Thursday, November 17, 2016

Corridors of Blood

Corridors of Blood is a black and white film made in 1959. It was directed by Robert Day and stars Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee. It is a Criterion Collection film and can be found in the Monsters and Madmen boxed set.

Dr. Thomas Bolton, played by Karloff, is a surgeon in 1840s London. This is before general anesthesia, and surgery was performed without anesthesia. Bolton's dream is to find a way to make surgery painless. The movie is a concoction of horrific ingredients that follow Bolton in his noble quest: human experimentation, drug addiction, body stealing, extortion, brief scenes of surgery, with the patient fully awake during the procedure, and murder.

I did not know what to expect from the movie. Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee usually make me think of horror flicks. The movie did not go in the direction I expected and was all the better for it. It is not a traditional horror movie with a lurching or seductive monster. All the cutting (slashing) is done in the operating theatre, and there is the true horror, surgery and amputation without the benefit of any anesthesia or pain killer. I don't know much about medical or surgical history, so I do not know how accurate those scenes are, or how these surgeries were performed. Bolton was experimenting with several chemicals that we know dull pain, so it is probable that historically these chemicals were used as pain suppressants, but I just don't know without looking it up. And historical accuracy is beside the point of this movie anyway.

If you are like me, and you only know Karloff from his monster movies, give this one a watch. The heroes have faults, the villains are truly villainous, and the side characters are humans with good points and bad. Not at all what I expected from a Boris Karloff movie.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Colt is my Passports an

A Colt is my Passport is the most recent movie in the Criterion Collection's Eclipse Series 17, Nikkatsu Noir. It is in black and white and was filmed in 1967.

Kamimura is a hit man and the movie starts with him being hired. He easily completes the job, but there are complications when he tries to disappear with his young associate Shiozaki.  The two soon end up caught between rival yakuza gangs. The double crossing involved is reminiscent of A Fistful of Dollars, and the final showdown on a dust blown plain was reminded me a bit of the ending of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  

This is a gangster movie that really wants to be a spaghetti western. Enio Morricone's haunting melodies from the Man Without a Name series are evoked throughout the movie. I'll say right up front I loved it. I love westerns, I love Morricone's music, and I loved how Takashi Nomura incorporated them into his movie.

Nomura is credited with directing just over 30 films. He first IMDB credit as an actor was in 1954, and latest is 2016, so he has been quite prolific in Japanese television and film.

I Am Waiting

I am Waiting is in the Eclipse Series 17 sub-series of the Criterion Collection. From the back of the DVD case
"Eclipse is a selection of lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classics in simple, affordable editions. Each series is a brief cinematheque retrospective for the adventurous home viewer. Visit us at"

This series is called Nikkatsu Noir. Nikkatsu is the oldest film studio in Japan. In the 1950s and 1960s they sought to reinvent themselves by borrowing from the French and American genres and big-screen imports. There are 5 films in this collection. I am Waiting is the oldest film in the series. It was made in 1957 and is in black and white

Joji Shimaki, the owner of a diner befriends a woman, Saeko, who fears she has killed a man. He takes her in, and gives her refuge while they wait for the newspapers to see if the man has died. Shimaki is also waiting for a letter from his brother. The brother moved to Brazil a year ago to buy a farm and will write when all is ready for Shimaki to join him. They take a day off from they diner to go to a boxing match. After the match, their stories start to collide and Shimake is thrown into the seedy underworld of the cities gangster.

This is different from American Film Noir. The edges feel rougher somehow, the protagonist seems more ragged at the edges than Sam Spade, yet is still more hero than anti-hero. It is still easily recognized as film noir. The violence by today's standards is quite tame. It is an important part of the movie, but is only there to further the story. Nothing in this short film is wasted, no throw away lines, no unnecessary scenes. When you are in the mood for an old-fashioned film-noir detective movie I can highly recommend this one.

The film is the directorial debut Koreyoshi Kurahara, who continued to make films into the 1990s. Yujiro Ishihara who plays Shimake was a prolific actor from 1955 into the 1980s. He died in 1987. Saeko is played by Mei Kitihara. shows her career as being from 1952 to 1960.

