Thursday, 9 June 2016

Magic (1978)

Abracadabra, I sit on his knee.
Presto chango, and now he is me.
Hocus Pocus, we take her to bed.
Magic is fun... we're dead.

These were the words said by Fats the ventriloquist dummy in the first trailer for the 1978 film Magic. It's a creepy thirty second teaser showing nothing but the dummy against a black background and is the kind of trailer we don't seem to get anymore yet I would venture would still be very effective. The first time I saw it I knew this was a film I had to see, as well as been very intriguing in it's own right I've been a huge fan of the killer toy subgenera of horror ever since I saw Child's Play when I was thirteen.

Now while I still see Magic as a killer toy film it isn't one in the same vein as Child's Play or Puppet master, rather it is a slow paced phycological horror, a character study of failed magician turned ventriloquist Corky Withers (Anthony Hopkins) and his dummy Fats.

The film starts showing us that Corky, though a talented magician, has little in the way of stage presence as he is timid and quiet and does little to grab the audiences attention, this all changes a few years latter when he add's a partner to his act, a ventriloquist dummy named Fat's who is loud, foul mouthed, rude and grabs the audiences attention right away. Corky's rise to fame is quick but at the last moment right as he is about to get a television pilot he flees not wanting to take the mandatory medical exam.

The rest and majority of the film show's us Corky as he rents a small house next to a lake in his home town, and his relationship with former school yard crush Peggy Ann Snow (Ann-Margaret) as they fall in love. But as you may have guessed things aren’t so swell for Corky as Fat's feels as though he's been left out of the picture.

The screenplay was written by William Goldman based on his own novel, if you recognise the name this is no surprise, he has a long list of work, two notable examples would be both the novels and screenplays for Marathon Man and the Princess Bride. Now I have not yet read the novel but would very much like to one day, from what I have read up on it it goes much more into Corky's back story, showing various parts of his live growing up in the small town. The film has a little of this, a couple flash backs as he is first returning to the town showing us glimpses of his life, but I would love to find out more.

It would be a crime for me not to also mention that the great Burgess Meredith, best known for his roles as the Penguin in the 1960's Batman show and Mickey in the Rocky series, plays Corky's agent Ben Greene, and as you may expect he's fantastic in the role. Actor and stand-up comedian Ed Lauter also has a role in the film.

There were other actors considered for the role of Corky, Jack Nicholson turned it down due to not wanting to wear a hairpiece, both director and screenwriter wanted Gene Wilder for the role but producer Joseph E. Levine didn't want an actor known for comedy in the lead. Now I love the film as it is and Anthony Hopkins is fantastic, but part of me would love to have seen what a version of the film staring Wilder would have been like.

Fats himself looks fantastic, he was designed as a caricature of Hopkins himself though very much exaggerated, this lends well to the film as they always look great when on screen together. There is a great story told by Dennis Alwood, a ventriloquist who worked on the film, about the first night Fats was left with Hopkins and he ended up getting a call at three in the morning with Hopkins saying, “Come get this ****ing dummy out of my house it's freaking me out!”. That story and others can be heard in a thirty minute behind the scene's film called 'Fats and Me' (which can be found on youtube).

This is a great little horror film yet one I don't hear people talk about too often and really is a shame, it's well paces, acted and genuinely frightening, I was never sure where it was going from the moment Corky fled to his home town.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Flesh Gordon Double Bill

For the first time I feel it necessary to say that this review is for a mature audience only, if you are under 18 come back on your 18th Birthday, it'll be like a Birthday present!

Well we all knew sooner or later I would end up reviewing a porno, well thats not really fair, the Flesh Gordon films aren’t really porn film but more in the vain of sex comedy’s like the 'Confessions...' series or 'The Cheerleaders (1973)', there are rumours of a version of the first film that containes hardcore sex scenes but apparently no copy exist as all were destroyed in a police raid.

My DVD of the first Flesh Gordon (1974) boast that it's 'the spaced age sex spoof that is out of the world' and thats pretty spot on, the film opens with a text crawl reassuring the audience that this is a homage to the classic serials such as Buck Rogers, Superman and of course Flash Gordon. And the film really does feel like a loving homage rather than mean spirited like so many modern comedy spoofs, there really seems to be a love for these classic serials.

