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"Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…"

Posted in Uncategorized on June 26, 2007 by bigruta
Howdy friends and neighbors and welcome to the second Duh Spot Ray Harryhausen flick review! You knew I would get around to doing another stop motion spectacular eventually, didn’t you?

Jule’s Verne’s Mysterious Island (Mysterious Island)

Columbia, 1961, 100 minutes, NR

actors: Michael Craig, Michael Callan, Gary Merrill, Herbert Lom, Joan Greenwood, Beth Rogan, Percy Herbert, Dan Jackson

director: Cy Endfield
writers: John Prebble, Daniel B. Ullman, Crane Wilbur – based on the novel by Jules Verne
producer: Charles H. Schneer

visual effects in “super dynamation”: Ray Harryhausen

Taxonomy: Sci-Fi; giant critter / mad scientist adventure flick; Harryhausen / Verne fans

Plot: During the American Civil War, Union soldiers escape a Confederate prison camp via an observation balloon. The Hook: They wind up at the retirement home of Captain Nemo!

The flick starts out during the siege of Richmond, Virginia, 1865 at Libby Military Prison. I know this because it says so right there on the screen! A Union war correspondent by the name of Gideon Spilitt (Merrill) is inspecting the camp and visiting Union prisoners. Just as he is about to get to know Captain Cyrus Harding, Herbert Brown and Neb Nugent (Craig, Callan and Jackson respectively), they stage a daring escape! Mr. Spilitt gets swept up in the action and soon finds himself helping the three Yankees subduing Confederate guards and stealing an observation balloon. Confederate Sgt. Pencroft (Herbert) does his best to foil their escape, but soon they are high in the air and in a storm and Pencroft is the only one who knows how to pilot the balloon. They make a deal that when they land everybody can go their separate ways without either army being the wiser.

Well boys and girls this ain’t no ordinary storm they are drifting through, no sirree! Why it’s the “greatest storm in American history!” The balloon gets blown due west at very high speeds for four straight days! Soon they find themselves over the Pacific! Eventually they spy an island on the horizon. Then the balloon springs a leak and starts going down. They toss out everything they can to lighten the balloon, even cutting the gondola away, but they still crash into the sea. Spilitt, Brown, Nugent and Pencroft make it to the island, but where is Harding? After a brief search they find him unconscious near a campfire. Harding admits that he did not make the fire, but the others think he is just in shock. Soon they find that the island has a colony of huge oysters, each about a foot long! Well after they eat and rest a bit Captain Harding assumes command. Spilitt and Pencroft voice token objections and Harding decides that they will climb to the top of the volcano. Did I mention the volcano? Yeah there is an active volcano on this island. Hmmm … ship … I mean balloon wrecked guys on a deserted island with a volcano in a b-movie. Gee, I wonder what will happen?

They make some suspiciously straight spears and head off across the island. Soon they arrive at another beach and see a sea-side geyser. As they walk across the beach a frickin huge crab emerges from the sand! When I say frickin huge I mean about twenty feet wide! The frickin huge crab grabs Neb and the others try to free him. Here we see one of Harryhausen’s unique skills. There were many folks who toyed with stop motion animation over the years, but Harryhausen usually did scenes where his animated critters interact with humans in the same scene. When Neb is in the crab’s claw we get cut scenes of the actor in close-up and wide shots where Neb is actually another animated figure. As always with Harryhausen this is very well done with the figure standing in well for a real human. The guys manage to get Neb free and flip the crab into the geyser. Boiled crab for everyone! Of course if the crab had proportional strength Neb would have been crushed, but hey this is fantasy!

The trek to the volcano continues and the guys find quite a few wild goats. Then the big discovery – women! They find two women unconscious on the beach – yes another beach. They also find a few guys but they are dead. When the ladies come around they introduce themselves as Lady Mary Fairchild and her niece Elena Fairchild (Greenwood and Rogan) from England. They were attacked by pirates … or their ship broke up in a storm … I forget which. Anyway the five men and two women (heh heh heh) make for, you guessed it, the volcano. They discover caves that that had been used as shelter by folks who had been abandoned by pirates. Well they move right in, set up shop, start herding the goats, plant a garden and Lady Fairchild even starts making clothes from goat skins! She makes a hot little number for her niece to replace her badly damaged dress. Elena’s new dress has a very short skirt which barely covers her goatskin panties and a low cut front for nice cleavage shots! Maybe those Victorian women were not as repressed as is commonly assumed!

Neb finds a chest washed ashore with a compass, charts, a sextant, tools, pots and pans, guns and a copy of Robinson Crusoe. Gee, that should come in handy!

Okay more giant critter action! Elena is attacked by what seems to be a giant chicken. Actually this is supposed to be one of the numerous giant carnivorous predatory birds that flourished after the last ice age, but the first image that comes to mind is that of a giant chicken. Well Herbert ain’t gonna let no overgrown roaster hurt his gal, see he has a thing for Elena, so he jumps on the chicken’s neck and kills it with a knife. Another good human critter animated sequence and barbecued chicken for everyone!

The story starts to pick up a little speed now as Herbert and Elena go off and stumble upon a really frickin huge honey bee hive. How frickin huge? Well so huge that they hide in a honeycomb cell when one of the bees shows up. Not too bright are they? The bee seals them into the cell with wax and they start a fire to get out! They escape before they run out of oxygen or die of smoke inhalation and fall down a crevasse and find an underwater bay and a remarkable ironclad ship. This is the Nautilus – Captain Nemo’s submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Meanwhile, back at the cave, pirates have been spotted making for the island. They come ashore to replenish their supply of drinking water and – opps! – the idiots in the cave shoot at them! So the pirates start firing their cannon at the cave! But then – BOOM! – the pirate ship is rocked by an explosion and sinks! All this commotion has brought Herbert and Elena back to the shore where they see a guy come out of the water wearing some kind of rubber suit with a big seashell on his back and one on his head! It is Captain Nemo, of course, wearing his own diving gear. Seems Nemo planted an explosive on the hull of the pirate ship.

Nemo (Lom) invites everyone to dinner on the Nautilus. He lets them in on the fact that it was he who rescued Harding and built his campfire. He also made sure the ladies survived and supplied the chest o’ useful stuff. The folks know of Nemo and initially do not like him because of his well known habit of sinking military ships. Nemo explains that was his way of discouraging war (read 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea for more details). For the last few years Nemo has been conducting research designed to rid the world of hunger and competition over scarce resources, which he sees as the primary cause for war. To this end he has successfully bred some giant critters. He wants to share his knowledge with the world, but there is a problem. The Nautilus is no longer sea worthy and cannot be repaired. Nemo needs a vessel to take himself, his research and specimens back to civilization. He also needs a crew. Oh and by the way, the volcano is going to destroy the island soon. Yeah, like we did not see that coming!

Our heroes soon hatch a plan to used the Nautilus to pump air into the remains of the balloon – remember the balloon? – in order to re-float the pirate ship. Nemo teaches Harding, Herbert, Neb and Pencroft how to used his scuba gear and also how to operate his electric gun – under water! As the salvage operation progresses a giant nautilus (a kind of mollusk related to squid and octopus) attacks! More well done critter / human action scenes, though the nautilus is not as dynamic as I would have hoped. Harding kills the critter with the electric gun. How exactly would that work? Never mind. And they succeed in re-floating the pirate ship! Yea! However, Nemo is killed when the cavern collapses on the Nautilus – the sub not the critter. The survivors pledge to work for world peace and plenty in honor of Captain Nemo. Well, that is very noble, but they have a ship to operate that is completely waterlogged, so the sails and rigging will need quite a bit of time to dry out and of course none of them are sailors and so could not sail much less navigate a ship. Oh yeah, and the pirates were out of fresh water, remember? Happy ending? I’m not so sure!

Goodies:

Babeage: Beth Rogan may not have been a great actress but she was quite cute and her goatskin minidress with matching panties provides some nice eye candy!

Sleazeploitation: None. The five guys (six counting Nemo) two gals thing is never played out (darn!). Pencroft, the Confederate does not even taunt Nugent, the black Union soldier. A nice change of pace actually.

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: Giant oysters (that don’t do anything except get made into stew), giant crab, giant chicken, giant bees, giant nautilus and of course, Nemo.

Violence: A couple of fist fights, knife to the neck of giant chicken, couple of rifle and cannon shots.

Gore & FX: No gore but great Harryhausen animated critters and people! Plus one rather crappy matt shot of some gulls. Not really sure why that was included.

Great Lines:

Gideon Spilitt remarking on the geyser, “Now we know where we can get a hot bath!” Yeah, really hot!

Herbert Brown upon first sight of Elena, “She’s beautiful!” Harding, “Better than that – she’s alive!” Hey! what’s wrong with beautiful dead women, huh?

Cyrus Harding, “The women added a few welcome feminine touches which turned the cave into a home.” What!? Women in The Man Cave!? Sacrilege!

Herbert Brown, “It’s a honeycomb!” Elena, “Can’t be, it’s too big!” Honey weren’t you just attacked by a giant chicken?

Nemo’s response when Spilitt tells him he is a war correspondent, “You supply the ink. The soldiers supply the blood.”

Nemo, “Contact with my own species has always disappointed me.”

Nemo as he drains off the last of his brandy, “My last bottle, another pressing reason to leave.” You know, that and the island blowing up.

Nemo’s vision, “Imagine, wheat that grows 40 feet high! Sheep the size of cattle!” MARSHmallow PIES! (See The Killer Shrews)

Moral: Always book your flight through a reputable travel agent.

Hey, that’s what’s his name!: Herbert Lom who plays Captain Nemo is most famous to American audiences as Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus from the Pink Panther movies.

Conclusion:

Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island is a fun little adventure tale that should appeal to the youngins and provide a bit of innocent nostalgia to their parents. Is it an accurate screen version of the Jules Verne novel? No idea. I have never read Mysterious Island, though I did read 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Harryhausen’s work is top notch as usual. The giant crab was actually the shell of a real crab that Harryhausen articulated. One scene shows the crab’s mouth parts moving. This was done buy matting in footage of the mouth parts of a live crab over the front of the animation. There is a scene where the men cross over a cleft via a huge fallen tree. This scene is very similar to that in King Kong (RKO, 1933). Harryhausen learned from Willis O’Brian the guy who did the animation in Kong. I would guess this scene is a tribute to O’Brian. The funny thing is all five of the guys cross the tree bridge at the same time! How dumb is that? They could have all fallen to their deaths! Ya got to love Hollywood!

