“…What Man Doesn’t Want to Plant His Staff in New Soil…” THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS

THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS

Find it at Amazon 

(2.5/5) meh

Pros: Comical and surreal

Cons: Undeniably tame by today’s standards

The first feature from director and skin flick auteur Russ Meyer, 1959’s The Immoral Mr. Teas is regarded today as the first in the cycle of “nudie cutie” films, a picture that for the first time since the 1930s, presented nudity in a story that wasn’t focused strictly on so-called “naturalists” i.e. nudists. For years, “naturalist” and exploitation films had been skirting around the film production code’s outright ban on nudity by claiming to possess “educational value” and presenting “authentic scenes,” but Meyer’s film avoided all that, challenging the production code and opening the floodgates for similar, even more explicit films to come.

wouldn't ya know
Wouldn’t ya know, every female around virtually throws her cleavage into the face of our noble protagonist.

Playing out like a surreal, adolescent fantasy, Mr. Teas is quite obviously just a film that unabashedly presented a parade of (universally stacked) topless women for the sole purpose of providing a thrill to the (presumably male) audience. The film exists as a satirical “day in the life” portrait of the titular character, employed as a bicycle delivery man for a dental company. As part of his job, Teas has to interact with various secretaries and waitresses, all of whom he has rather salacious daydreams about. Following a dental procedure in which he has a tooth yanked after being put out with gas, Teas’ daydreams start to become more eye-popping in their intensity. Whereas before, he was content just to stare googly-eyed into exposed cleavage, now Teas’ hallucinations include fully nude women strolling around and conducting their day-to-day activities. Throughout these visions, Teas seems content to look on as the voyeur; he makes no attempt to “make a move” on the women. In the end, following an extended session of watching a trio of bathing beauties, Teas comes to the realization that he may need psychiatric help – but is it possible that “some men just enjoy being sick?”

poor mr. teas
“Modern man must, in the course of his own endeavors, always keep his eyes on the future, for who knows how the windy zephyrs of fate may twist and cross two lives…”

The Immoral Mr. Teas is a prime example of how sexual content and the promise of nudity can be used to market a film that otherwise would have been seen as pure garbage. Despite the fact that this film was photographed in gorgeous color, it may as well have been produced in the 1930s since it’s essentially a silent film with a narration and music score being heard over the images. This booming-voiced narration (which sounds eerily similar to the typical Criswell monologues found in several of the Ed Wood films) might seem only vaguely connected to what is seen in the film, but in the end, it becomes very humorous (and more than a little bit suggestive) in context, firmly establishing the satirical, playfully comedic feel of the film. Ultimately, the goofy tone of the narration is probably one of the reasons why this picture was even allowed to play theaters when released since it’d be really hard to label this film as being even remotely offensive.

gulp!
GULP!

It’s immediately clear when watching Mr. Teas that it was an early feature from Meyer, who would go on to enjoy an immensely successful career as a true American original and auteur. Some of the trademark elements of Meyer’s films are already in place in this first feature – namely, the abundance of full-figured, buxom women and omnipresent elements of voyeurism. There’s not much of a message to be found in this film; it’s solely designed to be entertaining, but I still have to commend Meyer for handling most every aspect of this production in a capable manner. The photography is crisp and sharp, and there’s a nice sense of progression to the piece: initially, this film is very much a “tease” in the way it presents the female form, but later on, we get lingering glimpses of bare (topless and rear) female flesh. This would have very much made the film one that was “worth sitting through” back in 1959: any amount of nudity was a “ticket seller” at the time.

waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Even if Mr. Teas is enjoyable enough for what it is, I can in no way, shape, or form call this a good movie. The silent film approach seems woefully inadequate for a feature made around 1960, and the repetitive music score by Edward J. Lasko (who also wrote and performed the narration) becomes positively maddening after a while. I get that one of the goals of the film is to provide a commentary on the tedium of modern life, but to make a monotonous film just to prove a point is nearly inexcusable. Acting in the picture is acceptable, but nothing to write home about. Bill Teas (a war buddy of director Meyer) stars apparently as himself, performing exaggerated, theatrical-like actions that let the audience know exactly what he’s thinking. The women here are more or less objects rather than characters, viewed as being little more than breasts and buttocks (Meyer was notorious for his breast fetish). This presentation might be offensive and/or disgusting to some viewers, but this film is no comparison for the genuinely disturbed and upsetting “roughies” made by the likes of Herschell Gordon Lewis and The Findlays (among many others) that would show up on the grindhouse circuit a few years after Teas was released.

guy just can't get no peace round these here parts...
“…guy just can’t get no peace round these here parts…”

Clocking in at just 63 minutes in length, The Immoral Mr. Teas made more than a million at the box office on a $24,000 investment, setting the aggressively independent Meyer on the course for future successes and much more sophisticated films. Today, the relatively harmless Mr. Teas is more valuable as a curiosity piece and time capsule than as a rewarding piece of cinema. It’s remarkable how tame this once scandalous film plays in the context of today’s oversexed society, and the film is perhaps most interesting for the way in which the “ideal woman” visualized here differs from what might be thought of and portrayed today. Most (male) viewers would probably get a kick out of this film, and it would almost be a must for fans of the cult-favorite director, but considering how difficult it is to locate any of Meyer’s films these days (Meyer personally retained the rights to all but two of his films and tightly controlled their distribution), it’s perfectly skippable.

peep

disc deets
Russ Meyer films are ridiculously hard to see nowadays, released only in limited quantities on obscure labels. There are however several foreign DVD releases of this title and others from the director.

blood & guts wonder!
0/10 : A dream-like trip to the dentist is as bad as this one gets.

smack talk
1/10 : Some mildly suggestive dialogue and a reference to “the dark continent.” No profanity.

fap factor
6/10 : Topless and rear female nudity. Compared with what is seen regularly today, this film is almost laughable.

whack attack
5/10 : A crude, early effort from one of the singular voices in American independent cinema that’s more worthwhile as a curio than an important work.

GI JOE
“Another dull day like the last? Or has the pressure of modern living begun its insidious task of breaking down the moral fiber of the indomitable Mr. Teas?”

Soundtrack Tune: (Video is G-rated)

“One Way or Another, We All Want to Escape…” HOUDINI: The Miniseries, Part One

HOUDINI : Part One on The History Channel

Find it at the History Channel website 

(2/5)meh

Pros: Nice photography; sharp-looking production

Cons: Very crudely made, with a frankly horrible script and sloppy direction

After what’s seemed like a media blitzkrieg in recent weeks, History Channel unveiled the first installment of its two-part biographical miniseries Houdini on Monday, September 1, 2014. Considering all the hype, the finished product seems both rushed and dubious in terms of its presentation of the world’s most famous magician and illusionist. Born Erich Weisz in Budapest, Austria-Hungary in 1874 and immigrating to the United States so that his father could become the rabbi of a congregation in Wisconsin, Weisz took up the name of “Harry Houdini” (a sort of homage to French magician Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin) and became a traveling magician on the carny circuit, debuting as a magician in 1891. By the end of the decade, Houdini (married to a fellow performer named Bess who had taken over as his assistant) had gained fame for his ability to escape from handcuffs and jail cells, often staging these demonstrations publicly.

houdini, the man
Houdini, the man…

The Houdini miniseries chronicles the major events of the magician’s life, starting with a haphazard retelling of his childhood. From here, the narrative skips around a bit and focuses largely on the development and execution of Houdini’s trademark escapes, including ones where he escaped from the inside of a steel milk container, from inside a safe, and even from a “Chinese Water Torture Chamber” while being suspended upside-down. This first episode also devotes time to detailing the relationship between Houdini and his wife Bess, but this is one of the areas where the program seems to go a little astray.

