976-Evil

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The case says 1988 and I have seen the UK release dated listed as late 1988, but several sources say the US theatrical release was March, 1989.

Directed by Robert Englund (yes, that Robert Englund)

I remember seeing ads for this when it came out, but I never saw it and didn’t know anyone who had seen it either. I picked it up at Wal-mart’s $5 bin around Halloween 2008, watched it once and then there it sat until I viewed it for this review.

Who’s in this?

Stephen Geoffreys was three years removed from played Evil Ed in Fright Night. This time around he’s the star of the film as Hoax who is socially awkward teen who is ruled over by his God fearing momma as well as being bullied at school.

Patrick O’Bryan as Spike cousin of Hoax and he lives above their garage. He has a motorcycle, a short ponytail and a girlfriend so he must be cool. On the downside he appears to be 26 and is still in high school.

Sandy Dennis plays Hoax’s mom. She loves God and cats plus she rules over her a son with an iron fist. She won an Oscar and a pair of Tony awards, but by this time she wasn’t getting the best of roles offered to her. She died from ovarian cancer just a few years after this film.

Jim Metzler as Marty a policeman who kind of wanders into the story and frequents cheap diners while doing very little else until the last ten minutes of the film. Metzler has been in a ton of stuff and is still acting regularly today.

Leslie Dean as Suzie. She’s Spike’s girlfriend and she loves pizza and hates spiders.

J.J. Cohen as Marcus. You may know him as Skinhead one of Biff’s gang members in all three Back to the future movies

Robert Picardo (ST Voyager, Stargate shows, The Howling and a crapload of other stuff) playing what else? A freak as Mark Dark who runs the company that controls the phone line for 976-Evil. A small role but this is Robert Picardo so of course he steals the scene he’s in.

The don’t blink or you’ll miss him role of this film is veteran comedy character actor Paul Wilson (Cheers, Macolm in the middle and like 100 other things) who briefly appears as a teacher.

Another small role, but not a small actor is Greg Collins as Mr. Selby. A former football player Collins began acting in the mid-80 and is still going strong with well over a hundred credits. He frequently has small roles as a policeman, someone in the military or a gym teacher. You have no doubt seen him in a bunch of stuff.

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Just don’t say some crap about opening with a pair of hearts.

What’s this thing about?

This would be the section where I describe the plot. However IN this film the plot is very loose maybe like a baseball with seams that are barely holding on as the movie goes on those seams began to rip and the plot begins to fall apart. Instead we get random skits and various time wasters tossed in to try to keep you going until they end. Ot maybe the writers only came up with a beginning and an end and figured that the oddball cast could carry the middle enough to keep it going. Anyways much like the writers (yes, I know that future Academy award winning writer Brian Helgeland co-wrote this script) of this film I am skipping to the end too soon. Okaylet’s see what’s going in this film- a guy catches on fire for grabbing a pay phone and oh we know that evil is coming because of the burning guy and EVIL is in the title wahahahaha. Hoax is a real mess who can’t get anywhere and his dominating overly religious mom makes matters even worse. Hoax idolizes his way cool cousin Spike (so no one is named Mike or Dave in this movie?). Spike needs money to get his bike back because he lost it Marcus in a card game. Poof Spike gets a card for a hotline called Horrorscope-get it H-O-R-R-O-R, whoa the writers must have been high fiving each other for an hour after thinking up that little ditty. Oh and the phone numer is 976-EVIL. So Spike calls and gets some hammy semi-rhyming response and some lead that he’ll get money. Wouldn’t you know it he does get some moolah. Wow but then again if the phone line didn’t work the movie could have ended here which may not have been a bad thing. Hoax gets bullied by Marcus and his gang and when Spike saves him once he thinks they are buddies but no freaking way because Spike is too cool for that. Since Spike has an A list nickname and Hoax is like a fake, fraud name and probably down around the D grade nickname level. Somewhere around here trenchcoat wearing Marty blows into town and begins poking around about odd stuff happening and this leads him to Spike. He finds out that Spike used the 976-Evil hotline and this lead to strange things a happening. Marty goes straight to the source and visits the business that runs this hotline and lots of others. Screwball owner Mark Dark says his company did run that line but they have since shut it off because it wasn’t make enough money. Oh, Lordy so now we must assume that a demon or spirit from beyond has taken over a hotline whoa that’s heavy, man. Next thing you know someone is going to break out a pentragram -oh, wooly bully there goes Hoax making a big old pentagram on the floor of his room. Then he takes his off shirt, sits right in the middle of that evil sign and conjurs up some spiders to scare Suzie. Hold on, this power is too much for just scaring so those spiders do her in, yikeees. Spike learns that Hoax is using the spooky hotline and eventually he tells Marty who figures on doing something in between meal stops at greasy spoons. Hoax is caught up in the power now. First he slashes one of the guys in Marcus’s gang with some big rippy claws he just grew. That night he gets all bushy like a  reject from that island with that Dr. Moreau feller and then he rips the heart of two of the gang members, cuts the hand off Marcus before finishing him after Marcus does such a tidy job trying to stop the bleeding by wrapping the stump in toilet paper. Then Hoax takes out the last gang member by shoving him into a neon sign brrrrrtzzzz. Hey, Evil E…excuse me Hoax is on a roll so you know that loud, pushy momma is next and rip she gets it. Then Hoax turns her house into this crystalized cave sort of a Fortress of Insanity.  Marty who now has Spike’s teacher with him shows up at crystal house and so does Spike who has to come stag since his girl is dead and all. Start up the big finale even though these heroes such as they are have become very difficult to care about. So a chase starts and Hoax and Spike have it out which all winds up with Hoax being flipped into a fire pit below and then the ground swallows him up. So that’s it-oh, no wait twist ending alert- we see Mark Dark in an office and find out that he is operating 976-Evil and he’s keeing a file on those he takes over because he has a picture of Hoax in front of him. Oh, jeepers creepers role the credits and start penning the sequel.