This is me at age nine baby!: Yeah, yeah, balloon ride, big deal! Come on! Get to the monsters! Giant crab! They could not have flipped him that easy! Oh man – girls! Jeez! Giant monsters, cool! Captain Nemo and the Nautilus, cool! The rest – boring!

Ray Harryhausen Adventure Flick Checklist:

a cool giant critters / monsters
a not so fantastic acting
a at least one historical location / set
a at least one non-animal animated miniature
a pretty lady in distress
a legendary / literary source material
a reverse motion shot
One to ponder: What did Nemo have against dugongs anyway?

I don’t think Harryhausen ever animated a flying pig.

Hog Heaven, Barleywine Style Ale

Avery Brewing Company, Boulder, Colorado

Okay, so, barleywine is one of the most complex and flavorful beer styles in the world. Barleywine is an attempt by brewers to make a product that not only rivals wine in alcohol content but also may be cellered in order to enhance the flavors with age – just like wine made from grapes. As such, barleywine can be sort of a crap shoot; sometimes it just does not work out and the result can be awful. But when it works, oh my!

ABV: 9.20% IBU: 100

Aroma: A wonderful blend of sweet malty barley and snappy hops. Very fresh with hints of orange peel, apricot, clove and resin. Complex but not harsh. Remember, the aroma gives clues to the taste.

Color: Crystal clear deep honey almost red amber.

Head: Small bubbled, dense, foamy, cream colored persistent head that imparts Belgian Lace.

Taste: A very mellow sweet and malty start with hints of toffee that moves to a gently bitter middle where the orange, apricot and spice elements pop up leading to a finish that starts off with a sort of sour fruit aspect that moves to the bitter hoppy zing one would expect from the IBU rating. This is a wonderfully complex beer. I had a hard time nailing down what I felt were the proper descriptors, the flavor changes as you drink, but is always smooth and well balanced.

Recommendation: Barleywines really represent the whole package to beer snobs. The complexity of the aroma, taste and “mouthfeel” (one of the rather silly words beer snobs use) combined with the beauty of the color and head, the punch of the alcohol and the fact that this style of beer changes as it ages means that these beers are seen as being the peak of the brewer’s art. The fact that they can be hard to make just enhances the mystique. Some brewers have said that new batches of their barleywines are “undrinkable”, that is to say that they must be cellared for a few years for their flavors and characters to develop. No doubt about it, if you get into barleywines, you are a true beer snob. Avery’s Hog Heaven is a good place to start. It is not as high in alcohol as most barleywines, in fact I was surprised it was under 10% ABV! And even new batches are quite enjoyable. For those of you intimidated by such a high IBU rating, Hog Heaven will show you that bitter really is not synonomus with retch inducing! With an ABV that low, I’m not too sure how well it would age, but as an intro to barleywine Hog Heaven tastes great and may lead you down the path to more serious barleywines. Which would be a good thing indeed! Recommended.

So there ya go! More Harryhausen dynamation to come in future posts so stay tuned!

-BigRuta

Remember: Comments, questions, requests and contributions always welcome!

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"Man, there’s really something wrong with you! One day your going to self-destruct!"

Posted in Uncategorized on May 12, 2007 by bigruta
Howdy all! Big Ruta is back with another cinematic gem for you this evening! And just to show you that not all Japanese b-movies involve guys dressed as giant lizards, yakuza and ninjas or girls dressed in skimpy superhero costumes we have …

The Manster

Lopert Pictures Corp. / United Artists of Japan, 1960, 72 minutes, NR

actors: Peter Dyneley, Satoshi Nakamura, Terri Zimmren, Norman Van Hawley, Jane Hyton

producer, director, writer: George P. Breakston

Taxonomy: Sci-Fi; mad scientist/mutant dude flick; 60s era schlock lovers

Plot: Hard nosed press correspondent tries to get the scoop on eccentric Japanese scientist. The Hook: He becomes the doc’s newest guinea pig!

The first thing we see as the flick starts are several geisha girls frolicking in some hot springs! Woohoo! Then a shambling shadowy figure slips into the geisha house. A drunken Tokyo businessman? No! It seems to be some sort of creature! This here critter proceeds to thump the poor geishas but good. No, not like that you pervs! It kills them! And just prior to the opening title sequence we get to see a sloppy Kurosawaesque bit of arterial spray on a paper room divider! Cool baby!

After the opening sequence, we see Larry Stanford (Dyneley), a correspondent for ‘World Press,’ trudge up the side of Mt. Fuji, in a suit and tie of course, to meet with rich eccentric scientist Dr. Robert Suzuki (Satoshi Nakamura). Larry also gets to meet Dr. Suzuki’s hottie assistant Tara (Terri Zimmern). Dr. Suzuki tells Larry that his work revolves around the role of mutation in evolution. Cosmic rays are mentioned (they were the new gee wiz stuff back then) and Dr. S explains that he is trying to use chemical substances to mimic the effects of radiation to produce mutations. Okay now that a bit of scientific sounding gobbledegook has been uttered, we can get on to the fun stuff. Rather suddenly, Dr. S asks Larry if he is faithful to his wife. Then he slips Larry a Micky! Just as soon as you can say, “Tricky Jap bastard!” Dr. S injects some of his enzyme cocktail into Larry’s shoulder. When Larry wakes up and apologizes for nodding off, Dr. S says he will visit him in Tokyo and Larry goes home.

Of course we already knew that Dr. S was a nutcase because prior to Larry showing up at his lab, he had killed his previous failed experiment – which used to be his brother Kenji! Dr. S has a great mad scientist lab built right into the side of Mt. Fuji complete with weird plants, giant mushrooms, random chemistry glassware and equipment. In addition to Kenji we see a mutant woman Dr. S refers to as Emiko. Care to guess the connection between Dr. S and Emiko?

Well Larry and Dr. S start hanging out together and soon become best buds. They go to bars and out to dinner and soon end up at the geisha houses. Gallons of sake gets consumed and who knows how many geishas get to know Larry. In fact Larry starts to ignore his work and has not thought of his wife Linda back in The States in weeks. Originally, Larry was going to go home after interviewing Dr. S, but now he wants to stay in Japan a while. Dr. S takes note of the fact that Larry seems to be interested in Tara. So, like all good male friends do, he tells Larry that Tara is interested in him and is a – ahem – “fun girl.” Wink wink, nudge nudge. So naturally, they all end up going to the bathhouse together and Dr. S slips away to give Larry and Tara some alone time. Larry hits it big time!

Well, after a night out on the town, Larry takes Tara back to his place and they meet Ian (Van Hawley), Larry’s boss and Linda (Hylton), Larry’s wife! Whoops! Linda is a dumb blond with a horrible Brooklyn accent who says, “Darling I … I came here so’s I could see you! So’s you could see me!” The fact that Jane Hylton can not act at all makes the Linda character even more annoying! Linda tells Larry he has to choose. Larry leaves with Tara which is understandable after we have experienced the horror of Linda!

Larry walks Tara home and she tells him he must tell Linda their marriage is over. Then she kisses him goodnight and sends him on his way. Larry goes home, has a fight with Linda and notices some subtle physical changes, like excessive hair on his arms and an eye growing out of his shoulder! Larry freaks out and is soon out at night killing, well just about anybody he meets really. He tries to confess to a Buddhist monk who simply ignores him, so Larry kills him. Larry kills several women who I think are supposed to be prostitutes, but it is never explicitly stated that that is their profession, and even ends up killing the shrink Ian has advised him to visit.

Dr. S has been keeping track of Larry, with Tara’s help of course, and analyses his behavior and concludes that when Larry kills he is actually another species! Soon he will become another being. Tara says that what they are doing is not right but Dr. S thinks she is letting emotions cloud her scientific intellect. After all, it is the research that is important, not the subjects. Didn’t he use his own brother as a subject? Didn’t he use his own wife Emiko?!!! Did you guess correctly? Bwahhahahahaha!

Ian suspects Larry is behind the killings and goes to the police. The cops chase Larry – now with two heads! – throughout the Tokyo streets at night. Larry kills a surprising number of cops before he makes his break toward Mt. Fuji and Dr. S’s lab. Dr. S knows Larry will come to the lab, just like Kenji did. He thinks the volcano’s heat may cause Larry to split into two different creatures. Yeah, well oookay. Tara can’t take it any more and gives Dr. S a tanto dagger so that he can commit seppuku and at least die with honor, then she leaves. Dr. S asks Emiko for forgiveness, then shoots her!

Mt. Fuji starts to erupt – you knew it would didn’t you? And Larry finds Dr. S in hs lab and kills him with the tanto. Larry smashes up the lab and takes Tara to the top of Mt. Fuji as the police close in. Then we see what we were all waiting for – Larry splits in two! Oh yeah! Suddenly we have good old solid guy Larry and an ugly ape beast running around. Larry saves Tara from the beast, but ends up nearly getting killed until Tara saves Larry from the beast! The beast then throws Tara into the volcano which pisses Larry off so he knocks the beast into the lava too!

Larry makes up with Linda (uhg!) and goes to the hospital. The end.

Goodies:

Babeage: Terri Zimmern who plays Tara is a hottie who does not seem to be Asian. Maybe Amerasian? Who knows, but I would take her over Jane Hylton any day! As I noted above Ms. Hylton could not act and frankly did not impress me beauty wise either. Maybe she agreed to work cheap. And Lord knows how little that would be in a flick like this!

Sleazeploitation: Several scenes with geishas and Tara in the bathhouse. Like most b-movies of this time period there is a high tease factor and little else.

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: Two headed Larry, the beast, Dr. Suzuki and of course Linda.

Violence: Lots of Larry beating up cops or strangling hos.

Gore & FX: Some silly make-up, that one splash of blood, the part where Larry splits in two is actually done fairly well considering the budget involved.