...and a progression of screen representations.
…and a progression of screen representations. Adrien Brody on far right.

In my mind, the writer here (Nicholas Meyer, perhaps best known as the writer and/or director of several of the Star Trek films) has taken some pretty extensive liberties in telling this story – and seems to have had an ulterior motive to reveal the secrets behind as many magic tricks as possible, thus violating the cardinal rule of magicians. Houdini seems heavily dramatized to the point where one could make a strong case for this being a presentation of revisionist history. Officially based on Bernard C. Meyer’s 1976 book Houdini: A Mind in Chains: A Psychoanalytic Portrait, Nicholas Meyer’s script very much plays out in that sort of manner, more focused on what’s going on in Houdini’s head than on accurately portraying the events of his life. This tactic becomes especially noticeable during a few scenes (which will undoubtedly interest students of Freud) in which Houdini’s father intrudes on the narrative as a threatening figure. Personally, I found these attempts to delve into Houdini’s mindset to be thoroughly distracting: a sequence in which Houdini attempts to “catch” a bullet fired from a musket in his teeth becomes hilariously overblown when the German soldier shooting the firearm suddenly transforms into a hallucination of Houdini’s father. Subtlety is not one of this film’s strong points.

on stage
Wife Bess (Kristen Connolly) and Houdini (Adrien Brody) on stage.

Houdini plays out as if Meyer and director Uli Edel (whose filmmaking career has been all over the place since the genuinely excellent German-made 1983 coming of age film Christiane F.) are making this into one big, painfully predictable soap opera. I’m not by any stretch an expert on Houdini’s personal life, but for him to have stereotypically strained relationships with both his wife and his father seems like it may be a stretch – a gimmick invented just for the purpose of making this miniseries more melodramatic. Similarly questionable is the script’s decision to devote a substantial amount of time to the idea that Houdini may have been a spy working for the U.S. government during his tours of Europe in the early twentieth century. This idea has become more popular in recent years following works like William Kalush and Larry Sloman’s The Secret Life of Houdini published in 2007. In my estimation, such claims are rather far fetched: focusing a significant (or really, any) amount of time on them in this History Channel biopic suggests that there’s not a whole lot in Houdini that a viewer can really take at face value.

major excapes
Houdini chronicles all the major events of the magician’s life, but there’s no vitality to the piece.

Another major issue I had was the fact that there is extensive use of voiceover in this film – the Houdini character is constantly explaining himself in monologue to the camera. This makes the whole program seem sloppy in terms of its construction – especially when one factors in the relatively high number of montages that exist. Meyer and in turn, director Edel appear to be telling the story in about as lazy and convenient a manner as possible, with little creativity or inspiration. As is the case with many modern films, Edel relies on a string of CGI visuals to distract a viewer into believing he’s watching something that’s better than it actually is. Though the computer graphics allow the viewer to see the inner workings of various locks as Houdini manipulates their gears and pins and also allow for breathtaking views of the skylines of New York City, London, and Berlin circa 1900, during a few moments in this first episode, Houdini borders on being downright laughable due to its soap opera theatrics. The bathroom confrontation between Houdini and his wife (in which he screams about her kissing another man while she urges him to “stop being dramatic” – advice that screenwriter Meyer should have followed himself) and a scene in which Houdini showers his mother with gold coins are ludicrous and very nearly unintentionally hilarious in the manner they’re set-up onscreen. It’s not difficult to see why Edel hasn’t gotten much work in the United States since he fumbled his way through 1993’s Body of Evidence – a film whose sole reason for existence was to feature Madonna naked as much as humanly possible.

prepping
Houdini, Jim Collins (played by Evan Jones) and Bess prepare the straight-jacket escape.

One might have hoped that Academy Award winner Adrien Brody would have known better than to star in this thing, but here he is, playing Houdini as a sort of pompous, self-affected and disturbed genius with a bit of an Oedipus complex. The very pretty Kristen Connolly playing Bess comes across as the typical, long suffering wife, a portrayal that doesn’t seem particularly accurate. There’s a constant hostility between these two characters that makes neither of them the least bit likable, in turn making the whole of the first part of Houdini a definitive downer to watch. A variety of mostly unknown actors fill out the remainder of the roles here, with Evan Jones perhaps having the most to do as Jim Collins, who worked behind the scenes to design Houdini’s illusions. Generally speaking, the actors in this film were fine, it was the script that they were given – and the presentation of that script – that wound up being problematic.

the real houdini
The real Houdini preparing for a near-fatal dive off the Queen Street Bridge in Melbourne, Australia. This scene both begins and ends part one of the mini-series.

Though the attention to period detail was generally well-done and the production had some nicely-constructed individual sequences (one of the aspects I liked the most were slickly edited moments in which Houdini’s “life flashes before his eyes”), the first half of Houdini, taken as a whole, was disappointing and clearly focused on style over substance. I’ve often pointed out that it’s most unfortunate that pieces like this have to be rather dubious in terms of their historical accuracy: the information presented in this miniseries would represent the only information many viewers are likely to get about Houdini, hence, this crowd would now view the greatest magician the world has ever known as a womanizer with father issues and a horrible home life. I suppose I really shouldn’t be all that shocked that Houdini would turn out to be a somewhat (or is it mostly?) sensationalized biopic that, with its occasionally frenzied editing scheme, use of “pulse-pounding music,” and fractured, clumsy narrative, seems tailor-made for the ADHD generation (a crowd that would probably enjoy it).  Clearly, this miniseries (like most of the “educational” programs on television nowadays) is designed to hook viewers with flash and pizazz while not necessarily being all that historically accurate or educationally sound. Still, even as the edutainment piece is quite obviously is, Houdini seems sketchy at best; sure, it’s a handsome production, but I might be inclined to skip it entirely.

Has not renewed my faith in today’s Suicide Squad at all.

Batman: Assault on Arkham [Blu-ray]

Price $15.99 

(2.5/5)

Pros: Loads of action and good visuals

Cons: Bland and weakly executed plot, weak comedy trying hard to be funny

Batman interferes with a capture mission involving the Riddler headed by Amanda Waller. He defeats her unit and then returns the Riddler back to Arkham Asylum. Determined to capture him, Amanda Waller recruits several captured villains forming herself the Suicide Squad to break into Arkham and find the Riddler. At the same time Batman is on his personal mission to find and disarm a bomb hidden somewhere by the Joker. -summary

Released in August 2014 as a direct to video feature, Batman: Assault on Arkham is a 76 minute movie taking place in the Batman: Arkham Asylum video game universe as it’s said to follow Arkham Origins, which was the last game released in 2013. At the same time, the storytelling in a way follows DC’s New 52 series Suicide Squad in total style and yes, even in its mediocre writing. I have not really enjoyed the Suicide Squad comic at all, therefore I did not come into this movie really expecting much. In fact, my major gripes with the comic are in full effect with this movie.

