December 8th, 2010

IT CAME FROM THE THRIFT STORE: GOR (1988) **

The past couple of movies that Came from the Thrift Store have been flicks that I had fond memories of from childhood.  I have no such affection for Gor because I’ve never seen it before.  I have however seen it’s sequel, Outlaw on Mystery Science Theater and thought it was pretty funny.  This one features more of the same.

 

Tarl Cabot (Urbano Barberini) is a meek professor who gets into a car accident and is magically transported to the mythical land of Gor ruled by Oliver Reed.  Gor is the kind of place where people wear loincloths and swing swords around all day.  Basically it’s kinda like something Frank Frazetta would’ve created if he had absolutely no talent whatsoever.  Anyway, Tarl accidentally kills Reed’s son and he wants revenge.  Reed is also in possession of a “Home Stone”, which is predictably the only thing that can transport Tarl back to his own time.

 

The 20th Century Guy Stuck in a Mythical Kingdom genre is usually a pretty durable one.  Sometimes you get a real classic like Army of Darkness or Black Knight, but most of the time you get something like this.  Gor pretty much drops the ball though and never really goes for the Fish Out of Water humor that’s inherent in the genre.

 

Luckily there are some (unintentionally) funny moments to keep you semi-amused.  I especially liked the iron bat wings they made poor Oliver Reed wear on his head.  The guys who made the video box must’ve thought so too because they feature him pretty prominently on there.

 



You can also get a chuckle out other moronic shit in the movie.  Like how Tarl’s companions teach him to be this great swordsman in less than a day.  The pathetically low budget is also good for a laugh.  I think my favorite scene took place in a slave palace where the owner (Paul L. Smith from Pieces) forced some girls to fight in mortal combat.  But instead of some elaborate Thunderdome set-up, all he did was roll out an old Oriental rug for them to fight on!  Brilliant.

 

Gor is unable to maintain this kind of silly momentum for the course of it’s running time.  It starts to run out of steam once Tarl and his men storm Reed’s castle and the abrupt finale is pretty weak.  I did like the gratuitous set-up for a sequel though where Jack Palance waltzes onto the screen and announces his villainous intentions and no one ever really seems to notice.

 

I think the big reason Gor never really pops like it should is because director Fritz Kiersch just doesn’t have the chops necessary to make a sword and sandal epic.  We know the man can film kids massacring adults (like in Children of the Corn) and he certainly knows how to film the definitive James Spader musical (that would be Tuff Turf), but Conan Lite just isn’t this guy’s forte.  Stick to what you know Fritz.

 

Professor Tarl gets the best line of the movie when he tells his class, “Laugh if you will but the Counter-Earth lies close… very close to each of us!”

 

The next It Came from the Thrift Store flick is yet another slice of 80’s hokum starring beefy Italians:  After the Fall of New York.

NIXON (1995) *** ½

Oliver Stone’s Nixon lacks the precision editing and the sucker punch power of his previous presidential film, JFK.  That doesn’t mean it’s any less fascinating.  It’s a sprawling docudrama that’s probably a bit too sprawling for it’s own good.  Like Nixon, the film’s reach exceeds it’s grasp, but it’s still a pretty great movie.

 

With a presidential legacy that included Vietnam and Watergate, it would’ve been real easy for Stone to paint Nixon as a black and white villain.  Instead he gives us several shades of gray and makes him a compelling and complex character.  Stone’s Nixon is a man haunted by his own personal demons and fueled by jealousy and a desire to be loved.  And as with JFK, Stone shows us a president who’s basically a whipping boy for the CIA and unable to control the machinations of his own government (which Nixon refers to as “The Beast”).

 

In addition to the disjointed plotting and overlong running time, the flick’s main stumbling block is Anthony Hopkins as Richard Nixon.  He doesn’t look anything like Nixon (unless you have glaucoma maybe) and his voice borders on caricature.  At all times he just looks like Anthony Hopkins playing Richard Nixon on an SNL sketch or something.  Because he IS Anthony Hopkins though, he’s still a lot of fun to watch.

 

The supporting cast is gangbusters.  Joan Allen is terrific as the long-suffering Pat Nixon.  How she didn’t snag an Oscar, I’ll never know.  I think my favorite performance of the flick belonged to James Woods as H.R. Haldeman.  His scenes with Nixon were easily the best of the whole movie.  I also liked Paul Sorvino as Henry Kissinger, Powers Boothe as Alexander Haig, and Joanna Going as a random hippie chick Nixon raps with at the Lincoln Memorial.

 

Man, speaking of Joanna Going, where the Hell has she been?  I thought she was going to be the It Girl in the 90’s.  Her performances in films like Keys to Tulsa and Phantoms were easily the best thing about those movies, mostly because she was looking damned fine.  Come back Joanna, we miss you.

DEVIL FISH (1986) *

Lamberto  (Macabre)  Bava directed this pathetic Italian Jaws rip-off.   It’s all about a giant prehistoric squid/shark hybrid that’s devouring people off the coast of Florida.  It’s up to a crusty boat captain, a laid back electrician, and an anorexic dolphin trainer to stop it.

 

As Jaws rip-offs go, Devil Fish is among the worst.  I’m not sure it’s as bad as Tentacles, but it’s definitely up there.  Like any horrible Jaws rip-off, it’s got a hilarious Dah-duh-duh-duh-duh theme song that plays whenever the monster attacks. 

 

And I’d like to tell you about how horrible the monster looks, but the underwater photography is so damned murky that you can never really get a good look at it.  The gore is OK though as there is one decent scene where a legless victim gets airlifted out of the water.

 

Mostly though Devil Fish is boring as Hell.  To make matters worse, the incoherent editing makes things extremely hard to figure out what’s going on in some scenes.  It also doesn’t help that there’s about three too many stupid subplots that get in the way of the Devil Fish chomping down on swimmers.  It’s definitely not the sort of thing you’d expect from the director of Demons, that’s for damn sure.

 

AKA:  Monster Shark.  AKA:  Shark:  Red on the Ocean.