Great Lines:

Dr. Suzuki speaking of Kenji’s antics with the geishas, “It’s not easy to keep a thing like that from attracting too much attention!” Oh come on! Who would notice a few geisha torn to bits in the middle of Tokyo. Relax will ya!

Dr. Suzuki referring to Kenji, “He is like an animal now; he comes back to where he was fed the last time.” So do I. Does that make me an animal? I am not an animal!!

Larry upon meeting Dr. Suzuki, “I gather you’re working on the secrets of eeevo- lootion or something like that. Sounds great, but will it sell newspapers?” It don’t sound great when you say it Round Eye!

Dr. Suzuki to Tara when she questions his actions, “This is for science! For human knowledge! What happens to one man doesn’t make any difference.” Yeah and oh hey Doc, here are some fellow scientists from Germany who want to talk to you about your inferior racial heritage.

Larry wonders why Linda keeps asking questions, “Maybe it’s because I never put you in your place before, never slapped you down when you needed it!” What a swell guy!

Moral: Never, and I mean never accept a drink from an eccentric scientist with a hot assistant while visiting his remote volcano lab site.

Conclusion:

The Manster is way more fun than it has any right to be! For a low budget Japanese/American co-production from the early 60s this flick just rocks! A great if not too original mad scientist story with goofy effects and just the right amount of sex and mayhem thrown in for extra spice. This flick is one to put on when you want to relax with friends, have a few beers and some laughs. Trivia: In the movie Army of Darkness (1992, directed by Spiderman’s Sam Raimi) Bruce Campbell’s character Ash finds an eye growing on his shoulder, very quickly he splits into Good Ash and Evil Ash and ends up fighting his evil double. The conclusion of this scene has Campbell deliver the classic line, “Good, bad, I’m the guy with the shotgun!”

This is me at age nine, baby!: Eww, enough with the girls already! Oh man she is just a dink! Wow – he split in two! Cool!

Japanese / American B-Movie Checklist:

a zither
a Theramin
a geisahs
a arterial spray
a sake
a dumb American hero
a evil/mad Japanese scientist
a hot bad girl turns good
a Buddhist monk
a samurai weapon
a Japanese cops with white gloves
a Mt. Fuji

X cute little kid in shorts who knows everything (Thank God!)

Come Mister Tally Man tally me banana …

Wells Banana Bread Beer
Charles Wells Eagle Brewery, Bedford, England
Yeah, I know what you are thinking, ‘Oh man not another novelty beer!’ And that is what I thought too when I received this brew for Christmas. But first impressions can often be deceiving.

Wells Banana Bread Beer is an ale that uses both real bananas and characteristics of the hops and malt to produce a beer that really does remind one of banana bread.
ABV: 5.20% IBU: low, maybe in the 10 to 20 range

Color: A full cloudy amber with perhaps a hint of orange.
Aroma: The malt, hops and bananas combine into the scent of … well … banana bread.

Head: Fine bubbled off-white semi-persistent head with some Belgian Lace.
Taste: The start features some malt sweetness that moves to a mellow sugar middle and then to a nice hoppy tang finish with a mild aftertaste. The banana character is evident throughout the quaff from the aroma to the aftertaste, but it never masks the beer flavor. Well done, this could have been so sweet and thick with banana taste as to be unappetising, but instead the banana component although constant is balanced with the traditional light ale flavors.

Recommendation:

Wells Banana Bread Beer is a good light English ale incorporating mild malt sweetness and refreshing hop bitterness. The banana taste complements this quite well. I liked this beer, but it is an import and a bit expensive. There are better English ales on the market, but this might be the perfect beer to enjoy with Caribbean, Thai or Indian food which often have banana and or coconut flavors. Give it a try, just for fun.

Okay folks! That’s all for now. Catch you all next time.
-BigRuta
Remember: questions, comments, requests and contributions welcome.

"A double pleasure is waiting for you…"

Posted in Uncategorized on March 4, 2007 by bigruta
It’s the weekend! Yes! You hook up with all your friends and go out looking for fun! Only one problem, none of you have much dough. What do you do? You head on out to the local second-run theater or drive-in and catch a double feature! Yessiree! At least three hours of entertainment for only a couple of bucks. Plus, being the devious sort you are you manage to sneak some beer in to up the fun level. So sit right back and enjoy another Duh Spot double feature review!

The Hideous Sun Demon

Columbia, 1959, 74 minutes, NR

actors: Robert Clarke, Patricia Manning, Nan Peterson, Fred LaPorta

director, producer, writer: Robert Clarke, co-director: Tom Boutross

Taxonomy: Sci-Fi; mutant dude flick; serious schlock lovers

Plot: Mild mannered drunk babe hound atomic scientist by night, crazed devolved mutant lizard thing by day!

Well! It seems that conditions at “Atomic Experiments Inc.” (I kid you not!) are not all that safe. Dr. Gilbert McKenna (Clarke) gets blasted with mucho radiation and is sent to the hospital. Doctors then find nothing wrong with him. But, when a cute blond nurse, that Gil hits on, takes him up to the roof to get some fresh air … Zap! … The sun starts to turn him into some weird freak, some terrible monster, some … hideous sun demon! The docs get him back inside and the effects fade. They conclude that the radiation has triggered some sort of developmental genetic dohicky thingamabob that devolves Gil when he is exposed to sunlight. One doctor shows a picture of a tarantula and says it used to be a grasshopper before it underwent radiation experimentation. Oooooookay! The docs think Gil’s condition can be reversed, but he will have to stay at the hospital while they study him. Gil says, “No” and goes home.

Gil lives by night. He sleeps during the day in a house with the windows hung with those old black blinds we used to have in school. He is so alone! His friends worry about him, especially Ann Russell (Manning) one of Gil’s coworkers. She likes Gil. And that’s all there is to say about Ann; she likes Gil and worries about him. Let’s move on. Gil deals with his loneliness by cruising around in his convertible and going to bars. In one elegant place he meets Trudy Osbourne (Peterson). Trudy plays an organ and sings at a little dive bar with a bumper pool table. Trudy cannot sing and it is oh so obvious that she is not playing the organ she is sitting at – her hand movements do not even come close to being convincing, but she has big tits! Trudy is also rather dim and easy. Gil likes what he sees! After beating up Trudy’s boyfriend George, Gil takes her out for a drive. Wouldn’t you know that old smoothy Gil has a bottle in the glove compartment! They end up at the beach where Gil shows an almost complete lack of skill at making a campfire. This guy is a scientist? Anyway after more drinks and some goofy flirtations Gil and Trudy do the nasty! Gil wakes up early the next morning and splits cause the sun is coming up. Trudy wakes to find herself alone with no transportation home.

Gil makes it home but has turned into THSD by now and procedes to catch, kill and eat a rat. That sounds gross, but the scene is hilarious! When Gil picks up the rat two things become painfully obvious: 1. the rat is a toy, and 2. he is holding a sponge in his other hand. Gil brings both his hands together to crush the rat and we see all the ‘blood’ go squirt! Wow! Too funny!
Gil goes into his basement and eventually turns back into his old wonderful self.

Ann gets a radiation expert to tend to Gil. Dr. Jacob Hoffman (LaPorta) tells Gil he cannot leave his home. Any exposure to the sun will trigger the change into THSD. Next time, he might not be able to change back! Dr. Hoffman also tells Gil to lay off the booze. Gil is depressed. He dreams of big titted Trudy while he sleeps during the day in his twin bed! Eventually Gil can’t take the isolation any more and goes to the bar to see the slut – I mean Trudy. Trudy is still angry at Gil for stranding her on the beach. In fact she is so mad she has three goons beat Gil up. She then feels sorry for him and takes him to her apartment. Dames! Well, George shows up and he has a gun! He makes Gil go out back into the alley, but it is dawn and Gil turns into THSD and kills George while Trudy hangs her tits out the window and screams!

Gil runs away and scares some kids and kills a toy collie. That is to say he mangles up a stuffed toy dog, not the small version of a collie. He goes home, but the cops show up and he kills one. He finds a shed and hides. Once out of the sun, he changes back into Gil. A little girl, Suzy, finds Gil in the shed and brings him some cookies. Suzy’s mother told her to stay in the house, but Suzy is a naughty girl – just the kind Gil likes! The cops get too close and Gil makes a break for it! He carries Suzy outside (human shield?) and drops her when he again changes into THSD! Well another cop gets killed before the big climax on top of a refinery tank. A cop who’s has managed to clear his jammed gun (long story) draws a bead on THSD and shoots! THSD/Gil falls off the tank and dies. The End.

Goodies:

Babeage: Patricia Manning and Nan Peterson are okay, I guess, but I would not call them babes.

Sleazeploitation: Gil is a drunk and a womanizer, definitely not the typical clean cut scientist type usually seen in 50s sci-fi flicks.

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: Gil as himself and as THSD!

Violence: A couple of fist fights and a couple of squished toy animals.

Gore & FX: THSD costume is not all that great but the squished rat scene is art I tell you!

Great Lines:

Doctor, “This guy’s been soaked in radiation!”

Gil’s boss tells him, “Whiskey and soda mix, not whiskey and science!”

Old woman at hospital who is the first to see THDS, “Oh! That face!”

Gil reflecting on his fate, “Darwin never even scratched the surface! How could he?”

Trudy to Gil as they drive to the beach, “You’re a strange man.” Oh honey, you have no idea!

Gil to Dr. Hoffman, “I’ll do anything to get well! Anything!” Sorry son, I don’t swing that way. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Gil, “WHY! Please tell me why!” ACTING!

Moral: Always use sun block.

Conclusion:

The Hideous Sun Demon is a riot of a flick! It has so many so-bad-it’s-good moments that any bad movie fan will get a big kick out of it. For others, it will seem like a very long 74 minutes. Just for fun, I though I would mention that this movie was remade in 1977 as The Incredible Melting Man and in 1983 a new soundtrack was dubbed onto the flick to make a parody called What’s Up, Hideous Sun Demon? One of the voice actors on the parody was Jay Leno.

This is me at age nine baby!: Jeez! The monster hardly does anything! And why are there all these girls and crying?

