October 14th, 2008

THE X FROM OUTER SPACE (1968) ** ½

The Japanese equivalent of NASA sends a bunch of astronauts to Mars.  They end up bringing a monster named Guilala home with them who rapidly grows to enormous size and rampages through Tokyo.  In the end, the Japanese Air Force bukkakes the monster to death.

 

Like any Japanese Monster Movie, it goes without saying that the effects in The X from Outer Space are going to be terrible.  Get a load of the hilarious scenes of the astronauts walking on the surface of Mars.  To simulate the effects of zero gravity the filmmakers just had the actors hop up and down on trampolines and filmed it in slow-motion.  Incredible. 

 

And then there’s the monster, Guilala.  He looks exactly like Godzilla, except that his head is shaped like a chicken.  My guess is that this flick was called The “X” from Outer Space is because no one in their right mind would’ve gone to see a movie called The Chicken from Outer Space.  I could be wrong though. 

 

The first half of this flick is thoroughly dull, even for Japanese Monster Movie standards.  (I know I’m supposed to call them “Kaijus”, but calling a Japanese Monster Movie a Kaiju just makes you sound like a pretentious asshole.  They are men in fucking rubber suits for God’s sakes!)  I understand the rules of the genre, I know you got to slowly build up the reveal of the cheesy monster but c’mon!  This flick moved about as fast as a snail on Ambien. 

 

Having said that though; the monster mashing scenes in this movie ARE pretty priceless.  In fact, it’s some of the best monster mashing carnage ever captured on film.  Honestly that’s all that really matters in these things anyway.  I mean no one ever went all gaga for Gamera because of the “plot” now did they?  I loved the dogfights between the jets and Guilala and the scene where the one plane flew right into his face was pretty great.  The best part though was when Guilala picked up a battleship and threw it into the city.  Some of his powers were a little on the weird side, especially when he turned himself into a gigantic everlasting gobstopper and flew around the city, causing even more destruction. 

 

I wanted to REALLY like this flick.  It’s just unfortunate that the first half of the movie was so severely boring.  That’s okay, as long as the model buildings got fucked up real good in the end, I was a happy camper.  I’d say One Star for the first half, Four Stars for the second, that works out to be ** ½.  As far as Japanese Monster Movies go, you can certainly do a helluva lot worse.  

 

AKA:  Big Space Monster Guilala.  AKA:  Gilala.  AKA:  Girara.

THE BIRDS 2: LAND’S END (1994) *

Ah yes, Allan Smithee.  Sometimes you make a good movie (like Hellraiser 4:  Bloodline), sometimes you make utter crap like this.  I guess that’s what you get when you try to make a direct-to-Showtime sequel to one of Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest films.

 

The “plot” has a family coming to live on an island for the summer for a little peace and quiet after the death of their son.  Their vacation gets thoroughly ruined when people start dying from random ass bird attacks. 

 

What made the original Birds movie so great was that you didn’t know why all the birds were killing people.  From the very first frames of this sequel, it’s fairly obvious that the birds are angry because man polluted the oceans (too many of the birds’ brethren wind up covered in Exxon jizz) and now they take revenge by pecking tourists’ eyeballs out.  All of this would’ve been okay, but the bird attacks are few and far between.  It’s yet another case of Too Much Information, Not Enough Action. 

 

Another thing that ruined the movie was the tepid Lifetime Original Movie “drama”.  All the stuff with the mom and pop dealing with the death of their son is eye-rolling and the scenes where the momma gets romanced by her boss is equally inane.  Hitchcock would’ve 86’ed that shit real quick in favor of more birds chowing down on people. 

 

The cast is just OK.  The original’s Tippi Hedren returns, albeit in an entirely different role.  She isn’t given much to do though.  Brad (Always) Johnson as the dumb ass husband is as wooden as a birdhouse.  At least Chelsea (The Last Boy Scout) Field looks hot as his neglected wife. 

 

The shit I hated about this movie could read like a laundry list.  The subplot about the mayor not evacuating the town is straight out of Jaws and the Swedish lighthouse keeper that kept popping up annoyed the piss out of me.  What’s worse, THEY KILLED THE FUCKING DOG!  Honestly, this movie was rife with idiots that deserved to die and the only likeable person… err, canine in the cast has to buy the farm?!?  I DID like the insert shots of birds blowing up like Gushers fruit snacks when shot at close range with shotguns and flare guns though. 

 

Special Note:  “Alan Smithee” is the Director’s Guild’s pseudonym for directors who take their name off of a film.  In this case it’s Rick (Halloween:  Resurrection) Rosenthal.  Good one, Rick.

CABOBLANCO (1980) **

Giff (Charles Bronson) is an American expatriate with a shady past who owns a nightclub on the titular beach in Peru.  One night, a beautiful French girl (Dominique Sanda) waltzes into his place looking for her former flame who just happens to be a spy.  Of course Giff gets involved with her plight and together the duo end up matching wits with a former Nazi (Jason Robards) who is looking for a fortune in gold sunken somewhere off the shoreline.

 

This is a muddled rehashing of Casablanca, but since Charlie B. is in the lead, I’d figure I’d give it half a chance.  I mean Casablanca is one of those movies that supposed to be so great and everything but is actually kinda so-so.  I thought if Bronson was in the lead instead of Bogart, they coulda had something there.  I was wrong.  Even though the original is much better, Caboblanco isn’t exactly terrible or anything.

 

The movie gets off to an extremely lackluster start with everyone being all vague and shit about their intentions and allegiances.  Once they cut through all that malarkey and Bronson gets to go into mini-Death Wish mode, things perk up a little bit.  What sinks the movie is that more screen time is spent on the inconsequential supporting cast and not enough on Bronson kicking ass.

 

This was sort of a change of pace for Bronson and I really liked him in this one.  He gave a mannered performance and really seemed to give it his best shot here.  Robards was decent as the slimy Nazi villain and I got a kick out of seeing Jaws 3-D’s Simon MacCorkindale as the smug British spy.  The weak link in all of this was Sanda.  While she looked great (and had an uncanny resemblance to Ingrid Bergman to boot) every time she opened her mouth it was like nails on a chalkboard. 

 

Unlike most collaborations between Bronson and director J. Lee Thompson (they did a whopping NINE movies together), Caboblanco is a bit underwhelming.   It’s long on chit-chat and short on bang-bang.  Even though Thompson allowed the climax to just kinda fizzle out, I did like the way Robard’s henchman bit the dust when the sword went through his eyeball.  And say what you will about Thompson’s plodding pacing; the man knows how to cram enough random scenes of nude beach bunnies into a movie to at least keep you interested.

 

Bronson wasn’t given a lot of good tough guy dialogue, so I’ll have to nominate “Your soul went right into the toilet!” as his best line in this one.