December 7th, 2009

THE TWONKY (1953) **

A bumbling professor (Hans Conreid) gets a brand new state of the art television that turns out to be a mischievous robot from the future.  The “Twonky” as he calls it, has all sorts of weird powers like counterfeiting money, lighting cigarettes, and shocking people with electricity.  With the help of a wily old football coach, our hero sets out to stop the meddling robot from conquering the world.

 

The Twonky was made at a time when the movie industry was worried that television would cut into their profits.  Because of this, the message is obvious and heavy handed.  We get it.  TV will brainwash you and ruin your life.  Director Arch (Lights Out) Oboler tries like Hell to be satirical but it all just comes off goofy and forced.  The flick also suffers from cruddy cinematography and piss poor editing. 

 

Although much of The Twonky (the movie, not the robot) is juvenile and stupid; it does have it’s moments.  The funniest part comes when the Twonky zaps a chick’s clothes right off her body.  Conreid’s blustering performance is easily the best thing about the film.  He gives 100% but in the end, his animated antics aren’t enough to save the flick.

 

The old football coach gets the best line of the movie when he says, “The Twonky can change shape like Boris Karloff, Santa Claus, or even the devil himself!”

AMATEUR PORN STAR KILLER (2006) **

Amateur Porn Star Killer combines two of the best phrases you could ask for in a title of a motion picture:  “Amateur Porn Star” and “Killer”.  Now most movies that feature the phrase “Amateur Porn Star” are usually followed by the words “Orgy”, “Gang Bang”, or “Ass-Travaganza”, so the idea of Amateur Porn Stars getting killed is pretty novel.  It’s a shame that the flick never quite lives up to it’s great title

 

The amateur porn star in question that gets killed is Stacy (Michiko Jimenez).  She is picked up by some random dude (director/star Shane Ryan) who videotapes them talking in his car.  He then takes her to a motel where they talk and talk and talk some more.  Finally, the “director” convinces her to strip down to her undies before he fondles, fucks, and kills her.

 

Ryan doesn’t do a very good job at trying to convince the audience that this is a genuine snuff movie because it was clearly shot on digital video then deliberately scratched up so it looked “real”.  He also made the tracking poor so the frame jumps up and down every couple of seconds.  While he did this on purpose to make the snuff scenes seem authentic, he didn’t stop to think:  Digital video doesn’t have scratches and tracking problems!  If this thing was shot on tape or film; it would’ve looked the part. 

 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that by trying so damn hard to make the film look like a “real” snuff movie, the shaky-cam aesthetic actually draws too much attention to itself and as a result; it comes off phony.  Another debit to the shaky-cam stuff…  It’s migraine inducing.  (And this is coming from someone who normally doesn’t mind shaky-cam stuff.)  Seriously, if The Blair Witch Project gave you motion sickness, then Amateur Porn Star Killer will give you epilepsy.

 

Ryan’s scripting is also kinda weak and the dialogue needed a lot of work.  The problem with the endless chit-chat between the director and his amateur porn star is that it’s too conversational and mundane to be interesting.  I know he was going for a a realistic feeling but it just doesn’t work.  At least in real amateur porn movies when they do talk, it’s mostly about fucking.  No such luck here.

 

The one and only “porn” segment isn’t very sexy either; mostly because the camera is placed at an odd angle so you can’t see much of the action.  Plus, during the blow job scene, the chick keeps her hair in her face so you can’t see her slobbering on the director’s knob.  She does move her hair out of the way momentarily, so you get to see about three seconds of hardcore action.  That was pretty groovy.  It was no Brown Bunny or anything but hey; you take what you can get, right?

 

It may seem like I’m ragging on Amateur Porn Star Killer a lot but this flick does has a bunch of scenes of chicks getting totally naked.  Because of this, I can’t complain too much about the shitty cinematography, the so-so screenplay, and the lackluster direction.  Sometimes, the chick that gets naked is only in a little box at the bottom corner of the screen (it looks like a picture-in-picture feature on a TV set), which is unfortunate.  Still, titties are titties and finely manicured bush is finely manicured bush; no matter how tiny the picture is.