The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires

Hammer Studios / Shaw Bros., 1974, 89 minutes, NR

actors: Peter Cushing, Robin Stewart, Julie Ege, David Chiang, Shen Chen, Szu Shih, John Forbes-Robertson

directors: Roy Ward Baker, Cheh Chang
writer: Don Houghton
producers: Don Houghton, Vee King Shaw
executive producers: Run Me Shaw, Run Run Shaw

Taxonomy: Horror-Fu; East meets West chop-saki horror flick, Hammer / Fu freaks

Plot: Dracula is up to his old tricks and Van Helsing must deliver a smack down – again.

The Hook: This time old Drac has a craving for Chinese.

By the mid-70s the English horror studio Hammer was on it’s last legs and kung-fu flicks were on the rise. This led to an odd collaboration between Hammer and the Hong Kong based Shaw Brothers to produce a gothic horror/kung-fu hybrid flick. Our story starts out in 1804 with the evil priest Kah (Shen Chen) reaching Castle Dracula in Transylvania. Kah asks Count Dracula for help. You see, Kah has wielded unmatched power over the countryside near the village of Ping Kuei for many years. He controls the seven golden vampires and an army of their undead victims. But recently a villager manages to destroy one of the vampires and the others will no longer rise to Kah’s command. Kah asks Dracula to come to China and help him regain power. Drac tells Kah that he does not grant favors, but a change of scenery would be nice and an army might be useful, so he takes on the likeness of Kah, destroying him in the process, and heads for China.

Jump to 1904 Chung King. Professor Van Helsing (Cushing) is lecturing at Chung King University. He wants the esteemed Chinese scholars to help him learn about local vampire lore. The Chinese faculty are insulted that he would think they are so unsophisticated as to believe in vampires and walk out. Only one young man Hsi Ching (David Chiang) stays to ponder Van Helsing. We soon learn that Hsi Ching and his six brothers and one sister have pledged themselves to rid Ping Kuei of the Golden Vampires. Seven vampires (well really six now) verses seven kung-fu master brothers (and one sister). Check.

Meanwhile, Van Helsing’s wimpy son Leyland (Stewart) meets the lovely Scandinavian heiress and adventurer Vanessa Buren, played by the gorgeous Julie Ege. Seems Vanessa is an admirer of Prof. Van Helsing and would like to meet him. The local Tong leader likes the hot blond and asks to walk her home. She refuses and lets Leyland escort her. On the way to her rooms, Vanessa and Leyland are attacked by several Tong thugs who kill their escorts and it seems they will harm the white folk when two young Chinese men, one armed with a bow and another wielding twin battle axes appear and slice and dice the thugs. These warriors then take Vanessa and Leyland to Prof. Van Helsing’s digs. Hsi Ching explains that they are two of his brothers. Seems that the Van Helsings have been under the brothers protection from the moment they entered Chung King. Hsi Ching convinces Van Helsing to journey to Ping Kuei and help them destroy the golden vampires. Leyland insists on accompanying his father and Vanessa agrees to flip the bill for the expedition provided she is an active member.

So begins the journey to Ping Kuei. During this rather long trek we see: 1. the fighting skill of the Hsi brothers and sister as they fight off Tong goons, vampires and undead; 2. the vampires raiding Ping Kuei for girls (lots of titties on display) and 3. the developing romance between Vanessa and Hsi Ching and Leyland and the sister Mai Kwei (Szu Shih). Okay. now we need to stop and think a moment. We have 8 Chinese heroes and 3 European heroes. We have two interracial romances brewing. Okay, so this being a Hammer horror / Shaw Bros. kung-fu flick we can make some predictions. At least one Chinese and one European hero will die and at least one of these will be a woman. At this point my money would be on Mei Kwei to become a victim of a vampire. This would fulfill the required tragic love story so beloved of Chinese film makers and would force one of her brothers to destroy her. Which European will die? Well, we know it will not be Prof. Van Helsing, he has to deal with Drac. Vanessa seems the obvious choice, hot blond spells vampire bait, but that seems too easy. I’ll say Leyland. This would again be another tragic loss for Van Helsing, but give him even more reason to destroy the evil vampires. Frankly, Leyland is such a whiner I would not mind seeing him bite it. Vampire movie, bite it! Oh hahahahaha! I slay me!

Okay, this review is getting too long, so let’s cut to the chase. Once our heroes have fortified Ping Kuei, the remaining three golden vampires (they destroyed three of them on the trip) and the undead attack. Our heroes bolt the village gate and make a flaming trench (these Chinese vamps and undead are quite flammable) and defensive bamboo stake hedges. The vampires used a bit of magic to blow down the gate and the fun begins! Lots of nice kung-fu fighting sequences (Chinese vampires like to use swords) and even old Prof. Van Helsing gets a few good licks in. Several of the brothers die. And then there is Vanessa. She just stands there. She has no weapon. A fairly tall blond woman, dressed in white with no weapon in the middle of a battle between good guys and vampires. Sigh. Well, as you can already tell, she is going to get chomped. And she does, to her credit she does try to defend herself with a bamboo spear, but that is too little too late. Vanessa gets bit but good. Van Helsing sees it happen, but can’t do anything about it. The vampire runs off after infecting her and is killed by about a dozen pissed off villagers. Hsi Ching comes to see if Vanessa is okay and, of course, she attacks him. Van Helsing yells, “Ching! You must destroy her!” Hsi Ching impales Vanessa on one of the defensive bamboo stakes and then kills himself too. Cause he just can’t live without her! Hey so much for that whole ‘we have pledged our lives to rid the village of the vampires’ thing!

Well! Mai Kwei gets knocked unconscious and the last remaining vampire takes her to the temple where the vampires have their base. Leyland rides off to her rescue. Van Helsing and the two surviving brothers show up just as Leyland is about to be killed by the vampire. Van Helsing grabs one of the brother’s spear and destroys the last golden vampire. As the rest leave, Van Helsing has a bad feeling about the place and is confronted by Dracula. After a brief fight, Van Helsing destroys Dracula (again) using the same spear he used to dispatch the last golden vampire. The End.

Goodies:

Babeage: Szu Shih is cute and she was in a ton of Shaw Bros. kung-fu flicks, but she can’t hold a candle to Julie Ege. Julie Ege was Miss Norway and appeared in a few movies before resuming a normal life. I read on the net that today she is a nurse in her home country of Norway. There is no doubt about it though, Julie Ege was a babe. Blond, buxom, blue (or maybe hazel) eyes and a fantastic Nordski accent. Yum!

Sleazeploitation: Hammer always like to have at least one babe in their movies and Julie Ege fills that bill. The Shaw Bros. never shied away from sleaziness and to that end we have several scenes of topless Chinese cuties being abducted and chained down in the vampire temple before being drained. Plus I would bet that some folks would get bent out of shape by the dual interracial romance stories. Lighten up will ya!

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: The golden vampires (by the way, they are called that because they wear gold masks and gold bat medallions) look like walking oatmeal. The undead are just folks in dirty torn clothes and masks who have an odd little jog like walk. Dracula just looks goofy. John Forbes-Robertson wears so much make-up he looks like a vampire clown – Christofer Lee he is not.

Violence: Kung-fu, sword-fu, spear-fu, axe-fu, bow-fu, knife-fu, mace-fu, flaming brand-fu, neck sucking-fu, fire-fu. One great scene has Hsi Ching destroy a vampire by smashing his fist through it’s chest! As you might expect there is a bit of blood.

Gore & FX: Not much really. The costumes are okay (Van Helsing wears a pith helmet), the vampire and undead make-up could have been better. The scenes where the destroyed vampires turn to dust were obviously done using rubber masks and air bladders. One hand gets chopped off. Nice bright red blood.

Great Lines:

Dracula to Kah, “Wretch! I do not grant favors! I do not accede to the requests of minions! Know you not Dracula commands even from the confines of this miserable place!?” You’re fired!

The British Consul remarking about Vanessa traveling the world alone, “Can’t say as I approve! Dash it all, they’ll want the vote next!”

Upon finding the remains of one of the golden vampires outside Ping Kuei, Van Helsing says, “The legend is true!” No shit? You have already fought off three of the goofy things by now!

Dracula, “Van Helsing! Across the globe, even to this very place you plague me!”

Van Helsing, “Show yourself! Or must you hide behind the image of another man? Is the mighty Dracula too frightened to reveal his face to me?” Yeah, the Profs got big uns!

Dracula, “I am Dracula! Lord of darkness, master of vampires, prince of the undead, ruler of the damned!” Think Drac’s boss might not like him padding his resume like that?

Moral: Before arranging that first date – check her teeth.

Conclusion:

Okay, lets face it, a kung-fu vampire flick can only be so good. I did not expect much of this flick, but it surprised me. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires is better than I though it would be. The horror aspect is done well, with some cheap effects, and the asian spin is kind of interesting. The kung-fu is well done and choreographed – no one obviously misses their punches – even the non-kung-fu actors like Cushing and Stewart. The flick is a bit slow, but all Hammer films have that pace. Throw in a bit of sleaze and a hot blond and all-in all you have an entertaining little b-movie. Great? No. Fun? Oh yeah! I’m still kind of annoyed that Vanessa died but Leyland the dink survived.

This is me at age nine baby!: Those vampires look stupid! You have a pistol – shoot them! If the vampires go poof when you yank off their medallions, why aren’t they trying to do that! Duh!

Double Feature Checklist:

aradiation can do anything
afake bats on strings
alab coats worn in the outdoors
ared red blood
atons of booze and cigs
aone martial artist kills several opponents easily
atoy animals
apith helmet
ablond babes

Is it chili in here or is it just me?

Original Cave Creek Chili Beer

Black Mountain Brewing Company, Cold Spring, MN and Cave Creek, AZ

There are several brands of chili beer sold in the US. What is chili beer? Beer with a chili pepper in the bottle, Einstein. I decided to have a novelty beer to go with a novelty movie. Original Cave Creek Chili beer comes complete with a serrano chili in the bottle – and a warning on the label not to choke on the chili!

ABV: 4.20% IBU: low

Color: A very light amber, almost, but not quite yellow.

Aroma: A slight hint of lager hop tang that is quickly replaced by the scent of the pepper.

