February 10th, 2009

TENTACLES (1977) ½ *

A giant octopus threatens a beach community. During the course of the movie, the octopus eats a baby, chows down on a one-legged sailor, shoots ink at some scuba divers, swallows up a fatty, gorges itself on a chick in a bikini, and threatens a bunch of kids during a boat race.  John Huston (reporter), Bo Hopkins (marine biologist), Shelley Winters (slut), Claude Akins (sheriff), and Henry Fonda (shady industrialist) star and all look thoroughly miserable. 


Director Oliver (Beyond the Door) Hellman was responsible for this extremely slow moving and boring killer octopus flick.  Instead of concentrating on delivering a handful of quality octopus attacks, Hellman instead gives us a lot of badly edited scenes where former Academy Award winners shamelessly collect a paycheck.  Seriously Huston, Oscar called; he wants his award back.  The underwater scenes are all waterlogged and there are way too many false scares for the human mind to take.  The musical “score” (if you can call it that) will have you reaching for the Excedrin. 


Tentacles isn’t the WORST Jaws rip-off of all time but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t come close.  (That dubious distinction goes to Deadly Jaws.)  There are brief flashes of unintentional humor; although they are few and far between.  The scene where the octopus attacked a “yacht” that was clearly a toy boat (Toy boat, toy boat, toy boat, toy boat, toy boat…) was pretty funny; as is the sight of Winters wearing an oversized sombrero for no good reason whatsoever.  The most memorable part though comes when Bo Hopkins gives his two trained killer whales a pep talk before sending them out to slay the octopus. That’s right folks; the octopus gets killed by a pair of killer whales! 


Now you would think that Bo Hopkins + Killer Whales X Giant Octopus = A Good Time.  Sadly, Tentacles is not only the Worst Giant Octopus Movie Ever Made, it’s also the Worst Shelley Winters Movie Ever Made.  Quite a feat if you ask me…


My pal Ryan Kenner turned me on to this What-In-God’s-Name-Is-Going-On Dolph Lundgren flick.  The film takes place in a mythical land “where the future meets the past” where Princess Halo (Rachel Shane) is set to marry the evil General Ruechang (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa).  When she leaves him at the altar, the General sends his best soldier, Warchild (Dolph) to find her.  After rescuing her from some medieval pimps, Warchild grudgingly helps her to join up with the resistance who want to overthrow the tyrannical General.  In the end, the General snatches the Princess back to the castle and Warchild has to crash the wedding and Kung Fu the shit out of Ruechang.


I have no idea what kinda time frame we’re looking at here.  I know the opening crawl tells us the whole “future meets the past” but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.  We got Princesses and castles, extras that look like they were left over from Robin Hood:  Prince of Thieves, commandos riding around in army Jeeps, and bad guys who dress like Nazis.  All of this never really gels and made me wish that the budget had been a little bigger to fully explore just what the heck kinda kingdom we were dealing with.


Also, WHY IN THE HELL IS THIS FLICK CALLED BRIDGE OF DRAGONS!?!?!  There is no bridge and there certainly aren’t any dragons!  Couldn’t they have just called it “Warchild”?  I mean that’s a pretty badass name.  Man, this flick will give you an ice cream headache if you think about it too much.


You know what though, Bridge of Dragons isn’t bad.  It’s actually a fairly decent direct-to-video action flick.  The action sequences (although somewhat flatly staged) are plentiful and the final Kung Fu battle between Lundgren and Tagawa (both veterans of the infinitely better Showdown in Little Tokyo) is excellent. 


My favorite scene though took place early on when the Princess sneaks out of the castle to participate in a stick fighting competition. She dons a mask and fights Dolph and ends up falling in love with him.  Later he realizes it was HER at the match and falls for her too.  It’s cheesy, but it’s a clever twist on the whole Cinderella’s glass slipper sort of thing.


Which makes me wish that director Isaac Florentine went a little more hogwild on the whole Fairy Tale/Kung Fu/Direct-to-Video Dolph Lundgren Action Flick mash-up deal.  Instead of embellishing the movie’s quirkiness, he directs the film in the same basic style you’d expect from a generic direct-to-video action movie.  It wouldn’t have been THAT hard to do this movie right.  I mean look at Doomsday.  That flick combined female Snake Plissken types, Road Warrior action sequences and Medieval castles and it rocked.  If Florentine had amped up the more fantasy driven aspects of the story and really tried to blend the disparate genres more thoroughly, I think we might have had a classic on our hands.


I can see why Ryan liked the movie so much though.  When you sit through a lot of direct-to-video actioners, you really embrace a movie that comes along and at least TRIES to do a little something different.  In that respect, Bridge of Dragons gets an A for effort.

THE MISFITS (1961) ** ½

A young divorcee named Roslyn (Marilyn Monroe) heads off to Reno where she falls in love with Gay (Clark Gable), a craggily old cowboy.  He invites her out to his ranch where a creepy pilot (Eli Wallach) and a slow-witted cowhand (Montgomery Clift) hang out and they all dance and get drunk.  When Gay takes Roslyn out to wrangle some horses, she is mortified to learn that he intends to sell the horses to a dog food company.  Roslyn has a mini-meltdown and Gay has to try to persuade her that turning horses into Purina Dog Chow is just the natural order of life.


