Hey, it’s Halloween Season, and another month has blitzed by, with October nearly being done and me only now working on my September Mini-Reviews. What’s in store below? Many more entries in my Search for the Perfect Sword & Sorcery film. (I may collect all the reviews into an article later, but why wait?) Also, a number of truly excellent genre TV seasons, a bunch of Frankenstein, a Bogart film it turned out I’d never seen before, plus the usual meshugas we all know I’m into. Let’s swing right in!
Ratings are out of five stars. Here’s what those stars mean to me…
* – This film is not good. Avoid it unless you tolerate dreck well.
** – A flawed film. You may enjoy it if you like this genre or the folks in it.
*** – A good solid film. If you like this genre, you’ll probably like this film.
**** – A superior film within its genre. Thoroughly enjoyable.
***** – An outstanding film on many levels. A great example of its genre.
NOTE: This month I have a couple of films in my Sword & Sorcery quest that have a (+*) notation next to their rating. This is an indication that I have a high tolerance for exploitation, nudity, gore, and other such nonsense that some might not enjoy. If you’re like me, give those films an extra star as in the parentheses. (I think this mostly moves them from ** to *** in the ratings.)
Gunslinger **** Marshall’s wife becomes the new marshal, hunts down her husband’s killers, & battles clever madame in Corman western romp.
Red Sonja (1985) *** Acting is lacking in this adaptation of fantasy comic heroine & story is only okay, but production values are high & help save this.
Wellington Paranormal (S6) ***** O’Leary, Minogue, the Sarge & crew have more satiric supernatural adventures including trouble with the devil & a time portal.
Sandman (S1) ***** When Gaiman’s mysterious hero Dream is imprisoned, it causes trouble in the waking world, dreamland, & even hell. Great series.
Frogs (Sven) ** Young Sam Elliot is stranded with cute Joan Van Ark on stubborn patriarch Ray Miland’s swamp plantation as nature invades.
Kull the Conqueror *** Kevin Sorbo looks like Kull as the story veers between rock & roll fantasy, comedy, & sword & sorcery. Some worthwhile moments.
Jurassic World Dominion **** Dinosaurs are off the island & taking over the world. The original crew & new crew are back to save it in this action-packed finale.
Big Broadcast of 1937, The *** Gracie Allen (& George Burns) plus Jack Benny make this an amusing comedy about making shows in the classic age of radio.
Barbarian Queen **(+*) Woman’s village is burned & people killed, so she gathers the remainders, reclaims her sister, & gets revenge – with nudity.
Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace **** Fine documentary looking at the history of the movie palace from it’s beginnings in the 1920s to trying to save what’s left today.
Warrior & the Sorceress, The **(+*) David Carradine is the warrior in this SF/Fantasy retelling of Yojimbo. Not as good, of course, but some ideas & lots of nudity.
Conan the Destroyer *** Arnold is back with a D&D-like party to take a princess to retrieve a priceless artifact. Betrayal & battle abound. The production values are high, the acting is largely marginal, but it’s a better sword & sorcery than most – though not a patch on the 1st Conan film.
You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man *** WC Fields, Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy are hilarious in a down-on-its-luck circus. Unfortunate blackface routine loses a star.
Everyman: The True Story of Frankenstein **** TV doc with dramatic recreation of parts of the original story, this documentary has some insightful artist & filmmaker interviews.
Orlak: The Hell of Frankenstein *** Mexican Dr. Frankenstein creates a remote-control monster, who does the bidding of a criminal. Fun action-filled climax.
Monster of Frankenstein, The ** Strange Japanese retelling of Frankenstein, where monster, “Franken,” falls in with little girl’s family. Many die with downer ending.
Frankenstein (Lego – 1931) *** Clever if brief stop-motion version of the classic Universal Frankenstein film done with Lego characters.
Abominations of Frankenstein *** Seb Godin’s low-budget Frankenstein film has Bava lighting, gore, a modern aesthetic, & some interesting ideas & sequences.
Frankenstein’s Daughter *** Teenager turning into monster looks fine, but someone needed to tell makeup man that the Frankenstein-type was supposed to be a woman. Lipstick on the makeup sadly doesn’t do it. But rest of low-budget film is very sincere with some good acting & production.
Sword & the Sorcerer, The ** Sometimes I find this film amusing, sometimes disappointing. A three-bladed sword & a good soundtrack don’t help this standard fantasy tale of a heroic man vs. an evil tyrant & perhaps an even more evil sorcerer. Pretty standard.
Father Brown (S9 – rewatch) ***** Why rewatch the latest season of Father Brown? Because I love FB & felt I hadn’t paid enough attention 1st time around. Still fab.
Guilt (S2) ***** One of our sleazy “heroes” from last season is back, this time faced off against mobsters, murder, & a pretty girl. Great fun!
Thor: Love & Thunder **** Either you enjoy Taika Waititi’s mix of comedy & action, or you don’t. I do. Thor seeks to save the universe with Lady Thor & co.