Head: Large bubbled white head that is gone within seconds.

Taste: At first I could detect a bit of a hop tang, but then the pepper flavor took over and that was all I could taste from that moment on. Just pepper, no beer taste after that first sip. Slight pepper aftertaste.

Recommendation: My father and I have different opinions about peppers. He loves them any day any way. I prefer hot chili peppers to be cooked into something so that the capsaicin gets mellowed out a bit and I can taste more than just fire. My dad is content to dump hot sauce on his food and just enjoy the burn. That is the attitude required to enjoy Original Cave Creek Chili Beer. You need to just be there for the raw chili heat. Don’t expect to taste the beer, you won’t. That is why I cannot recommend this beer. What is the point? If I want to taste raw chilis, I will eat raw chilis. If I want to wash them down with beer, I will get a good sharp hoppy Pilsner or IPA and drink it while eating the raw chilis. That way I will be able to taste the chilis and the beer. Walk away. Nothing to see here.

Well, there ya go! The second Duh Spot double feature. Fun, eh? Catch ya next time and remember – watch fun movies and drink good beer.

-BigRuta

Questions, comments, requests and contributions welcome!

"Faith? Well faith is an island in the setting sun…"

Posted in Uncategorized on February 3, 2007 by bigruta
Howdy friends and neighbors! BigRuta here with some sweet silly 50s sci-fi goodness for ya tonight. But first, you may notice that the review format has changed a little, so here is a quick rundown. First the Taxonomy section has been revamped. It now consists of three subsections: genre; specific type of flick; ideal audience. The ideal audience is my guess at who would most enjoy the movie, but everyone could still have fun. Second, I have brought back the idea of “The Hook,” which is now included in The Plot section. I dumped “Bluntly,” I never really liked it. Finally, I added a section at the end of the review called, “This is me at age nine baby!” This is where I will try to recall what I would have thought of the movie when I was little. It really reflects my opinion at about six years old, but I wanted to use the song reference. The other additions are self explanitory. And now the movie folks! …

This Island Earth

Universal International, 1955, 86 minutes, NR

actors: Jeff Morrow, Faith Domergue, Rex Reason, Lance Fuller, Russel L. Johnson, Robert Nicholes

director: Joseph Newman

writers: Franklin Coen and Edward G. O’Callaghan; based on the novel by Raymond F. Jones

producer: William Alland

Taxonomy: Sci-Fi; alien invasion flick; space opera fans

Plot: A mysterious organization is recruting the worlds best atomic scientists to put an end to war. The Hook: They’re aliens!

Electronics expert, atomic scientist and pilot Dr. Cal Meacham (Reason) gets some new toys delivered to his California lab. He and his colleague Joe Wilson (Nicholes) use the included plans to build what turns out to be a very sophisticated comminication device. And bingo! They get a video message from a guy with white hair and a big head who calls himself Exeter (Morrow). Exeter tells Meacham that he has passed a test and is needed on Exeter’s team. A plane will arrive to pick him up the next morning. Then the device zaps the plans with a laser and self destructs. Dr. Meacham is intriqued and, over the objections of Joe, boards the crewless plane and flies away to…

Georgia! Where he is met at the airfield by Dr. Ruth Adams (Domergue). Meacham insists they have met, but Adams says he is mistaken. Dr. Adams takes takes Dr. Meacham to “The Club” where he meets Exeter who simply says that he is working to put an end to war. Dr. Meacham also meets the other scientists in attendence including Dr. Steve Carlson (Johnson). Meacham is suspecious about the whole set-up and Adams and Carlson soon confide in him that they are playing dumb. Adams has met Meacham before. Adams and Carlson tell Meacham that Exeter has a device that can control peoples thoughts! They also point out how big Exeter’s head is and that “The Club” also seems to include a large secret underground facility. Exeter spies on the three scientists and asks Meacham to trust him. Exeter’s assistant Brack (Fuller) wants to use the “thought transformer” on the trouble makers, but Exeter says that would be counterproductive.

Well, Exeter’s boss thinks he has been doing a crappy job and orders Exeter to come home and destroy all evidence of his work. So, as Drs. Meacham, Adams and Carlson try to drive to the airfield, Brack tries to kill them with neutrino rays! Meacham and Adams bail out of the car and end up in a lake, but poor Dr. Carlson gets zapped and blows up real good in a technicolor explosion. Dr. Meacham and Dr. Adams – oh hell, Cal and Ruth – hoof it cross country to the airfield. Their clothes and hair dry almost immediately, naturally. They find a small plane and Cal flies them away from Exeter and his “Club.” This is surprising because Cal already knows first hand that Exeter can control aircraft from afar.

Meanwhile, a big old flying saucer takes off from “The Club” and intercepts Cal and Ruth. “The Club” then blows up real good in a technicolor explosion, killing all the other scientists left behind. Exeter knows he has done wrong, but tells Cal and Ruth that they will soon see why such extreme measures were necessary. You see, Exeter is from another planet. Duh! Didn’t they see his huge head! That is a sure sign of an alien, especially in a 50s b-movie!

Turns out that Exeter and his folk are from a planet called Metaluna. Yes, a little Latin is a dangerous thing. Not to mention Greek. Anyway, Metaluna has a much higher atmosphereic pressure than Earth, so the crew must go through pressure conversion in big glass tubes. Cal and Ruth get some Metalunan duds, that do great things for Ruth’s ass by the way, and go through the conversion. When they come out of the tubes, they are near Metaluna.

Exeter explaines that Metaluna has been at war with the planet Zegon for many years. Zegon ships bomb Metaluna with meteors. The Metalunans (sounds better than Metalunies) moved their civilization underground and have an defensive ionic shield. This shield requires huge amounts of power. Ah ha! The Metalunans went to Earth in an attempt to help replenish their power supply. Once they land, they all go to see the leader of the Metalunans, who tells them that they suck and orders Exeter to transform Cal and Ruth’s thoughts. He also mentions that the Metalunans are going to procede with their alternative plan – the invasion of Earth. Exeter Cal and Ruth are then imperiously dismissed. It seems that the Zegons have launched an all out attack and Fearless Leader has little time for inferiors.

On the way to the thought transformer they meet a Metalunan Mutant. This is a way cool critter that the Metalunans developed from insects. The Mutants act as labor and guards. The bombardment gets quite bad and Exeter, Cal and Ruth decide to escape. As they make their way back to the flying saucer, Ruth plays against the typical 50s helpless female role she had adhered to so far and drives the alien car while the guys cower at the destruction. They make it to the flying saucer and get away, zapping a Zegon ship that gets too close. Metaluna is toast. The bombardment creates so much heat, it actually turns Metaluna into a small star! Could this really happen? No, but it is a cool effect.

During the trip back to Earth, a Mutant attacks while they are all in the pressure conversion tubes. Ruth screams real good. Faith Domergue had some pipes! Ruth’s conversion ends first and the Mutant chases her around for a while until the low pressure now in the control room makes it go poof!

Once back on Earth, Cal and Ruth try to convince Exeter to come with them, but he refuses. Cal and Ruth cuddle as they fly home and the flying saucer, now with little power left, crashes into the sea. The End.

Goodies:

Babeage: Faith Domergue! Yowza! This Howard Hughes discovery was quite the looker. Rumor has it that the pants of her Metaluna outfit were so tight that she could not wear undies!

Sleazeploitation: Nah.

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: Exeter and the other Metalunans and the great Metalunan Mutant! This creature, like Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet has become a sci-fi icon. The publicity pic of Faith Domergue, in her tight pants, being carried by the Metalunan Mutant is one of the most famous sci-fi images of the 50s. In fact, I’ll bet that many of you have seen this pic before even if you have not seen the film.

Violence: Neutrino rays, meteor impacts, a couple of fight scenes. Tame by today’s standards.

Gore & FX: The FX range from silly (the Metalunan’s make-up) to breathtaking (the alien landscapes and the Metalunan Mutant). There is a funny scene on board the flying saucer when the camera pans past the viewscreen and we see the stars outside the ship move opposite to the direction of the camera!

Hey! That’s what’s his name!: Russel L. Johnson is most famous for playing the part of Dr. Roy Hinkley, better know simply as “The Professor” on Gilligan’s Island.

50s Sci-Fi B-Movie Checklist:

a aliens played by humans with big heads
a spaceship either a rocket or flying saucer
a helpless female character who screams often
a Earth and other planets depicted without clouds
a use of the word “atomic” as opposed to “nuclear”
a scientists who seem very socially sophisticated and or rich
a flames in space
a sound in space
a stock footage
a cute animal or kid
a Woody

Great Lines:

Dr. Cal Meacham to the press, “You boys like to call this the push button age. Well, it isn’t, not yet. Not until we can team up atomic energy and electronics. Then we’ll have the horses as well as the cart!”

Joe Wilson describing the communicator, “Ya know what my kids would say? ‘Dig this crazy mixed up plumbing!'” Somehow, I doubt even 50s kids would say that!

Dr. Ruth Adams referring to a cat, “It’s only Neutron. We call him that because he is so positive!” Uh … no. Neutrons are neutral, electrons are negative and protons are positive.

Exeter, “I suppose the neutrino could be described as the missing link between energy and matter.” Yeah, neutrinos could be described that way – by a dumbass!

Exeter, “Ruth, don’t tell me as a woman you’re not curious about our destination?” Yeah, she’s curious because she is a woman, not because she is a scientist. Even the aliens were sexist in the 50s!

Exeter, “Metaluna lies far beyond your solar system – in outer space.” Well duh!!

Dr. Cal Meacham referring to being in the pressure conversion tube, “I feel like a brand new toothbrush!” What!?

Dr. Cal Meacham mouthing off to Fearless Leader, “Our true size is the size of our God!” Very scientific Doc.

Dr. Ruth Adams while being led to the tought transformer, “My mind is my own and nobody is going to change it! I’m not going into that room!” Emotional, ain’t she?

Exeter on the fate of Metaluna, “Yes, a sun! Warming the surface of some other world. Giving light to those who may need it.” Sounds like Exeter may have had a hit of thought transformation himself!

Moral: Turn off those lights when you leave the room! Do I look like I’m made of electricity?