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So they stuck Spike’s teacher in the last half hour of the film just so she could have this done to her.

Stats-

Number of fish that fall from sky once Spike starts using the hotline-Maybe 30 but they were pretending like was hundreds. Not the only thing that smelled fishy about this movie.

Number of teenage girls who wear men’s underwear or big baggy underwear-Two

Number of high school kids who don’t look like they are at least 23-None that having speaking roles.

Number of poker games that Marcus and his gang have whether with Spike or Hoax or without- I think four although maybe it was all part of one big long game.

Negatives? This movie falls into the trap that so many films in the late 80’s did which is to wrap the films up with blood an gore but never manage to be scary or even surprising. On top of that as previously mentioned the plot falls apart as the film goes along. Stephen Geoffreys has a lot of pressure on him to carry a lot of the film. He tries using the quirky mannerisms that worked for him in Frigh Night, but here we see he really needed a strong script to help him out and he didn’t have one. Patrick O’Bryan is about as one dimensional as he can be and you really should be made to care a little about the hero, but I actually cared less for him as the film went on.

Positives? At least they didn’t make a sequel. Oh, wait they did, but I have not seen it so I would guess that’s a positive for me. Spike was I believe the only character who returned for the second one and it was the last acting credit that IMDB lists for that actor, imagine that. The effects are mostly good for the budget, the crystalized house was probably the best effect. Casting Robert Picardo as Mark Dark was a good move as well. Sandy Dennis tried, but she wasn’t given all that much to do. JJ Cohen didn’t have a great role or a great gang, but something about his performance made me think he could have been a good gang leader in a film that offered him a little more to do. Despite the effort to give Geoffreys cute lines it’s Cohen’s “What’s up…Chuck?” that he delivers before hazing Hoax that tends to be the most memorable line of this film.

So should you see this if you have not already? Lovers of 80’s horror may want to give it a once over. More casual horror fans will likely to skip it because it’s nothing spectacular.

Giant from the unknown

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1958

Directed by Richard Cuhna. He directed a handful of low budget titles in the late 50’s including this one, She-Demons (a must see cheesefest), Frankenstein’s Daughter and Missile to the moon.

Who’s in this thing?

Edward Kemmer as the ambitious troublemaker Wayne Brooks. Probably best known as Commander Buzz Corry in Space Patrol.

Sally Fraser as Janet Cleveland who smiles half the time and looks terrified the other half, but that’s all I remember her doing in this film. She was in a lot of tv shows in the 50’s and some sci-fi films like this one and Earth vs. the spider.

Morris Ankrum as Dr. Frederick Cleveland. Janet’s daddy and all around knowitall. Another guy who was in a bunch of westerns, but a few sci-fi films too including Earth vs. the flying saucers and Invaders from mars.

Buddy Baer as Vargas the giant. Buddy was he brother of former heavyweight champ Max Baer and uncle of Max Baer Jr. (Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies).

Bob Steele as as the totally uptight as serious as death Sheriff Parker. He was tons of westerns and some serials before this and fans of 60’s tv will recognize from his hilarious role as Private Duffy in F-troop.

Billy Dix as Indian Joe. The only indian in this backwoods town and given that he’s known for being a loon you just know he won’t last long. Whoops*spoiler. This guy was in a lot of westerns too.