Extraordinary Voyages of Jules Verne, The (Biography) **** Biography does an excellent job of running down the life and work of the famous early SciFi author.
Eijanaika *** Japanese peasants struggle in the transition between the old samurai ways & the end of the 19th century. Strange, peripatetic.
Deathstalker *** Rugged hero accepts a quest & ends up in a bloody tournament to gain powerful magic items. Corman co. fantasy dumb fun.
Cask of Amontillado, A: Suspense *** In an interesting update, Lugosi plays a WWII Nazi version of Fortunato & Montresor confesses what happened to the police after the fact. It’s a shame that there may not be a really good print of this early Suspense TV show.
House of Dracula (Sven) **** Last of the non-comedy Universal classic monster movies features Wolfman, Dracula, Frankenstein Monster & pretty Hunchback.
Deathstalker II *** Fantasy hero Deathstalker is re-cast & joins Penthouse Pet Monique Gabriel (in twin good/evil parts) in saving kingdom. Like the 1st.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band *** The Bee Gees play the Beatles’ alter-egos in this weird Beatle-music-based musical. BG music & Billy Preston are the best things about it. The rest only really makes sense if you know it was an off-Broadway show before a Big Budget Film. Silly.
Krull **** Seeming OK on 1st release, Krull now holds up as one of the best fantasy films of the 1980s with strong production & actors.
Ransom (1996) *** Mel Gibson’s child is kidnapped & he first follows advice of the FBI, but when things go wrong, he gets creative. Good suspense.
Amazons (1986) *** After their village is wiped out & their friends enslaved, fearless women warriors set out for revenge in another Corman-co fantasy.
Conquest (1983) * One of the worst fantasy films I’ve ever seen. Looks like it was shot through gauze. “Bold” twist near end is just stupid. Bad bad bad.
Warrior Queen ** Women are taken as (sex) slaves to Pompeii, shortly before the fabled eruption. Sybil Danning tries to bust them out. Meh.
Conan the Barbarian **** Jason Momoa & strong production help lift this Conan re-boot above the rest as hero battles magic & swords to save girl & world.
Shock (1946) *** Vincent Price is super creepy in story of young woman murder witness, whose memory psychiatrist/killer Price tries to change.
October Man, The (1947) *** Suicidal man, brain injured in a train crash, must prove himself not an insane murderer. Interesting & well done little-known noir.
Gargoyles (1972) *** Stan Winston’s monster makeup is one of the highlights in this well-made TV movie with fine cast. Gargoyles plot to take over.
It Came from Outer Space **** Classic Bradbury-written SF. Alien ship crash lands in the desert & strange blobs impersonate townsfolk. Are they invading?
Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (Serial 3) **** Buster Crabbe’s last serial as Flash Gordon battles Ming & returns to strong production values, interesting locations, & action.
Magic (1978) **** Young Anthony Hopkins & middle-aged Ann-Magaret give strong performances. Ventriloquist-magician hides out to work on his act.
Action in the North Atlantic **** Humphrey Bogart & Raymond Massey try to run their ship through Nazi-patrolled waters in WWII. Brutal realistic action sequences.
Whistling in the Dark (1941) *** Red Skelton’s radio detective & his fiance are kidnapped & forced to plan the perfect murder. Some very funny bits ensue.
Whistling In Brooklyn (1943) *** Skelton’s radio detective is mistaken for a serial killer & must prove himself innocent. Contains super funny elevator sequence.
Irving Thalberg: Prince of Hollywood ***** Great documentary about the too-brief life of genius producer Irving Thalberg, who raised more than one Hollywood studio to glory.
Prince of Pirates (1953) *** John Derek’s younger prince is exiled by his brother, becomes a pirate, & returns to lead a revolt in standard colorful actioner.
Yor: The Hunter from the Future *** Not nearly as bad as most people say, this strange fantasy/SF movie becomes more enjoyable when you know that it was cut together from a European mini-series. I still hope to see that series. Hero battles dinosaurs, cavemen, & robots from Atlantis-like island.
Calling Dr. Death (1943) *** Lon Chaney Jr’s doctor may or may not have killed his own wife & must undergo hypnosis to find out the truth. Fun Inner Sanctum.
And with the start of The Inner Sanctum on blu-ray, that’s it for this month! I had a lot of fun and discovered a lot of things — and watched the worst film I’ve seen in a very long time. (Though one FB friend loves it.) If you didn’t catch it above, go back and look for the 1 star of The Film That Shall Not Be Named!
Total films/shows/etc. for September 2022 is 49. Total for all of 2022 is 393. Definitely breaking 400 in October. But… How much more? Tune in and find out!
Next Month: Lots of Halloween films. Plus, a few Sword & Sorcery films sneak in, though I suspect my attempt to discover if there are really any great S&S films aside from Conan the Barbarian will finish up in November 2022. (Too much other stuff for Halloween!) Send me info if you know of something for the list! Plus, my buddy David Annandale and I accidentally spur monster movie buying sprees in each other, to pick up blu-rays of some Public Domain “classics” before they go out of print. You won’t want to miss it!
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