The plot to the first film will sound familiar to any Flash Gordon fan, though of course a little different, Flesh Gordon (Jason Williams), Dale Ardor (Suzanne Fields) and Dr. Flexi Jerkoff (Joseph Hudgins) blast off in a rocket ship of Jerkoff's own design to the planet Porno after the planet has appeared in our galaxy and started bombarding Earth with a sex ray that makes people sex crazy. It's a good homage to the first story line of the 1936 Flash Gordon serials and comics, the same plot that would later be the basis of the 1980 feature film version. There are a lot of sex joke's and nudity in the film, as well as some impressive stop motion animation, no surprise that many of the effects people who worked on the film would go on to win awards later in their carriers. In fact Flesh Gordon was nominated for the best special effects at the academy awards until they decided to drop the category that year, which really is a shame as I would love to see Flesh Gordon in HMV's Oscar Winners section they put up every year around awards season.

There are bits of the film that have not aged well, such as the Fu Manchu appearance of the villainous Emperor Wang (William Dennis Hunt), you could argue it's so over the top that it's parodying this practice from classic serials and it's not out of place really as a Emperor Ming parody but it's still pretty bad. There are other elements that unfortunately have not aged well but I won't get into them all, just keep on mind when watching this film that it is of another time.

But over all the film is good, good parody, good effects, good set design and good costumes, over all very good.

Fifieen years later in (1989) we got a sequel called Flesh Gordon 2: Flesh Gordon Meets the Cosmic Cheerleaders which sees Flesh, Dale and Jerkoff (this time played by Vince Murdocco, Robyn Kelly and Tony Travis respectivley) once again thrust into a mad cap space adventure. This is the one I was more hesitant going into as it is a film that has been named with the overused moniker of 'worst film ever made' but once again it's good, it lacks the charm of the original and is much more bad taste but I genuinely found it funny.

This time Flesh is kidnapped by the Cosmic Cheerleaders in the hope that he can help after all the men of their planet have been struck with impotence after the Evil Presence has fired a mysterious ray at their planet. I wount go into too much detail in what happens on the journey as some of it really has to be see to be believed, but fair warning the humour is much more scatological this time around and once again, it is very bad taste.

All that been said I did have a lot of fun with both films, not for everyone, nowhere near for everyone, but for what they are if you are in the right mindset you can have a lot of fun with them.

Oh, and the theme song to the second film; All American Hero by Rod Knowlan is amazing and would likely make it onto my list of favoured film theme songs!

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Screen Queens February 2016

So this weekend I was at a small event in London called Screen Queens, organised and run by British B-movie star and Big Brother alumni Eileen Daly, the day was held to raise funds for her upcoming film project 'She's a Bitch' (which might be one of the best name's for a werewolf film ever). The day featured two film screenings, a couple poetry readings, Q and A's with the cast and crew of the films and another with horror author C. J. Lines, some burlesque acts and a disco.

Myself and Eileen Daly

The films we watched were written, directed and staring Eileen Daly, both part of a series about a paranormal investigation television show, 'Hollywood Betrayed' and 'First Bite is the Deepest', both were great little off the wall comedies made on, in the film makers own words, no budget, 'She's a Bitch' is the planned next film in the series.

There are plans to host more of these little events in the future and I really hope they happen., I had a great time and met some fab people, I even got my Razor Blade Smile poster signed which made me one happy horror hound indeed.

Here are just some of my photos from the event.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy

Based on the most famous creation of French comic maker Jean-Claude Forest, the 1968 film Barbarella (also known as Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy) is fantastically fun, enjoyably camp, wonderfully sexy and it is very very 60's. Jane Fonda stars as the titular character with main supporting roles been played by John Philip Law, Anita Pallenberg, Milo O'Shea, Ugo Tognazzi, Marcel Marceau and David Hemmings.

Never having read the comic I can't speak to its accuracy to the source material but the plot here is pretty straight forward, space adventurer Barbarella is ordered by the president of earth to retrieve Doctor Duran Duran, one of the few humans still creating weapons in this enlightened future, one weapon the Earth government fear more than any other is the Positronic Ray, so deadly powerful they fear the repercussions that could result from it landing in the wrong hands. So Barbarella heads to the 16th planet of Tau Ceti to find the Doctor, but things are not so easy as she must face robots, murderous children, mad scientists, and The Great Tyrant, though a few allies aid her including the resistanc against the Tyrant and even an Angel.

