer for the film didn't interest me in the least.  All I saw was a bunch of kids, clad only in a limited amount of clothing, with some popular music playing, only to have the trailer end with a few quick cuts of Leatherface attacking them.  And speaking of Leatherface...the actor playing him didn't measure up to Gunnar Hansen's look in the first film and seeing that this was a direct sequel to the 1974 film, I was expecting a bit more.  Also, the quick reviews that I'd read-and I usually avoid any write-ups, but for some reason didn't this time-weren't favorable and I'd just decided to wait for it on home media.  Lastly, being that this film was to be presented in 3D made me want to skip it even more, as most films do this to hide the fact they're trying to pass off a mediocre film by bedazzling it with that gimmick (Are you listening, James Cameron?).  I really can't put my finger on why I had decided to skip it when it hit theaters-although it's probably all of those reasons combined-but I guess something inside me told me that it was going to be bad.

But a few months went by and Texas Chainsaw 3D showed up in Netflix.  I'd decided to place it on the top of my queue to have it sent to me...

...and I watched it.

Wow...I just didn't know-nor would I believe-how bad it was going to be.

First off, let me synopsize this film directed by John Luessenhop and written by a number of writers (gee...I wonder why it went through so many?).

The film takes place right after the first film.  The town authority, Sheriff Hooper (Thom Barry), shows up, alone, at the Sawyer house right after a number of family members show up to barricade themselves inside.  The sheriff pleads with Drayton Sawyer (previously played by Jim Siedow-this time by Bill Moseley) to give up Leatherface.  Just when Sawyer's about to do so, people from town show up and exact their own justice by shooting up and torching the house.  One of the Sawyer clan (Dodie Brown), along with her baby, runs away from the house after getting shot and hides out away from the house.  Two folks from town, Gavin (David Born) and Arlene Miller (Sue Rock), find the woman and take her baby.  As she pleads for help, Gavin kicks the woman in the head, killing her.  Soon, the house is completely destroyed with everyone believing the whole family perished.  Cut to present day, we meet Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario), working in the butcher department in a grocery store.  As she arrives home, she receives a letter that informs her she was adopted and notifying her that she has inherited an estate by her biological grandmother.  Heather, along with her boyfriend, Ryan (Trey Songz), her friends, Nikki (Tania Raymonde) and Kenny (Keram Malicki-Sánchez), drive to the estate to collect on the inheritance.  Soon, they find out.not all of the Sawyer group perished in the fire.

Now, right out of the gate, gaping holes are seen, huge mistakes are made (you can probably see that in the synopsis alone), and the whole view of the Sawyer family is turned on its side.  And that's just the first few minutes of the movie!

Let's start with the beginning of the film, shall we?

Now, the filmmakers went through some painstaking steps to get the look of the house exact.  I had some high hopes when the movie started, as I noticed they'd used some of the footage from the 1974 film-some recreated with body doubles, as well as some newly produced shots.  I was thoroughly impressed with how they did that and thought the film was off to a great start.  Even if it was the same house, which I'm sure it wasn't, the look of the hallway with the entryway to Leatherface's lair, complete with the red wall adorned with different species of skulls was pretty spot-on.  Even the cuts in the door made by Leatherface in the '74 film were there, with nearly the same pattern.  The living room pretty much had the same skull and bones decorations as the first film, so I was impressed with that as well.  But beyond this opening...that's where it fell apart.

When watching the first film, we feel a sense of isolation for these characters, like there's no one near to help them.  It's mentioned that there's nowhere else to get gas for miles and it's felt that they're in the middle of nowhere.  We also get a sense that the Sawyer family is just those three weirdoes with a half-dead grandpa confined in a wheelchair in the upstairs bedroom.  So when this film opens and the sheriff shows up right away, as well as a bunch of family members that weren't seen before, it seems forced in, like the filmmakers wanted to make sure they'd get a shootout in the movie.  The same thing goes for the townsfolk who happen to show up as well.  Where the hell were all these people in the first film?  But I guess all this was written to shoehorn the story of Heather.this is such bad writing and we're not even into the meat of the movie.

Now let's talk about how the movie moves to present day.

Okay, so everybody who's a fan of the original film knows it takes place in August of 1973.  The 1974 film features the text on the screen, it's mentioned, and it's totally obvious when you look at the style and dress of the kids in the movie.  Seeing that this direct sequel opens with Sally getting away from the crazy family's farmhouse, we know it's supposed to be the same year.1973.  The baby that's taken was no more than a year old.  So how is it that, 39-40 years later, Heather (the baby that's all grown up now) is only in her
twenties?  She should at least be 39 years old!  Was there a typo in the casting call sheet?  Couldn't they get an actress in their thirties or early forties?  I don't know who screwed this up-it was either the writers or the studio.  I'd bet it was the studio, trying to make sure they get the tweens in the seats, but all they ended up doing was shitting on the franchise and the fans who love it.

