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February 9th, 2017

Most of the cast of Support Your Local Sheriff! returned two years for this spotty reunion. It’s not a sequel as everyone is playing different characters. It’s not a remake, but it does have some plot similarities to the first flick. It’s also not nearly as much fun as Sheriff!, but you can’t really fault the cast for wanting to pal around once more.

James Garner plays an incurable gambler who sneaks into a small mining town to get away from his fiancée (Marie Windsor). Trouble brews when he gets mistaken for a notorious gunfighter named Swifty Morgan. Since he’s only in town to get a tattoo removed, he tells everyone his good friend Jack Elam is the gunfighter. When the real Morgan comes to town, Garner finally steps up for the final showdown.

It takes time for the picture to gather much comedic steam, but the cast is able to wring some laughs out of the thin material. The writing isn’t nearly as sharp as Sheriff! and it lacks a quality villain for Garner to play off of. His charm carries the film a long way, although his character isn’t as engaging as the one in Sheriff! Despite that, he still gets a few witty comebacks and a handful of clever lines.

The returning cast members are once again fun to watch. The new cast does a fine job too. Suzanne Pleshette makes for a better romantic lead than Joan Hackett did. Dub Taylor gets some laughs as the town doctor, and Chuck Connors makes an impression in an extended cameo as the real Swifty Morgan.

Overall, this is an inessential, but occasionally amusing western. I’m sure you’ll probably enjoy it. Just don’t expect it to hit the comedic heights of its predecessor. If you’re a fan of Garner though, it’ll go down smooth enough.

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SUGAR COOKIES (1973) ** ½

Sugar Cookies is an early Troma movie produced and co-written by Lloyd Kaufman. It was made in collaboration with Theodore Gershuny, who also did the awful Silent Night, Bloody Night the year before. What’s striking about the film is that it’s a huge leap in quality from Silent Night, Bloody Night. The cinematography is gorgeous and the plot is involving. It’s far from perfect as it’s way too long and features too many subplots. Still, it’s a shame Gershuny worked so sporadically afterwards because he showed a lot of potential with this one.

Alta (Lynn Lowry from The Crazies) is a movie star who plays a kinky sex game with her director boyfriend Max (George Shannon). He pulls out a loaded gun, bangs her with it (no pun intended), and then makes her suck the barrel. While she’s doing so, he blows her brains out. (So I guess he did bang her after all.) His other lover, Camilla (Mary Woronov, Gershuny’s wife at the time) then holds a casting session to find a woman that looks just like her. She eventually comes across the timid Julie (also Lowry) and grooms her to be the next Alta.

Gershuny’s direction is very stylish. The opening scene is quite effective and I liked the sex scene where he intercuts a gory autopsy with the lovemaking. The script (by Gershuny and Kaufman) isn’t quite up to snuff. It’s filled with useless stalling tactics and subplots that ultimately go nowhere. The ending is also slight, abrupt, and predictable, making for an unsatisfying capper on an otherwise decent film.

Woronov and Lowry (who gets an “Introducing” credit even though she had already appeared in I Drink Your Blood) get naked a lot, which alone is a selling point. They have considerable chemistry together and the sexual tension between them feels genuine. Woronov has a great scene where she bathes while smoking and wearing a panama hat. She also does some hot topless calisthenics. Lowry is virtually naked in every scene, which helps keep you interested, although it’s not quite enough to distract you from the fact that the movie is hopelessly spinning its wheels.

Oliver Stone, a childhood friend of Kaufman’s, served as an associate producer.

AKA: Love Me My Way.

THE SEVEN MINUTES (1971) *

The year after Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was a smash hit for 20th Century Fox, he made The Seven Minutes. It was not a hit and wound up being his last movie for a major studio. It’s easy to see why it was not embraced by audiences as it’s an interminable bore.

The plot is about a disturbed privileged man who is accused of a rape he did not commit. Because he had a scandalous book, “The Seven Minutes” in his possession at the time of the arrest, his attorneys try to say that the book drove him to commit the crime. In order to make that stick, they put the book on trial to see whether or not it is obscene. A compassionate defense lawyer tries to prove the book’s artistic merit and has to contend with bribes, dirty tactics, and physical violence from the other side.

Are you still awake?

There are snippets of Meyer’s usual fetishes here. Nearly all the women in the picture are big and busty, although the sex and nudity really is quite minimum, which is strange for a movie that’s all about defending artistic use of pornographic subjects. Seeing some of Meyer’s stable of actors like Charles Napier, Stuart Lancaster, and Edy Williams helps to keep you from completely dozing off. (The character of Martin Bormann turns up too, albeit with very little to do.) It was cool seeing a young Tom Selleck as the publisher of the book, but his role is rather nominal.

Meyer’s use of rapid-fire editing is also ever-present, but it does little to spruce up the endless dull dialogue scenes. If you thought the scenes of the crusading lawyer building his case were slow going, wait till you get to the courtroom sequences. They’re guaranteed to put you to sleep.

Basically, the whole thing feels like an overlong episode of Matlock with a couple of titties tossed in. It’s hard to understand why Meyer would want to make this movie. I’m sure the subject of free speech spoke to him, but he really is the wrong director to tackle the subject. Luckily for us, he quickly returned to his drive-in roots with his next picture, Black Snake.