Barbarella hertself is a wounderfull character, a dearing space adventurer but with a kind innocence about her, Fonda herself said that 'Barbarella is not a vamp and her sexuality is not measured by the rules of our society. She is not being promiscuous, but she follows the natural reaction of another type of upbringing'.  Director Roger Vadim also commented on this by saying 'She is going to be an uninhibited girl, not being weighed down by thousands and thousands of years of Puritan education.'  He also said 'She is just a lovely, average girl with a terrific space record and a lovely body.'  I feel these quotes perfectly describe the character, they aimed for the character to be a certan way and they sucseeded.

The first thing you'll notice about this film is it is the absolute definition of abstract 60's weirdness, there is not one set or location that isn't interesting just to look at and the same goes for the costume design (Barbarella herself goes through many costume changes), I don't even know where to begin describing it, it's just something that must be seen for oneself.

There are some wonderful idea's such as Sogo, the City of Night where evil is rewarded and anyone good is cast to The Labyrinth beneath where they seem to either eventually fade from existence or merge with the stone walls that entrap them. Or how on this planet Children are left to fend for themselves in the wilderness until they become of age when they are captured by the Catchmen and brought to Sogo. Little things like this can really build up what this alien world is like and how different it is from Earth and what we would consider normal.

We get some ideas of what future Earth is like too, weapons are no longer been made as there is a new era of peach and enlightenment, sex has been replaces with pills that give you a similar sensation. You know the more I describe this the more it sounds like this could be the same future from Demolition Man... now there's a crossover idea, Barbarella vs John Spartan!

Now saying that sex has become old hat and replaced with a non physical contact variation on Earth, by as said it the quotes I used above Barbarella does become intimate with a few of the sexy men she encounters, the 16th planet of Tau Ceti still practices what Barbarella describes as a 'distracting and a danger to maximum efficiency', though once she experiences it herself she changes her mind towards it, though she still thinks she was right about it been a distraction.  And lets not forget the famous 'death by orgasm' machine one of the villains attempts to kill her with.

This film is a hoot and really must be experienced, so blast off for the 16th planet of Tau Ceti and watch Barbarella as your in flight film!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016


Watching Arcade again after a few years and I realise this film is actually damn good, more so than I remember. On the surface it appears to be a standard post Tron mid 90's virtual reality movie (and there were a lot fo thoes) but there is a bit more to it, writer David S. Goyer (Blade and Dark Knight films) fleshed out the characters a little more especially our hero Alex (Megan Ward), also director Albert Pyun is on fine form giving every scene a memorable look.

The film follows teenager Alex and her friends, a group of 90's gamer kids who spend their time at a local Arcade called Dante's Inferno, one day they get to play a demo of a new virtual reality game called Arcade, they all even get free home versions. But soon Alex realises there is something wrong with Arcade, it seems to know who she is before she's even played and also her friends begin to quickly disappear, including her boyfriend Greg (Bryan Dattilo). So it falls to her and her friend Nick (Peter Billingsley) to find out whats happening and defeat Arcade at his own game.

I love the early CGI in this film, I know that is weird for me to say but I really do, since the characters are in a video game it makes total seance here, plus the early rough around the edges CG reminds me of endless nights playing early 3D games on my PlayStation, especially with some of the cool monster designes.

The actors were filled in front of a blue screen and the look also reminds me a lot of the classic TV game show Nightmare, if you've ever seen it you'll know exactly what I mean.

The film is well directed, Albert Pyun has a large body of work I'm only just starting to discover, lots of great shots in the film especially scenes dealing with Alex on a more personal side, coming to terms with her mothers suicide, or some of the creepier scenes like when one character is pretty much zombified by Arcade. I must say I love the inside of Dante's Inferno, I don't know if mid 90's Arcade's were that darkly lit or so full of smoke but who cares it looks cool.

The faces you'll most likely recognise in the film are Seth Green as teen Stilts, one of Alex's friends and John de Lancie as a software executive. Of course the leads in the film are great, Megan Ward who has built up a sizeable filmography of horror and sci-fi over the years and of course Peter Billingsley who is still fondly remembered for his role of Ralphie in A Christmas Story, though he has a lot more work under his belt including a lot of producing, writing and directing.

This is a fun little sci-fi flick, maybe more dated than other Full Moon films as it is so very 90's, but that doesn’t stop this been a great ride. Pay a quarter, push the player one button and check it out.

Sunday, 24 January 2016


 As some of you may already know my favourite TV show since I was a little kid is Doctor Who, I won't bore you here with a recap of the show as I've no doubt most of you already know the at least the premesis. What I will tell you about is the wilderness years, that time between 1989 and 2005 when Doctor Who was absent from television (with the exception of re-runs and the 1996 TV movie), though the stories of the Doctor never stopped, comics that had run almost since the shows beginning continue to this day, series of novels continuing the story as well as adding new adventures for the past Doctor's, in 2000 Big Finish would start it's series of highly successful Doctor Who audio plays and then there is todays subject Reeltime Pictures.