Oliver Blake as cafe proprietor. Not a big part, but I want to mention him because he was a decent often overlooked and frequently uncredited character actor in the 40’s and 50’s. He had a very rough and distinctive face and voice. He was in everything from B movie like this to Space Patrol to I love Lucy to a pair of Ma and Pa Kettle movies. Not a pretty guy, but that’s what he did best-looking weird and sour.

What’s this about? A small town in northern California has had an outbreak of mutilations-you know sheep, cattle and one old rancher. Local crazy Indian Joe gives a rant about these killings being due to the white man disturbing indian burial grounds. Yeah, yeah take your crazy talk elsewhere. The sheriff wants to speak with geologist Wayne Brooks about the murder because he had run-ins with the old dead dude. Wayne says he was just crossing the guys property to get rock samples but hadn’t seen the guy in a while. About then Dr. Cleveland (archaeologist) and his daughter pull up to get supplies on  their way to a dig. Wayne remembers taking some lectures from Dr. Cleveland and introduces himself. Wayne goes with them to Devil’s Crag. What a lovely sounding place. Dr. Crackpot, I mean Dr. Cleveland has a theory that a group of Spanish conquistadors lead by a giant named Vargas landed on the coast of California but ventures inland looking for gold. He’s hoping to find artifacts to support this nonsense-er, theory. They spend an eternity using a metal detector looking for relics and finding nothing. I guess this proves the point that science can be very dull. Eventually beep beep beep the metal detector lets them know there be artifacts here-of the Spanish conquistador variety. Lots of helmets and weapons and eeeeahh even a skeleton, but no evidence of the giant. Oh shucky darn. That night there’s a storm and the giant emerges from under about half an inch of dirt and leaves. The next day Wayne and the Clevelands find the giant’s armor and helmet. That night the giants creep into their camp promptly kicks a bucket (a real bucket not kicking the bucket). Janet hears it and does what anyone would do and shoots a bullet into her bed (?). Dr. Clevland and Wayne check on her but they are sad when they learn that the giant’s stuff has been taken. The mean butt  giant straps on his gear and goes and kills local girl Ann Brown. Wayne gets arrested for the murder, that’s what he gets for collecting rocks! Wayne being a great guy tells the sheriff that Indian Joe must have done this and if they go check out his shack they’ll find the giant’s weapons and that will prove it. Sheriff says what they hey lets go have a look. Inside Indian Joe’s cabin there’s some cans, furs and holy cow there’s Indian Joe all bloodied and hanging strung up and all dead like, eww. Guess he was innocent and Wayne is a big liar. So off to jail for him. Meanwhile the giant takes Janet. Dr. Cleveland high tails it into town to get help. When the sheriff isn’t looking Wayne and Dr. Cleveland steal the police car and fly back to Devil’s Crag with the sheriff shooting at them while he and some concerned citizens follow in a decent car chase. When they finally stop Wayne explains to the sheriff about the Giant and they see him so everyone unites to go after the big grump. He has Janet and keeps the townspeople by throwing rocks. No, really a mighty conquistador is throwing rocks. He’s such a toughie that he throws them like they are made of foam, oh wait maybe they are. He crushes one guy with a foam rock and throws another like he’s a cloth dummy. He gets shot a few time so he retreats and leaves Janet. The sheriff tells Wayne he was wrong about him and they’ll work together to get the giant. Then Ann’s brother Charlie want to avenge his sister’s death so he goes after the giant alone and shoots him some, but gets the tar knocked out of him but he should make it. Wayne goes after the giant alone, if one jackass couldn’t beat the giant alone then surely a second jackass could. He follows the giant to an old mill, but Wayne loses his gun and gets smacked around some. Eventually they end up on a bridge over a damn and of course big bad meanie falls over eyahhhhhh. Wayne and Janet kiss and roll the credits.

Stats-

Number of foam rocks thrown-about 25 little ones, 6 medium ones and three big ones

Number of black shag wigs worn by Indian Joe-one

Number of times the sheriff shoots at Wayne before saying oh, I was wrong about you-about 10

The negatives? There’s a half an hour in the middle where not much of anything is happening. Plot holes-since the giant didn’t pop to life until 40 minutes into the film then who did all the mutilating they talk about at the start of the film? Also how did the giant stay so well preserved and how did he come to life? From a lightning storm? None of that is explained. On and when the giant is falling off the bridge the overlay shot looks like they cut off his feet.