First of all I would like to address the misleading title. Although it’s labeled as a Batman movie he’s clearly a secondary character as the Suicide Squad take center stage, most notably the most recognizable character of the group being Deadshot and Joker sidekick Harley. Batman plays a part in some of the main plot but avoid this movie if he’s your only draw. I really didn’t care for this decision either; this is a mistake DC has made for years by not having any faith in their C-List characters to sell products. The Suicide Squad does have a solid following therefore DC should have went on ahead fully naming this movie after them. Personally, Batman not being featured prominently isn’t an issue for me.

Assault on Arkham is an action movie completely at its core with a pretty good plot that is weakly executed. The Suicide Squad which is made up of Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Black Spider, King Shark, Harley, and Killer Frost are blackmailed by Waller to invade Arkham. In order to get their cooperation, she had small bombs implanted into the back of their necks to instantly kill them if they attempt disobedience.  Their mission requires a sharp blanket of stealth which immediately goes out the window due to the Squad’s different personalities. The action segments are pretty fun and that’s mainly about it going on here. These types of movies are suppose to be packed with suspense and plot twist that enhances the viewing experience. Unfortunately everything couldn’t be anymore spelled out and predictable. This is probably about as barebones an action movie of this type can be. Even the interactions lack imagination and urgency. Killerfrost and Deadshot are two of my favorite below radar villains, yet I found myself not even caring about them; and Harley as of late has been a disease to me. I can’t stand the character at all and her so-called comedic moments never even so much as drew a chuckle from me.

Character development is very low here so don’t expect too much outside of these characters initial behavior and how they fight. The writing is pretty weak with some things happening at random and I can understand non fans of the comic not catching some of this stuff. However, as a fan of the comic, DC once again portrayed Amanda Waller as someone lacking in intelligence. Later on in the movie, it’s revealed that Waller wants the Riddler dead instead, and she tasks Killerfrost with this part of the mission. Amanda Waller is no fool, but she clearly comes off as one. She knows that the Riddler may easily be Batman’s most intelligent enemy, but she sends in Killerfrost who isn’t very bright. Why send in your least intelligent operative to silence the Riddler, whose mouth and intellect is his greatest weapon?  She could have chosen Black Spider or even Deadshot given the fact most villains don’t like the Riddler. I have more issues I can bring up with this including the ending but I’ll leave it alone.

The animation is decent enough as there’s plenty of fisticuffs and even brutal onscreen killings. Batman’s battles are still very engaging though and there is plenty to rope in the action fiend. At least in this area I won’t dare say that I was ever bored. People new to these characters will get some idea on how they battle with Killer Frost being a high point here. It was great to hear Kevin Conroy voicing Batman again, but the overall voice acting was mainly hampered by poor dialog and stale interactions. The only high point here is the meeting between Batman and Amanda Waller voiced by CC Pounder; they didn’t exactly bring back the magic some of us witnessed during their clash in Justice League Unlimited, but they managed to put a small on my face. In regards to the soundtrack; I’m aware that Dubstep has its following but this form of music is quickly becoming poison to my ears. I hated the BGM and tried my best to block it out.

Batman: Assault on Arkham is difficult to recommend to adults. The silly and childish sexual references along with the forced unfunny comedy is something that will mainly appeal to teenage boys. This is one of those occasions where mature only means not for children. I suggest giving this a watch if you love the things I found to be a problem, or if you’re like me, and simply need to give all comic to animation adaptations a chance. There are plenty of bonus features such as 4 episodes pulled from Justice League Unlimited, Young Justice, Batman: Brave and the Bold, and The Batman. Plus a sneak peek on the next DC animated feature due out in 2015, Throne of Atlantis.

 

 

 

Finally Spider-Man actually done right.

The Spectacular Spider-Man: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]

$22.49 at Amazon

(5/5)

Pros: Very fluid animation and solid writing, good viewing for everyone

Cons: Some purist may not like the various changes

 

When high school teen Peter Parker attends a science exhibit, his life is soon forever changed. During a demonstration on radioactive rays, a spider accidentally absorbs some of the radiation. Parker is bitten by the spider and later learns he has obtained the spiders abilities. Now calling himself Spider-Man, Peter chooses to use his powers for the good of mankind by bringing criminals to justice. -summary

I have to admit that I was one of those individuals whom put this show off for years simply because I didn’t care for the wacky like character designs, also at the same time I never really cared for Spider-Man in animated form,  and I have that atrocious 90′s animated Spider-Man series to thank for that. I mean seriously, that take on Spider-Man and his universe put a nasty taste in my mouth. Recently I decided to go ahead and dive into this series hoping for good things, and it was indeed money and time well spent. The Spectacular Spider-Man is 26 episodes of solid storytelling and above average animation; as a fan of the character I can say this is Spider-Man finally done right.

It’s ironic that the visuals were originally the aspect of this series that put me off, but now they’re my first point of praise. I love the fluid animation going on here; everything looks amazing from Spider-Man’s graceful web-slinging to his superior agility during evasive action. There is very little to no reliance on re-used cels, with all movements being very well choreographed. The action segments are too much fun to watch, consisting of some over the top aerial chases and hand to hand. Spider-Man’s world is a place where the imagination can run wild, and the animators along with screen writers managed to do just that. The character designs grew on me quicker than I realized with some nice updates to many of the villains. The female characters are rather tame; they’re cute without being overly sexy except maybe Black Cat, there’s quite a bit of sex appeal with her. The BGM and voice acting further brings out the show’s style, with some very talented voice work delivered by Josh Keaton, whom clearly has Spider-Man down to a science; with the always cool Clancy Brown and Steve Blum sporting their goods as well.

Although I love the stylistic edge of this show, I have to praise the writing as the strongest point. I remember all of these storylines in their original form, and I love the modern twist to these old classics. Please ignore those purist out there that claim classics were ruined here for a newer audience because this is not the case. Peter Parker’s life is almost as interesting as Spider-Man’s; with him forced to deal with being an outcast along with his friends, plus hoping to see where his relationships are going to go with the Parker luck in full effect. Spider-Man also has one of, perhaps the most notorious rogues galleries in comics and each of his villains such as Dr. Octopus, Electro, and even Kraven are still just as great as in the comic with some nice makeovers. However, it’s Tombstone that received the best makeover being extremely OP despite being pretty tough in the comic anyway. I also must point out how newbie friendly this show is. The writing doesn’t demand that a new audience must be familiar in order to enjoy the characters; we’re given solid origins and reasons for the characters thinking. The series is so much fun to watch and I couldn’t wait for the next episode; I can’t think of one moment where I got the crave to see something else. If there’s only one issue I have with the writing, then it’s how Venom was handled at one point. It’s clear that he really hates Spider-Man but he wants Spider-Man only for himself, and he considers it unfair to drag anyone else into their feud, in which he does here. I felt that the episode was unbelievable in how it was wrapped up. Still, this is a small gripe only as a comic fan.