The rest of the film is just a run-of-the-mill horror flick...all it turns out to be is Leatherface on the loose and trying to kill the kids that show up at the house (oh yeah, he was locked up in the basement all this time, being taken care of by Heather's biological grandmother, but when someone accidentally lets him out, he goes on a rampage).  You can enjoy the film in that respect if you don't know the history of the franchise or if you just want to see a brainless killer-on-the-loose film.

So, the thing that bugs me-but not as much as the obvious mistakes I had mentioned earlier-is the last part of the film where the mayor of the town, Burt Hartman (Paul Rae), is beating up Leatherface and intending to kill him.  When we think Leatherface is finally going to meet his maker, Heather helps him out by sliding over his chainsaw and tells him, "Do your thing, cuz!"  The complete turnaround to make Leatherface the victim-turn-hero is totally glorifying what he did in the first film.  Did we forget he attacked innocent kids and sliced them to bits with his chainsaw?  Did we forget he-along with his demented family-mentally tortured an innocent girl and tried to kill her?  Did the writers of this movie even watch the original???  Doesn't seem like it.

I'll tell you...this movie makes the reboots that Platinum Dunes made a few years back look like masterpieces.  So much hype was made about how the rights were purchased and that a direct sequel was going to be filmed to preserve and honor the 1974 film with a thoughtfully written sequel.  What they gave us was thorough and utter crap that doesn't even warrant a second barely warrants a first.  It's as if the writers just didn't give a shit and thought the fans of the franchise would be too stupid to notice.  This is just a simple case of someone purchasing the rights to a film franchise they know nothing about and churning a money maker out of it while fucking over the true fans.

Commendation goes to the studio for trying to give us something unique instead of going the remake route and just giving us another useless rehash of the story we all know was done perfectly by Tobe Hooper in '74.  But they should've taken their time, study the first film, make sure they'd gotten writers who knew what
they were doing...I can go on and on.  Hopefully this wasn't a ruse to show the world that remaking films are more lucrative than making something original.

My final "bit" on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Texas Chainsaw 3D?

The 1974 film is a cult classic, showing us the beginnings of the horror mastery of Tobe Hooper.  It stays with you long after the film finishes and you'll be haunted by what you'd witnessed.  Just do yourself a favor and don't watch the 2013 direct sequel.  Instead, watch the 1986 sequel with Dennis Hopper or the third part in 1990, or even the one that stars Matthew McConaughhey and Renée Zellweger...anything but that crappy, thoughtless and inconsiderate dud they churned out last year.

Well, thanks for reading...and hopefully I helped you dodge a always, I welcome your comments.

You can always reach me on Twitter for a tweet: @CinemaBits.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Until the day I die, I will continue to praise black & white films and will usually choose to watch one over a more modern movie-any time, any day, any place.  The moods of these films are better, especially for an old horror film, and it definitely seems like an art form to see these films play out.  Seeing that color film was available as early as the 1930s, it's a wonder films were still being made in black & white as late as the 1960s.  But just like introducing CGI in the 1990s as a very expensive technology to put into a movie, filming in color was more expensive due to the price difference in film stock.  However, nowadays, most films are shot digitally and if they're not, color film stock is the norm.  In fact, converting a movie to black & white nowadays (like Frank Durabont wanted to do with The Mist) is probably a bit more costly.

Even though I've always been a fan of watching black & white films, there was one film I wasn't familiar with-nor had heard about-until it aired one night on television back in the early 90s and that film, of course, was George Romero's 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead.

A quick story to how I had come about this flick dates back to living at home in my early 20s, sponging off my mom and dad, and constantly watching MTV.  I was sitting at home on a Halloween afternoon and decided I was going to call up my good friend, Ron, and see what was going down that night.  But, when I did, he had some plans with a girlfriend and wasn't going to hang out with the guys.  When trying a few other friends, it seemed to be the trend with all of them.  Being single at the time, I decided to spend a quiet night at home.  We never really had too many trick-r-treaters back then-and if we did, my mom probably handed out the candy that night-so I decided to channel surf the television to see what was on.  I happened upon MTV and I was expecting to watch some music videos, but the VJs were just finishing introducing how they were going to showcase a classic as a special for Halloween, with no commercials.  Since I had missed what movie they were talking about, I left it on the channel and decided to see what this classic was.  From beginning to end, I watched...spooked a little...and became a fan of Night of the Living Dead instantly.

