June 1st, 2009

GHOST IN THE SHELL (1996) **

When I was 14, I was into anime for all of about 3 months.  I picked up Vampire Hunter D and Keiko Kamen and loved the fact that they were ultraviolent cartoons that featured a lot of (animated) nudity.  I quickly came to realize though that there were far sleazier live action movies that featured real chicks getting naked, so I dropped the anime habit like a dead hooker.  That was long before Ghost in the Shell came out in 1996.  Ghost in the Shell was supposed to be the big movie that got mainstream audiences into anime.  It didn’t; but it went on to influence the guys who did The Matrix, and that flick helped to spread the anime gospel with the creation of the Animatrix cartoon.

 

The story centers around Motoko, the cyborg leader of Section 9, a special police force.  She and her team have to search the city for a mysterious hacker known only as the “Puppet Master”.  Or something like that.

 

Look, I’m just not an anime kinda guy, so a lot of Ghost in the Shell just didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.  The plot simultaneously had too much and not enough going on.  Although the movie looked cool visually and featured scads of animated nudity, the story wasn’t involving enough to hook me.  Plus, my mind was about to go nuts from all the senseless techno-babble the characters spouted endlessly.  The ill-fitting, flatly-read, American-dubbed line readings didn’t help matters much either.

 

Best line:  “If you’re still alive, get off your ass and arrest those garbage men!”  

 

AKA:  Shell Mobile Force.

SABOTEUR (1942) ***

Robert Cummings is wrongly accused of torching an American munitions factory during wartime and takes to the road in order to find the real culprit.  The cops nab him and he escapes in handcuffs, seeking shelter with a blind man (Vaughan Glazer) and his spunky daughter (Priscilla Lane).  While on the lam, Cummings and Lane stowaway aboard a freak show caravan complete with Siamese twins, midgets, and a bearded lady.  The duo eventually makes their way to New York where they have to stop an imminent terrorist plot.

 

Saboteur is another solid if unspectacular variation on director Alfred Hitchcock’s durable standby, The Innocent Man Wrongly Accused.  Even though the pacing gets a bit pokey around the 2/3 mark when Cummings crashes a spy ring’s charity ball; it’s the action sequences that makes the flick memorable.  The scene where Cummings leaps off a bridge to elude the police is pretty cool and the famous Statue of Liberty sequence still packs a punch.

 

Cummings is quite good as the likable hero, but it’s the colorful supporting performances that really stand out.  Otto Kruger is great as the suave pipe-smoking villain and Glazer is equally fine as the kindly old blind dude who gets the best line of the flick:  “Don’t tell me about my duty.  It makes you sound stuffy.”

 

Saboteur has enough thrills in it to rank at Number 6 on The Video Vacuum Top Ten List for the year 1942, right above Who Done It and just below The Ghost of Frankenstein.