Clocking in at nearly 10 hours across 4 disk, The Spectacular Spider-Man is a great show to spend the weekend. The comedy doesn’t feel forced at all nor does it even slightly ruin the atmosphere. There’s just a perfect blend of entertainment that adults of all ages can enjoy. The language is profanity free and although there is plenty of action and even violence, it’s all very tame and doesn’t even begin to approach many of the more harsh DC animated films out there. Along with adults this series is great for the kids as well.  I can imagine some old school fans not appreciating some changes from the original source material; other than this there’s nothing to really complain about. The Blu-Ray looks and sounds very good, plus there’s a couple of extras. Highly recommended.

Fate Hiccups and Waits for the Door Selection

If I Stay by Gayle Forman – The Novel

If-I-Stay

See it at Amazon 

(5/5)

Pros: Well written, Mia’s self assessments, The Family relationships, Trust, Story

Cons: Intense, Openness about Young Adult sexual relationships, Debated topic won’t align with some beliefs

Fate can be unforgiving but occasionally it hiccups and creates a crack in the realm of opportunities. If two doors wait to be open, one to stay or one to go,  which would you choose?

Such was the case on snowy day when there was no school and no work and a family was out to enjoy the snow day. If I Stay is a passionate teen story about a high school senior who finds herself in that blink-of-an-eye crack offered by fate. It’s a life-affirming story about how life took a dramatic turn one winter day when it found Mia out with her parents and younger brother on their way to school to pick up her cello. A tragically unavoidable collision with another car kills her parents and separates her from her brother.

 

Gayle Forman’s book grips with a fast pace that is told over a period of 24 hours, the time that Mia’s body lay in ICU. While there her spirit explores the hospital’s waiting room and hallways, and in this state she vividly learns about her passions, friendships, parents, life and the young man she loves. In this space between death and life she reflects upon her life and ponders staying or going. She takes comfort in hearing her grandfather give her permission to go if she chooses.

 

While in limbo between life and death she engages in self-reflection alternating between memories from her life and observations within the hospital halls. We learn about Mia, her unusually wonderful parents, and her love for her little brother. From the moment Mia looked into her newly born baby brother’s eyes she was bonded. Her best friend Kim completely understands her — their relationship formed following a fist fight. She is a world-class-cellist in the making and has attended music summer camp for years and will probably be accepted into Julliard. She fell in love with Adam who is perfect for her and was enthusiastically accepted by her parents. Her life was enviably good.

How does this fill a book? How will this sufficiently provide for a movie?

While young her life has been filled with unusual richness. Mia’s 24 hour out-of-body experience becomes a time for reflection. She wonders where her parents are and why they’re not inviting her to join them in the spirit realm. She eavesdrops in the waiting room as the numbers of friends and family increases and discovers how serious her injuries are.  She has yet to learn that her parents and brother died in the collision.

Following a second surgery in the 24-hour period Mia reaches a point where she accepts that she will die. A variety of friends and family visit during this anguishing 24-hour period, but none are more powerful or dramatic than Kim and Adam.

My eyes are closed so I hear him before I see him. I hear the raspy, quick rushes of his lungs. He is panting like he just ran a marathon. Then I smell the sweat on him, a clean musky scent that I’d bottle and wear as perfume if I could. I open my eyes. Adam has closed his. But the lids are puffy and pink, so I know what he’s been doing. Is that why he went away? To cry without my seeing?”

What happens when we almost die is a hotly debated topic.  Author Gayle Forman handles this old topic in a refreshing way with a book that compels us to burn through the pages – it’s less than 200 pages but most young adult readers won’t put it down until they’re done. If I Stay is about relationships, passions, life and love. Some readers (or their parents) might object to the openness of Mia’s and Adam’s intimacy and that her parents fully accepted it. Some readers might disagree with the author’s concept of the out-of-body experience where Mia makes her choices to stay or go. But most readers will agree that Gayle Forman skillfully combines a variety of layers in this sometimes poignant, sometimes humorous story of life, death and choices.

If I Stay, in my opinion, will be found powerful for many pre-teen readers (possibly overwhelmingly powerful?), but mature young adults will enjoy the plot, characters and the love stories in this undeniably moving story from Gayle Forman.  You’d have to be pretty cold-hearted to not cry through the end of this story and were I still a teen I’d probably call this one of my favorite books.

A visceral journey into the post-apocalyptic wasteland down under. 94%

The Road Warrior (1981)

 

road_warrior

(5/5)

Pros:  Great story and character development, killer action scenes, awesome visual designs.

Cons: Minor quibbles with one special effect and Max’s ability to drive a semi-truck.

Mad Max 2 (released as The Road Warrior here in the US) has been a favorite of mine since first seeing it back in the mid-90’s, and this isn’t nostalgia clouding my judgment.  Through my tough standards of evaluating entertainment, The Road Warrior holds up in all the aspects that matter.

STORY

Set several years after the end of Mad Max, Max (Mel Gibson) has become a drifter into the post-apocalyptic wastelands of Australia as a burned out loner.  By this point, society has totally broken down and people have generally fallen into a “dog eat dog” mentality, particularly in fighting for gasoline.  After a series of small confrontations, Max sees himself caught in the struggle between a group of gasoline-producing people trying to restart normal lives and a gang of savages led by Lord Humongous (Kjell Nilsson).  Max is looking out only for himself, but in this struggle lays an opportunity to regain his humanity.

CHARACTERS

This is an area where The Road Warrior shines, despite the fact that many remember this movie for its vehicular action scenes and distinctive post-apocalyptic vision.  Max shines the most here, as his character is rife with ambiguity.  Max is the protagonist, yet doesn’t have the robust moral backbone associated with most action movie protagonists.  For the most part, he only cares about personal gain, especially with getting gasoline for his pursuit special.  Max’s “morally ambiguous” character is fleshed out perfectly because he’s not the “boy scout” hero yet at the same time isn’t the overly grim antihero who does all the wrong things for the right reasons.  One scene that I think was great for Max’s character was toward the beginning, when he finds part of a music box in the hand of a corpse inside the semi-truck he would later drive.  He plays the music box (which plays the “Happy Birthday” song) and you can see that it reminds him of a better life he once had, but he remains detached from his more “human” side.  Without spoiling much, there’s some dynamics going on with Max that while making him more interesting than if he remained static, the changes perfectly complement his character and don’t feel at all forced.

Other characters like the Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence), the Feral Kid (Emil Minty), and Lord Humongous have their own attributes that make them great characters in their own right.  The Gyro Captain has some interesting dynamics within him because he’s at first a more selfish opportunist, but after being humbled a bit after encountering Max, becomes more likeable and even thinks of working for the greater good.  The Feral Kid is perfect in Minty’s portrayal because just as the name implies, he acts just like an animal.  Despite his animal-like personality, the Feral Kid has a sturdy moral code as he acts in ways to benefit others, such as helping Max escape one of Humongous’s men who gets nosy when he hears Max slip down a small hill in the night.