The film begins with Barbra (Judith O'Dead) and her brother, Johnny (an uncredited Russell Streiner), driving to visit their father's grave in some remote cemetery.  As they argue a bit, they notice an odd-looking man approaching them.  Johnny begins to tease his sister, saying, "They're coming to get you Barbra," as the man walks closer.  The man tries to attack Barbra and Johnny pulls him away, beginning to tussle with the man until he falls and hits his head on a gravestone, knocking him out or killing him (it's never clear).  Barbra tries
to get away in the car, but can't start it because Johnny had the keys, so she puts it in neutral to roll away from the pursuing man.  Crashing into a tree, she gets out of the car and flees, finds an abandoned farmhouse and goes inside.  Shocked by what she finds, but relatively safe, she's soon joined by Ben (Duane Jones), who shows up after an ordeal he went through himself.  Clearly freaked out and catatonic, Barbra only sits as Ben checks the house.  Soon they're joined by five other people, led by an asshole named Cooper (Karl Hardman), who all happened to be hiding in the basement the whole time.  Cooper and Ben are at odds with each other from the start as they both have different ideas on what decisions to make for the whole group, but above all else, they have to deal with the horrors outside that are trying to get inside.

From the first minute of this movie, I was enthralled and surprised I had never-at the time-heard of it before.  I was still a novice movie-goer-and even more of a beginner when it came to the horror genre-but the way the VJs were speaking of the film before playing it made me think it was a world renowned classic.  Turns out they were right, but I hadn't known it at the time.

Sitting there at home, by my lonesome, and watching this flick really had gotten under my skin.  I wasn't by myself in the house, but I was sitting in the dark in our family room and thinking there were zombies right outside the house as I was seeing this for the first time.

The black & white film experience really adds to this movie, as it gives an ominous atmosphere and with the grainy look to it, you really can't see what may come out of the shadows while our protagonists are held up in the house.  However, at times, the scenes seem tame as you really can't tell when things get gory, and that's when you feel safe.  Because during those times, that's when Romero adds scenes with these zombies eating flesh and it kind of makes you sick to the stomach.  Overall, you really go through a rollercoaster ride when watching this.

The performances are very believable for its time period.  A lot of films from the 50s and 60s have that stage play feel to it, where the actors speak a little too loudly and use too many hand gestures to get their points across.  In this one, you really believe what the characters are going through, feeling their fear and anger, as they're defending themselves from the threat and dealing with being confined with each other, causing them to be at each other's throats.

Duane Jones does a magnificent job as the leading man which, during the 60s, was unheard of, especially in a movie where the majority of the cast is white.  I'm surprised some of the scenes didn't cause an uproar back then (maybe it did, I really don't know), like when Ben tries to snap Barbra out of it by slapping her in the face or how he shows dominance over Cooper for control of the house.  I had really enjoyed Jones's performance because I felt you couldn't help but root for the guy since he knew what to do and had all the right ideas.  Seeing that Judith O'Dea's character was silent from shock throughout the beginning and the characters in the basement hadn't turned up yet, Duane Jones had to take control of the scenes that led up to the rest of the story.

Judith O'Dea as Barbra was your typical character of a damsel in distress back then, where trouble arises and the female would typically fall to the wayside to be saved by the leading man.  It's a shame, but that's the way most films were storied out back then, not giving female characters strong roles but rather the victimized maiden.  With all that, O'Dea still puts on a strong performance as someone so freaked out by unexplained horrors that she resorts to being in a state of catatonia.

Karl Hardman as Cooper might've been a bit two-dimensional in his portrayal, but I feel the film needed that.  We didn't need to see why he was a jerk to Ben-I guess we can assume it was because he didn't want to be
taking orders from a black man-so the lack of his character development was understandable.  Keith Wayne as Tom did all right as the neutral guy who kept Ben and Cooper from going too far in their fights.  The rest of the cast did fine, nether memorable or forgettable.

One interesting thing you'll notice in this film, especially if you've seen all the modern day zombie films-whether the zombies run or shamble-is that some of the zombies know enough to use tools.  The first zombie we see during the cemetery scene picks up a stone to try and break the car window.  Cooper's daughter, when resurrected as a zombie, picks up a trowel in the basement and uses it to kill her mother.  For the most part, however, the rules of zombie engagement have been, more or less, the same as it's been since this 1968 classic.