 

As shaky-cam movies go; Amateur Porn Star Killer is still better than Cloverfield.

 

Several sequels followed, including Amateur Porn Star Killer 3-D; which sounds like it could be pretty cool.

 

A new edition of Amateur Porn Star Killer is out now on DVD thanks to the good folks at Cinema Epoch.  Special Features include:  A crime scene tour, Interviews, Trailers, and Short Films by the director.  To get your copy today, head on over to www.cinemaepoch.com.

THE SILENT SCREAM (1980) **

Four college students staying at a boardinghouse ran by Yvonne (The Munsters) De Carlo get bumped off by a butcher knife wielding nutzo.  After many familial secrets are revealed, we learn the killer is (SPOILER) De Carlo’s whack job homicidal mute daughter (Barbara Steele).  Will she hack up the Final Girl (Rebecca Balding)?  Will you care?

 

The Silent Scream has some devoted fans out there.  To me though, it was too slow moving and dull to pack a punch.  The first death is pretty cool (the body gets hidden inside of a sandcastle on the beach), but it takes a half an hour before it occurs.  The ending tries in vain to make up for the lackadaisical pacing by piling on plot twist after plot twist.  Nothing much happens in the first 70 minutes then in the last 15 we get bombarded with flashbacks, tons of exposition, and false endings out the yin-yang.  It just flat out doesn’t work.

 

The experienced cast is what makes the flick worth watching.  Cameron Mitchell and Match Game regular Avery Schreiber are a great team as the cops investigating the murder.  The duo may look mismatched but they have good chemistry together.  And come on, this movie features the infinitely hot Barbara Steele running around slashing up people with a kitchen knife.  How can you really go wrong with that?

 

Screenwriters Jim and Ken Wheat went on to direct The Ewoks:  The Battle for Endor.

GOZU (2004) ** ½

Director Takashi Miike is an acquired taste; one that I freely admit I haven’t acquired.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the audacity of Audition, all the other Miike films that I have seen have been wildly uneven.  However I feel about his films, there is no denying that Miike knows how to make his audience squirm in their seat.  Gozu is far from Miike’s best but it definitely has several moments that will make you say “What the fuck?” out loud.

 

Ostensibly, the movie is about a meek yakuza foot soldier who is given the order to whack his deranged best friend because he’s slowly losing his marbles.  Long story short:  The body disappears and our hero gets trapped in a small town that makes Twin Peaks look like Mayberry.  Mostly though, the flick is just a bunch of weirdness for the sake of weirdness.

 

I mean five minutes into the movie a Chihuahua is taken by the leash and gets whirly-birded over someone’s head before it gets smashed into a plate glass window.  That right there should tell you that you’re in for some nutty shit.  Then there’s the guy who incessantly whines on the phone about how hot it is.  The next little bit of “HUH?” comes when a yakuza boss fucks a chick while she plunges a ladle into his ass with her foot.  Still not weird enough for ya, folks?  How about the lactating lady who begs dudes to suckle her teats?  Or how about the random screaming guy who takes a shit on the floor for no good reason whatsoever?

 

Then things start getting REALLY weird.

 

Gozu is one big long buffet of bizarreness.  It’s not exactly a “good” movie but I’ll be damned if it didn’t have it’s moments.  If Miike had paced the film at breakneck speed instead of just letting the “normal” scenes play on for forever; we may have had a classic on our hands.  However, Miike caulks the weird stuff and the boring stuff together so haphazardly that’s it’s liable to frustrate and confound even his most diehard fans.

 

Still, it gets an extra Half-Star for having the single most weirdest ending in the history of celluloid.  (SPOILER:  A chick shits a full-grown man out of her puss-hole.)

 

AKA:  Yakuza Horror Theater:  Gozu.

 

A new deluxe 2 disc DVD special edition of Gozu has just been released by Cinema Epoch.  In addition to a fine transfer of the film, they really jam-packed it with extras.  You get:  Behind the scenes footage, an essay by film critic Bill Gibron, a Miike interview featuring Eli Roth and Guillermo del Toro, featurettes, and a commentary track.  For more info, you should check out www.cinemaepoch.com ASAP.