Lord Humongous and Wez (Vernon Well) are perfect villains for the movie.  Wez doesn’t have much depth, but I’m glad he doesn’t because his more direct “savage” personality and grizzly actions make him perfect for the role.  Wez, on the other hand, has some more depth all the while not taking away from his nefarious attitude and actions.  He can dish out articulate speeches to his opponents and in a scene where Wez loses it, he restrains him and tells him about how he understands his pain and that they all lost someone they loved.  These attributes make Humongous more complex and particularly with his little talk to Wez, indicates that he has some feelings that make him more than a self-serving villain.

All in all, the characters are great fits for their roles and I really wouldn’t change much in this area.

APPEARANCE

The crew that made this movie really did a marvelous job with everything associated with the appearance of The Road Warrior.  Like a true post-apocalyptic setting in the middle of nowhere, everything looks beaten up (particularly the vehicles) and particularly with the weapons the characters use, they’re relegated almost entirely to using primitive weaponry like knives and crossbows.  To add a sense of realism to the setting, gun ammo is extremely scarce; as only Max and Lord Humongous possess firearms in this movie (Max has a sawed-off shotgun while Humongous has a big revolver).  It’s interesting that the compound settlers do have some technology that’s closer to what was had in the “old world,” such as electric-powered lighting and welding equipment, all done thanks to the small oil refinery they built.

The costumes are really well-done, and particularly with Humongous’s wasteland “war dogs,” many of them are dressed in a combination of bondage gear and primitive body decorations to give them a more barbarian appearance to better suit their cruel actions.

The special effects are for the most part, done very well.  Many of the car chases, explosions, and even some gore are very convincing in execution.  The whole ending chase scene is the best example of the vehicular special effects, while the scene towards the beginning where Wez pulls out an arrow that got shot into his arm looks quite real and is pretty painful to watch.  The only scene where I thought one of the effects wasn’t pulled off well is that when a few of Humongous’s minions breaks into the compound, the Warrior Woman (Virginia Hey) cuts the minion’s throat, yet it didn’t really look like she really cut him.  Oh well, that’s really the only blemish I could think of in the otherwise solid special effects and other visual elements.

ACTION SCENES

Many know and love The Road Warrior for its action scenes, and I totally see why.  This is one of the most thrilling vehicular action movies ever made.  Many remember the “tanker chase” scene as the highlight of the movie (and it is, and I won’t spoil it because it’s just that awesome), though there are plenty of other action scenes that really bolster this film.  In particular, the scene of Max driving the Mack semi truck and getting it to the compound settlers was very thrilling.  It was simultaneously cool and funny to see two of Humongous’s men try to stop the truck by blowing out its tires with a customized truck armed with an air-powered arrow turret, but the Gyro Captain drops a snake on the arrow gunner, causing him to panic severely and accidentally shoot the driver, resulting in a fatal crash.

While I’m talking about the scene of Max taking the truck to the settlers, I do have a minor quibble with one aspect of it.  Max is a former policeman, and it seems pretty odd that he’s able to fluidly drive a semi-truck in this movie.  As someone who’s currently trying to get extra work driving a large commercial vehicle, I can tell you that the clutch on such a truck is harder to use than that of a regular car with a standard transmission.  George Miller and Byron Kennedy could have resolved this issue by simply inserting a scene with Max driving the truck telling himself “Those truck driving courses were handy after all.”

SOUNDTRACK

Brian May’s score for the movie is a perfect fit for the movie.  His orchestral compositions perfectly fit the moods of the scenes throughout the movie, and in particular with the ending chase scene, it’s interesting to hear the music sort of weave in and out of the scenes.  In some parts of this chase you hear the music kick in and it’ll then stop to allow the viewer to focus on the chase and then start back up.

MATURE CONTENT

This is not a movie for the kids because there’s plenty of violent and even some grizzly sexual content in it.  Among the bloody parts of the movie is a scene of Wez’s male lover getting a boomerang embedded into his forehead and Max getting pretty torn up after getting ambushed by Wez before the big chase for the fuel-hauling tanker truck.  There’s also a scene where some of Humongous’s men rape and kill a female settler from a distance while mortally wounding her male companion, and even a scene where Wez shoots a hapless rabbit with his wrist-mounted bow.  The Road Warrior has plenty of visceral content, but as a whole, it’s on the same level as many other action movies from the 80’s.

FINAL WORD

I would go as far to say that this is the crowning jewel of filmmakers George Miller and Byron Kennedy, along with actor Mel Gibson.  If you love visceral post-apocalyptic action with robust story and character development, get it now if you don’t, and if you do have it in your collection, watch it again.

The Long, Lost Aphex Twin Record Impresses Two Decades Late: The CAUSTIC WINDOW LP

CAUSTIC WINDOW Self-titled Album

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About the album 

(4/5)

Pros: Unreleased music from Richard D. James a.k.a. Aphex Twin; a welcome contrast to typical electronica circa 2014

Cons: Probably would have been a curiosity piece at best in the bigger framework of James’ music career had it been released when produced in 1994

Regarded by many as one of the most important electronic musicians of the modern era, Richard D. James (usually identified under the moniker of Aphex Twin) has produced a seemingly endless body of work since first bursting onto the scene in the early 1990s and appeared to predict and/or inspire most every major electronic genre that’s turned up in the subsequent decades. In 1992, James released Selected Ambient Works 1985-92, an album described as one of the best of the decade, followed up two years later with the similarly outstanding Selected Ambient Works, Volume II that is one of my favorite records of all time – period. During the second half of the ‘90s, James flirted with mainstream success on the strength of several full-length albums and stand-alone singles that touched on all sorts of sonic territory. Some of these tracks (the almost demonic “Come to Daddy” comes to mind immediately) were downright disturbing, but at his best and perhaps most often, James infused gentle and supremely pleasant ambient backgrounds with more danceable rhythms and noticeable melodies.

Richard d. james
Richard D. James the (mad)man behind Aphex Twin.

Right as James seemed to be on the cusp of genuine mainstream accessibility after the truly exhilarating 1999 “Windowlicker” single however, he retreated into obscurity for more than a decade. 2001’s Druqks was far too abstract for many listeners to deal with, and perhaps suggested that James simply had gotten tired of trying to appease mass audiences. Following that album, new releases from James were all but non-existent throughout the remainder of the 2000s, leaving many fans including myself wondering if we’d ever get to hear another Aphex Twin album. Right when all seemed lost, 2014 shows up as the year in which Richard D. James reappeared on an electronic music scene that in my opinion is desperately in need of his unique contributions.

aphex twin music

In spring of April 2014, a copy of a semi-legendary, unreleased 1994 album from James (recording under the name “Caustic Window”) turned up on discogs.com, prompting a response from legions of Aphex Twin fans who initiated a kickstarter campaign to purchase the LP, apparently one of about five copies that were pressed as a test run. Upon the funding goal being reached in May, the Caustic Window LP was provided as a digital download to persons who had given money to the cause. In the bigger scheme of things, the self-titled Caustic Window album is a lesser work from James, a piece that clearly was made at the time when James’ music was very much in a transitional period. Still, it plays like a revelation considering that there’s been no new material from Richard D. James since the mid 2000’s – an album that only reaffirms the man’s influence over what has happened in electronic music in the last twenty years.