Night of the Living Dead is definitely a masterpiece and, although Romero directed countless sequels since, this film stands above as the one that started it all.  The story of zombies has been around for ages, so we really can't say that George Romero is the father of zombie films, but he really put his stamp on it when he made this one.  Before this, zombies in film were represented by people under mind control or voodoo rituals-sometimes able to speak, sometimes not.  I'm not completely sure, but I believe Romero's zombies were the first to devour flesh.  Any way you slice it, however, George Romero's name is synonymous with zombies.

Although Romero gets the recognition that he deserves with this film, when you hear the backstory of this film, it's a little heartbreaking, in my opinion.  For those of you that don't know, when he made this film, it was originally titled, and copyrighted as, "Night of the Flesh Eaters."  The film was about ready to be distributed when it was decided to be changed and named what it was named.  However, after the title change, the copyright wasn't put in the new film, so the whole movie was placed in the public film domain right away.  I'm not that much in the know about these things, but because of that, Romero doesn't get a cent of money for all the ticket sales and home media sales.  Not only that, but anybody can take this film, edit it anyway they want, include additional footage or dialogue, then reproduce and distribute it for sale, all legally with no piracy laws broken.  I found out the hard way not too long ago when my wife bought an inexpensive DVD of Night of the Living Dead.   I was pretty happy, but that soon changed when I saw the quality of the sound and picture.

What's my final "bit" on Night of the Living Dead?

Good, scary fun is what you're going to have when you sit through this.  You'll come to understand why Romero is considered the founding father of the modern zombie film as you'll see so many cues that other filmmakers have used in zombie films today.  He made the rules with this one that have stuck for over forty years and you'd be hard-pressed to see any filmmaker who'd want to go against those rules.  You're going to
want to lock up your windows and doors as you watch this, because it just gives you a sense of foreboding in your core.  Whatever you do, stay away from the countless cheapie DVD copies that have bad quality and added scenes to the film and ask around for the best copy to get.  Romero's classic should not be missed.

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments!

You can also tweet to me on Twitter: @CinemaBits.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Fly (1986)

If I were to list my preferred movie genres in order, from most favorite to least favorite, it'd go something like this: 1. Horror, 2. Sci-Fi, 3. Comic Book Films, 4. Action, and 5. Drama.  Sometimes, when films feature mixed genres, my favorite of that category would be Horror/Sci-Fi.  Films like Alien, The Thing, and Pitch Black are films that I love to sit and watch constantly.  Not only are we given futuristic or alien concepts, but something horrific and terrifying as well.  It's the best of both worlds, in my opinion.

In 1986, we were given another one of those types of films, a modern take and remake of a 1958 film, called, The Fly.  But unlike the previous film, this new flick, directed by David Cronenberg, was frighteningly gruesome, holding nothing back as it showed a more realistic story of a scientist who becomes a hybrid of a man and fly.

The film begins with a journalist, Veronica "Ronnie" Quaife (Geena Davis), meeting an eccentric scientist named Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) at an event held by the company that funds Brundle's work.  He tells her that he invented telepods to teleport objects from one location to another.  Veronica goes back to Brundle's loft and witnesses her stocking instantaneously transport from one telepod to another.  Wanting to publish a story about it, Brundle balks, but agrees to her documenting the story as he hasn't figured out how
to teleport living organisms, having disastrous results when trying.  Along the way, the two fall for each other and start a romance.  On one particular night, after solving the flesh issue and feeling rejected by Veronica, Brundle becomes inebriated and decides to go through the telepods himself.  As he does, however, he doesn't notice a common housefly enter the pod with him.  He teleports himself with the fly and the computer, not programmed to separate the two, teleport them to the waiting pod with their DNA combined.  Though Brundle feels invigorated and believes he has revitalized himself, he and Veronica soon realize he is something much worse.

Going to see this movie in a theater back then, I remember thinking we were going to get the half-man-half-fly manifestation that so many of us might know from seeing the original movie.  Even though I knew that image back then, it wasn't until 25 years later when I decided to rent the Vincent Price original and give it a gander.  But what Cronenberg gave us in 1986 was so awesomely and outrageously grotesque, I was a giddy teenager wanting more and more as the movie progressed-Cronenberg didn't disappoint.  He didn't give us the man with an insect arm and fly head like the 50s version, but instead something much more stomach-turning.  You have everything from acne to thick insect hair growing on Brundle's back, you see his teeth fall out, you see his fingernails come off with a bunch of pus leaking out of their place, there's body deformity, extra limbs...and that's not even the grossest parts!  Cronenberg is definitely known for his films that feature distortions of the body and he goes full force in The Fly.

