Last Update 6/27/21

 

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978)

Peter Cook and Dudley Moore misfire badly in this spoof of the classic Sherlock Holmes novel. Although the plot actually follows the book in broad details, it is just a prop for an endless series of really bad jokes. They are obvious, repetitious, silly, lacking all wit, and are visually unimpressive. The rest of the cast - most notably Terry-Thomas - are only marginally better. The sound on the dvd I watched was also terrible - I had to crank it up to maximum to hear the dialogue. This looks and sounds like a rejected Monty Python skit that got way out of hand. 6/27/21

Sorority House (2020)

I was in the mood for an old fashioned slasher movie and this looked like just the thing. The script and acting and special effects were so bad that I only made it less than halfway into the movie. The title pretty much tells you the plot, although you really have to experience some of it to know how bad it is. I should have rewatched a Jason movies. The Friday the 13th horror film series seems Oscar worthy in comparison. 6/21/21

Godzilla vs Kong (2021)

I was somewhat disappointed with this even though I knew it was going to be mostly CGI monsters battling one another. The little deaf mute girl was just a bit too corny, for one thing. Kong seemed to be different sizes in different scenes. The podcaster breaks through security just a bit too easily, and the massive project to build Mechagodzilla could not possibly have been kept secret, particularly given the lax security we have been shown. The plot is almost irrelevant. There cannot, we are told, be two apex predators alive among the Titans, although that is exactly what happens. There is a brief excursion to a hollow earth. Things move so quickly that it is at times difficult to follow the logic, such as it is. I had the feeling that the people behind this have not thought through their mythology and are making it up as they go along. 6/16/21

Meet Sexton Blake (1945) 

Not a particularly polished movie but this does a fair job of bringing Sexton Blake and Tinker to the screen. Iím surprised there werenít more movies considering how popular the written stories were. Some scenes are so badly lit/preserved that I couldnít tell what was going on except by inference. A lot of elements from the books are included Ė the disappearing hotel guest, our heroes getting coshed and tied up, international intrigue, stolen bearer bonds, a femme fatale, secret agents and common criminals, an ineffective police force, and so on. This would have been quite watchable if the picture hadnít deteriorated so much. 6/3/21

The Green Man (1956) 

I last saw this in my teens but still remembered it. Alastair Sim is a professional assassin whose latest caper goes decidedly wrong thanks to a vacuum cleaner salesman who walks in at the wrong time. The blend of comedy and intrigue is heavily slanted toward the former. You probably wonít laugh out loud but youíll have a smile all the way through. Iíve always liked Sim and the supporting cast is quite good, while the writing is excellent. Every minute of the movie is important. Terry-Thomas has a brief role.6/2/21

The Scorpio Letters (1967) 

Based on the Victor Canning novel, but only intermittently recognizable. In this version, the protagonist is a private detective hired by British authorities to infiltrate a blackmail ring. In the book, he was an amateur. Rather than piece together the story by talking to multiple victims, the hero has a few lucky breaks early that allow him to penetrate the group readily, although he is almost immediately recognized as a plant. Thereís a rather perfunctory shootout at the end that disposes of the chief villains. His path is intertwined with that of a female agent from another government office. One of his escapes is so contrived it was laughable. Originally made for television. One of the changes is that they dropped all references to the letters, which makes the title kind of problematic. 5/20/21

April Apocalypse (2015)

Some of the best zombie movies are the humorous ones, but that doesn't mean that the funny ones are always good. This rises to the level of fair but is hampered by mediocre acting, a steady string of cliches, and a very long and depressing opening half hour in which a misfit finally decides to leave his parents' basement and drive cross country to find the girl he loves. And of course he runs into zombies first and has to rescue her. It has occasional amusing scenes but a lot of it is mean spirited and the characters have no life of their own - they just get pushed from one standard situation to the next. 5/10/21

Destroyer (1988) 

A film company decides to do a movie in a prison where a serial killer was electrocuted. Bad idea, of course. This cheezy film includes Tony Perkins, Deborah Foreman, and Lyle Alzado among its cast. There was a riot at the time and somehow they overlooked the fact that the killerís body was never found. Good reason. Heís still alive and living in the prison, and he decides to reduce the staffing of the movie company. Lots of plot holes and a pretty nonsensical plot. Still better than most of the direct to dvd stuff I've seen. Alas. 5/2/21

Shrunken Heads (1994)

This is from Full Moon, so it is superfluous to say that it is an awful movie. Three kids buck the mob and get killed, but the voodoo practicing news stand owner cuts off their heads and reanimates them, sending them out to kill the bad guys. Corny and silly as it is, this was one of the more amusing efforts from this studio. And whoever cast Meg Foster as the male mob boss was a genius. Laughable special effects, no logic at all to the plot, and low production values all around. 4/29/21