I enjoyed this movie and will look for others by Kurahara, Ishihara, or Kitihara.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Yellow Submarine

I watched this movie with my mom last Friday night. It was a re-watch for both of us. I saw it in the 1970s with my brother, but all I remember of it was great music, psychedelic graphics, and a hole in the pocket. We were both 15 or younger at the oldest when we saw it. Movie reviewing and looking beyond the surface was nothing I was interested in at the time. I suspect my brother was only interested in the surface meanings as well. Now, 40 years later I don't really remember much about the animation styles or storytelling styles that came before. Mom also saw it in the 60s or 70s. She says all she remembered of it was the song, and a hole in the pocket. She does however remember it being a groundbreaking show. So, armed with the knowledge that mom considered it groundbreaking, my re-watch tried to see why she considered it so.

Pepperland, a land full of beautiful music, color, and love is attacked by the blue-meanies, and Young Fred is sent off in a Yellow Submarine to bring back help. Young Fred is probably middle aged, but that is beside the point, and off he goes to find a way to defeat the meanies. He finds the Beatles. They have adventures along the way, and someone, I think John, puts a hole in his pocket. That is important, but does not play as big a part in the movie as I remembered.

Yellow Submarine is an anti war film produced during the United States' involvement in Vietnam, and during the Cold War between the United Sates and the U.S.S.R.  It is an animated film, and Monty Python would come to use a very similar animating style in some of their work. The songs are interwoven beautifully, but in the end make as much sense as the songs in most musicals. From a distance of 40 years I really don't know all the ways that this film was innovative, and I have not gone looking for professional reviews to find out for my little review. I hate to say it, but it is not really a film I enjoyed now, or the first time I watched it. Both times I found large segments of it boring. I did enjoy the puns and the animation style. I would not have re-watched the film now except that mom checked it out of the library and I watched it with her. I doubt I will watch it again.

Army of Darkness

Another re-watch. This movie is the third in the Evil Dead series by the Raimies and Bruce Campbell. The first two were Evil Dead and Evil Dead II. Both the first two were horror movies, the first being a student film. It's been 20 years since I watched them, but I remember them as being horror movies with comedic influences. Army of Darkness however is more comedy with horror influences. It is a straight up cheese fest. Campbell is fun to watch as the not too bright, and horribly obnoxious Ash.

Ash is somehow thrown backwards in time to something resembling the middle ages where he must once again battle the deadites. The wigs, costumes, and sets for the movie are horrible. The dialog leaves much to be desired, the special effects are inexpensive and the result is quite a bit of fun. The cast and crew are all aware of the shortcomings, and that is part of the joke and fun of it all.

If you are looking for some mindless fun, then by all means pop up some popcorn, check your brain at the door and enjoy the film. If you'be seen it before, it is just as cheesy and bad as you remember it, so go ahead and enjoy it again. There is a reason it has become a cult classic. It is all tongue in cheek and the cast and crew want you to enjoy the cheese and humor too.

Friday, November 11, 2016

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

I was looking for horror movies to watch for Halloween. I am so glad I stumbled across this film. It was on several lists of scary films. I didn't find it to be frightening, but I was mesmerized by it. The only thing I knew about the film going into it is it is hailed as the first Iranian Vampire Western. The only thing I knew was that I did not know what a Vampire Western was.

It isn't a western movie in the way that Americans or Italians make westerns. Maybe they don't mean that kind of western, or perhaps the definition of Western movie is changing. There is a vampire.  Instead of horses there is a car, and a skateboard. There is a villain, maybe several villains, there is an anti-hero, or maybe two. Almost everyone is also victim. The story teller, the camera, lets the viewer decide most character's status of villain, hero, or victim based on motivations and actions.

Filmed in black and white, the movie is dark and brooding. It moves along at a stroll. There is the time tested story of boy meets girl. There is not much to this story, it is mostly mood. I watched and came away with a feeling of woman empowered. Another might see woman as other and threatening.

Don't expect a typical horror movie or vampire story, or a western. There is little more than a raid a ride and a rescue. It is how the story is told in its sets, mood, atmosphere, camera angles, and the imagery that make this worth seeing. It is a wonderfully told story that unfolds at its own pace and leaves judgment up to the viewer.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Feelings, no matter how you voted

No one gets to tell me how to feel. Not the people who voted for Trump and because of my skin color think I may have voted for him too. Don't tell me to feel excited.

Please if you voted for Trump, Remember that giving someone rights, does not take rights away from you. Remember that often times being politically correct requires nothing more than being polite, and a willingness to learn. If a word or phrase offends you wouldn't you prefer people stop using that word or phrase? Return the favor, pay it forward. Learn what is offensive and be polite.

