Giant Monstershow: King Kong (1976)

The 1976 remake of King Kong might be peak Dino De Laurentiis. The legendary Italian producer’s films whipsaw back and forth between the grandiose, the absurd, the exploitative, and the just plain shitty. King Kong is a prime example.

Clocking in at an interminable 134 minutes, this King Kong is meant to be an epic retelling of a cinema classic. Everything about this film, directed by John Guillermin, seems meant to showcase how film has improved and grown in the forty years since the original film was released. The original King Kong was severely limited by what was possible at the time, yes, but it never felt like a failing. Nor is this film an indictment of what came before. But this film does live and die on an implied promise that it will be a better technical film than that which came before. Other than making money, there really isn’t much more reason for this film to exist. Continue reading “Giant Monstershow: King Kong (1976)”

Empty Balcony: A Fistful of Dollars

I’ve been picking on Italian movies of late over in the Shitty Movie Sundays department. I can’t help it. I discovered Enzo G. Castellari recently and that opened the floodgates. Just about every week I find myself searching streaming services for another glorious train wreck from that most interesting of old world countries. It’s cinema devoid of shame, unapologetically opportunistic, and, to borrow a phrase from Tom Wolfe, gloriously low rent. Today’s film is not a cheap Italian knockoff designed to trick audiences into buying a ticket, though. Today’s film is a classic, even though its producers did find themselves on the wrong end of a plagiarism lawsuit. Continue reading “Empty Balcony: A Fistful of Dollars”

Empty Balcony: Rollerball (1975) & Rollerball (2002)

Alongside post-apocalyptic films, there exists another popular nihilistic genre of film — the dystopian tale. Civilization doesn’t have to have collapsed into a dense ball of suffering for the dystopian film to work. Rather, current mores and politics just need a little bit of tweaking and society becomes unrecognizable. Indeed, in some dystopian futures, it could be argued that humans are thriving. What is common in dystopian films is that some eroding of freedoms has occurred, brought on usually by technology, capitalism, communism, post-industrialism, or a conglomeration of every fear we have about the role of individuality in the future. Continue reading “Empty Balcony: Rollerball (1975) & Rollerball (2002)”

October Horrorshow: Poltergeist (2015)

I remember being a child in the 1980s, and movies from the 1950s looked old. The people in them wore weird clothes, had strange haircuts, and drove ridiculous-looking cars. Everything was in black and white, too, making me think, probably up until I was in kindergarten, that the world used to be black and white, and sometime during my parents’ childhoods, all of a sudden it snapped into color. I vaguely remember asking them about that. Oh, the conclusions a child’s mind will come to absent any other information. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Poltergeist (2015)”

The Empty Balcony: 13 Assassins

13 AssassinsThree historical periods in Japan are among the most interesting and compelling in the annals of human civilization. The Sengoku period, also known as the Warring States period, comprised the height of feudal conflict from the 15th century to the early 17th century, culminating in the unification of Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603. The new era of peace which followed, the Edo period, lasted until the Shogunate collapsed in the wake of internal and external pressures for Japan to end its forced isolation and open its shores to the modern world in the 1860s. What followed was the Meiji period, when the emperor was restored to power, and Japan, through numerous fits and starts, became the empire that was finally defeated by the Allies in World War II.

The legacy of the past, particularly the rigid caste structure that used to exist in Japanese society, is still very much in the public consciousness there, owing to the mythologies surrounding the samurai. A privileged class of warriors, the samurai rose alongside the violent and prolonged wars that typified feudal Japan. One could not seem to exist without the other. Once the wars ended with unification, however, the samurai were without their core purpose, relegated either to roles as bureaucrats, or as restless vagabonds, the laws of the time barring the honored warrior classes from making a living in so-called menial positions as laborers, merchants, or artisans. Yet the samurai were never weaned properly off their warrior ethos. The erosion of the samurai’s self-worth was one of the driving factors behind the collapse of the Shogunate. Continue reading “The Empty Balcony: 13 Assassins”

October Horrorshow: The Blob (1988)

Things have calmed down a bit here at Missile Test. Today is the second straight day without a zombie sighting in the October Horrorshow. No walking dead, no rambling hordes, no barricaded windows or locked down shopping malls. Instead, we return to the realm of the creature feature with the 1988 remake of the classic b-horror flick The Blob. Directed by Chuck Russell, who shared the screenwriting credits with Frank Darabont, this remake is a fine movie in its own right. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: The Blob (1988)”

October Horrorshow: Dawn of the Dead (2004)

The canon of the zombie genre is not set in stone, but it generally follows that George Romero’s films are the authority from which all subsequent variations derive. Not being based in fact, those variations are many. For instance, we all know that in order to kill a zombie, one must destroy the brain. That is, unless the film in question is Return of the Living Dead (a film that prides itself on being zombie apocrypha, as it were), where nothing short of total incineration can kill a zombie. Or 28 Days Later and it’s sequel, where the zombies (not zombies, according to the filmmakers) are not undead but still living, and can thus be killed by anything that’s lethal to a normal person. Or The Last Man on Earth, from before the genre had a rulebook, where a stake through the heart was used to dispatch the hordes. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Dawn of the Dead (2004)”