This is like a treasure hunt. These unloved movies are going cheap. Guys, keep you expectations low and buy these DVDs while they still see the light of day. With the “streaming wave” taking over the movie business, once gone these DVDs will not be back. I found a few DVDs worth buying and watching, and so can you by browsing a few minutes. So grab your China Virus mask and get going. Below are reviews of my most recent Raid.
City of Ghosts 2002 drama crime
This movie has a film noir mood and style, and that is probably one reason why I liked it. Many scenes stick in my mind; perhaps it's the vivid colors and the exotic locale of Cambodia. American movies are rarely filmed in Cambodia, and it was worth the extra effort. The scenery is fascinating and leaves no doubt that the settings are for real and not contrived on a movie lot in east LA. The lead character is well played by Matt Dillon. He enters a strange, foreign world, and is like a man feeling his way around in total darkness trying to find his way. Except for a nice lady historian on a research expedition, he meets nobody that he can really trust, and violence threatens to strike around the next corner. His situation keeps you on edge as he goes farther and farther into the heart of darkness. The supporting cast of international actors is quite good, and James Caan delivers a powerful performance (yet again). The flick is not without flaws. In the final scene, Dillon and his native driver, perform back-to-back Shark Jumps, so if you don’t care about sensible, rational endings then give this flick a watch. Written, directed and starring Matt Dillon. This was his baby all the way.
They Live 1988 horror suspense
Former wrestling superstar and B-movie actor Rowdy Roddy Piper was the lead in this John Carpenter film which featured the quasi-immortal line: “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass — and I’m all out of bubblegum.” They Live also features an excellent turn by Meg Foster as Rowdy’s romantic interest. Her gorgeous blue eyes sparkle like gems and her character glows with sex appeal, not all of a savory sort.
The story here is ridiculously simple. A drifter named Nada finds a very special pair of sunglasses that enable him to see past the facade of society and at the disturbing truth that it hides. The result is a well-executed film that walks the fine line between a most improbable situation and horror.
If They Live belongs to any horror sub-genre, I would say that it falls under what I termed the Anglo-Saxon Anxiety Film, or ASA for short. A typical ASA movie features unsuspecting WASP characters under attack, or infiltration, from foreign or alien forces. A WASP leader, usually male, eventually emerges and pulls the people together, forms a plan and they make a heroic “last stand” against the invaders. A good deal of fifties sci-fi flicks have ASA themes, especially The Thing and the 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers. By the sixties, the anxiety intensified due to the Cold War, and the fear of Communist subversion became a favorite movie theme, sometimes turning into black comedies (The Manchurian Candidate, Dr. Strangelove & The Russians are Coming). ASA movies can be interpreted as a long analogy, with the threat (or “They”) being pod people, aliens, or communists.
RIP Rowdy – he passed in 2015 at the age of 61.
Jurassic Park III 2001 action adventure sci-fi
This underrated movie is by far the better Jurassic Park sequel, and was a major box office success in the US and worldwide. The talented Sam Neil is back as paleologist Dr. Grant, and the annoying chaotician is out. The rest of the cast is very good with just enough humor and dinosaur fodder to make it happen. The new dinosaurs are awesome – the best yet, and even outdo the newer Jurassic World films. Jurassic Park III is a technical benchmark to use for mastery in the special effects department. Very entertaining and fast moving plot (only 90 minutes) with little time lavished on the back story that we already know. Also the film refuses to agonize and waste time on the moral dilemmas that arose in the original film.
I always thought the ending of the movie was a bit odd, and, by chance, I happened upon the reason while I was researching the pervasion influence of the Pentagon propaganda machine in Hollywood movie making. According to the book, National Security Cinema, by Matt Alford, the filmmakers of JP3 approached the Pentagon about borrowing some A-10 Thunderbolts for a scene where the jets would battle mid-air against a flock of pterosaurs in a dramatic finale. This request was submitted to Phil Strub, the military liaison officer for Hollywood. Strub refused the request explaining, “They’re [A-10 jets] tank killers. A flying dinosaur is no match for an A-10. It would only cause the audience to feel pity for the dinosaurs.” In the following discussions with the JP3 producers, Strub managed to leverage two other major changes to the script. In lieu of the A-10 jet fighters, Strub suggested a “nice military rescue” at the end of the film, and the production was loaned soldiers and amphibious vehicles from the Marine Corps for the scene. Strub also said to the producers, “You’ve got this major running around the world with the authority that the US President can only dream about, so if you don’t care, would you change his character, make him like the Presidents science advisor or something like that? Just get him out of uniform.” The filmmakers obliged, and got themselves a “nice military rescue” to wrap up the film.
Marnie 1964 suspense psycho-thriller
Marnie, played by Tippi Hedren, personifies the classic Alfred Hitchcock blonde – icy, sexy and a little crazy. In this case Marnie is a liar and a thief (kleptomaniac) with deep rooted psycho-sexual problems. A prison psych would diagnose her as afflicted by Antisocial Personality Disorder. She is frigid around men, but loves horses and going to the beauty parlor to have her beautiful blond locks well-coiffed. As the storyline progresses, Marnie meets wealthy widower Mark Rutland, (Sean Connery), and an awkward, strange romance begins. Then there is Lil, a foxy little trollop, who has camped out in the Rutland mansion and never misses a chance to plant a big kiss on Mark and rub her coconuts on his manly chest. So who does Mark go for? Marnie, of course. WAIT A MINUTE. Any sensible guy would run the other way from Marnie, but not Mark. Marnie is badly damaged goods but is given a cinematic pardon. So this odd, anti-romance film makes little sense and also lacks good production value. The fake horseback riding scenes are so low budget; it is hard to believe it was done by big shot director, Hitchcock, instead of a hack. Maybe Alfred should have farmed out the horseback scenes to any one of dozens of Hollywood producers who made westerns.
But let’s not be too hasty to dismiss this film. It is worth another look because it is now infamous for the Behind-the-Scenes sexual shenanigans by guess who? Hitchcock. In her 2016 memoir, actress Tippi Hedren revealed what a true horror it was working with Alfred Hitchcock on the 1960s film Marnie. Tippi Hedren says Hitchcock sexually assaulted her during filming of Marnie. She writes that the director, who she says was “obsessed” with her, sexually assaulted her on the set of Marnie, when she was alone [with him] in her dressing room… “He [Hitchcock] suddenly grabbed me and put his hands on me. It was sexual, it was perverse, and it was ugly, and I couldn’t have been more shocked and repulsed. The harder I fought him, the more aggressive he became. Then he started adding threats, as if he could do anything to me that was worse than what he was trying to do at that moment.” When Hedren fought him off, Hitchcock promised, “I’ll ruin your career.” She says Hitchcock never spoke to her directly again, even though Marnie was still filming.
Written by Ben Clark. Copyright 2016-2021. All rights reserved.