Da 5 Bloods
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I May Destroy You
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A young opera singer (Foster) becomes the target of the crazy house doctor (Karloff) at the Vienna Royal Opera. Will her dashing boyfriend (Bey) manage to save her before her voice is silenced forever?
[i]Susanna Foster and Boris Karloff star
as victim and victimizer in "The Climax"[/i]
"The Climax" is Boris Karloff's first color picture and it's pretty to look at. It also has some nice performances from Karloff, Turhan Bey--who swings from dramatic of comedic with graceful ease--and Thomas Gomez as the beleaguered manager of the opera company. Unfortunately, their performances are propping up a fairly boring melodrama the titular climax of which isn't much to sing about.
The film is available on DVD for the first time as part of Universal's "Boris Karloff Collection" ([url="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000FWHW8Q?ie=UTF8&tag=stevemillesdo-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B000FWHW8Q"]click here to read more about it at Amazon.com[/url]) and as such it rates as inoffensive filler. It's not exactly a bad movie, just a bland one, and one you can safely leave for last if you pick up the set.
Starring: Boris Karloff, Susanna Foster, Turhan Bey, Ludwig Stossel, Thomas Gomez and Gale Sondergard
Director: George Waggner
Anton Mordrid (Combs) is an unaging sorcerer who is lives secretly in the modern world, guarding Earth from demonic invasions. When the evil alchemist Kabal (Thompson) escapes from what was supposed to be his eternal prison, Mordid must turn to mortal woman Samantha Hunt (Nipar) for help if humanity is to survive.
"Doctor Mordrid" is a neat little modern fantasy film that, like a number of other Full Moon releases is surprisngly good for a direct-to-video release that dates from the early 1990s. It's got an interesting hero who acquires a cool woman sidekick in the course of the film, a villain who gives other fantasy film bad guys a run for their money, and hints at a much large, extremely interesting cosmololgy than we only get a small glimpse at in this film.
Actually, getting a small glimpse of something bigger is the way I feel about the whole movie. It feels like it should have been at least 30-45 minutes longer, and with with the scant development that's given to a number of concepts and charactes, it could easily have supported the additional running time. If all the skeletons of nifty ideas and characters that appear in movie had been more fully fleshed out, this could have been a great movie. As it is, It's a pretty good one, with decent acting and okay effects. It's worth checking out, particularly if you like movies and books like "Harry Potter" or "The Dresden Files".
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Yvette Nipar, Brian Thompson, and Jay Acavone
Directors: Albert Band and Charles Band
The Flesh and the Fiends (aka "Mania", "The Psycho Killers", and "The Fiendish Ghouls")
Starring: Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence, and George Rose
Director: John Gilling
In 1827, sociopathic drunkards Burke (Rose) and Hare (Pleasence) strike it rich by selling recently deceased bodies to the esteemed doctor and medical instructor Dr. Robert Knox (Cushing). Knox, frustrated by his inability to acquire bodies in good shape for dissection turns a blind eye to where his new study subjects may be coming from, while Burke and Hare are murder their way through Edinburgh's poor and homeless. They get sloppy and greedy... and when they kill one of Dr. Knox's students, things go from bad to worse.
Based on real-life events surrounding a doctor who actually did do quite a bit to advance the science of anatomy, and two murderous men who helped him do it, "The Flesh and the Fiends" isn't quite a horror film--despite the many lurid titles it's been presented under over the years--although the real-life events it describes are pretty horrible, but instead a well-acted drama about how a fundementally good man with a righteous goal can become tainted by evil if he lets obsession and ambition blind him to moral right and wrong.
The film is particularly interesting because Peter Cushing is plays Dr. Knox, a character who has a lot in common with Baron Frankenstein; both men believe they alone know how to advance medical science and everyone else is too limited in vision and drive to acheive. (There's even a scene in "The Flesh and the Fiends" that is very similar to one in "The Revenge of Frankenstein"--in both cases, the doctors are ordered to appear before Medical Councils bent on disgracing them. In both cases, the summoned doctor refuses to bow before them.)