James through the years...
The many faces of Richard D. James

Many of the tracks on Caustic Window (which are instrumentally-based save the occasional, heavily manipulated vocal sample) suggest that at the time this was made in 1994, James was experimenting with ways of combining his earlier ambient recordings with more accessible, dance-floor ready melodies and beats. Opening track “Flutey” starts out like relatively low-key drum and bass, with a skittering helicopter-like sound acting as metronome. Shortly, we get warm keyboard tones providing a chord structure for the rest of the elements here to work off of: typical of James’ music, there’s a sense of perfectionism to the music, as if everything has been precisely planned out and executed. A fluttery woodwind-like melody provides a playful main theme in the song, while the slightly jumbled keyboard chords sound out underneath; the whole thing is deceptively complex. While some artists are borderline reckless as they cram more and more elements into their music, the construction of James’ music seems effortless despite the fact that there’s usually a lot going on at any given time. It’s almost as if these sounds are floating in straight out of a dream – which perhaps isn’t entirely wrong considering James’ claims that most of his songs come to him in his subconscious state.

hurry back richard d. james

“Stomper 101mod Detunekik” (presumably named after the equipment used to produce it) has a much more pronounced, rollicking rhythm to it and more discernible sense of momentum as well, pushed along by a sputtering, slightly out of tune melody and droning, ghostly background tones. The loud and more stereotypically techno track “Mumbly” features punchy, alarm-like keyboard tones, odd vocals samples, and a shuffling rhythm while the brief “Popeye” seems to be a snippet of a larger and decidedly gnarlier composition. Laid back but vaguely disquieting, “Fingertrips” combines ambient background chords with darker clangs of discordant noise elements, and “Revpok” is vintage, abrasive James acid house. All these pieces seem to be sonic experiments that would lead to the typically quirky brand of electro featured on Aphex Twin’s mid ‘90s albums I Care Because You Do (released in 1995) and The Richard D. James Album (from 1996), and as such, they’d be really interesting for fans who have often stood in awe of James’ compositional abilities. One can easily get an idea where tracks later James tracks like “Mookid,” “Alberto Balsam,” or even “Ventolin” (a track meant to simulate the feeling of an asthma attack) came from.

OK
So maybe not all of James’ music is warm and cuddly…

The second half of Caustic Window continues with the sort of “anything goes” electro heard on its first half: we have the short but aggressive “AFX Tribal Kik,” a track in “Airflow” that plays like a techno remix of an early ambient recording, and the chilled-out “Squidge in the Fridge” that’s driven by a looping, squelchy tone, warm backing tones, and a relaxed beat. “Fingry” may be the perfect example of James’ usual compositional style since it transitions from a opening which establishes harsh rhythm elements into a sweeping ambient section and finally unleashes a strange and inhospitable tangle of warbling bass and drum accents that seem designed to throw a listener off. Many of James’ compositions seem to work in this manner, demonstrating different, more creative ways in which electronic elements can be utilized. Burpy low tones and skittering rhythms give life to the elevator music melody in “Jazzphase,” and the lengthy “101 Rainbows Ambient Mix” showcases a crisp, almost mechanized rhythm and airy melodies galore: a very calming piece that may be my favorite here. The album starts to wind down with two more harsh, noise-driven pieces in the crackly “Phlaps” and evil-sounding, nearly diarrhetic drum and bass of “Cunt,” before ending with a two-minute track of prank phone calls. These ending tracks seem a somewhat strange conclusion to this record since they stand in opposition to the more easy-to-listen-to pieces occurring earlier on the album, but no one ever said Richard James played by the rules.

electro
Considering how much the world of electro (and music in general) has changed in the last decade, I’m interested to hear James’ new album, due in September

Honestly, the best thing about the Caustic Window LP is that its creator hadn’t released any new music for years prior to this album finding its way into the world. In 1994, this follow-up to the Selected Ambient Works albums would have been a curiosity piece at best – it really doesn’t compare to the mind-expanding pieces that featured on James’ two ambient albums. Twenty years later, Caustic Window is positively unique and a reminder of just what the world of electronic music has been missing for the past decade-plus. In an era where the world of electro seems to latch onto a new sound every other week, this album is like stumbling into an old friend you forgot you had, offering a refreshing and invigorating alternative to what’s typically heard in today’s day and age. Caustic Window is definitely not the best nor my favorite recording from Richard D. James, but that doesn’t mean by any stretch that it’s not worthwhile. It ain’t dubstep and it’s not entirely what fans of modern electro might want, but this album (which is about a must for fans of Aphex Twin) might just show modern electronic artists a different (and possibly better) way of doing things.

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Who Needs to be Rescued the Most?

An Unexpected Grace by Kristin von Kreisler

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See it at Amazon 

(0/5)

Pros: Grace

Cons: Not well thought out, primary character unlikable, large dog lovers will cringe at some situations

Spoiler Alert: This review has spoilers but I’m not recommending  it as something to be read.

Kristin von Kreisler’s An Unexpected Grace comes with a fully predictable ending wrapped up in a frustrating storyline that had this dog lover agonizing over the continued stupidity. I’ll quickly say that the dog deserved better, that the primary character Lila was completely unlikeable and those around her were unbelievably insensitive when thinking she would be good for the dog.  Lila is clearly a head case.

 

Being a head case is understandable. She was shot at work.

The book is about Lila Elliot, a “starving artist” who works an ordinary office job, who is living in a run-down apartment and licking her heartbreak wounds after a breakup with her long-term boyfriend.  The story opens at work when a recently fired janitor enters and shoots and kills several colleagues and injures others including Lila. Following her surgery Lila’s best friend Cristina cares for her at her home and offers refuge for recuperation. Coincidentally Cristina is also fostering a severely abused Golden Retriever named Grace.

Grace was stolen by a hunky, well-intended young man who had observed the dog’s abuse. Grace had been tied up out in the neighbor’s backyard, during all types of weather, with very little food. Her collar had not been changed over the years and had cut deeply into the dog’s neck. Adam rescued the dog by taking her and hiding her at Cristrina’s house.

 

Soon after Lila started living at her friend’s house Cristina leaves with her husband and children for a six-month long business trip. Naturally she asks Lila to remain, rent free, and oh, by-the-way, take care of Grace. Lila is terrified of dogs because of a dog bite as a child; there is no way she will ever even touch a dog let alone like one yet it seems that Lila and Adam have been scheming to get Lila to adopt the dog so that they would be each other’s therapist. This, in my opinion, seems insensitive and foolish and I wondered why they didn’t consider an official rescue group who would try hard to locate a suitable foster home. (That however wouldn’t have worked in this story.)