I'll say right now that I love Jeff Goldblum in anything he does.  He definitely has the look and ramblings of a mad scientist, at the same time coming across as a genius.  Going from his humble beginning in this film as a soft-spoken, yet nerdy, scientist, to the stark raving asshole he becomes after ascending through the telepods; he certainly has range here.  You, as an audience, unquestionably go from liking his character to despising him, and then feeling sorry for him near the end.

As for Geena Davis, I had my reservations-and still do-about her performance in this film.  I've never felt that she was a great actress and didn't think she pulled off that good of a performance in this movie.  As the story progresses, however, she sort of grows on you and I was able to get over my misgivings that I had for her in
the beginning.  If anything at all, the final climatic scene in this was pretty good and I found myself asking why she didn't give this climactic performance throughout.  Above all else, Davis and Goldblum had good chemistry together in the film, giving this film the believability it deserves.

Now, the special effects are understandably the showstoppers of this flick, as most of it is applied make-up, some of it puppeteering work, but all practical.  From the inexplicit beginnings where we just see blemishes on the skin of Goldblum's character to the heavy layers of latex as he's created into something that is incomprehensible.   Instead of going the route of having Brundle start to resemble a fly right away, he begins to look deformed and oncogenic, but later losing that exterior to something much more hideous.  The metamorphosis he goes through is scary and sickening...definitely not a film to eat lunch or dinner while watching.

Not many actors are featured in this film, as it's mainly the story between Seth Brundle and Veronica Quaife.  But there is one other character, Stathis Borans (John Getz), who's introduced early on to present a love triangle aspect of the story.  At first, we think he's a douche bag as we see him in Veronica's apartment, taking a shower, making it pretty clear that they've had a relationship in the past that's gone sour recently.   Then he's seen as a jealous dick, following her to Brundle's building and to the clothing store where he confronts her.  Borans is then seen in a new light as being (or trying to be) the hero at the end of the film.  When looking back at the film as a whole, it's funny how that character development comes to be.  It's especially interesting when we see that as Brundle begins to become the villain, Borans turns into the hero; it's a wonderful character study.

Above all else, the story is a love-story-turned-tragedy, and you can't help but feel the emotion at the end of the film.  It's probably Geena Davis's best performance (just the ending here) I've ever seen her give, not to mention the best passionate scenes Cronenberg has ever captured in one of his movies.

So, what's my final "bit" on The Fly?

Certainly a more modern take on the 1958 version, with some interesting concepts brought to life a little more realistically.  The film keeps you mesmerized with the notion of teleportation and all the scientific aspects along with it.  Though the technology featured in this film is very outdated (the computers especially), it's easy to get past it and get right into the film.  The gore and grotesque hit you in the face for most of the running time, while at the same time you're captivated and waiting to see what happens as the main character goes through changes both scary and fascinating.  You can't take your eyes off of it and you'll go through some emotions while watching.  If you haven't seen it, don't wait any longer.

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments!

You can also tweet to me on Twitter: @CinemaBits.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday the 13TH: The Final Chapter

As you may have noticed, I'm sort of doing a Friday the 13TH retrospective without actually committing myself to doing so.  I told myself that I would not do one again because it just takes too much time and I think it may be too much to read at once, especially if it involves a multi-sequel monster like this franchise.  To go through the 10+ movies in this collection would drive me nuts, so I'm just taking one film at a time and not obligating myself to doing all of them.  So, let's roll up our sleeves and talk about 1984's Friday the 13TH: The Final Chapter.

Up until this film, the movies were being released each year-part one in 1980, part two in 1981 and part three in 1982.  I believe it was the filmmakers' intention to make the movies an annual event, but with Friday the 13TH: The Final Chapter and all the effort put into production, it needed to wait another year for release.  You can tell, too, when you see the opening shot of the crime scene left from part three, with the amount of police vehicles and ambulances...even a helicopter hovering overhead with a spotlight shining...some time, effort, and money went into this film.  Even the cast, still relatively unknown at the time, had actors you may have recognized in other movies.  Peter Barton was recognizable for a television show called "The Powers of Matthew Star" and a couple of episodes of "The Love Boat;" Lawrence Monoson was known for his role in The Last American Virgin a couple of years prior; Joan Freeman was a well-known actress for many years; Crispin Glover was recognizable in a few films and television shows; and probably the most recognizable actor-at the time-in this film was little Corey Feldman as Tommy Jarvis.  However, the popularity the actors and actresses had wasn't a detriment to the film because they weren't that recognizable to most of the horror movie goers.

