SteveMiller's Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

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Rating History

Doctor Mordrid
10 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

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".

Doctor Mordrid
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Yvette Nipar, Brian Thompson, and Jay Acavone
Directors: Albert Band and Charles Band

The Flesh and The Fiends
11 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

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
13 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

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
14 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

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.)

Ninja: Shadow of a Tear
15 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

A young martial artist-in-training named Tiger (Lou) is being stalked by Evil Ninja. After his master and adopted father is defeated by Ninjas, almost killed, and then commits suicide by punching himself in the head for God-only-knows-what-reason as he hadn't finished telling telling everything he needed to know about his past, the deadly Masked Ninja, and why the Grand Master's Evil Ninja Cult that's out to kill him, Tiger continues to study the Art of the Ninja under new masters, including a pair of double-agents among the Grand Master's own ranks. But will he survive when he chooses to confront the Grand Master before his training is complete?

"Ninja Death II" is the middle part of a looong Chinese martial arts film that was divided into three seperate movies for export, and it feels like the middle of a long movie. Very little actually happens in the "film" and about 20 minutes are actually repeated footage from "Ninja Death I". (Oddly, these flashbacks don't do a whole lot to explain who the various players in the movie's plot are, so they're included more for padding than to catch up those who haven't seen the first installment in this trilogy.)

"Ninja Death II" also repeats the credit-less opening and closing sequences that were featured on the first film, but the voice actors (which suddenly became British halfway through "Ninja Death I") are back to being American. As a result, our hero, Tiger, is back to sounding like a doofus instead of a Gay Pride icon.

In this installment of the series, we are treated to boring, overlong sequences with Tiger trying to master the fighting style of Ninjas (which, in this film's conception is the "royal style" of Japan's nobility), we learn a few secrets about Tiger's history, and we have Tiger rape yet another girl while sleeping. (His first somnambu-rape was of a ninja call-girl in "Ninja Death I". Here, he forces himself upon an innocent peasant girl while dreaming about his [i]first[/i] victim. And, just like the ninja call-girl, the peasant woman seems to fall in love with Tiger after being raped. Those wacky Chinese....) The only interesting plot developments occur when the Grand Master--who's the only Oriental villain with worse fashion sense than Fu Manchu--discovers the traitors in his ranks and sends his Ninja after them, and the Masked Ninja escapes and ends up on a fatal collision course with Tiger, who, unbeknownst to him, is the son of the Masked Ninja.

As for the fight scenes and Ninja Death Action that made "Ninja Death I" entertaining, we don't even get much of that here. With the exception of a fight where the Grand Master shows that he has big balls (in both senses of that), everything else in "Ninja Death II" is subplot material, filler material, and tasteless somnambu-rape scenes.

Speaking of rape.... For some reason, the filmmakers used James Bond theme music in both scenes involved forced sexual encounters. The first scene was in a Japanese household where the theme from "You Only Live Twice" is heard as a drunkard rapes the adopted mother of three boys as they watch. Then, we hear the theme from "Man With the Golden Gun" as Tiger rapes the peasant girl. And it's not downbeat or suspense-oriented versions of the tunes either... it's quiet, romantic renditions. Nothing says romance like somnambu-rape!)

Ninja Death II
Starring: Alexander Lou and Fei Meng
Director: Someone whose name was left off the credits