The Widow (2020) 

Proof that Russians can be just as bad at making horror movies as Americans. Supposedly based on an urban legend, this is about a rescue team that gets caught up in a series of mysterious events in which many people disappear and others are found dead of notspecific causes, and completely naked. Relentlessly boring. Why would anyone invest the time to produce such innocuous crap?  It's a conspiracy to numb the minds of American viewers, I swear. Q told me so just last week. 4/15/21

Sacrilege (2020) 

Although this starts out as a competent if rather derivative horror thriller, it soon begins to show bits of poor acting, bad continuity, and mediocre writing. Four friends go on a vacation to a remote spot where they attract the attention of local pagan cultists. The pacing is abysmal. Nothing to speak of happens during the first forty minutes. The pagan ceremonies are silly and forced and the musical accompaniment inappropriate. By the time anything potentially interesting happened, I no longer cared. And none of the four main charactershad any real screen presence. They all seemed to be pretty much the same person. 4/12/21

Monster Hunter (2020) 

I really wanted to like this move. I expected to like this movie. What I got was a largely incoherent series of unfathomable action sequences involving various monsters that made no sense at all. Itís hard to follow whatís going on but even worse, itís hard to care whatís going on. No effort is made to introduce the characters. They are just fodder. A lot of the physical action is so fast, complicated, and poorly done that I couldn't even follow what the characters were attempting to do. There is no acting to speak of. The special effects arenít that great. Disappointing in almost every possible way. Connections to the game are tenuous. 5/10/21

Stop Me Before I Kill (1964)  

A mildly interesting story of psychological suspense. A race driver survives a terrible accident, but now feels urges to strangle his wife, even attempts to do so. The couple decide to vacation in France, where he sees a psychiatrist, and it appears that he has returned to normal. But then his wife disappears and it appears that she was probably murdered. Drags in several spots and though the story is clever, the execution was not adequate. For some reason this feels almost like a made for television movie. 4/9/21

The Revolution of the Daleks (2021) 

Chibnall and company continue their dismantlement of what used to be a very good tv show. The Doctor is not even from Gallifrey any longer? The basic idea Ė that empty Dalek shells would be repurposed as security robots Ė is not bad, but the writers blew the whole idea to pieces with mutant daleks Ė and never explain how they were able to infiltrate the production process. There is so much angst among the companions this time that oozed from the screen and stained my desk. There are unanswered questions and more deus ex machinae than you can shake a stick at. Insultingly bad. 4/8/21

Wonder Woman 1984 (2021) 

Without question the most disappointing sequel of all time. Bad CGI, mediocre to bad acting, terrible pacing Ė there is not even a plot until more than 30 minutes have passed, ethical problems Ė Steve is okay with taking over someone elseís body and consigning them to oblivion, uninteresting villains, major plot problems Ė in what passes for a plot. I only made it halfway through before I was so disgusted that I gave up. Do the DC people even watch Marvel movies to find out what is effective and what is not? The director is doing the next Star Wars movie, and that might be the first ever that I havenít seen on opening day Ė or any other day. Iíve seen better movies that were direct to dvd. 4/7/21

The Curse of the Mummyís Tomb (1964)  

Standard mummy fare with a couple of minor variations but nothing particularly surprising. The mummy itself is not particularly well done and the death scenes are rather uninspired Ė thrown down a staircase, bludgeoned with a bookend, etc. I found the female lead irritating fo some reason, and the flashbacks to ancient Egypt are pretty awful. The police trap scene is really the high point of the movie and it doesn't last very long. Thereís really not much you can do with a mummy from a cursed tomb as story line, I suppose, and this one is not actively bad. 4/6/21

Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960) 

Iíd never seen this Hammer film before. Itís an embellishment of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel, with a quite similar but more intricate plot involving the affair of Jekyllís wife with his friend, played by Christopher Lee. Mr. Hyde is not really present, however, as Jekyllís alternate personality is actually handsome rather than hideous, and at times more naÔve than evil. The star overacts rather a lot and the story really isnít that interesting. This is one of the weakest of the Hammer horror films. 4/5/21

House of the Seven Hawks (1959) 

Robert Taylor stars in this very good adaptation of the Victor Canning novel, substituting hawks for flies. A charter boat owner of dubious morals finds his current passenger dead on an illicit run to Holland. He abstracts a cryptic overlay and lies to the police, which gets him involved in a hunt for diamonds stolen by the Nazis and lost in a sunken launch. There are some minor variations from the novel, mostly to avoid side issues and reduce the total number of characters. The acting and pacing is excellent throughout. One of the better movies Iíve seen recently and it seems to be largely forgotten. 4/4/21