As I'd mentioned before, I had this tied for the very best film of the series, with part two being just a hair's breadth better.  But don't let it deter you from seeing this, because many people in my circle of Friday the 13Th fans love this film and rate it as the best of the franchise.

As the film begins, we get the best recap of all the films, going through some of the best scenes from the previous films in quick cuts, all with the inter-narration of Paul's campfire story from part two.  After the opening credits, the film opens with the scene of the crime from part three.  Jason's still where we left him, in the barn, apparently dead with an axe to his head.  He's taken away and brought over to the local hospital's morgue.  But they didn't bother to check his pulse, because he leaves the hospital after killing the morgue attendant and nurse to go back to Crystal Lake.  We're introduced to the Jarvis family-Mrs. Jarvis (Joan Freeman), Trish (Kimberly Beck) and Tommy (Corey Feldman)-as they reside near the lake.  Soon, a group of teens arrive, looking to have a fun weekend near the lake, and rent out the cabin next door.  Will they all fall prey to Jason?  Or will the stranger, Rob (E. Erich Anderson), who shows up (to hunt...bears?), kill him?

Yes, Jason comes right out of the gate in such a vicious way, violently killing the two people in the hospital, so, right away, you know you're in for a treat.  The actor who plays him in this chapter, Ted White, probably gives us the best incarnation of Jason up until this point, looking very intimidating.  Though it's probably the last time we see Jason with human traits and personalities, including hearing him grunt when he's injured.  From part six and on, he's sort of a zombie-esque killing machine or a supernatural force as he never makes a peep, just going and going.  I'll give the best movie in this series to part two; but for the best Jason in the first four films, it goes to this one.

We've got some great special effects in this one and guess who's back with them in this film?  The one and only, Tom Savini!  It's been said that he was there for the "birth" of Jason and that he wanted to be there for the "death" of him.  Whatever the case may be, it was damned good to see his practical effects in this outing.  After seeing what was given to us in that department within part three, his magic was a welcomed presence in Friday the 13TH: The Final Chapter.  He definitely gave us some terrific stuff in this one: the smashed head of Paul (Peter Barton) in the shower, the machete impalement of Samantha (Judie Aronson) on the raft, the cork screw on the hand and cleaver to the face of Jimmy (Crispin Glover), and, of course, the pièce de résistance we see during the finale (you'll know when you see it)!

Finally, out of all the films in this series and all the memorable scenes and quotes, the most hilarious and memorable scene out of all the films is Crispin Glover's dance scene.  I've read that the song that he was actually dancing to was "Back in Black" by AC/DC.  But due to the rights the filmmakers would have to pay, they dubbed in a lesser known song, "Love is a Lie," by an even lesser known band, Lion.  The spasmodic way he jerks and convulses had everybody in stitches when I first saw this in a theater.  This was unquestionably the birth of Crispin Glover's peculiar ways.

Although I thought Steve Miner did a tremendous job directing parts two and three, Joseph Zito takes over as director in this one, really improving upon the formula and focusing more on the performances, it seems.
Sadly, I see this one as the true final chapter of the whole franchise because the other films never come close to the feel of the first four.  What we get in the subsequent films are more silliness, bad acting, and a lot of actors and actresses who don't mesh well or weren't right for the part in the first place.  Because that's one thing about the first four movies...the friends in the movie really feel like friends in real life, with chemistry and things in common.  In the following sequels after part four, we see a lot of unlikeable characters, making us disbelieve that some of them would actually like each other, let alone want to be around them.  Some of the lines are even unlikely, like the "Does he think I'm a fart-head?" line or, my favorite, the "wherever the red dot goes, you bang" that's actually spoken twice in one of the sequels.

The films really go downhill after Friday the 13TH: The Final Chapter, I'm sure mainly because of the atrocity that part five had been.  Even though part six kind of saves the franchise a little, it wasn't until Kane Hodder took the role of Jason that the franchise gained some steam as he put more life into the role.  Hodder took the role in part seven and continued on for three more films, until he was excluded from 2003's Freddy vs. Jason.  But even Hodder's presence wasn't enough to get the series back on track.  Poor casting and dialogue definitely contributed to it, as well as putting characters in dumb situations (female guitarist constantly filming a music video on a cruise ship?).  Although Jason was never made into a joke, like Freddy became in the A Nightmare on Elm Street films, his character kind of became a little tiring and predictable to take on screen.