Conclusion: This Island Earth is an odd combination of big ideas and silly execution. Which I guess could describe many sci-fi films. The concept of an alien civilization looking to man for help with an energy shortage was quite novel in the 50s. The fact that the Metalunans are caught up in a war without end that they are losing to a seemingly technologically inferior species is a neat idea too. Usually aliens are depicted as snobbish technocrats or monsters. So, well done in the big picture department. However, the lack of scientific soundness is aggrivating – even for a 50s sci-fi flick. Faith Domergue, bless her heart, is okay, but Rex Reason is horrible! His voice sounds fake, almosy like a cartoon character, say Space Ghost or Oxnard Montalvo. There is no kind way to say this, the man can’t act! Still this is a fun movie you should check out. Great for a rainy or snowy Sunday afternoon. The Metalunan Mutant kicks ass!

This is me at age nine baby!: An F-80 Shooting Star! Cool! What’s with that guy’s voice? Ha, ha! Look at that old car! Flying saucer with lasers! Cool! Underground city getting bombed with meteors! What a cool monster! I got to tell the guys at school about this one!

You Ain’t Nothin’ But A …

Heller Hound Anti-Spring Bock Beer

Flying Dog Brewery, LLC, Denver, Colorado

Okay, now remember that bock beer is a flavorful beer that is often high in alcohol and brewed in the winter to keep thorough till spring? Good. Bock is also brewed during festivals and special occasions, which led to bock being brewed all year round. Maibock is traditionaly brewed in May, for example. So what is an anit-spring bock beer? As far as I can tell, it’s simply an amusing name.

ABV: 6.20% IBU: 22

Color: A slightly cloudy light amber, kind of like natural non-filtered apple juice.

Aroma: Lots of sweet malt with just a hint of hop tang.

Head: Small bubbled, foamy, persistent, off-white head.

Taste: Slightly sweet malt start, moves to a smooth sweet middle with perhaps a hint of apple which turns to a slightly bitter hoppy finish. Just a slight hop aftertaste.

Recommendation: Flying Dog makes some good beer with great names and labels. Heller Hound is a mild Maibock perfect for people who like beer on the sweet side but do not mind some hop bitterness. Recommended.

Okey dokey friends and neighbors. Till next time remember, life is too short to drink crappy beer!

-BigRuta

Comments, questions, requests and contributions welcome.

"’Bominables bounce!"

Posted in Uncategorized on January 28, 2007 by bigruta
Hi ya folks! Big Ruta here with another boffo socko review for ya! Tonight’s flick is another one that I mentioned in a past review, and the first sequel to be reviewed here at The Duh Spot! Okay, so much for the preamble, tonight’s flick is…

Dr. Phibes Rises Again!

EMI-MGM via AIP, 1972, 89 minutes, PG

actors: Vincent Price, Caroline Munro, Robert Quarry, Peter Jeffrey, John Cater, Peter Cushing and Valli Kemp

director: Robert Fuest

writers: Robert Fuest and Robert Bless

Taxonomy: Campy Brit horror / dark comedy flick.

Plot: A revived Dr. Phibes journeys to Egypt in order find eternal life for himself and his dead wife.

Bluntly: Fun 70s silliness; if you dug the first flick, you’ll get a kick out of this sequel.

Overview:

I reviewed The Abominable Dr. Phibes nearly two years ago. Guess I can’t put off the sequel any longer. In order to make this post shorter, I will not recap the first film. If you need a refresher, you can find it here.

As the flick starts, the moon has come around to the right point in the sky to activate the resuscitation mechanism in Dr. Phibe’s tomb. We learn that it is three years since the events of The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Hmm…maybe I should have put this review off for another year? Anyway, Phibes (Price) comes back to life and summons his faithful assistant Vulnavia (Kemp). This may come as a bit of a surprise since Vulnavia seemed to die at the end of the first flick. Well what the hay, if Phibes can rise again so can Vulnavia. Immediately Phibes tells Vulnavia that it is close to the time for “The River of Life” to be revealed again in Egypt. Apparently this happens every 2000 years. They must get the body of Phibes’ beloved wife Victoria to Phibes’ secret Egyptian lair. Yep, he has a place all set up for this! Preparation is everything. But first, they need to get the ancient papyrus map that is in Phibes’ safe. So, Phibes fires up his organ (you remember his organ / elevator right?) and they go upstairs – only to find that the house has been demolished! Phibes finds the safe, but it is empty. Phibes knows exactly who would want to steal his map. The only other man interested in “The River of Life”, Darius Biederbeck (Quarry). So, why not keep the map in the tomb? So much for preparation!

Next we meet Darius Biederbeck and his friend Ambrose. Ambrose is a portly good natured archaeologist and Biederbeck is a rich prick. Then we get to meet whinny spoiled rich bitch Diana, the love of Biederbeck’s life. Biederbeck, Ambrose and Diana go to a party and while they are gone, the butler drinks and shoots some snooker. Time for the first kill! Several clockwork pythons invade the billiard room. Yes, clockwork pythons – this is the work of Dr. Phibes remember. One of the pythons bites the butler who goes to the phone for help, Vulnavia pushes a plunger and a gold spike in the shape of a snake comes out of the phone earpiece and zips straight through the butler’s head. Yeah baby! Phibes then retrieves his map.

And now for the return of the wonderful Inspector Trout (Jeffrey). Trout interviews Biederbeck about the murder of his butler. Biederbeck does not care about the man, just the map. He also demands that the police find his property before he leaves for Egypt in 24 hours! Told you he was a prick.

Now the action moves on board a luxury liner headed for Egypt with both Phibes and Biederbeck as passengers. Biederbeck’s friend Ambrose finds Victoria’s body among the cargo, so we know what is going to happen to him! Amazingly, Phibes simply strangles Ambrose! What? Where is the flare in that? Well, he then sticks Ambrose’s body into a giant gin bottle (from an ad display) and tosses him overboard! The bottle washes up on shore right in front of Insp. Trout’s eyes. Biederbeck gets pissy with the ship’s Captain (Cushing in a cute bit part) because of the intolerable 2 hour delay caused by the search for Ambrose. Did mention that Biederbeck is a prick?

And now – poof! – we are in Egypt and get to see Phibes’ lair. It is an undiscovered tomb that he has set up to look like … wait for it! … his old demolished house! There is a platform for the organ and everything! Phibes says that it just needs a little touching up, which we learn means turning the ancient Egyptian relief carvings into carvings of modern people wearing tuxedos and ball gowns! Ha! Biederbeck meets up with the rest of his “expedition” and they make camp not far from Phibes’ lair. Oh yeah, and by this time the cops have figured out that Phibes is involved so Inspector Trout and Superintendent Waverly follow everybody out into the Egyptian desert.

Phibes discovers an ancient magical sarcophagus that was used to hold the mummies of Pharaohs prior to them being resurrected by “The River of Life.” He immediately sticks Victoria’s body into this very modern looking container and continues preparations for the big night. Can you see what is coming? Yep! Biederbeck and party find the sarcophagus and take it to their camp.

Well! Lots of people die in creative ways and Phibes and Biederbeck face off for the climactic confrontation after Phibes kidnaps Diana. So how does it all shake out? What happens to Phibes? Victoria? Biederbeck? Diana? Trout? What’s up with this “River of Life” shit? Does Phibes think he is in Oz? To answer these questions and have a bunch of silly fun in the process, you must see Dr. Phibes Rises Again!

Goodies:

Babeage: Caroline Munro! No doubt about it, this lady was a hottie. She has no lines (playing a dead woman after all), but she is easy on the eyes. Caroline Munro was in plenty of b-movies throughout her career so I am sure we will meet her again. Diana was played by the attractive Fiona Lewis, but her character is so underused that she contributes nothing to the flick.

Sleazeploitation: Not much really. Of course there is the whole undead guy rhapsodizing to his dead wife thing. Kind of gross if you really think about it.

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: Phibes, Vulnavia, Biederbeck, clockwork pythons, attack eagle,
attack scorpions and of course Superintendent Waverly.

Violence: Several creative deaths that are more funny than shocking.

Gore & FX: Great sets and costumes just like the previous flick and one rather gory death by attack eagle.

Great Lines:

Insp. Trout, “Now, now, now! Let’s just get our priorities right! A man has been senselessly killed – murdered!” Biederbeck, “All right, so he has! But I have been senselessly robbed!”

Insp. Trout, “A man who pierces the skull of another man with a golden snake; that is not the work of a common thief, sir, with respect.”

Ship Captain referring to Ambrose, “I suppose he never… How can I put this? I suppose he never touched the bottle?”

Sup. Waverly reading Trout’s report, “Upon arrival I found the man’s body surrounded by…” Trout, “Balls.” Waverly, “Now look here Trout!” Trout, “On the billiard table, sir.”

Trout, “Oh it’s Phibes alright! And he always comes back!”

Trout, “Every time we build a better mousetrap sir, Phibes has built a better mouse!”

Phibes upon realizing that Victoria’s body has been stolen, “Those devils! To take from me the true treasures of my life! I shall get them back. Who tries to stop me will die!”

One of the Biederbeck expedition says of him, “Remarkable man. I hardly know him, but I’ve never met anyone so completely determined.” Huh!?

Trout, “What about Baker? Should we dispose of his body?” Waverly, “Don’t know about his body, but we should give his head a decent burial.”

Biederbeck, “What kind of fiend are you!?” Phibes, “The kind that wins, my friend!”

Moral: Never take “no” for an answer.

Conclusion:

Dr. Phibes Rises Again
continues the fun campy humor from the The Abominable Dr. Phibes. However, the sequel is not as well made as the original. The story is not as well paced as the first film, and the production costs seem to have been less than those of the original. Price changes the pronunciation of Vulnavia from “Vul-nee-via” to “Vul-nay-via” during the flick. I would have thought it should be pronounced “Vul-nah-via”, but what do I know? The comic relief of the scenes between Inspector Trout and Superintendent Waverly are funny, but it is at the cost of Trout becoming merely someone to say silly lines as opposed to the more developed character of the original film. Another thing that bothered me was that Biederbeck’s past was never mentioned. We only find out that he has been keeping himself alive for hundreds of years. We also do not find out how he and Phibes know each other. Kind of a shame. Nice idea for another Phibes movie – a prequel where we find out his and Biederbeck’s pasts. But that would probably not make for a fun horror / comedy. With it’s flaws, this film is still fun. If you liked The Abominable Dr. Phibes, then Dr. Phibes Rises Again will make you smile.