The positives? Some good locations. Overall if you can got through that slow middle it’s an entertaining enough very low budget B movie. There are lots of holes, but somehow they did enough to make me want to see it through to the end.

There you go.

Starlost Sundays-The Pisces

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Who’s in this?

Keir Dullea as Devon, Gay Rowan as Rachel, Robin Ward as Garth, Lloyd Bochner as the stiff Colonel Garoway, Carol Lazare as Navigator Teale, Diana Barrington as officer Janice, William Osler as computer voice.

What’s this about? Devon, Rachel and Garth are taking a nap (what an exciting ship) when an alarms start dinging and announce a ship is coming in to dock with the Ark. The trio wake up and go to see what all the hub ub is about. A little ship that looks like a Lego creation is coming in to the dock. Three people come off,  a middle aged smoothlooking  dude and two long haired woman all dressed in matching orange and white uniforms. The man is the Colonel of the group he introduces himself and his crew and wonders why more people didn’t show up to greet them. The Colonel says they have been away from the Ark on an exploration mission for ten years. Garth tries to explain that he thinks they have been away for longer than that. The Colonel blows off this idea and says they all just want to go see their families. They go to where their families should be and they are not there plus people residing there do not know of them. The oldest person there did remember hearing of the ship of theirs (The Pisces) from stories from years ago. Navigator Teale starts discussing with the Ark computer and finds that Garth is right that the Pisces has actually been away for 409 years. The Pisces trio begin to have dizzy spells and we then discover they are having time dilation problems. Yes, this episode does seem to be pieced together as it progresses. The Pisces crew feels better for now so they have the Ark trio over for dinner, but Janice and Teale cut themselves and Devon off from the Colonel, Garth and Rachel. Janice stuns Devon with what looks like a glue gun with lights slapped on it. Janice and Teale take the Pisces away form the Ark. Devon gets the glue gun back, but rationally talks the woman into piloting the ship back to the Ark and they agree. The Pisces crew decide to go off into space thinking that will help slow down the time dilation that is effecting them. So they take off in the Pisces and our trio of heroes wave goodbye.

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The negatives? Normally I go on and on with the plot descriptions yet this one ends quick. That’s because the idea on this episode was slim, so slim that it felt they were pulling and peeling to stretch it to a full hour and it didn’t quite work. The plot was thin, the logic about time dilation felt loopy and weak. The ending of them just flying back off was an unsatisfying end to a not so intriguing episode.

The positives? Now the negatives make this sound a rotten episode, but I wouldn’t go quite that far. It’s somewhat saved by good guest performances. Both the Colonel and Teale were likable enough to feel some compassion for the, yes they ranted on a lot and seemed too calm at times, but I cared a little.  Plus I overall liked the Pisces ship design even it was very simple design.

How could it have been better? The idea of crew being from the Ark and coming back to find what they knew is gone has promise. The science behind it is stretch in the episode and that makes the idea really shaky and I was wanting to believe in it. So what we got here was an idea with a little promise, but not enough meat or explanation to keep it afloat for the whole time and ended with a lot sitting around waiting for the end of the show. Really they needed deeper explanations to what happened. That may be making it too basic, but they needed more and it never happened. This was a  tough episode to watch because I wanted it to work, but it never panned out yet. The writing limitations asd the show’s lack of action were highlighted for all to see in this one. Too bad because the guest held their heads high and tried to carry as did the main cast.

So I am a quarter of a way through the series, hope to tackle episode five next week.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

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Columbia

1958

Directed by Nathan Juran

Produced by Charles H.Schneer and Ray Harryhausen

Written by Kenneth Kolb

Who’s in this?

Kerwin Matthews as the baby faced adventurer/sailor Sinbad.

Torin Thatcher as Sokurah the magician, he has to be evil because he has sinister eyebrows and he’s bald.

Kathryn Grant as Princess Parisa who is also engaged to Sinbad.

Richard Eyer as the child genie Barani, he must be western genie because he’s very pale or maybe that’s what spending all those years in the bottle will do.

Alec Mango as Caliph of Bagdad, he is the ruler of Sinbad’s home city and looks at Sinbad as a son.

Harold Kasket as the Sultan, arrogant windbag, all around sourpuss and daddy of the princess.

Alfred Brown as Sinbad’s loyal right hand man Harufa.

Nana De Herrera as Sadi, assistant and watchdog of the Princess.

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What’s it about?

