Thursday, June 20, 2013
THURSDAY MOVIE NIGHT
Saturday to Thursday. I can’t say I’m thrilled with this change.
Watching weekend monster movies were a special part of my Cleveland
childhood and, with SyFy’s previous schedule, I could relive those
days in part. Sigh.
My original plan was to record Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan
 and save it for the weekend. However, after learning more
about the film and watching its trailer, it just seemed to be too
much goofy fun for me not to watch as it aired.
This Paul Bunyan is a giant who went berserk when his only friend -
Babe the big blue ox - was killed and cooked by a band of hungry
lumberjacks. Bunyan takes his axe to the entire camp, splattering
body parts all over. The understandably peeved townspeople captured
Paul and trapped him in a cave with a landslide. That took place
100 years prior to the time of this movie.
Paul was able to escape the cave and continued to grow. Though his
damaged brain never healed, he grew to 15 feet tall (or larger when
the CGI special effects get a little wacky) and remained hidden in
the vast forest. Only a crazy old man knows of Bunyan’s existence
and he thinks of the giant as his son.
Enter the gruff Sgt. Hoke and the young first offenders sentenced
to his boot camp. With a female counselor along for the ride, Hoke
takes his charges deep into the woods. The first offenders are a
mixed bunch: a drug dealer, a computer hacker, a young mother who
refused to testify in a drive-by shooting, a brawler who assaulted
a police officer because he was staring at her ass and the daughter
of a local sheriff arrested on a DWI. Hoke does not make the trip
pleasant for anyone.
The drug dealer and hacker desecrate the grave/shrine that Bunyan
created for his ox. They take one of Babe’s horns. It’s time to
unleash the CGI slaughter effects. The promiscuous brawler is cut
in half from head to crotch because the horny kids are always the
first to die. However, the second death came as a surprise even as
it reminded me of a bit from a Monty Python film. However, because
the CGI gore is so shaky and silly, the movie never horrifies the
viewer. From here on in, it’s the good goofy fun I was hoping for.
Axe Giant gets points for decent acting and action. Several of the
characters are well developed and that makes the perils they face
and the sometimes bloody conclusions to those perils moving. The
climax is exciting and well played. I can see why this movie won
awards at small horror events.
I could watch Axe Giant again, though I think I’ll wait until I can
get it from my local library system. The bleeping of curse words
and the blurring of boobies are so noticeable that they took me out
of the movie on occasion.
Axe Giant is worth watching.
Over the weekend, I watched two other monster movies, both directed
by Burt I. Gordon. In Earth vs. the Spider (1958), a giant mutant
spider is preying on a small rural community.
The first victim is a father on his way back from a drive to pick
up a birthday present for his teen daughter. In just a few short
moments, we get a sense of this man and feel loss when he becomes
The next day, the girl and her boyfriend almost become the spider’s
next meals. They manage to escape and convince their high-school
science teacher that such a creature exists. The town sheriff is
skeptical, but he does his job and takes a small group of men into
the caverns where the spider lives.
From there, we get a mix of action sequences and character scenes.
The spider is believed dead, but the DDT used to kill it only put
it into suspended animation. Its body is taken to the high school
awaiting pickup by scientists when it comes to life. The monster
tears its way through the town on its way back to its cavern lair.
Digression. Most of the teenagers don’t look remotely like teens.
But their clothing and speech is so 1950s movie teenager that this
didn’t bother me. I was amused when a practicing band awakens
the creature and not at all surprised by its first victim after its
awakening. In monster movies, holding some jobs naturally leads to
Decent acting and writing. Some truly suspenseful moments. This
is a classic “B” monster movie of the era and perfect for a quiet
weekend evening. I’d watch it again.
War of the Colossal Beast (1958) isn’t as much fun as Earth vs. the
Spider, but this sequel to The Amazing Colossal Man (1957) remains
a solid B-movie thriller. Glenn Manning, exposed to radiation in
a bomb test that caused him to grow to tremendous size was thought
to have been killed in a fall from Hoover Dam in the first movie.
However, he survived and turns up in Mexico.
Manning is brain-damaged and horribly disfigured from that plunge.
Ravenously hungry, he’s been preying on food trucks. The opening
scene shows a terrified young Mexican driving a truck and trying to
escape from his unseen (by us) pursuer. It’s a scary scene. When
the driver is found by the local police, he is in shock and there’s
no sign of the truck.
Manning’s sister Joyce sees a TV news story about this incident and
calls the Pentagon. The disbelieving military goes to Mexico as a
matter of due diligence. When Major Mark Baird gets his first look
at Manning, he becomes an instant believer.
Giant loaves of drugged bread enable the military to capture Glenn,
but a courageous Mexican police chief is killed in the operation.
That the sympathetic character died wasn’t a problem for me. That
his death was never again mentioned, not even at the scene of said
death, struck me as intolerably dismissive. Later in the film, a
scientist is treated with equal disregard.
The capture of Manning is followed by some wonderful scenes of any
number of politicians and bureaucrats passing the hot potato that
is the Colossal Man to each other. Reluctantly, Los Angeles agrees
to house the giant prisoner in an airport hanger.
Manning’s first escape attempt is thwarted, but, brain-damaged or
not, he learns from his mistakes. His second attempt succeeds and
he’s on the loose in the City of Angels.
Ultimately, with help from his sister, Glenn recovers enough of his
humanity to calm his temper. But he also decides there’s no place
for him in a world too small for him. He clutches electrical wires
and disintegrates himself. Oddly enough, the black-and-white film
switches to color for this last scene.
The movie ends without any real reaction from Joyce of anyone else
to Manning’s death. It’s as if the makers of War of the Colossal
Beast had a problem facing the film’s relatively few deaths. This
reluctance diminishes the movie’s dramatic impact.
Having not seen the movie previously, I was happy to watch War of
the Colossal Beast. But, having now seen it, I wouldn’t watch it
a second time. Once was sufficient.
That’s all for today, my beloved bloggy readers. I’ll be back on
the morrow with more stuff.
© 2013 Tony Isabella