Tuesday, May 7, 2013
MORE MOVIE MADNESS
Tony watched a bunch of movies. Now he’s writing about them. Let
the hilarity commence...
How many eyes does horror have? Over the years, I’d seen bits and
pieces of Night of the Lepus (1972) and, even in those very brief
glimpses, the only horror I experienced was in wondering to which
dark gods its makers had to make doubtless hideous sacrifice in
order to get the film bankrolled.
The “Lepus” of the title are giant mutated rabbits who eat people.
Back in 1972, you had to watch the movie to learn that because the
movie poster and the trailer were determined to keep the revelation
secret and it wasn’t to spoil the suspense. Anyway, given my love
for the cheesiest and most awful giant monster movies, I requested
the DVD of the movie from my local library system.
The plot in brief:
When regular rabbits threaten to overrun the range, scientists are
called in to combat that. One of the experiments created unusual
growth in rabbits so they discard that theory and think they have
destroyed the treated rabbits. One of them isn’t destroyed, makes
lots of rabbit babies with the rampaging rabbits. Their expanded
size expands their dining choices to include humans. Thousands of
giant hungry bunnies. Elmer Fudd’s worst nightmare.
According to Wikipedia, producer A. C. Lyles and director William
F. Claxton got their start making western movies. They filled the
cast with character actors who they’d worked with: Stuart Whitman,
Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, and DeForest Kelley. That’s right, Dr.
McCoy is in the house, or, rather, the range, playing the president
of the university where the experiments take place.
Damn it, Jim, I’m an administrator, not a veterinarian!
The only truly exciting scene in the movie is when Leigh, playing
the wife of scientist Whitman, is trapped in a mobile home with her
young daughter, surrounded by the giant rabbits and fighting them
off with roadside flares. However, even there, the film’s biggest
flaw diminishes the suspense. It’s the rabbits.
No matter how much fake blood the film makers dabbed on the rabbit
faces, no matter how well built some of the miniature sets were, no
matter how dark they shot the rabbit scenes, the rabbits are just
not convincing menaces. Which explains the poster and the trailer.
I’m glad I watched Night of the Lepus. I think everyone who loves
these kind of movies should watch it once. Just once. Believe me,
it will stay with you a long time.
Darby’s Rangers (1958) stars James Garner as William Darby, World
War II commander of the 1st Ranger Battalion. This special forces
unit of the U.S. Army was modeled after the British Commandoes. It
was an all-volunteer unit and trained with the Brits. Though I’ve
acquired some reference material on the Rangers - the film is based
on a book by a former Ranger - I decided to hold off reading any of
it and let the movie stand on its own merits.
Filmed in black and white so the movie could utilize actual combat
footage, Darby’s Rangers does stand on its own. Garner is terrific
as a man driven to create the best unit in the military. Though a
number of characters are combat movie cliches, such as the by the
book junior officer who wins the respect of his men when he tosses
the book aside, most are compelling. Among the most interesting is
a thoroughly amoral Lothario. I can see why some would think this
an inspiration for Marvel’s Howling Commandoes, but there are like
resemblances in other war movies of the era and the fairly common
theme of men of different backgrounds coming together to defeat the
Nazis and their allies.
Darby’s Rangers is an entertaining film that doesn’t shy away from
the tragic consequences of war and the dangerous part the Rangers
play in it. There are moments of humor and of tragedy. There’s
romance, though it often comes in most unexpected ways.
The movie is well-written and well-acted with a fine performance by
Edd “Kookie” Byrnes as the initially stuffy Lt. Dittmann. Though
filmed mostly on the Warner Brothers backlot, the film still gives
a sense of the scope of the Rangers training and combat missions.
It’s definitely worth viewing and, if you’ve already seen it, worth
Known as Robot in the U.S., Enthiran (2010) is a very strange and
too long Indian science fiction thriller. It stars Rajinikanth as
the scientist Vaseegaran and Chitti, the android/robot he creates.
Chitti is amazing, but constantly makes mistakes by taking commands
literally and not understanding human emotion. When the scientist
tries to program emotions into Chitti, things start to go horribly
Chitti falls in love with Sana [Aishwarya Rai], which doesn’t play
well with Vaseegaran. Then, being considered for mass production
by the army, Chitti is rejected after being manipulated by a rival
scientist. Vaseegaran destroys his creation, but the rival remakes
Chitti in a bad human-murdering world-conquering way. Vaseegaran
wages a desperate battle to defeat his creation.
This is a weird one. There is considerable humor at the start of
this three-hour movie, but human treachery turns it very dark. As
seems typical of Indian movies, bizarre musical numbers interrupt
the story several times. That said, the special effects are quite
good. If you can get through its length and the musical sequences,
Enthiran is a fascinating experience. It was recommend to me by a
Facebook friend and now I recommend it to you.
The Heroic Trio (1992) is a Hong Kong super-hero movie recommended
to me by another Facebook friend. Wikipedia offers this summary:
An invisible woman is kidnapping newborn babies who are destined to
be emperors and delivering them to the mysterious subterranean
supernatural Evil Master. The police are powerless and the city
must be saved by three very different women who share a terrible
past. Anita Mui plays the mild-mannered wife of a police inspector
who's also the mask-wearing, sword-slinging, knife-throwing crime
fighter, Wonder Woman. Maggie Cheung plays the shotgun-toting,
hard-boiled bounty hunter, Thief Catcher. Michelle Yeoh is the
Invisible Woman, the troubled but determined strong right arm of
the Evil Master.
In the English version, “Wonder Woman” is called “Shadow Fox” and
“Thief Catcher” is “Mercy.” Too little is made of Mercy’s role in
the accidental death of an infant. That didn’t carry the weight it
The movie squeezes a lot of plot and character moments into its 88-
minute running time. The three lead actors play their roles large
but within acceptable bounds. The villains overact embarrassingly.
Other cast members tend toward the overacting end of the scale, but
don’t make my teeth grind the way the bad guys do.
The action sequences are well-staged, especially the final battle
between the Trio and the Evil Master. I didn’t see the nature of
that battle coming and it was very effective.
The Heroic Trio isn’t a great movie, but it’s a fun way to spend an
hour-and-a-half. I enjoyed it.
Hobo with a Shotgun (2011) is one twisted movie. Rutger Hauer is
the title character, a homeless man whose train-hopping takes him
to the worst city/neighborhood I could imagine. The man in charge
is a brutal psychopath. His sons and flunkies are much the same and
their depravity infects everyone in their reach. Even the police
are part of the problem, the villain’s willing accomplices in the
most heinous and violent crimes you can imagine, including burning
to death a busload of young children.
Hauer brings a demented gusto to his character. His hobo has the
most simple of dreams: to buy a lawnmower and start a lawn-mowing
business in some distant place where they actually have lawns. He
befriends and is befriended by streetwalker Abby [Molly Dunsworth].
Both actors bring sincerity to their roles. Pretty much everyone
else in the cast mugs the camera incessantly.
This is perhaps the most violent movie I’ve ever seen. Watching it
was painful, but the film makers did keep me interested. It is an
experience I won’t repeat, but, if you enjoy ultra-violent movies
with lots of gore, you’ll surely like this one.
That’s all for the movie reviews until I watched another batch of
cinematic wonders. Come back tomorrow for the latest installment
of my Rawhide Kid Wednesdays.
© 2013 Tony Isabella