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BEWITCHED (1981) **

A man is arrested for murdering his daughter. At his trial, he claims a witch put a spell on him and he’s promptly sentenced to hang. Before the execution, he tells a detective how it all happened. He was visiting Thailand and picked up a girl thinking she was a prostitute. When he returned home to his family, strange things started happening. His daughter began sleepwalking and ate raw pork liver. Then he became impotent and weird shit started growing on his chest. He thought the only way to stop it was to kill his daughter. The cop is intrigued and sets out to check on the guy’s story. Pretty soon, he comes under a magic spell too.

The opening sequences are fast paced. Director Kuei (Corpse Mania) Chih-Hung does a great job at cutting all the fat from the police investigation and being like Joe Friday, giving us just the facts. (He also gives us a great slow motion scene where the topless witch frolics on the beach.) Once he introduces the supernatural elements into the film, things get awful sluggish. The scenes of the various voodoo ceremonies aren’t exactly scary and are really drawn out. The battles between the good and evil monks locked in mortal combat are pretty lame and the use of flashing lights and endless chanting gets repetitive after a while.

There’s still some good stuff here. We get people with green goo shooting out of their faces, a mummified man oozing glop all over, and ghoulish nurses with crusty faces going crazy. These moments are ever so brief and it makes you wish that Chi-Hung had played up these elements more. He returned two years later with a sequel, The Boxer’s Omen, which was a lot crazier and much more entertaining.

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BAYOU (1957) **

Peter Graves stars as Martin, a big city architect who comes down to the bayou to design a new civic center. He meets Marie (Lita Milan), a feisty Cajun woman who’d rather read books than go out partying and takes an instant liking to her. Ulysses (Timothy Carey) is the lecherous creep who has eyes for Marie and is always trying to force himself on her. When Martin bests him in a boat race, it sets off a heated rivalry between the two men. Tempers flare when Marie chooses Martin to be her man and tragedy strikes when her father is killed in a sudden storm. It all comes to a head with a brawl between Martin and Ulysses at her father’s funeral.

Bayou is a deep fried southern melodrama that benefits from a solid cast. Graves makes for a square, but likeable hero and Carey is a hoot as the greasy, sweaty brute. (His out-of-control dancing at a wedding is pretty funny.) We also get Roger Corman vets Jonathan Haze and Ed Nelson popping up in supporting roles.

Director Harold (Terror in the Haunted House) Daniels gets a lot of mileage out of the strong location work. The authentic looking extras in the background also help to provide colorful local flavor. However, the pacing is often sluggish. Scenes seem to come and go without much consequence and some sequences go on seemingly forever (like the wedding scene). The melodramatic plot only occasionally comes to life, and that’s mostly because of the performers (many of which sport laughably bad Cajun accents). The theme song (which sounds like it’s being sung by a Dean Martin impersonator) is pretty catchy though.

Producers later added spicy sex scenes and extra banjo music and repackaged the film as Poor White Trash, resulting in a box office smash that played at drive-ins for years to come.

AKA: Poor White Trash.

FullSizeR (5)

Chi Kuan-Chun is hired by the famous killer Golden Mask to perform an assassination. He does the deed, only realizing afterwards that he’s just killed his own brother. Kuan-Chun then goes after Golden Mask for revenge.

Thankfully, there’s not a whole lot of plot, just an excuse for Kuan-Chun to get into constant fisticuffs. The action comes fast and furious at the outset. Nearly every scene begins with our hero walking into a place and someone saying he shouldn’t have stepped foot there and a fight ensues. He fights random guys in the road, a monk at a temple, some asshole who keeps stalking him, and a bunch of people in a tea house.

Honestly, I lost track of the fight scenes as they happen just about every five minutes or so during the first half hour of the film. Unfortunately, Golden Killah is unable to keep up that pace once the action switches over to Eagle Palace. It’s here where Golden Mask infiltrates the palace and picks off people one by one. From this point on, the fights occur at a more sporadic pace as it becomes more of a whodunit than an actual Kung Fu picture. They are also sorely lacking the fun of the fights featured earlier in the flick.

At least things get capped off with a solid fight sequence where Kuan-Chun does battle with no less than five Golden Masks sporting dangerous weapons that look like spiked Frisbees. This scene also gives us a little bit of gore as eyes are ripped out and one of the Frisbees lands in one guy’s stomach. If only the second act wasn’t so sluggish, this might’ve been a minor classic.

Still, there are some priceless moments along the way (and again, they are mostly weighted towards the beginning of the film). I loved the part when a guy wearing a golden mask shows up and starts fighting the monk. He asks, “Who are you?”

Golden Mask replies, “Golden Mask!” and they begin fighting.

You know, as if the golden mask didn’t give away who he was or anything.

We also get some great dialogue too. My favorite line being, “That foxy lady? She’s a cruel bitch. Don’t ever go near her!”

AKA: Bad Ninjas Wear Gold. AKA: Golden Mask. AKA: Dragon vs. Dracula.

Next week on It Came from the Thrift Store: Chinese Hercules!

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