Of course, like all franchises that run their course, movie studios decide to give up and just start all over, like they had in 2009 with the remake.  But they weren't ballsy enough to remake the first one by itself and introduce Jason's character in a second movie...oh, no.  They decided to cram parts one through three-with a little bit of four-in one movie.   As you can guess, I'm not going to follow this up with parts five and on.  I'll just say they've had some great ideas for films, but just couldn't translate them onto film correctly.  Don't get me wrong, they're all pretty much enjoyable, I just wanted to give attention to the best of the lot, ending with this one.

So, what's my final "bit" on Friday the 13TH: The Final Chapter?

The film screams 80s cinema all the way through-giving us a lot of night shots, grainy in some scenes, clearer in others.  It's one of the best in performances out of all the films in the series, absolutely earning a top spot in my view of all-time horror movies.  It's a great culmination to a renowned slasher series and you're going to hope the series doesn't end while you watch the climatic finish, but will have wished it did if you continue on to parts five and beyond.  All kidding aside, grab a few tubs of popcorn, park yourself on the couch and after watching parts one through three, one right after the other, continue on to part four.  It's a fun series. and certainly not a "dead fuck."

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments!

You can also tweet to me on Twitter: @CinemaBits.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Twilight Zone: The Movie

"You're travelling through another dimension...a dimension, not only of sight and sound, but of mind...a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination.  Next stop... The Twilight Zone!"

Growing up, I'd watched a lot of syndicated television, especially shows from the 50s and 60s-all in black & white-and I must say it was the highlight of my life.  Laughing through classic shows like "Leave it to Beaver" and "The Munsters" was what I remember doing most afternoons once returning home from school.  But one show that was equally enjoyable, although more on the serious side, was "The Twilight Zone."

Yes, most people know the music intro and will usually hum it or imitate it when something strange happens to them.  Or they may recognize the image of Rod Serling-the creator of the show-when seeing his image on books, magazines, or other types of media.  It helps, for many generations to come, that the ride, The Tower of Terror in Disney's California Adventure Park, contains video footage of Serling during the progress of the ride so that kids today will know of him.

I am truly a fan of the series that ran from 1959 until 1964 and will watch it any time it shows up on television.  Sadly, that's a rare occurrence and a lot of networks don't show as many syndicated shows as they did long ago.  I guess there are just too many new programs to air that they can't go back to the glorious yesteryear of the Golden Age of television.

Back in 1983, Warner Bros. set out to make a movie anthology, based on the famous television series, calling it Twilight Zone: The Movie.  Four stories were incorporated into the film with four well-known directors helming them.  Before the film was even released, it made the news as, sadly, Vic Morrow was killed during the production due to a stunt performance gone wrong.  Although Morrow was known for films like Blackboard Jungle and The Bad News Bears, I'll always remember him for his awesome performance in this movie.

The film opens with two men driving at night on a rural road, making a game of guessing television theme songs; it becomes obvious that the driver picked up the passenger as a hitchhiker.  The passenger (Dan Aykroyd), at one point, asks the driver (Albert Brooks), "Do you want to see something really scary?"  The driver reluctantly pulls over at the behest of the passenger and waits.  The passenger turns away, and then turns back as a demonic creature of some sort, attacking the driver.

And that's when the familiar opening, we all know so well, begins.  Except, instead of the voice of Rod Serling, we get the equally recognizable voice of Burgess Meredith, which is fitting since Meredith had starred in a number of original "Twilight Zone" television episodes.

In the first segment, "Time Out," directed by John Landis, Bill Conner (Vic Morrow) gets together with some friends at the local tavern after work.  He begins to be seriously pissed off because he was passed up on a promotion, citing that the company wanted to make sure they promoted another ethnicity besides white.
 Going on a tirade about other cultures and using racial slurs, Conner gets up and leaves.  However, when he goes out the door, he begins to be seen as the ethnicities he had just degraded minutes ago.  In different worlds and timelines, he now know how it feels to be persecuted as a Jew, an African-American, and a Vietnamese, as he goes through different dimensions to have these lessons taught to him.

"Time Out" is my favorite of all the segments in this film.  Morrow was perfect for the part and the story was incredible.  Strangely, yet remarkably, this is the original of the stories, as the others are remakes of actual episodes.  Unfortunately, this is the vignette where Morrow lost his life.  Turns out, there was to be a very enthusiastic scene where Morrow's character saves two Vietnamese children during the war.  Included were numerous pyrotechnics and a helicopter that flew overhead as the scene played out.  Well, the helicopter pilot lost control or something malfunctioned and the helicopter went down, the blades decapitating Morrow and one of the children, while the helicopter itself crushed the other child on impact.  It's a very forlorn swansong for a great like Vic Morrow.  I always keep him in mind when I watch this segment, because it could have been even more mesmerizing of a story.

