Time continues to fly in 2022, and here we are, nearly at the end of the year, and with me posting my November mini-reviews. Still haven’t finished my Sword & Sorcery Film survey, though — and the way the end of the year is shaping up, it seems unlikely I’ll finish that in 2022. As I write this, it’s 5 degrees F with wind chill bringing it down to -15. We’re only expecting about 6 inches of snow, though. So apart from the cold, not too bad. We’ll see how it turns out.
But, to keep you warm while the storm blows across the US, I’ve got a pile of reviews for you, as usual. You’ll notice some Halloween hangover in my DVR and watching — though watching monster movies is good for me any month of the year. (But you knew that.) Plus, I grabbed some HD streams at the end of October, too, which is something I’ve taken to doing when upgrading from DVD to blu is expensive and the HD or 4K stream collecting is cheap.
In addition to the usual fiends, I also got to re-watch the Samurai Trilogy for the first time in ages. And they’re even more of a treat now than when I first saw them 40 years ago. Plus, my wife and I discover the joys of John Wick. And, OMG, there were a lot of good short series that finished up in November, including the 3 Masterpiece Mystery series that PBS foolishly decided to run all at the same time over 6 weeks, rather than giving us 3-4 months of extended viewing. (Why?) Let’s dive in and find some gems for you!
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.
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein ***** The original (& still the best) horror comedy pits Abbott & Costello against Bela Lugosi’s Dracula (a great performance), the Wolfman (Chaney Jr.) and Frankenstein’s monster (Glenn Strange), and woman mad scientist. Monsters are scary; the boys are funny. Tops.
Matinee (1993) **** William Castle-like director brings wacky ballyhoo to Florida Keys during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Sly & funny with lots of in-jokes.
Rasputin, The Mad Monk *** Christopher Lee is compelling, but this history of Rasputin’s life & death is pure melodramatic fiction. Good production & cast.
Alligator **** Cleverly told, Jaws-inspired exploitation flick of giant sewer-dwelling alligator menacing city. Robert Forster & script make it work.
Alligator 2 ** Lacking all the cleverness (& even SPFX) of the original, you get evil businessman, hunter, & what you’d expect in this drab sequel.
Vampire Bat, The (1933) *** Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, & Melvyn Douglas give this strange shocker the gravitas it needs. But “mad” Dwight Frye nearly steals show.
Mysterious Mr. Wong, The (1934) ** Bela Lugosi in yellowface is the highlight of this standard, low-budget mystery flick. Wallace Ford (Mummy’s Hand) is ace reporter.
Get to Know Your Rabbit (1972) ** Exec Tommy Smothers leaves job to become tap dancing magician. Buddy John Astin franchises the idea. Counterculture silliness.
Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman **** The new blu-ray restoration of Naschy’s hit werewolf film makes the proceedings even more fun. Accept no substitutes!
Vampire Lovers, The (1970) ***** Hammer’s premier sexy vampire film remains the best. A good adaptation of Carmilla & sexy, too. Often immitated, never duplicated.
Lust for a Vampire (1971) ** Alleged sequel to Vampire Lovers misses the point of the first & dumps female agency for a hetero romance. Looks good. Bad song.
Twins of Evil (1971) **** Hard to know who to root for in this witch hunters vs. vampires flick. But the Collinson twins are pretty & Peter Cushing evilly great.
Vampire Circus (1972) *** Strange, fairy-tale-like feeling pervades this handsome-looking story of a circus full of vampires taking revenge on a town.
Flesh & the Fury: Exposing Twins of Evil **** Excellent documentary about the making of Twins of Evil and tying it into the other Hammer vampire/Karnstein films. Included as a bonus on the blu-ray of Twins of Evil.
Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter *** Great concept of a vampire-hunting hero loses some steam in a world that seems devoid of people (extras). Still some good stuff.
Land of the Pharaohs *** Howard Hawks’ Egyptian epic of King Khufu (Cheops) trying to build a tomb that can’t be looted & his greedy wife. Good produciton.
Samurai I: Miyamoto Musashi **** The Samurai Trilogy starts strong with young Takezo running wild & trying to help his friend’s fiancee, before becoming Musashi.
Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple **** Understated, unrealized romance between Musashi & Otsu continues as he fights duels & rises in fame in 2nd of Samurai Trilogy.
Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island **** The Samurai Trilogy concludes with Musashi still being pursued by Otsu & a rival as he tries to settle down but faces a final duel.
Battle Beneath the Earth ** Communist Chinese elements dig their way through the earth & under the US to plant atomic bombs & invade. Sincere but silly.
Tarzan’s Peril (1951) *** Fairly standard Tarzan entry from the 50s with the usual expected stuff, gets up to that 3rd star because villains echo book series.
Locke & Key (S3) **** The final season seems rushed, but takes the strong cast through some interesting twists & turns before a satisfying denoument.
Witchmaker, The *** Cult of witches in the swamp land sacrifices young women & has their sights set on a new victim. Not quite an exploitation classic.
Monster from Green Hell, The *** Use of stock footage pads out this expedition to track down giant wasps in the jungle. Blu-ray has color sequence & commentary.