Final Curtain (1993) 

Adaptation, lose at times, of the Ngaio Marsh novel. Alleyn returns from a two month trip rather than three years during the war, and heís at the beginning of the story instead of appearing halfway through. The novel was largely about his wife, Agatha Troy, who was staying with the distinguished actor who was murdered on his birthday. In this version Troy is the one who thinks it was murder. She doesnít in the book. The bulk of the story is told as a flashback. The acting is almost universally horrid and the dialogue almost unbearably turgid. This is one of the clumsiest adaptations I have ever seen. 4/3/21

Death at the Bar (1993) 

As usual, this adaptation of a Ngaio Marsh novel is at times unrecognizable. In this version, the victim is a friend of Inspector Alleyn Ė they have technically never met in the novel although Alleyn has seen him working as a barrister in court. Three men set off for a vacation in a remote village and one of them dies suddenly after being struck by a dart in the local pub. The story jumps back and forth through time from the main story line to the inquest and back, which is occasionally disconcerting and which provides the clues to us in an illogical manner.  This entire series has consisted of subpar writing, poorly conceived modifications, and indifferent acting. 4/2/21

Scream of Fear (1961) 

One of the best old time suspense movies Ė Christopher Lee thought it was the best film Hammer ever made. A wheelchair bound woman comes to live with the father she has not seen for years and discovers that he is ďawayĒ on a business trip. Her stepmother seems friendly, however, so she tries to settle in. But she keeps seeing her fatherís dead body in various parts of the property and ultimately decides that the stepmother and the family doctor are trying to drive her out of her mind. Very effective without special effects of any note, The plot occasionally depends upon the villains knowing things they could not possibly know, but itís not obvious at the time. 3/31/21

The Gorgon (1964)

A fairly low key horror film about a gorgon living secretly in a small village. Her victims turn to stone. During the daylight, however, she turns out to be perfectly normal and is living among the villagers quite openly. A couple of good scenes, competent acting throughout led by Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. The special effects are not awful considering how cheaply done they were. A watchable if not a particularly memorable movie. 3/30/21

The Nursing Home Murder (1993)

Once again, the screenwriter has added a new subplot to the original Ngaio Marsh novel, in this case a spy ring who are considering assassinating the home secretary. I don't think I have ever seen so many "meaningful looks" in a single movie before, literally dozens. Not to mention the sometimes inappropriately suspenseful music. A politician dies under surgery and the circumstances are suspicious. The actor playing the surgeon was so stiff he should have been cast as the corpse. They also added a second murder of a character who survives in the novel. 3/7/21

A Man Lay Dead (1993)

This is supposedly the movie version of the Ngaio Marsh novel. It does incorporate some elements from that story, but it's really not Marsh. Instead of a conspiracy by subversives who want to reclaim a dagger that belongs to their secret society, we have an entirely different story about a gang who steal religious artifacts. The host for the house party where the murder takes place is the head of this group - he was entirely honorable in the book. Agatha Troy, who became Inspector Alleyn's wife in the later books, is grafted into this one as the niece of the host, which provides an annoying series of confrontations with Alleyn because she does not want to provide information about her friends, and which frankly shows him compromised on a couple of occasions. The actual killer and method are the same but Alleyn pulls the solution out of thin air rather than through reasoning. The actress playing Troy was thoroughly unconvincing and miscast. Not very good at all. 3/5/21

Love and Monsters (2020)

When humans launch rockets to destroy an asteroid on a collision course, the chemical residue causes insects and invertebrates to mutate and take over the world. Our hero has to travel overland from one underground bunker to another, encounters giant frogs, centipedes, and other critters along the way. It's kind of silly at times and the science is hooey, but the special effects are quite good and the cast manages to turn a silly story into a very entertaining story. There are a lot of "wait a minute" moments, but they really don't matter. 1/14/21

A Dark Path (2020) 

Long, tedious, uninteresting, cheaply made, unconvincing acting, awful dialogue, very unspecial effects, and the monster in the movie is not remotely the one on the DVD cover. Two women get lost somewhere in East Europe and sort of encounter a monster, except that was apparently lost itself because it had trouble finding them. Iíve seen better amateur films. Iíve seen much better cheaply made films. I only saw this to the end Ė there actually isnít an end because it just stops with a resolution Ė because I was playing a computer game while watching and didnít want to interrupt the game. 1/1/21

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