 

Lila is emotionally disturbed. She hears internal voices from different personalities. Her Crazy Aunt voice seems to be manipulating her thoughts most days although it might have been her Pleaser voice that got her into so much trouble. She’s obsessed with finding out more about the man who shot her. He, as so often happens, died during the shooting so there won’t be any closure in court. She suffers from undiagnosed PTSD.  I can understand her trauma and her unrealistic thoughts and her need for time to recover. I can understand her having a therapy dog. Being shot while in the safety of your workplace has to be horribly unsettling. Yet, I never enjoyed this character.

 

An Unexpected Grace is about the recovery of both Grace and Lila. Both were emotionally and physically damaged and both needed help. Unfortunately much of this storyline simply doesn’t make sense.

 

  • Why place a sweet but desperately lonely Golden Retriever under the care of a woman who not only makes it completely clear she doesn’t like dogs but also has physical and emotional trauma that makes it nearly impossible for her to care for the dog?
  • Cristina and Adam both professed to be caring dog people, but why expose this needy dog solely to Lila?
  • Adam essentially disappeared for a long period of time after placing Grace under Lila’s care. Yet, he becomes angry with her when she attempts to leave Grace at an animal shelter. But wait, he doesn’t take Grace from Lila at that time. What?
  • Lila had been “caring” for Grace for several weeks when she took her to the animal shelter.  Staff fancy-pupsthere removed Grace’s bandana. Lila was extremely shocked to see the scars and exposed raw skin under the bandana and said she had never removed the bandana and had no idea. Isn’t one of the first rules of writing to write about what you know? My dogs both wear bandanas and I need to re-tie them at least twice a day.
  • Lila was completely unaware of how to take care of or groom a dog and had not brushed or bathed this golden until after the animal shelter trip. There’s more.

 

Perhaps I’m crazy but none of this makes sense. Between irresponsible dog lovers and friends, unrealistic events and unpredictable 180 degree personality changes, as well as an unlikeable main character this book left me cold and occasionally angry. Ms. von Kreisler has dogs, helps with rescuing, yet I wonder if she would ever leave a dog like Grace with someone like Lila? When I explained all of my concerns to my blond lab she just stared and said stupid happens and thanks for not being one of those people.

 

The best authors make it nearly impossible to predict the ending. Crazy-dog-ladyOften I can guess the conclusion several chapters out from the end. That’s fine. I had the conclusion for An Unexpected Grace within the first couple chapters once meeting Adam. Several times I almost walked away but kept reading on the basis of several reviews. One, who claimed that this was an OK story, but assumed that a dog lover would probably enjoy more — that was an incorrect assumption.  Anyone who knows me or follows my reviews quickly realizes that dogs are important family members. There is a “crazy dog lady” bumper sticker on my car. I finished this simply to see how the author wrapped up the story. Lila remained creepy, even after she has her epiphany. Her Crazy Aunt trait disappears and her Horny Guttersnipe personality takes over toward the end.

 

How does this end? Predictably. The 180-degree turns don’t make sense. I rolled my eyes a lot when she suddenly becomes the person she hasn’t been. I’m left wondering how stable she’ll be in the future but that’s fortunately not my problem.  This book was read in its entirety but does not earn any recommendations from this dog and book lover.

+++++++++++++

 Golden Retriever Rescue groups exist and most would bend over backwards to find a suitable foster home for this dog or any other dog in this situation. A national site, National Rescue Committee, a committee of the GRCA, can help point people to local sites.

“Listen – You’re Just a Little Far Out…” BLOODLUST!

BLOODLUST!

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Find it on Amazon 

(2.5/5) meh

Pros: Graphic violence in 1959? SHOCKING!

Cons: Lack of suspense; timeline of narrative seems screwy; “those meddling kids…”

A cheapie adaptation of Richard Connell’s short story The Most Dangerous Game in which a sort of big-game hunter sets his sights on human prey, 1959’s Bloodlust! (unreleased until 1961) chronicles the efforts of a group of (meddling) kids to escape from a remote island ruled over by a pompous millionaire with a “private trophy room” full of preserved human victims. Apparently, this hunter named Balleau has enlisted the services of a local boat captain to provide him with humans to hunt down with his trusty crossbow, though the unannounced appearance of two pairs of young lovebirds (Johnny and Betty, Pete and Jeanne) throws his normal routine into chaos. When the kids inevitably discover the secret taxidermy room where various stiff-jointed assistants prepare rubbery-looking human bodies for display, it sets into motion a string of events that eventually finds Johnny and Pete themselves in Balleau’s cross hairs. Can these kids find a way off the island, or will they wind up as permanent mementos of Balleau’s past conquests?

straight outta scooby doo
Straight outta Scooby-Doo, it’s the pesky young adult characters.  ‘Let’s have a clam bake,’ they said.  ‘It’ll be fun,’ they said….



Clocking in at just 68 minutes in length, Bloodlust! benefits from the fact that writer/director Ralph Brooke’s script doesn’t waste much time in setting up its basic story.  This film barrels along towards an ending that has an element of (cheesy) surprise to it, though I can’t altogether say that the script is all that consistent.  I could almost be led to believe that this film originally was around 90 minutes long, with more capable development in terms of its narrative, but was unceremoniously hacked down to a little over an hour to fit in with theater scheduling as the second half of a double bill. The sense of a timeline in the film just seems off: as it stands in its final version, there are quite a few transitions that I would call “jumpy,” moving forward without much of an explanation or sense of purpose. Finally, the events in this film building up to the climax aren’t all that suspenseful, which is partly due to a jagged editing scheme and partly the fault of a music score by Michael Terr that is rather lifeless. Right when this film should be hooking an audience with a sense of tension, it feels lazy and dull. All these issues may simply be due to the fact that this was the first feature both written and directed by Brooke, who was known more as a bit player in movies from the mid 1940’s onward, but in the end, I’d have to say that this film is certainly watchable and more accomplished than some B-grade pictures of its day.

taxidermy process
I’m not sure if the film exactly has a firm grasp on the taxidermy process, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

Set design in the film is fairly well done, detailing both a limited number of interior locations (including the shadowy trophy room itself which is hidden in a cave) and the tropical jungle that surrounds Balleau’s estate. Generally, I thought the moody black and white photography of Richard E. Cunha was also pretty decent; no one is going to mistake this for a big-budget production, but it would nearly compare in terms of its look at feel to the surprisingly good genre pictures of the ‘40s made by the likes of Edgar G. Ulmer. Though the skeletons slung around the “Tree of Death” that exists in the middle of the jungle and assorted body parts in the taxidermy studio look very rubbery, Bloodlust! includes a few scenes of startlingly graphic violence which would have indeed been shocking in 1959. Arrows pierce human flesh, a face is dissolved with acid, and there’s even a sequence where a man is more or less crucified on a rack, replete with blood flow from his nailed-on hands. This level of gore wasn’t all that common during this period in cinema history, and even though it wouldn’t do much for today’s viewers used to the excesses of modern horror, I’d have to say that some theatergoers at the time would have probably been disgusted.

oh!
“Oh, you didn’t recognize me as the villain of this piece?”