This was the first of three Sinbad films that Harryhausen and Charles Schneer would create. Sinbad is on his ship and headed back to Bagdad so he can wed his bride to be who is also on board. They stop at  the  island of Colossa which turns out to be the land of caved stone faces and bald magicians carrying magic lamps while fleeing a fuzzy legged cyclops. Sinbad and his men try to help the magician and eventually they get back to the ship, but baldie is upset because he left his magic lamp behind and the cyclops picked it up like a shiny penny. They head back to Bagdad with Sokurah aboard. The magician tries to get them to go back because he wants that neato lamp. Sinbad and the princess say no way, Jose. They are set to get married and the marriage will bring a bond between their two nations. Once back at Bagdad Sokurah begins plotting on how to return to Colossa. He offers to do entertainment for the night which involves turning Sadi into a wild snake woman. Which is all fun and games until her tail tries and nearly does strangle her. Then Sokurah is asked to tell the future and being a shifty never do well he says the marriage between Sinbad and the princess will end in horror. Sinbad wisely socks him and the Caliph says something like get your rotten tail out out of my city, you sidewindin’ bald phony or you’ll have your nasty fish eyes burnt out of your worthless skull. Sokurah leaves, but he’s a bold jerk this one and he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve so he shrinks the princess. Sinbad begs him to help, the snake says he can help but needs to get back to Colossa to get ingredients for his potion. To combat the Cyclops Sokurah has designed plans for gigantic crossbow. Sinbad can’t get a good crew because everyone has heard of the Cyclops and doesn’t want to come near his fuzzy legs. So Sinbad has to get a crew of criminals who choose facing the Cyclops over getting hanged by the neck, what great choices. So off they go and of course the criminals amongst the crew mutiny and take over because there are more of them, oh those dastardly fellows. Sinbad also brought the tiny princes with him so he could keep her safe. It’s not that easy out on the seas. Some screamin’ beasties wail and cause the criminal crew headaches as the beasties try to drive the crew out of control so they’ll smash their ship. Sinbad and his few loyal followers plug up their ears, take control of the ship and get to their destination. The wizard of course wants to split up so he takes a group and Sinbad leads the other. Poor Sinbad is unlucky though as he has run-ins with a Cyclops and the big and litte Rocs. During this time the princess learns that the little boy genie in the bottle doesn’t really want to be a genie and she vows to help him if she can. During this time everyone learns that Sokurah is a snake in the grass because he leaves Sinbad for dead twice and kills Harufa. Eventually Sinbad gets back on track and makes it to Sokurah’s lab to pin him down about making the princess full size. He does, but then makes a fighting mad skeleton pop up too. Oh krickey he’s a plucky bag of bones, but Sinbad does a bit of fancy sword work and wins out. Sinbad and the princes flee with the Genie in a lamp, Sinbad throws the lamp away thinking he is releasing the genie but not knowing for sure if he is or not. Sokurah sicks his pet dragon on the heroes. You just knew those super mean reclusive types would have a pet like that. The dragon runs into one of them nasty Cyclops fellows, but wins so on after the good guy. Now what was that weapon Sinbad had made just for giant monsters? Oh, yeah a gigantic crossbow so thwack! Dragons goes down, Sokura gets squished like a rotten tomato and it’s time for the heroes to leave this nutty island. Sinbad, the princes and survivors leave. The former genie appears as a normal boy ready to serve as Sinbad’s cabin boy plus he brought the Cyclops’ treasue with him. Cue the fantastic Bernard Herrmann score and roll the credits.

What monsters (Harryhausen creations) are in this?

Cyclops-Big, growling and awesome. He’s the most impressive feature in this film.

Roc-babies and the mommy-We see the babies at first and they are decent figures, but the mother Roc is very cool. Particularly while in flight.

Skeleton-He’s so great due to the interaction/fight with Sinbad. Very well done.

Dragon-Fits in the plot. No Cyclops, but very nice.

Sadi’s half snake person-This one is just alright compared to the others in this film.

Stats-

Percentage of time that Sokurah gives evil looks-He’s almost pure evil so 91% of his screen time.

Number of times Sokurah gets socked in the face-twice which is about 900,000 less than he deserves.

Number of morons who kill the baby Roc birds bringing down the wrath of their mother-two I think.

Number of Cyclops eye balls that get poked with flaming pointy sticks-one

The negatives? The only thing that bothers me on this film is when the creatures are trying to bring the boat to crash on the shores it seems a bit cheap because it’s the only we don’t see a menace.
The positives? This film a true classic, one of the best fantasy films of all time. The monsters make it, Harrhausen was a genius on most of his films, but this one is a great example of how great his work could be. It took Ray Harryhausen 11 months to complete the animation sequences for the film and it paid off. The locations are top notch. Despite the lack of facial hair Matthews makes a pretty good Sinbad.

There you go.

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