The Misfits is heavy-handed, uneven, and leisurely paced, yet anyone who is even remotely interested in Gable or Monroe will definitely want to check it out as it was their last respective film roles.  To add to the creepiness factor, Gable also spouts out a lot of depressing dialogue about dying like, “Dying’s as natural as living!”, “Nothing can live unless something dies!”, and “We all gotta go some time!”   Speaking of cringe-worthy dialogue, screenwriter (and then husband of Marilyn) Arthur Miller’s wordy script reeks of a stagebound play and doesn’t really jibe with director John Huston’s rustic western setting.


Despite its flaws and an unmistakable air of gloominess, The Misfits at all times keeps your interest.  Gable and Monroe have never been better and they have a genuine chemistry together.  Although the flick kinda starts to peter out near the end during the extended horse wrangling sequence, it’s still worth a look if only to see the final performances of two legends of the silver screen.

THE DENTIST 2 (1998) **

Corbin Bernsen returns in this so-so sequel to director Brian Yuzna’s 1996 horror flick, The Dentist.  This one opens up with Dr. Feinstone (Bernsen) escaping from a mental institution, killing his doctor and then moving to a new town under an assumed name.  He rents a house from a hottie (Jillian McWhirter) and tries to get adjusted to his new surroundings (without killing anyone that is).  After an appointment with the town dentist goes sour, Feinstone wigs out, kills him and takes over his practice.  When the good (bad) doctor sees his intended girlfriend playing kissy face with a studly carpenter, Feinstone totally snaps and starts making mincemeat out of his patients.


The Dentist 2 features more of the same, except not quite as good.  This time out, Yuzna focuses more on Bernsen’s increasingly bizarre dream sequences and freak out scenes (the best is when he sees cockroaches in a patient’s mouth) than building a body count and in turn; shortchanges the audience.  You have to wait awhile until Bernsen starts drilling into people’s teeth, but some of these moments are worth the wait (especially the scene where he interrogates his patient by playing “Truth or Tooth”).


Though extremely spotty, this sequel coasts on the easy charm of Corbin Bersen.  He really sinks his teeth (no pun intended) into the role with admirable gusto and is never boring to watch.  I particularly liked the crazy stare he gives to a bucktoothed waitress and the way he cut himself to repress his homicidal urges.  McWhirter is also fine as the sexy object of his affection and Clint Howard is in there too as an obnoxious patient who gets a syringe plunged into his eardrum.  Unfortunately, the cast’s hard work is marred by an extremely stupid ending (Bernsen gets shot in the face several times with a nail gun and winds up looking like Pinhead) and a lame set-up for another sequel, which as of this writing hasn’t happened. 


At least Bersen gets some good lines in this one, my favorite being:  “Pulling teeth is like… pulling teeth!”

MY NAME IS BRUCE (2008) **

Bruce Campbell produced, directed, and stars as himself in this lame attempt to trade in on his B-Movie popularity and swindle his fanbase out of some more $$$.  The set-up sounds promising.  A dumb Emo kid stupidly awakens the ghost of a Chinese warlord who goes around a jerkwater town decapitating people.  Since the kid happens to be a big Bruce Campbell fan, he kidnaps Bruce (who is in the midst of making Cave Alien 2) and coerces him into fighting the monster.


This sounds like it would be a million laughs (think Galaxy Quest Meets Evil Dead) but the flick ultimately ends up being desperate and weak.  Campbell self-depreciates himself until he’s blue in the face and the result is more eye-rolling than anything else.  Campbell tries way too hard for the laughs and most of the comedic elements in the film seem forced and none-too funny.  What really sinks the flick though is a lack of a credible villain as the monster in this movie is pretty pathetic.  All he really does is decapitate people and the gore isn’t in the same league as the Evil Dead films.  In fact the severed heads in this movie are so interchangeable that you’d swear that the special effects company could only afford one head and kept using it over and over again.


Another debit is Campbell, the director.  He handles the material in a flat, matter-of-fact style that runs against the grain of the jokey script.  The flick really needed someone with a bit of the old Sam Raimi pizzazz to kick things into gear, especially during the iffy “horror” scenes.


There is some stuff that works though.  Being a die hard Bruce fanatic, I could at least walk away with a couple chuckles.  Most of the fun came from spotting frequent Campbell co-stars turning up in small roles.  Bruce himself fares OK in the leading role but it’s Grace Thorsen as the MILFy love interest who I liked the most.  (Mostly because of her ginormous rack; which she unfortunately never shows.)  While no means perfect, My Name is Bruce is probably the closest thing we’ll ever get to Evil Dead 4 in this lifetime, so we might as well enjoy it; warts and all.


Bruce gets the best line (naturally) when he says, “Can’t a guy get bombed, call his ex at three in the morning and have it not mean anything?”