The cast for Bloodlust! presents a mixed bag through and through: Wilton Graff (mainly known for smaller roles in bigger movies of the 1940s onward) capably plays Balleau as a man shattered by the second World War who takes up hunting human victims to satisfy his murderous desires. This character has both a very human side to him, and a cold, absolutely sinister one, and I thought Graff did a nice job of playing the role with an air of grandiloquence. The actors playing the young people on the other hand are by and large annoying. Robert Reed (“Mike Brady” on The Brady Bunch) plays Johnny, the character most clearly identified as the hero – though it’s difficult to accept him as such since he frequently seems like a bit of a jerk due to his tendency to pass all the dangerous tasks off on his friend Pete (played as a sort of lovable dork by Eugene Persson). Pete winds up being the more courageous character, and one can almost forgive Jeanne, the girlfriend character played by Joan Lora, for fawning over him (“Oh Pete…you’re wonderful!” UGH!).

Balleau
DUN DUN! Balleau and his learning-disabled henchmen.

Unfortunately, a viewer quickly gets tired of listening to Jeanne screech and complain about any situation she finds herself in (“Can I say it just one more time: I’m scared!” – GROAN!). Her character seems like a ditz, and I really wished at a certain point that she would fall into one of the quicksand pits sprinkled around the island and disappear from the narrative. Johnny’s girlfriend Betty (played by June Kenney) is a bit more tolerable, mainly because she seems resourceful and level-headed, not just the obligatory female thrown in to prove that Johnny isn’t gay. Smaller roles in the film are occupied by Walter Brooke (as a drunken inhabitant of the island), Lilyan Chauvin (Balleau’s vaguely foreign wife, who’s involved in an illicit relationship with Brooke’s character), and Troy Patterson (as the pleasure boat captain leading voyagers to their doom on Balleau’s island), but Bill Coontz nearly (maybe?) steals the show as the “insane man in the woods” who shows up late in the going to foam at the mouth and scream nonsensically for what seems like an eternity. Lots of screaming during certain parts of this movie: be prepared to adjust your volume!

Coontz
Coontz ARGGH! as the ARGGH! insane man in the ARGGH! woods ARGGH!

It’s somewhat odd that Bloodlust! would be marketed rather obviously as a horror picture. In spite of the sometimes graphic onscreen carnage, I’d probably be more inclined to call it an adventure film or maybe even a (generally ineffective) suspense thriller, and though it doesn’t hold a candle to the classic 1932 film adaptation of The Most Dangerous Game (released under that very title), it’s actually not that bad. Don’t get me wrong: the film has substantial problems, some of which are caused by its minimal budget – a scene where “judo expert” Betty is replaced onscreen by an obvious male stuntman had me cracking up, and the film also has an abundance of highly amusing, unintentionally (?) funny dialogue (“How do you get your kicks on a place like this?” “Kicks? Oh, I have my…diversions…“). Bloodlust! wouldn’t wind up on anyone’s list of the greatest films ever made, but surely it’s better than its reputation as pure trash cinema. If you catch this on TV (or have the desire to watch it for free online), it’s a worthwhile time-waster.

AREGGH!

disc deets
This public domain film has been released in a number of DVD packages (I might recommend one of the multi-film packs like Mill Creek’s 12-movie Cult Terror Cinema collection), and can be watched online for free here.

blood & guts
4/10 : Brief glimpses of what in 1959 would have been rather graphic gore – and even some flowing blood!

smack talk
looking...looking...
0/10 : No profanity, but the subject matter may be a bit distressing for some.

fap factor
1/10 : Fleeting reference to the fact that Balleau may have some rather despicable plans for the young ladies…

whack attack
5/10 : Low-rent adaptation of a classic story; as such, it really ain’t all that bad.

GI JOE
“It amuses me now that I found it distasteful at first. And as time went by I adjusted my new activity. For what had been an unpleasant duty became a pleasure then it developed into a passion and then into a lust. A lust for blood! A lust that has grown with the years! And one that I spend my entire life trying to satisfy.”

Trailer:

or Click Below to Watch the Film!
movie!

JIM’S NEWEST BEST FRIEND – HIS DURO-MED WALKER

Duro-Med 2-Button Adjustable Aluminum Folding Walker

 

(3.5/5)

Pros: Assists silently, easily and seems quite sturdy

Cons:  Screws become loose ( big ‘Con’)

I have a very new friend. I’ll call him Jim.

Jim is 89 years old, and has recently moved from Los Angeles to Eugene (Oregon) so his daughter can more practically care for him. Jim’s wife died in May of this year. They were married fifty-seven years. He has been in deep grief and at first, saw very little reason to even get out of bed.

My sister works at the retirement center where Jim now lives.  She was telling me how sad, despite her best efforts, it has been watching him decline, not only physically, but moreover, psychologically. Taking zero-interest in any of the usual programs the center offers it’s residents, more than anything Jim needed a passive companion – someone to talk with, watch a few sports programs, or share a few memories. I volunteered.  What a blessing – for me, as well as Jim.

Jim uses a Duro-Med 2-Button Adjustable Aluminum Walker and gets around with it very well.  Of course, ‘getting around’ mostly means rising from his bed or television chair and wheeling himself into the bathroom, or down to the dining room. The Duro-Med Walker seems to be the perfect appliance for him to get around safely, steadily and because the walker only weighs six pounds, quite handily.

Having no personal experience with any walker, I can only detail the specific features of the Duro-Med 2-Button Adjustable Aluminum Folding Walker.

  • Two ample 5″ non-swivel wheels that roll quietly and effortlessly
  • Slip-resistant rubber tips
  • 250 lb. weight capacity
  • Constructed of anodized 1″ aluminum tubing with *rivet construction
  • Legs adjust from 32″ to 38″ for comfort and to help promote proper posture
  • Soft foam hand grips
  • Two-button release for easy folding, compact storage and lateral access
  • Steel cross-brace for more stability
  • Weighs just 6.8 pounds

* About the rivet issue. On my first visit I noticed one of the rivets on the walker had come loose. I tightened it with my fingers as well as I could, making a mental note to mention it to his daughter, which I did. On my next visit I took a Phillips screwdriver and tightened it again.  I think this is an issue that needs to be looked into further. Spending the amount of time with Jim I have these past few weeks, I know he does not over-use or abuse the walker, so I’m thinking this is a product fault.

 

Duro-Med Walker with Wheels and Seat, Royal Blue

Another Duro-Med  Assisted Walker, with wheels and a resting seat. I see a lot of these at the retirement center.

I haven’t gotten Jim to go outside yet, so I don’t know the performance of the walker on grass or sidewalk cracks, but hopefully that will happen soon. I’ll update this review when it does. I’m happy to say Jim has been laughing at small jokes, snacking on granola I bring him, and looking forward to his meals.  If this is good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.

 The Duro-Med Walker Jim uses costs in the $40.00 range and is available through Amazon, Sears and other outlets.  I was unable to find their direct website. 

UPDATE – later this same day. . .I have just come from the center and spending a couple hours with Jim.  I took a much closer look at the walker and have a clarification to make.  What I mistook for a rivet is actually a screw with a Phillips head. The walker does have rivets, but they are tight and uncompromised.  It is the screws that keep loosening.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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