April 29th, 2011

MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER (1971) **

McCabe (Warren Beatty) is a drifter that comes into town and aims to open up a bordello with some of the ugliest broads you ever did see.  Mrs. Miller (Julie Christie) is a world-weary whore who shows him how to run a cathouse proper.  The two slowly come to a mutual respect for one another that’s complicated when a big corporation comes in and tries to buy the place out from under McCabe.

 

McCabe and Mrs. Miller is highly regarded in a lot of critical circles but it didn’t do a whole lot for me.  I guess you have to have a high tolerance for director Robert Altman’s trademark lackadaisical style, overlapping dialogue, and slow pacing to fully appreciate it.  On top of that, you have to deal with a lot of annoying Leonard Cohen songs that are enough to put you to sleep.

 

But here’s the big thing I didn’t get about the flick.  Why would you spend all this time and money making a movie about hookers and then go and cast a bunch of fugly girls to play them?  I mean if you’re gong to make a movie about hookers, you might as well make them good looking.  Just about all the broads in this movie (even the ones that take their clothes off) are 2’s and 3’s and I wouldn’t pay ten cents to sleep with any of them (and that’s adjusting for inflation).  I know times were tough back in the Wild West but they weren’t THAT tough.

 

Beatty is good playing against his pretty boy looks as McCabe.  His charm makes much of the slow going movie tolerable.  Christie on the other hand is rather grating and her overblown Cockney accent will get on your damn nerves.  And Keith Carradine is really good too in a small part that gets cut way too short.

 

Beatty of course gets the best line in the movie when he asks somebody, “You got a turd in your pocket or something?”

 

AKA:  John McCabe.

COUNT DRACULA (1973) **

After playing Dracula for Hammer Studios a couple times, Christopher Lee went off and played Dracula for director Jess Franco.  Frankly, I don’t get that line of thinking.  That’s like Milla Jovovich starring in a Resident Evil reboot for Uwe Boll or something.  

 

Anyway, you’ve seen this story 17 ka-jillion times before, so do you really need a plot synopsis for this one?  Didn’t think so.  What you DO need to know is how Count Dracula varies from other adaptations of the Bram Stoker story. 

 

Well, it starts out more or less faithful to the book (Jonathan Harker goes to the castle, Dracula appears as an old man, etc.) and even continues the tradition (started in Nosferatu) of having the actor playing Dracula also play the coachman as well.  The flick takes a novel (for lack of a better word) turn about halfway through by having the bulk of the movie take place at Dr. Van Helsing’s sanitarium.  This sorta makes sense (and saves Franco money because he doesn’t have to scout any additional locations), but as a result, Lee gets less and less screen time as the film wears on. 

 

Christopher Lee is really good.  Not quite as authoritative or menacing as he was in the Hammer flicks (although he does wear the same red contact lenses), but he doesn’t phone it in or anything.  The trouble is; the flick kinda stalls out whenever he isn’t on screen. 

 

The supporting cast does what they can.  Herbert Lom makes for a fine Van Helsing, and Soledad (Vampyros Lesbos) Miranda and Jack (Horror of the Zombies) Taylor are good too.  Heck, even Franco himself isn’t bad either in his small role.  But while the prospect of having Klaus Kinski (who also played Nosferatu in the remake) play Renfield seems like perfect casting; he’s actually pretty subdued here and doesn’t tear into the role like you’d expect him to.

 

Count Dracula is one of those movies that start out pretty good and then just twiddle their thumbs for the rest of the running time.  The ending where our heroes stake Drac’s brides isn’t bad, but it comes as too little too late.  And although the flick suffers from Franco’s stick-the-camera-anywhere-and-don’t-skimp-on-the-unecessary-zooms aesthetic, it at least it looks a bit classier than the usual Franco fare.

 

There are also a couple unintentional laughs to keep you amused through the dull spots.  There’s a hilarious scene where Van Helsing comes across a room full of taxidermy animals that “come alive”; meaning there’s just somebody off screen shaking the stuffed and mounted animals around.  The rapidly aging make-up at the end is funny too and looks like a ten year old made it with Play-Doh.

 

Jess Franco movies by their very nature are a mixed bag.  This bag is more mixed than usual.  But considering the source material and the number of great actors involved, Count Dracula should’ve worked no matter who was behind the camera.

 

AKA:  The Nights of Dracula.

ONECHANBARA: THE MOVIE (2008) * ½

Well, now it seems like every Tom, Dick, and Hideo is making themselves a zombie movie.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like a good zombie movie as much as the next guy.  But the problem is that whenever somebody makes a zombie movie that isn’t named Romero or Fulci, it just never seems to stand up.  Case in point is this Japanese zombie flick based on a video game.

 

This movie is all about a chick in a bikini who goes around the zombie apocalypse killing the undead with a samurai sword.  I know what you’re thinking.  This is a great idea for a movie.  I mean how do you screw THAT up? 

 

I’ll tell you how. 

 

First off, whenever the chick kills a zombie they pretty much just explode into a puff of CG blood.  This computery looking blood gets all over the camera lens a lot of time, but it never seems to get anywhere else, which is odd.  Seriously, what kind of a zombie movie features nothing but pixilated blood?  If you’re looking for a gore-soaked zombie fest, you’re looking in the wrong place.

 

Second, our heroine never takes the damned bikini off.  She’s not exactly hot or anything but she looks decent enough.  I would’ve given her the benefit of the doubt if she had showed us a little more skin though.

 

Finally there’s the ending.  The only way to adequately describe the ending without offending a certain percentage of the population is to say that it is “challenged”.  Or it has “special needs”.  Whatever the PC term for “retarded” is nowadays, that’s the word that’s applicable here.  In the end, the bikini babe duels her sister to the death with a samurai sword while both of them are bathed in crappy looking orange and blue CG flames.  Yeah… like I said, “challenged”.

 

So Onechanbara:  The Movie is a zombie movie that has no nudity, hardly any gore (there’s a severed head but not too much else), and a piss-poor ending filled with awful computer effects.  So what’s the point? 

 

I’ve never played the video game this movie is based on.  It has to be a lot more fun than this flick.  Maybe they should’ve put Uwe Boll in the director’s chair.  Even he could’ve come up with something better than this crap.

 

AKA:  Chanbara Beauty.  AKA:  Onechanbara:  Zombie Bikini Squad.  AKA:  Onechanbara:  Samurai Bikini Squad.  AKA:  Zombie Killer:  Sexy as Hell.