In the second segment, "Kick the Can," a cheerful old man, Mr. Bloom (Scatman Crothers), shows up to teach the other aging residents that you're never too old to play a game of 'kick the can'-in other words, you're never too old to enjoy life.  However, Leo Conroy (Bill Quinn), resists, saying he's too old and that the other residents shouldn't play as well, citing they'll end up hurting themselves as they shouldn't engage in such activities.  But later, he learns how wrong he was and how right Mr. Bloom had been.

"Kick the Can" is not one of my favorites from this fact, it's my least favorite.  Amazingly, it was Steven Spielberg who had directed this part of the film.  It's still nice to view, but it makes the film, as a whole, a little uneven to watch.  The other three stories feature more shocking themes to them and this little family outing seems a little soft in comparison.  Still, it's a nice story and a basic premise that you might've seen on one of the original television programs.

The third segment, directed by Joe Dante, is "It's a Good Life" and is taken from one of the well-known episodes featuring Billy Mumy (who has a cameo in this piece).  Helen Foley (Kathleen Quinlan) is a teacher travelling to her new job and stops at a local diner for directions.  When leaving, as she backs away from the
diner in her car, she ends up hitting a young boy named Anthony (Jeremy Licht) on his bike, knocking him off but not hurting him.  She then offers Anthony a ride home, to which he accepts.  Upon arrival at the boy's home, she finds herself in a strange place where the boy has the power to control everything and create anything he wants.

This is another nice one featuring some truly terrifying practical special effects.  If you're familiar with the works of Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins), then you'll know the look of his films, which is what you have here.  The story is a little tighter than the original, definitely goes a little further then what they did in that episode, but it still lags a little here and there.  But as I'd said about the theme of the movie as a whole, it gets the movie back on track and sets up the last terrific segment.

The fourth story, directed by George Miller, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," is yet another remake of a classic episode.  The story is about a nervously stressed out passenger, John Valentine (John Lithgow), on a flight to L.A.  The core of his stress-being afraid to fly-is eating at him as he annoys the flight attendants and other passengers throughout the flight.  To add to his anxiety, Valentine begins seeing a strange creature on the wing of the plane, ripping pieces of paneling off and hurling them into the engine.  Every time he has someone look out the window, the creature is not there. Mr. Valentine hallucinating?  Or is the creature real?

Man, this segment really hits home, as I'm nearly as crazed and tense when flying on an airplane as Lithgow's character in this part-although I pretty much keep it all inside.  The whole segment is such a suspenseful experience; you really sit on the edge of your seat, wondering what's going to happen next.  Though the story is taken from the classic episode starring William Shatner, Lithgow really turns it up a notch-or ten-with his wild-eyed performance.  While the first segment is my favorite, this one's a close second.  The segment concludes, wrapping up the beginning prologue with Dan Aykroyd (as an ambulance driver taking Lithgow's character away) repeating his question from the start of the film, "Do you want to see something really scary?"  The famous theme music begins as the end credits roll.

Thoroughly, I think this movie is great with superb performances and great direction.  With the odd exception of "Kick the Can," all the stories-including the bookend segments-fit nicely together and mesh well, going from one to another.  The film was certainly an ambition project, but done well so I don't know why it didn't garner better box office receipts.  Who knows?  Maybe the movie-going audiences weren't ready for it back then?  Perhaps the negative publicity, due to the film having three deaths during production, caused Warner Bros. not to promote it as much.  I actually don't remember hearing about it back then, but I do remember seeing advertisements for it.

Anyway, let's get my final "bit" on Twilight Zone: The Movie.

The film could've been a strong beginning to a continuation of many sequels.  One can only imagine how cool it would've been to have a four-segment movie come out every few years, remaking classic episodes of the show.  Without having the constraints television would've put in place if this was to be aired on TV, the shock value is a lot higher when including a bit of gore and believable dialogue infused.  It's sad that this film has been forgotten and not really known for anything but the tragic accident during filming.

As a post "bit," word has it that Warner Bros. wants to try a full-length feature again.  This time, however, they want to have one story as opposed to making another anthology of tales...big mistake, in my opinion.  When the show ran in the early 60s, CBS had Rod Serling change the episode lengths from half-hour shows to full-hour ones.  They were noticably drawn-out and had a lot of obvious filler in each episode, making them kind of boring.  The following season, however, the format went back to half-hour, so that should clue in Warner Bros. to their harebrained idea to make a 90-minute movie with just one story.  Learn from history, Warner Bros.

Thanks for reading...and I welcome any comments!

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