If you voted for Trump, don't tell me it will not be that bad. That there is no way that the president can take away my freedoms, my friends freedoms, and the freedoms of millions of Americans. The president can put a cabinet into place that with the help of a socially conservative congress can do just that. They may have to fight for it, but it is disheartening to watch, and we are afraid while watching and fighting to retain those freedoms. Remember that fear doesn't make us cowards.

No one gets to tell me how to feel. Not the people who voted for Clinton and because I am a woman assume that I voted for her too. Don't tell me what to be enraged at, don't tell me what to be indignant about. I have friends and co-workers and classmates that fit into every demographic group that has been insulted. I am a demographic that has been insulted. I have bled, I got to be middle aged (remember the insult "Look at that face"), I got fat, and I am not rich. I have been sexually harassed, and groped in public.

I also know that if Clinton had won, it is likely that Trump supporters would today be feeling shock, anger, and fear.

I do recommend you find a cause you feel strongly about, no matter how you voted. Pick that cause and fight to better everyone.

I get to decide what fights I will take on and what fights I will leave to others. Only I can make that choice. You get to decide what fights you will take on.

I won't tell you how to feel, don't tell me how to feel.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Exorcist (1973)

I watched this movie for the first time last week. I was 13 when it came out, and had no desire to see it at the time. I was still easily frightened by movies, was going through a very religious phase in my life, and thought such a film was evil. Well, I was wrong.

The movie is obviously dated but I enjoyed the fashions, hairstyles, and cars from the period. By today's standards, the 1972 special effects are as dated as the automobiles. The exorcist is, by today's standards, a psychological horror movie. It follows the grand good versus evil tradition. The script and filmography combined with solid acting performances tell a story that isn't what I was expecting. Yes there was projectile vomiting, pea soup, and head spinning, but to me those were not at all the most powerful scenes in the movie. 

I loved the opening in Iraq. I would have been happy for a whole movie of Father Merrin and what he found in the digs. The scene where he stands facing the demon's statue is wonderful. The movie then switches tone, and we see the initial scenes of Regan and Chris and their happy life. 

I did not expect so much of the film to be looking for medical answers, yet that too was interesting. And what passes for modern medicine, as portrayed in the movie, can seem pretty barbaric. 

Father Karros's story was also interesting, and the way his story of religious doubt interwove with Chris's story of growing belief in the forces of good and evil intertwined quite well.

I  re-watched the movie with commentary. It lost all atmospheric value that way, but it did explain things that I just did not pick up on the first time through.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Le Corbeau = The Raven

I found this film whilst looking for horror movies to watch for Halloween. Le is corbeau is actually a thriller/mystery rather than horror, but I decided I preferred this to traditional horror.

The movie is in French and has not been dubbed. It was filmed in France under Nazi occupation and released in 1943. I purposely did not read the film description before watching. I think that sometimes the advertising gives too much away, and I want to watch the story unfold without preconceived notions whenever possible. I did not realize the exact time period while watching the film, but could guess that it was in the 1930s or 1940s.

Le corbeau is part of the Criterion Collection. The only technical problem with the film was the soundtrack. I'm not sure how to describe it, but I think - and this is truly my opinion not fact, that 
they did ot have the resources to clean up the sound in a studio. Other than that the film was beautifully restored. It was filmed shortly after the Germans occupied France by a German film company. After the war is was banned in France, until 1947.

The story is about people in a small town who start receiving letters from Le corbeau. The handwriting is distinct and in all capital letters. The missives accuse the recipients of various misdeeds, some real and some imagined, and threatens to expose these transgressions to the rest of the town.

Of course no one wants their misdeeds exposed, so a search is on for Le corbeau. There are of course many suspects to choose from. Is it the nurse who disapproves of her sister's friendship with the handsome young doctor? Perhaps the sister of the grade school headmaster, or even the headmaster himself? What about that man in the post office who bought all those stamps? Then there is the handsome young doctor, or the daughter of the school headmaster. 

Under Nazi occupation, people were encouraged to report those unsympathetic to the German occupiers. I believe the film plays on the fears that people would have in such oppressive circumstances. Could you trust your neighbors, or even your own family?

I really enjoyed this film,, I thought the pacing was good, and the story well written. I can also find unfortunate parallels in today's current political climate that make me uncomfortable and frightened.