January 29th, 2014

GORGO (1961) ***

Two guys go diving for treasure off the coast of Ireland and discover a giant sea monster. They tell the local harbor master they will get rid of the monster for him, and capture it in a big net. The duo gets greedy and sells the monster to a carnival showman who names it “Gorgo” and puts it on display in the middle of London. During the show, Gorgo’s mother shows up and destroys most of the city.

Gorgo is a British riff on Godzilla, with a lot of thematic similarities to King Kong thrown in for good measure. The scenes of Gorgo’s mother wreaking havoc through the city are very well done (some of the model work is excellent), which is to be expected since director Eugene Lourie was an old hand at giant monster movies by this point. This was Lourie’s final film and it is a nice swan song for the guy who directed The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, The Colossus of New York, and The Giant Behemoth. Lourie’s reveal that Gorgo’s mother is the real threat is very well done and was blatantly stolen three decades later by Jaws 3-D.

The scenes featuring the human actors are a bit dull and predictable. Since this is usually the case with Giant Monster Movies, these scenes are fairly easy to shrug off. Because these scenes feature stuffy Brits instead of poorly dubbed Japanese actors, they’re not nearly as fun. But by the time the monster mashing rolls around, the actors aren’t given much to do besides duck and cover and/or look up in awe of the monster; which is a blessing.

AKA: King Gorgo.

FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC (2014) **

Ah yes, Flowers in the Attic. I have fond memories of seeing all the V.C. Andrews books in pharmacies, supermarkets, and book stores as a kid. Those covers were pretty freaky to a five year old. I’ve never read them, but I do remember skimming through them in the book stores to find “the good parts” (AKA: the incest). The 1987 movie glossed over a lot of the lurid elements and as a result, was pretty dull. This Lifetime Channel remake plays mostly like your usual Lifetime Channel movie; except with some brief brother/sister make-out scenes.

Heather Graham wants to get her inheritance from her dying old rich dad. She’ll only get the money if she doesn’t have children, but since she already has four kids, she locks them up in the attic and keeps them a secret. The kids’ evil grandmother (Ellen Burstyn) is in cahoots with the mother and whips them when they are bad. Eventually, the two older siblings get the hots for each other and after their younger brother dies (from eating poisoned food), they plan their escape.

This version of Flowers in the Attic is better than the original, although that isn’t saying much. It’s more polished than its counterpart, yet due to the parameters of television; it’s not quite allowed to let its freak flag fly. Not only that, but the ending is pretty much nonexistent. I guess they were leaving themselves room for a sequel, but by doing so, it sorta ruins the third act (which is actually where things were getting cooking).

Heather Graham is quite good as the crazy mother, but Ellen Burstyn is a bit miscast as the grandmother. Kiernan Shipka, who plays the oldest daughter kinda has a Melissa Joan Hart vibe to her. She wasn’t bad. If only the guy who played her brother wasn’t made of cardboard.

IT CAME FROM THE THRIFT STORE: SPACEJACKED (1997) **

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Before the main attraction, we get to see previews for other New Concorde films. There are trailers for Criminal Affairs (starring James Marshall), Aliens Among Us (a terrible looking sci-fi/western/comedy starring George Wendt), Black Thunder (starring Michael Dudikoff), and Lola’s Game (an erotic thriller co-starring Joe Estevez). We even get a trailer for Spacejacked as well.

In the future, a bunch of tourists hop aboard a spaceship for a vacation. (The ship is basically a cruise ship in space.) A disgruntled worker played by Corbin Bernsen sabotages the voyage and holds the surviving passengers hostage. It’s then up to the first mate (Steve Bonds) and a feisty passenger (Amanda Pays, from Leviathan) to stop him.

Basically what we have here is a sci-fi version of Speed 2. And Spacejacked delivers on what you’d expect from this sort of scenario. There are the requisite scenes of Bernsen threatening the hero from his little command center via video monitor, scenes of Bonds crawling through ventilation shafts, and people in spacesuits trying in vain to simulate zero gravity. None of it is particularly terrible, but it’s not exactly fun either.

While the film gets off to a brisk start, things bog down as the film enters its second act. On the plus side, there is a good amount of nudity and softcore sex to keep the movie afloat. Since this is a low budget ‘90s sci-fi flick, there are plenty of virtual reality sex scenes. One takes place on a traditional cruise ship, and another one centers around a cop. But by far the most hilarious one revolves around a caveman getting it on with a hot cavegirl. Sure, the movie has plenty of faults, but at least it has this brief bit of WTF going for it.

Most of the cast are on autopilot, but Corbin Bernsen hams it up admirably. He seemingly gets more over the top as the film goes on. Whether he’s chomping on a cigar or crawling around on all fours and baaing like a sheep, his I-don’t-give-a-fuck zaniness nearly saves the sinking ship of a movie.

Next week’s Thrift Store movie is another Corbin Bersen flick: Judgment!