April 28th, 2009

THE MANGLER REBORN (2005) *

OK, I got a confession to make.  I never actually sat down and watched The Mangler all the way through.  I’m sorry if I let any of you down.  If it’s any consolation, I DID see The Mangler 2, and it sucked ungodly balls.  So here I am sitting in front of The Mangler Reborn.  Why do I do these things to myself? 

 

If you remember, the original Mangler was all about a possessed laundry pressing machine that killed people.  The second flick had nothing to do with the first one as it was a computer controlled security system that was doing all the murdering.  Reborn goes back to the roots of the original by having this dumpy handyman buying the remains of The Mangler machine and obsessively restoring his “antique”.  Pretty soon, the machine is talking to him and making him feed it human victims.  Unfortunately for the audience, it takes FOREVER for us to see the machine’s handiwork.

 

The Mangler Reborn is slightly better than Part 2 but that still doesn’t mean it’s any damn good.  This flick has more scenes of people trapped behind a locked door and screaming for help than any movie I’ve ever seen.  I think it was just after the eighth time someone banged on a door and yelled to the person on the other side to go get help that I lost all personal interest in this movie.  To make matters worse, we have to wait until the movie’s almost over before we get to see The Mangler do some mangling.  Although the mangling is kinda juicy, it’s merely a case of too little, too late.

 

Reggie (Phantasm) Bannister, the only “name” in the cast, co-stars as a burglar and gets the best line of the movie:  “You better wipe your mouth before you talk any more shit to me!”

CRIMINAL LAW (1989) **

Gary Oldman stars as a hotshot defense attorney whose courtroom melodramatics leads to his scummy clients getting off the hook.  Kevin Bacon is his latest client, a privileged psychopath who turns out to be a serial killer.  Oldman kinda feels bad about defending him and secretly works at building a case against Bacon, who has predictably killed again.  Old Kevin on the other hand is about two steps ahead of Gary and plays some cat-and-mouse games with the arrogant lawyer; eventually implicating in his crimes. 

 

Criminal Law is the kind of movie that my parents would rent from the video store and watch late at night after I went to sleep.  When I’d inquire how the movie was the next day, neither one of them could recall much of what happened.  I used to think my parents had piss poor memories, but now I completely understand.  I just watched the fucker and I’ll be damned if I can remember what the Hell happened.  

 

Wait; there is ONE shitdiculously memorable moment that ALMOST makes this flick worth a look.  It’s the sex scene between Oldman and Karen (Jaws:  The Revenge) Young.  While the couple frantically fucks in a pitch black room, there are inexplicable scenes of Gary playing handball in a squash court randomly edited in.  Then, just before Oldman busts his nut, Young’s face changes to Bacon!  This shit is just too goofy for words and isn’t titillating in the least, despite the fact that Young shows off her yummy titties.

 

Director Martin Campbell (who went on to direct Goldeneye and Casino Royale) does manage to keep things moving at a steady clip and while the movie is nothing to brag about, it LOOKS good anyway.  Overall, Criminal Law is thoroughly routine pseudo-psychological thriller stuff.  If you’re a fan of the two leads (Bacon oozes scumminess and Oldman broods like nobody in the business), you might be able to stomach all the clichés, false scares, and red herrings.  Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans will delight in seeing Joe Don Baker playing yet another overweight cop. 

 

Thankfully, screenwriter Mark Kasdan (brother of Lawrence) hasn’t written anything else since this turd.  It’s not surprising though when you write dialogue THIS bad:  “That crazy killer is crazy and he will kill you.”

BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (1955) ***

Glenn Ford stars as an idealistic teacher trying to make a difference in an urban school populated by juvenile delinquents.  Vic Morrow is the leader of the jive talking teens (they call Ford “Mr. Daddy-O”) who gets his gang to jump Ford in an alley after class.  When that doesn’t faze “Teach”, Morrow then starts playing mind games with his very pregnant wife (Anne Francis from Forbidden Planet), which really gets Ford’s blood boiling.  Eventually Morrow gets all hopped up and tries to stab Ford in class with a switchblade and Ford then has to teach Ass Kicking 101.

 

Although it was initially seen as over the top when it was first released, this portrait of out of control students and oblivious administrators proved to be all too prophetic in later years.  All of the scenes of Ford trying to “get through” to his kids have been copied so many times that they’ve lost some of their potency.  That’s OK though because the flick is still quite entertaining nonetheless.  It’s no Substitute or anything (heck, it’s no Substitute 4 for that matter) but it’s still a lot of fun.

 

What makes the film really memorable (aside from the awesome use of Bill Haley and the Comet’s “Rock Around the Clock”) is the excellent supporting cast of juvenile delinquent students.  Sidney Poitier particularly shines as Ford’s prized pupil and Paul Mazursky and Jamie Farr (billed here under his real name, Jameel Farah) are also great.  It’s Morrow though who makes the movie cook as his numerous confrontations with Ford gives the film a lot of its piss and vinegar.  I also enjoyed seeing Louis Calhern from Duck Soup as the school’s indifferent principal.  It’s Ford though who gets the best line of the flick when he says, “I’m beaten up but not beaten.  There’s a difference!  I’m not beaten and I’m not quitting!”