Going Dutch. Again.

Christoffel Blond Double Hopped Dutch Lager

Beerbrewery St. Christoffel was founded in 1986 in Roermond, Dutch Limburg, Holland.

This is the blond lager that goes with the double malted amber lager I reviewed with The Abominable Dr. Phibes. We all know what lagers are by now right? Okay. Double hopping means that hops are added twice during the brewing and or aging process in order to add flavor aroma and bitterness.

ABV: 6.00% IBU: 20 – 30 I would guess.

Color: Cloudy golden yellow tending toward light amber.

Aroma: Nice clean hoppy aroma.

Head: Foamy, small bubbled semi-persistent head.

Taste: Very clean mild start moves to a slightly dry middle where the hops start to assert themselves and then to a crisp bitter hop finish and a short tangy aftertaste.

Recommendation: This is a very good clean crisp dry lager. Nice hop taste and bitterness. Not as powerful as some over hopped American craft brews with the smooth balanced taste preferred by traditional European brewers. Recommended for those who want to try European beer without going too far from the American lager style.

So there you have it! My make-up reviews are now complete!. I hope you noticed that this post was a little shorter than my posts have been lately. I am trying to be more economical with my words. Sometimes it is hard to do that and still be able to interject my little smart ass remarks, but I keep trying!

Till next time, stay safe, have fun, watch cool movies and drink real beer.

-BigRuta

Remember: comments, questions, contributions and requests always welcome!

"It could be made into a monster if we all pulled together as a team."

Posted in Uncategorized on January 6, 2007 by bigruta
Well, the holidays are over. Whew! You guys know I try to keep the reviews commin’ at ya, but the holiday season just eats up all my time. I sure hope you and yourin enjoyed some wonderful holiday festivities. I had a blast with my family, as usual. I saw Ida Sue on Christmas Eve. She was sweet, but she would not let me see her feet. Ah, well. Ya know the holidays are times for making memories, and while I was reveling I remembered that there were a couple of flicks I promised you I’d review someday. No time like the present, so the first Duh Spot review of 2007 is…
The Giant Gila Monster
Hollywood Pictures Corp., 1959, 74 minutes
actors: Don Sullivan, Fred Graham, Shug Fisher, Bob Thompson, Ken Knox, Gay McLendon,
Jan McLendon
director: Ray Kellog
writers: Jay Simms, Ray Kellog
producers: Ken Curtis, B. R. McLendon
executive producer: Gordon McLendon
Taxonomy: Giant mutated critter flick – with twentysomething teens.

Plot: A jumbo sized gila monster feels left out of small town life and takes it out on them crazy teens.

Bluntly: Giant lizard, hot-rods, explosions, crappy music – what else could you want?

Overview:

Okay, this is the second flick produced by Hollywood Pictures Corp. The first was The Killer Shrews which I reviewed nearly a year ago. Unlike that flick, The Giant Gila Monster features a cast of complete unknowns (a couple of the folks in The Killer Shrews were only semi-unknowns at the time it was made) and a none too cohesive storyline.

The flick begins just outside a small town in Texas. A young couple are speeding down the road at night when suddenly the car hits…something. As the couple struggle to get out of the wrecked car they are attacked by…something. Something big.

Soon we meet Chase Winstead (Don Sullivan), a young auto mechanic and hot-rodder. Chase is very popular with the local teen members of the hot-rod club. Chase is not much older then the kids, but he has his own place over the garage where he works and is the best mechanic around. We also soon learn that Chase is a singer and cares for his mother and crippled little sister. Yep, Chase is just a lovable all American grease monkey with a heart of gold. He also has a cute French exchange student girlfriend, the studboy! What a guy!

It seems that the son of a Mr. Wheeler (Bob Thompson) has disappeared. Mr. Wheeler is a bitter old man who does not like Chase. Nor did he like his son’s girlfriend, who came from a poor family. He knows his son was a friend of Chase Winstead and wants the Sheriff to ask him if he had any ideas where his son may be. Chase tells Sheriff Jeff (Fred Graham) that he did not know of Wheeler’s son having any plans to run off with his girlfriend. Here we learn that Sheriff Jeff likes Chase too and often asks his help when dealing with teens.

Night scene, tanker truck full of nitroglycerin (!), big monster eyes peeking out from brush on side of road – this don’t look good! BOOM!

Now a bit of 50s techno nostalgia, Chase learns of several car crashes by listening in on the town party telephone line! He then is able to be the first on the scene to get the salvage! That boy’s got quite a head on his shoulders, yes sirree! Sheriff Jeff, being the nice easy going guy we all know gets to be Sheriff in small Texas towns, lets Chase nick parts from the wrecks before the insurance guys show up! Chase then uses these parts for his hot rods. Mr. Wheeler learns of this and is now out for the Sheriff’s job and Chase’s head!

There are a couple more scenes of the giant gila monster squishing cars and eating stranded motorists. These are quite campy and fun due to the fact that the “giant” gila monster is a real gila monster filmed in close-up and then back projected against the actors to seem huge. Kellog also employs the already old technique of the monster point-of-view camera as we see victims look up into the camera and scream! Cheap ass special effects! God help me, I do love them so!

Now we see some big cool dude in a western suit driving a big Caddy along a country road at night, he’s drunk, is there something in the brush? Oh yeah! Drive In movie goodness as the giant gila monster slithers rather lethargically across a cardboard “road” only to be nearly
hit by a tiny model car! Quick cut to the interior of Big Daddy’s car and we see the giant gila monster out the windshield. Mr. Sharp Dressed Man swerves and wrecks his car in the ditch on the side of the road. Guess who shows up to tow him back to town? Yep! Good old Chase.

Chase lets the guy sleep it off at his place and the next morning learns that the guy is none other than Texas radio legend Horatio “Steamroller” Smith! Smith feels indebted to Chase and tells him if he will pay him back for his kindness.

Now comes the most terrifying scene in the flick! A really cool scene of the giant gila monster wreaking destruction? Nope! Chase sings! Sweet cracker sandwich does he ever suck! Chase sings some dumb gospel song about a sad little mushroom (!) to cheer up his crippled little sister. I wanted to stuff beer bottles in my ears! This may be the worst song I have ever heard in a movie. Oh yeah, he also plays a ukulele. This scene is simply wrong.

Well, Chase and his hot-rod friends help Sheriff Jeff search the old river bed area for the missing Wheeler boy and his girlfriend. They spend a lot of time looking at broken tree limbs and pondering what seem to be strange tracks, and all the while the giant gila monster is spying on them from nearby brush. He must be a ninja giant gila monster because the local flora does not look like it could hide such a big critter. The kids eventually find the Wheeler boy’s car and go tell the sheriff.

Okay, now we finally get some good giant gila monster action! The big critter is creeping along the old river bed near a train trestle. We see a passenger train chugging down the tracks, then the giant gila monster takes out the trestle and the train plunges into the river bed. Lot’s of screaming as the giant gila monster makes dinner out of the passengers. There are two great laughs here; first the train engine changes from one shot to the next and then the painfully obvious fact that the crashing train is really an HO scale electric train! We are also treated to a scene where the giant gila monster makes a car explode with it’s
tongue!

Seems the town drunk saw the whole thing and tells Sheriff Jeff. Instead of laughing in his face and locking him up in the drunk tank, Sheriff Jeff believes the guy and then calls Chase to ask for a book on reptiles! The investigation turns up other witnesses and giant gila footprints and the hunt is on! But not before the all important “Platter Party.” Yep there is a big dance at a barn on the edge of town and Chase gets Horatio “Steamroller” Smith to DJ! Smith plays a demo he had Chase make – he’s going to turn Chase into a star! The kids cheer and ask Chase to sing for them. Oh my dear god! He sings the sad little mushroom song again! No! Nooooo! Make it stop! Please make it stop!

Just as I was going to shove forks in my ears to deafen myself and in so doing save my soul, the giant gila monster attacks the platter party! Yea! Chase stopped singing and put down the infernal ukulele of misery! In the middle of all the screaming and panic, Chase bravely runs away! He goes to the garage and gets four cans of nitroglycerin. Was there really this much nitro in Texas in the 50s? The nitro containers look like four small coffee cans labeled “XXX!” Chase zooms back to the barn (he has the fastest hot-rod ya know), aims the car at the giant gila monster, jumps out and BOOM! Giant gila monster barbecue Texas style!

Everybody is okay, but Chase is a bit sad about his car. Sheriff Jeff tells him that the railroad will buy him a new car. Huh!? Why would the railroad…? Oh, screw it. The end.

Goodies:

Babeage: None. Chase’s girlfriend Lisa is cute, but nothing special.

Sleazeploitation: Nope. 50s.

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: The giant gila monster, natch. Chase’s sister (joke!).

Violence: None aside from the silly gila attacks.

Gore & F/X: “Giant” gila monster (kind of cute really), neato model trains, BOOM!

Great Lines:

The completely unnecessary introductory narration, “Gila monsters live in deep forests and impenetrable shadows.” Gila monsters live in the desert!

Sheriff Jeff asks Chase about the Wheeler boy and his girlfriend, “Were they in any kind of…trouble?” Chase, “Like what?” Sheriff Jeff, “You know.” Come on Chase! Does he have to spell it out for you? Did he knock her up?

Sheriff Jeff, “Have you heard the reports of a giant lizard?” Mr. Wheeler, “Yes, but it is just not possible.” Sheriff Jeff, “Well why not? There have been giants before.” The shrews! Don’t you remember the shrews, man!

Lyrics of the sad little mushroom gospel song:

“There was a mushroom,
a sad little mushroom,
there was a meadow ready to cry,
there was a sparrow,
a gray little sparrow,
there was an eagle silent and high,
And the Lord said, ‘Laugh children, laugh!'”

Moral: If you are not a hot young scantily clad Hawaiian babe – put the ukulele down!

