November 24th, 2008

STRANGER FROM VENUS (1954) *

Remember how great The Day the Earth Stood Still was?  Well imagine The Day the Earth Stood Still minus all the original cast members except for Patrica Neal.  Now take the setting and move it from the United States to a small town in England.  Then take away about 98% of the budget and toss out all of the memorable special effects.  Finally, drain the film of all the tension, drama, and deep philosophical resonance.  The resulting mess would be:  Stranger from Venus.

 

This is one long and boring movie.  Sure, its heart is in the right place (the stranger is trying to teach the world not to use its highly developed weapons and give peace a chance), but come the fuck on.  No lie, I dozed off about a half a dozen times on this sucker.  Maybe it was because I started watching this flick at seven in the morning while I was still a little bit groggy, but Stranger from Venus had me nodding off far too many times for me to even think of giving it a somewhat positive review.  No matter how bad the film is, I can usually suck it up and get through it without falling asleep; not this time.  Man, this is one dull turd of a film.

 

The special effects in this movie are a straight up joke.  The Stranger’s communicator looks like a bagel and his ship is merely a lighting fixture that we see for all of about ten seconds.  The climax is equally pathetic.  The ship flies away without incident and the Stranger simply just disappears.  WEAK!

 

The Cosmic Man was a similar, slightly more successful of the same story.  It would finally take five decades for an “official” The Day the Earth Stood Still remake in 2008.

 

AKA:  Immediate Disaster.  AKA:  The Venusian.

VIDEO VIXENS (1975) *

A big time television exec loses his marbles and decides to pre-empt the Oscar telecast with an award show dedicated to stag movies.  He blackmails a fey movie critic into hosting the event, and while everyone thinks the idea is absurd, it brings in huge ratings.

 

Video Vixens is a stupid, stupid movie that isn’t very funny and isn’t sexy at all.  The problem is that this movie is about 95% talk and 5% action.  The porno clips shown during the award show are embarrassingly unfunny and the “plot” involving the crazy television exec is even worse.  The only thing worth a damn in the flick is the fake commercials.  The ads for Roid Away, Umpire deodorant (“Gets rid of the smell of foul balls!”), and Kentucky Dildos all provide a chuckle or two, but the commercial for “Twinkle Twat” (featuring Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith) is the funniest.  If the flick had been a plotless, sexed-up variation of Kentucky Fried Movie, it might have worked; unfortunately all the inane plot stuff sinks it.

 

Director Henri Pachard later graduated from softcore to XXX with the likes of Twin Cheeks 2, 18 Inch Anal Club and Sex Spa, USA (a personal favorite).  Halloween fans will be delighted to know that H20 director Steve Miner was the assistant editor and Rick Rosenthal (who directed part 2 and part 8) has a small role. 

 

AKA:  Black Socks.

THE SHOOTIST (1976) ***

John Wayne stars in his final performance as an aging gunman who learns that he has terminal cancer.  In his final days, he rents a room from a widow (Lauren Bacall), whom he quickly takes a shine to, and grows equally attached to her young son (Ron Howard).  As the Big C progresses, Wayne refuses to die in agony and opts to go out as Bon Jovi would say, in a “blaze of glory” by convincing a trio of desperados to have a final shootout with him to the death.

 

The Shootist offers up quite a few stellar performances but not much else.  It’s definitely one of Wayne’s finest hours as he gives his character more dimension than usual.  (Fitting, since The Duke also struggled with a much publicized bout with cancer.)  Bacall is also excellent and she and Wayne have some great moments together.  I enjoyed the scenes of Wayne becoming a father figure to Howard immensely as well, and was glad that director Don (Dirty Harry) Siegel resisted the temptation to get all schmaltzy on us during this portion of the film.  The best scenes though are the early ones where Jimmy Stewart first tells The Duke he’s got cancer.  These two guys are awesome together and they play their scenes beautifully.

 

Despite the cast’s talent, the film never completely came to life for me.  After a solid start, the pacing begins to meander shortly after the sixty minute mark.  Also the flick is kinda light on action.  That’s not a criticism per se because I actually got caught up in all the drama.  It’s just when the action does happen, it’s kind of a letdown.  The climax is a little sloppy and while Wayne’s character gets his wish, it still doesn’t seem like fitting end.  Still, whatever misgivings I have about the movie, it’s wholly worthwhile just to see Wayne’s touching performance.

 

Harry Morgan, as the town’s ornery sheriff gets the best line of the film when he tells Wayne:  “What I do on your grave won’t pass for flowers!”