Reeltime Pictured (and later BBV) produced original direct to video films based in the Doctor Who universe. Though the BBC kept close guard of the series Reeltime was able to directly licence characters and creatures directly from the writers who created them, so while The Doctor himself couldn't appear they were able to use characters such as Sargent Benton, Sarah Jane Smith and alien species such as The Sontaran's and Draconian's. Today we'll be looking at one of their films that sees several Doctor Who characters return to fight a classic foe, the recently released to DVD, Downtime.

Written by Marc Platt who also wrote the Seventh Doctor story Ghost Light as well as a number of Doctor Who novels and audio dramas, and directed by Christopher Barry who had directed many episodes of the show in the 60's and 70's, Downtime sees the return of five characters from Doctor Who; Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), Victoria Waterfield (Deborsh Watling), Professor Edward Travers (Jack Watling) and the villainous Great Intelligence along with its henchmen The Yeti. The film also introduced the character of Kate Stewart (Beverley Cressman) who would appear in the revived series of the show. The film also features Doctor Who alumni John Leeson and Geoffrey Beevers in new roles of Anthony and Harrods.

The plot see's the villainous Great Intelligence and his army of Yeti once again attempt to take over the world, this time having manipulated former companion of the Doctor Victoria Waterfield into founding the New World University, all in a ploy to invade the internet. Fellow former asociats of the Doctor Sara Jane Smith and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart fight to save the day with help from the Brigadier's estranged daughter Kate, former RAF man Harrods and psychic teenager Daniel Hinton (Mark Trotman). The film is more than a sci-fi romp especially with the Brigadier as we also get to see his strained relationship with his daughter, and the effects working for a secret government agency had on his life.

What I really love about this film is that I really believe this is what Doctor Who would have been like had it continued into the 90's. It has a similar feel to late 80's Doctor Who especially the Sylvester McCoy years (my favourer era of the whole show) but with a dash of the 90's, especially as the story is heavily involved with the early internet.

The story itself is a sequel to 60's Doctor Who serials The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of fear, which to my eternal shame are two I haven't seen, I will soon as I plan to get both then marathon all three stories back to back to see if I get any more out Downtime that way. The Great Intelligences is a great villain along with its new breed of his menacing robotic yeti. It's great to see a bit of the lives of Doctor Who companions Sarah Jane and Victorias lives after their travels in the TARDIS, and in the case of the Brigadier this film is actually a prequel to his final appearance in Doctor Who, the fantastic Battlefield which took place in the late 90's.

As said before Reeltime productions couldn't directly name drop The Doctor but a few cheeky references are made, a particular favourite of mine happens after the Brigadier has been in a fight, he's been hit on the head and as he falls into unconsciousness he sees another character run towards him to help, the Brigadier says “Good lord, is that you? Have you changed yourself... again?” Little touches like this are charming additions for fans to spot.

The film was also novelised by Marc Platt as part of Virgin Book's Missing Adventures series of Doctor Who novels, a book I would love to read one day as from what I have read it is a greatly expanded version of the story and even has cameos by both the third and fourth Doctors.

This film is great and a must see for fan's of classic Doctor Who though if you are only familiar with the new show you may not get as much out of it. But if thats the case check out some classic Who then give this one a watch.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Updates and Sci-Fi Month

Massive apologies, I meant only to take a two week break after my Christmas reviews but things have been crazy this last couple weeks so haven't managed to get my next review done, at the latest my next review will be out in a week but I will aim for before then. And as a teaser I will tell you my next four reviews will all be sci-fi, even a horror hound like myself likes a change once in a while.

After that I already have lots of ideas for what I want to review this coming year so keep your eyes on this page.

But as you wait for my next pice of incredible writing (yeah right) I want to reccomand two other blogs by friends of mine.  

First is sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris and like mine is a blog looking at films especially horror ones, she is a much better writer than me on the subject so check it out.

The other is Retro TV Corner, a look at classic sitcoms of the 60's, 70's and 80's, mostly British, if like me you grew up watching a lot of the older sitcoms you'll be hit with a flood of nostalgia as soon as you click onto the page.

So go over, check out their stuff, comment, like and all that good stuff!