Conclusion:

The Giant Gila Monster played as the second feature on a double bill with The Killer Shrews. Overall, it is not as successful as The Killer Shrews both as a monster movie and a so bad it’s good cheap flick. The pacing is uneven and the giant gila monster really does not do that much. Look at the credits again. Old Gordon had the whole family involved in this one! Also Ken Knox who played DJ Horatio “Steamroller” Smith was an actual DJ from a radio station that Gordon McLendon managed in Texas. The Giant Gila Monster is a fairly fun little flick that will make you laugh. But it may also make you fear ukuleles for the rest of your life!

Yet another blast from the past…

Nosferatu

Great Lakes Brewing Company
2516 Market Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44113

You may remember during the 2005 Halloween reviews I reviewed the silent film Nosferatu and stated that I could not find a sample of the beer of the same name to review. Well, since then I have had the opportunity to enjoy The Great Lakes Brewing Company’s wonderful Nosferatu red stock ale both on tap and from the bottle. Okay, so what is a stock ale? A stock ale is an ale brewed to be high in alcohol content and usually also very flavorful and meant to be stored for a long time. This type of ale originated in America where it would be produced
in order to last throughout the harsh New England winters.

ABV: 8.00% IBU: 75

Color: A rich tawny red. One might call it sanguine.

Aroma: Sweet roasted malts contrasted with a nice hop tang.

Head: Small bubbled, dense, persistent, cream colored rocky head that produces Belgian Lace as you drink.

Taste: Nosferatu starts off rich and hoppy, a bit sweet with full roast malt flavor. The middle
begins to develop the hop bitterness that one would assume from a beer with such a high IBU value. This bitterness intensifies especially along the sides of the mouth though the finish. There
is a lasting bitter hoppy aftertaste with just a tiny hint of the initial malty sweetness.

Recommendation:

Nosferatu is a very smooth flavorful beer. You might think that with an IBU rating this high this would be a pucker inducing brew you only challange your hardcore hophead friends to try. However, the brewmasters at Great Lakes Brewing Company have crafted a beer that flows from gentle malt sweetness to zippy hop bite without a single harsh element. Highly recommended for red ale lovers (you will never touch Killian’s again!). Hopheads will like it, but may think it is too mild. Recommended for those in search of a good red ale.

As for me, let me just mention that Nosferatu is the only red ale I have tried that I actually enjoy.

Okay, the first post of 2007 is in the bag. Hope the new year has been kind to all of you. So, I guess I’ll plant you now, and dig you later!

-BigRuta

Remember: comments, questions, suggestions and requests always welcome!

"One of these things is not like the others…"

Posted in Uncategorized on October 29, 2006 by bigruta
Three Card Monty, The Cups, The Bait and Switch, all things where what you expect to happen next does not. Just like tonight’s review! The difference is that in the above cases there is a con-man trying to do you wrong. I would never do anything to intentionally harm you, my loyal minions! Why I wouldn’t hurt a fly! Moths, that is altogether different. All moths must die! Die I tell you! Die! Die! DIE! Sorry. I lost my head for a moment. Which brings us to…

Sleepy Hollow You don't know Jack.

Paramount, 1999, 105 minutes, R

actors: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Marc Pickering, Michael Gambon, Miranda Richardson, Jeffrey Jones, Ian McDiarmid, Micheal Gough, Christopher Walken, Christopher Lee, Casper Van Dien, Lisa Marie, Martin Landau

writer: Andrew Kevin Walker

director: Tim Burton

executive producer: Francis Ford Coppola

Taxonomy: New twist on classic tale flick.

Plot: Constable Ichabod Crane is assigned to solve the perplexing murders in the small village of Sleepy Hollow.

Bluntly: A wonderful re-think of the Washington Irving classic.
Welcome!
Overview:

Okay. I’m calling an audible. I can not write out an outline of the plot as I usually do. Why? Because this flick is really rather complex. The more I think about it the more directions I want to go, but none of them do the film justice and would give too much away. I have a vision of a long wordy mess. So. Tell ya what I’m gonna do! I will throw a wide net, paint with broad strokes, lie and make shit up. That last part was a joke. I am going to just give you the big picture version of the set-up for this flick. I won’t mention specifics and I certainly will not tell you the ending. You will then do your part and watch the movie!
Hessian chop!
Remember English class? Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow?” No? Well if you want a refresher, you can read the story. Briefly, Ichabod Crane is a gangly superstitious school master in a small New York village. He loves a rich farmer’s daughter and competes with a local young buck for her affection. He eventually is attacked by The Headless Horseman and disappears. The end of the story lets you decide if the supernatural was involved. Got that? Good. Now you can forget most of it.
CSI New York
In Sleepy Hollow Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is a young New York city constable who champions rational scientific investigation techniques. Today we call this forensics, but in 1799 they called it disrespectful to the tradition of law. The Burgomaster (Christopher Lee) challenges Crane to prove himself by sending him to the little upstate village of Sleepy Hollow to solve a series of murders where the victims were all decapitated.

Once Ichabod gets to Sleepy Hollow, the plot thickens like old oatmeal. The town elders tell him point blank that the murderer is The Headless Horseman (Christopher Walken), a revenant from the nearby haunted Western Woods. It seems the horseman is the restless spirit of a Hessian mercenary who loved bloodshed, filed his teeth to points to scare his opponents, and used a broadsword and axe to decapitate the enemy. Eventually, the Hessian was hunted down, beheaded with his own sword and buried in the Western Woods. This version of Ichabod Crane does not believe in ghosts and vows to get to the bottom of the mystery.
He has no head for business.
Ichabod takes up residence in the Von Tassel home and is soon smitten with young Katrina Von Tassel (Christina Ricci). Ichabod then proceeds to study a recent death scene, gains an assistant in the form of the latest victim’s son young Masbath (Marc Pickering), performs an autopsy (!), and begins to suspect a conspiracy. This is done very well with Depp portraying Crane as determined yet insecure. He does not like the sight of blood or dead bodies, for example. Depp’s Ichabod Crane comes off as sort of a prototypical Sherlock Holmes a century early!

Then things get a bit messier when Ichabod sees the town magistrate beheaded by The Headless Horseman right in front of him! The film starts to pick up speed and witchcraft, dream visions, the question of Ichabod’s past, the importance of the color red, more detection, supernatural fun in the Western Woods, and the question of why the horseman is killing certain people and not others all come into play. Nearly every character’s … uh … character is questioned and it all rushes to a climax that pays homage to the Universal Frankenstein movies as well as the Gothic flicks of Hammer and Amicus. Alternative power.

Goodies:

Babeage: For those who like Christina Ricci, they should dig her here as a blond. My pick for babe of the flick is Lisa Marie who plays … nope, not tellin!

Sleazeploitation: Some sexual stuff, not very explicit. Some bad family vibes.

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: The Hessian/Headless Horseman, a cool witch, some neat scarecrows and of course Christina Ricci.

Violence: Yes indeed! The tag line on the DVD menu says, “Heads will roll” and they do! They also bounce, spin and fly! Some very cool fight scenes too!

Gore & F/X: The heads, lots of blood, a creepy tree and a neat transformation scene. Plus the great town which was built for the film.

Great Lines:

Ichabod Crane: “I have found something, which was lately … a man.”

Burgomaster: “Remember, it is you, Ichabod Crane, who is now put to the test.”

Ichabod Crane: “We have murders in New York without the benefit of ghosts and goblins.” Baltus Van Tassel: “You are a long way from New York, constable.”

Ichabod Crane: “The assassin is a man of flesh and blood, and I will discover him.”

Ichabod Crane: “You have moved the body?” Dr. Lancaster: “I have.” Ichabod Crane: “You must never move the body!” Dr. Lancaster: “Why not?” Ichabod Crane: “Because!”

Ichabod Crane: “There is no horseman, there never was a horseman, there will never be a horseman!”

Ichabod Crane: “It is truth, though truth is not always appearance.”

Ichabod Crane: “You’ll soon get your bearings young Masbath. The Bronx is up, the Battery is down and home is this way.”

Moral: How many times do I have to say this? If your opponent is undead, guns don’t work!!

Conclusion: Sleepy Hollow is the best kind of ‘based on’ adaptation. It takes the best parts of the original source and makes them better by adding entertainingly original ideas to the mix. Believe me, if you think Irving’s story is a bore, then try this movie. I guarantee you will be swept up in the great combination of gothic horror, mysticism, Holmesian detective story, terrific action, wonderful effects and some very nice acting. One word of caution; some of the scenes in this flick would be too much for younger kids, just so you know.

Highly recommended.

Congratulations to Jeffrey Jones for being in three of the six Halloween reviews for 2006!

Do you believe in Pumpkinhead?

Ichabod Pumpkin Ale

New holland Brewing Company, LLC
Holland, Michigan

Well, you knew I had to review a pumpkin ale for Halloween didn’t you? You remember from last year, I’ sure, that pumpkin ale is simply a light ale, possibly wheat, made with pumpkin and the traditional pumpkin pie type spices. This one opts for nutmeg and cinnamon.

ABV: 5.50% IBU: maybe 20 to 30

Color: A cloudy amber with just the slightest hint of orange. Cloudy from wheat proteins? Perhaps. However, it might just be from the pumpkin and spice.

Aroma: A very soft, slight aroma. The kind way to say this would be “delicate.” The accurate way to say this would be that there is very little aroma. I could not detect pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon or much hops or malt for that matter. Aroma hints at taste so this does not bode well.

Head: White, fairly dense and not persistent. Probably not much wheat. Another bad sign.

Taste: A slightly sweet start moves to a mild sweet and sour hint of spice middle and then to a small bitter finish and short aftertaste. I did not taste pumpkin.

Recommendation: I can not recommend this beer. It is very close to being bland. There are no high notes, nothing distinctive about it whatsoever. The label is the best feature of this beer. I will have to give New Holland brews another try, but this one did not impress. Walk on by.

Okay all you minions get back to … uh … minning. Whatever. Hope you have a great Halloween! Give freely to the weeners and as always: Watch fun movies and drink Real Beer!

-BigRuta

Remember: comments, questions, suggestions, requests and contributions welcome!