September 9th, 2009

HORROR HOSPITAL (1975) **

Crazy Michael Gough runs a sanitarium out in the country where he gives dirty hippies lobotomies and turns them into somersaulting zombies that feel no pain.  He also has his chauffeur drive around in a James Bond style limo that has retractable blades that decapitates any unwanted loiterers on his property.  A long haired hippie shows up to Gough’s pad thinking he’s on a holiday getaway but really he’s the next potential patient.

 

Horror Hospital is one weirdo movie that is sometimes too moronic for its own good.  There’s plenty of bizarre shit going on in the flick but some of it is so flat out idiotic that it loses all credibility.  Like when the hero first walks into the Horror Hospital.  There are so many red flags that the Hospital is dangerous yet he ignores all of them.  First, he is shown to his room where the bed sheets are drenched in blood.  Does he get out of there?  No, he just asks for another room!  Then he completely disregards the fact that all the other “patients” are brain dead zombies with gigantic scars running down their foreheads.  After the part where he witnessed his travel agent getting decapitated AND STILL DIDN’T THINK TO GET THE FUCK OUT OF THERE, I kinda stopped having fun.  The main character’s blatant stupidity ruined what could’ve been a rather enjoyable flick.

 

The movie at least has an awesome opening scene.  That’s when Gough’s limo cuts off the heads of two unsuspecting patients.  If the whole movie had been based around the Decapitation Mobile, we may have had a winner.

 

AKA:  Computer Killers.  AKA:  Doctor Bloodbath.

THE FIGHTING SEABEES (1944) ***

John Wayne stars as Wedge, the head of the American wartime Construction Battalion (AKA:  The C.B.’s.  AKA:  The Seabees.)  After losing a few good men in a surprise Japanese sneak attack, Wedge urges the Navy to arm his construction team but Uncle Sam won’t allow it until they are fully trained for combat.  With a bit of reluctant diplomacy, Wedge is eventually able to get his men building Naval bases in the Pacific.  Wedge isn’t much for following orders though and when he disobeys a command during a particularly brutal Japanese invasion; it leaves his best gal wounded.  Since Wedge is kinda thick-headed he ignores another important order later in the picture that nearly causes the death of his good friend.  In the end, Wedge finally makes amends by kamikazing a tractor into a tanker of jet fuel and blows up several enemy soldiers.  This naturally paves the way for his buddy to marry Wedge’s girlfriend. 

 

The Fighting Seabees is a solid and serious World War II movie that is anchored nicely by a top drawer performance by The Duke.  The war sequences pack a punch (the scene where a Japanese sniper picks off a bunch of Wedge’s workers was intense) and lots of shit gets blown up real good.  Although the action scenes are handled well, the flick is not without its faults.  There is at least one painfully dumb song as well as a thoroughly inexcusable dance number.  Seriously, I used to think Wayne was a badass but seeing him do the Jitterbug at a USO dance severely put a damper on his machismo.

 

The Fighting Seabees was made by the B Movie vets at Republic Pictures and it lacks the distinguished polish of a big studio war film.  I think this is a good thing.  The scrappy look of the film (intentionally or otherwise) gives the flick a sense of authenticity and the war battles are more down and dirty than you’d see in The Duke’s bigger budgeted films.  Sure, the love triangle bullshit is sappy as all get out, but I’d much rather catch Wayne in a low budget vehicle with an edge to it than a more prestigious and banal studio film.  The Fighting Seabees is also a rare film in which The Duke’s character actually dies, so it’s got that going for it too.

 

AKA:  Donovan’s Army.

THE GROOVE TUBE (1974) **

The 70’s was full of sketch comedy movies.  Some of these, like Kentucky Fried Movie are great.  Most of them are hit and miss.  The Groove Tube falls into the latter category.

 

The film gets off to an inauspicious start with an obvious and not very funny 2001 parody.  Then we’re treated to a kid’s show host named Koko the Clown who reads dirty book excerpts during “Make Believe Time” as well as a stupid cooking show send-up,   There’s also a film-within-a-film called “Dealers” (which features a random trippy animation scene for no apparent reason whatsoever) that is completely devoid of laughs.

 

The Groove Tube may contain a lot of long laughless lulls but when it is funny, it’s really funny.  My favorites sketches included a brutally honest Barbie commercial, a clever variation on “Let Your Fingers Do the Walking” phone book ads, and “The Sex Olympics”; which is more or less just a stag movie with hilarious sports commentary.  The VD awareness spot made me laugh pretty hard too.

 

I guess the most important part of the movie is the fake news broadcast.  While it’s not really all that funny (although I did like the part where they used scenes from Radar Men from the Moon as footage from a Russian missile launch), it should be noted that this is basically where Saturday Night Live stole the idea for Weekend Update from.  SNL even stole co-star Chevy Chase from this movie too.

 

The Groove Tube has a mercifully short running time (71 minutes) which helps, but far too many of the sketches go on a lot longer than they should have.  The flick could’ve used some more ruthless editing, although I still don’t think it would’ve mattered much.  A few of the sketches are filled with gratuitous nudity (including porn star Jennifer Welles), so that was nice.

 

Director Ken Shapiro later re-teamed with Chase for the underrated Modern Problems.

KILLER’S KISS (1955) ** ½

A down on his luck boxer falls for a lonely prostitute who lives in his apartment building.  Her pimp doesn’t like that, so he has his manager killed and kidnaps the ho.  In the end, the pissed-off pugilist has to duke it out to the death with the flesh merchant and his underworld underlings in order to secure a happy ending for himself.

 

Killer’s Kiss is a minor work by a young Stanley Kubrick.  It’s basically just a standard issue film noir drama with a one-note script and no real surprises.  And although the flick runs a scant 67 minutes, it still has way too much padding.  (The lame-o flashback that was nothing more than five straight minutes of a ballerina twirling around endlessly was especially annoying.)

 

Because this is Stanley Freakin’ Kubrick we’re talking about here, I got to say that the film did have moments of fleeting brilliance.  These moments had nothing to do with the plot or acting however, which was kinda unfortunate.  The film’s chief asset is Kubrick’s excellent cinematography.  Even on a shoestring budget he still manages to make little shots seems larger than life.  (There’s a really cool shot where our hero gazes yearningly into a fishbowl.)  Authentic fight footage and heaps of classy film noir atmosphere help to make the flick watchable and the final fight in a mannequin warehouse was pretty sweet too. 

 

If you’re a Kubrick fan, you’ll probably have fun spotting his signature touches and visual flourishes.  I did too, yet the thin plot and lazy acting left me wanting more.  Killer’s Kiss’s strengths are mostly superficial and/or technical but it’s not a total loss.  At worst, it’s an undercooked film noir movie; at best, it offers a glimpse of a burgeoning talent that would go on to be one of the most influential filmmakers of all time.