Terror from the Year 5000 ** Men in vent time machine & use it to bring back artifacts & eventually killer woman from the future. Needs a good release.
John Wick **** Gun Fu comes to America. Russian mobsters pick the wrong guy to mess with as Wick goes on bloody trial of vengeance. Great fun.
X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (Sven) *** Ray Milland’s doctor invents serum to see inside patients but goes too far in this surprisingly good low-budget Corman SF/H flick.
Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo **** Titular heroes (& iconic actors) clash swords as they take sides in a town run by rival gangs. Familiar idea beautifully executed.
Scandal (1950) **** Kurosawa lampoons the Japanese media & judicial system as an artist & a singer are wrongfully portrayed as lover by tabloid mag.
Bat Whispers, The (1930) *** Fairly standard Old Dark House-style mystery is enlivened by early use of widescreen format & creative miniatures & zooms.
Goonies, The (1985) *** Much beloved by ’80s children, the film is loud, crude, & frenetic due to Spielberg story & Columbus script. But for kids, it’s fun.
John Wick Chapter 2 **** You’d think people would learn to leave John Wick alone after last time, but… Nope. Push him too hard & the killing starts anew.
Poirot (S2) **** David Suchet & company are back with another series of strong Christie adaptations featuring her most famous detective.
Miss Scarlet & the Duke (S2) **** Detective Miss Scarlet runs into more Victorian sexism, flirts with the Duke, gets offers to partner up, & solves some good mysteries.
Magpie Murders (S1?) ***** Clever filming combines 2 mysteries, of an author in the present & in the book he was writing when he died. Great cast & production.
Annika (S1) ***** National treasure Nicola Walker is titula character struggling with a new job, a moody teen daughter, & murder mysteries. Great.
It’s In the Bag (1945) *** Radio star Fred Allen takes to the movies in this loose adaptation of The Twelve Chairs (only 5). The credits monologue is a hoot.
Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities (S1) **** Stories vary in tone & quality, but most are fun, thought provoking, or both in the first of what’s hopefully an ongoing horror series reminiscent of Night Gallery. Crispin Glover is interesting in Pickman’s Model. Dreams in the Witch house also by Lovecraft.
Andor (S1) ***** Star Wars grows up in this prequel to Rogue One that starts as a slow burn but builds to several explosive climaxes. Great series.
Frankenstein (1931) ***** Often imitated, never duplicated, the Karloff Frankenstein is a master class in creepy style & makeup with some surprising humor.
Mummy, The (1933) ***** Karloff’s Imhotep comes back from the dead to court the reincarnation of his long lost love, no matter who gets killed along the way.
Black Torment, The *** Rural lord comes home to find that the town & mansion are being haunted by his doppelganger & ghost of dead wife — maybe.
Return of the Giant Monsters **** Gamera’s back and Gyaos has got him in this 2nd Gamera sequel, possibly the best in the original series. Monster fight fun!
Fun in Balloon Land ** “Fun” is be too strong a word for this narrated Giant Balloon Parate footage surrounded by a kid’s trip to fantasyland frame.
Gammera the Invincible *** Atomic bomb plane crash re-awakens giant fire-breathing turtle from acrtic ice to battle the world. Added footage slows US cut.
War of the Monsters (Gamera vs. Gyaos) **** Gamera meets his arch foe, Gyaos, a flying, blood-sucking monster who eats humans and shoots laser beams. Possibly the best of the original series, try to see it in the uncut (vs. Gyaos) version, not the US War of the Monsters. But still good.
Nightmare on Elm St. 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985) *** Second in the Freddy series really changed thigns up, because in this version Freddy tries to possess a young man, rather than suck young people into his nightmare world. Turned out okay, but the controversial aspects created a really good doc decades later.
Scream Queen: My Nightmare on Elm St. (2019) **** Mark Patton was the lead in Nightmare on Elm St. 2. It should have made his career, but being a gay actor at the start of the AIDS era in a film that had homoerotic overtones nearly destroyed him. This strong doc highlights his troubles & traces his journey back.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960) *** MGM’s prestige version of Huck Finn has the great Michael Curtiz as director & strong cast. But the original story is difficult to adapt doing it straight up conversion,so some of the “made up” parts don’t work as well as they might. A good try & entertaining.
Bedazzled (1967) **** Peter Cook is the Devil & Dudley Moore his client in this clever & hilarious story of an everyman selling his soul to get his dream girl.
Obsession ( a.k.a. The Hidden Room – 1949) *** Man catching wife with her lover plans the perfect murder & locks his rival in a cellar (weak point). Good suspense & twist(s).
And that’s it for the penultimate month of 2022. Lot’s of cool stuff on the list, and December is going pretty well, too. Totals are 51 items for this month, assuming I’ve counted right, and a Running Total of 507 cool viewing experiences for the year.
Pretty sure I’m not going to break and records for 2022. I probably won’t even hit 600 in my count, but… I’ve seen a lot of great stuff, and there’s even more to come.
NEXT MONTH: The year 2022 finishes out with the usually flurry of excellence and we get the 2022 Grand Total! Care to guess what the number will be? Stay tuned!
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