There are two key differences between Knox and Frankenstein as portrayed by Cushing. Frankenstein always has a superior air about him and nothing (NOTHING!) ever truly harms his ego or sense of self. Knox, on the other hand, while arrogant and sure that he Knows What Is Right, always has a slightly sad and lonely air about him--he stands alone and he isn't quite sure why. The scene where Knox manages to see himself as the world has come to see him is one of the most striking moments in the film, and it's one that Cushing pulls off spectacularly... and really underscores that he is playing two very different characters despite the many similarities.
Aside from Cushing, Pleasence and Rose are great as the infamous serial killers, Burke and Hare. The rest of the cast does a good job as well, and the musical score is above average for a movie of this kind, from this period in British cinema.
So, with all that raving, why only a Six-Tomato Rating?
First of all, there's the look of the film. With the exception of scenes where an angry mob is chasing Burke and Hare after their murderous deeds come to light, Gilling doesn't take advantage of the fact that he is shooting in black-and-white. Most scenes are varying shades of gray where some stark lighting contrasts would have upped the drama significantly and made the movie far more interesting visually.
Second, there isn't enough exploration of Knox and his family. His daughter and her fiance are introduced and both characters play small parts in the film. They are very decent people, and through them we get the sence that Knox is a decent person too, but we don't get enough of this. If we saw more of Knox's "private life" away from the lecture hall and the basement where he purchases corpses from Burke and Hare, his fall and redemption would be that much more impactful. One less barroom scene and one more scene of Knox interacting with the daughter would have done wonders for the film, I think.
Nonetheless, "The Flesh and the Fiends" is a film that's worth seeing for fans of the Golden Age of the British thriller. Fans of Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasence will also be able to enjoy these two actors giving fine performances.
Misa the Dark Angel
Starring: Hinako Saeki and Ayaka Nanami
Director: Katesuhito Ueno
"Misa the Dark Angel" is about a young witch who insiutates herself into a boarding school for girls when she and her crusty mentor decide a magical curse rests over the place. Misa, however, being a lonely teenager with no friends, become enamoured with the 'normal' life led by the students at the school and looses sight of why she is there.
And that's when the terror begins.
There is nothing particularly bad about this film. The acting is solid, the camera work, lighting, and sets are all used to full effectiveness to underscore the horror and mystery of the events that unfold, and the cast members die in appropriately ironic ways. (That said, "Misa the Dark Angel" is *not* a teenage slasher flick, even if the above sentence might imply that; it's a far more low-key horror film, with patches of horrific gore.)
On the other hand, there's nothing that really stands out, either. It's a solid effort, nothing more. It's worth seeing if you enjoy Japanese horror flicks, but I don't think it would be worth going out of your way for.
Ride in the Whirlwind
Starring: Cameron Mitchell and Jack Nicholson
Director: Monte Hellman
When three drifters cross paths with a band of desperados, vigilantes mistake them for members of the gang. The innocent riders are forced to become the criminals they are mistaken for if they are to have a chance at survival.
"Ride in the Whirlwind" is a surprisingly engaging western. I say "surprisingly", because when it comes right down to it, an awful lot of the movie is spent with characters having fairly mundane and repetitious conversations, and is populated with characters who are as unknown to the viewers when the movie ends as they were when it started. Usually, such elements are signs of a cheap movie that is choking on the padding added to stretch it to a decent run-time. In this film, however, the elements merge with the random way three possibly shady--but certainly not the bad guys they are mistaken for--men are forced down a path of violence and brutality. I suppose this movie is an illustration of how a talented director and cast can create a find movie where hacks would merely produce a pile of crap out of the same material.
I recommend this movie if you are a fan of westerns. "Ride in the Whirlwind" occupies a sort of middle ground between the "traditional" American western and the European western (best recognized through Sergio Leone's movies starring Clint Eastwood) that was transforming the genre when this film was released.
(Trivia: "Ride in the Whirlwind" was shot back-to-back with "The Shooting", another low-budget western directed by Hellman that featured much of the same cast and used the same crew and locations.)