Archive for the Roger Corman Category

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou wants you to GET CRAZY (1983)

Posted in 1980s Movies, 2013, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Cult Movies, Drive-in Movies, Just Plain Fun, Rock 'n' Roll Movies, Roger Corman with tags , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

GET CRAZY (1983)

gcposterWelcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made.  If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.   Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.  Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.

After director Allan Arkush released the wonderful drive-in hit ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL in 1979, he was tapped to make the big budget Christmas release, HEARTBEEPS, co-starring Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters in 1981.  Have you seen it?  Neither did anyone else, so Arkush returned to the genre that gave him his biggest hit – rock and roll comedy!  In 1983, he found a great script about the final concert given at a rock theater and all the people involved in that New Year’s Eve show.  In his wayward youth, Arkush had been an usher at the Fillmore East, and he’d seen more than his share of great concerts.  So, this was a project close to his heart.  Once completed, Arkush gave the world its first Robert Altman multi-storylined, actor-centric movie by way of the Zucker Brothers (AIRPLANE, 1980).  GET CRAZY is rock and roll heaven.

Daniel Stern and Gail Edwards get involved with some monkey love.

Daniel Stern and Gail Edwards get involved with some monkey love.

Max Wolfe (Allen Garfield of THE CONVERSATION, 1974 and THE STUNTMAN,  1980) owns the Saturn Theater, and he’s had one chili-dog too many, causing a heart attack.  He decides to throw one last, huge concert on New Year’s Eve, invite everyone who’s played there, and turn the reigns of the Saturn over to one deserving soul.  His kiss-ass nephew, Sammy (played by Miles Chapin of THE FUNHOUSE, 1981 and THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT,  1996) wants to sell the theater to big-time promoter Colin Beverly (Ed Begley Jr. of AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON, 1987 and the ST ELSEWHERE TV series), who only cares about how much money he can make by bulldozing the hall and putting up a shiny new theater, getting rid of the sex and drugs and rock and roll forever.  Max wants to keep the place as it is, so the kids can see the artists, afford the tickets, and enjoy themselves.  He is followed by his two minions played by none other than (former teen heartthrobs) Fabian and Bobby Sherman.  Meanwhile, the stage manager, Neil Allen (Daniel Stern of HOME ALONE, 1990 and CITY SLICKERS, 1991) is falling in love with the new girl on the crew, Willy Lomann, played by Gail Edwards (star of TV’s FULL HOUSE and BLOSSOM).  She once worked for Max years ago, but gave up the rock when she thought she had a future with a bigger promoter.  Neil’s little sister is desperate to see the concert and sneaks out of the house, but Neil must make certain she doesn’t get into too much trouble.  Plus, their unobservant parents are played by the great Dick Miller and Jackie Joseph (LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, 1960 and GREMLINS, 1984)!  Electric Larry, the local drug dealer, delivers plenty of speed to keep the staff moving at top velocity.  The lighting tech (Mary Woronov of EATING RAOUL, 1982 and SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT, 1972) is having electrical failures; the local doctor (Paul Bartel, also from EATING RAOUL and HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, 1986) is trying to keep Max alive for the night; and lighting intern Joey (Dan Frischman of TV’s HEAD OF THE CLASS), just wants to lose his virginity.  A bus full of hippies led by Captain Cloud and the Rainbow Telegraph arrive with a pass for New Year’s Eve 1968, take over the green room, and immediately get high while planning the finale for the show.  The fire inspector (“No spark too small.”) is on the warpath and refuses to allow any fireworks or open flames.  Meanwhile, Max puts through a deathbed request to Auden, a Bob Dylan-type of folk singer who hasn’t performed in years and is played by Lou Reed!  Auden gets in a taxi and starts planning what song he’ll play for Max’s last big show.

Electric Larry brings the New Year's speed.

Electric Larry brings the New Year’s speed.

Then, the bands arrive!

First up is a slightly punk all girl group (much like The Go-Gos) called Nada (fans scream Nadanadanadanada!) with special guest, Piggy, a pierced punker locked in their trunk, played by Lee Ving (lead singer of the real band Fear and one of the stars of STREETS OF FIRE, 1984).  Nada is played by the lead singer for King Creole and the Coconuts, Lori Eastside.  After an all-blind, all-blues funeral, King Blues (an awful lot like Muddy Waters) and his new guitarist, Cool, show up, but they are accidentally sent a Jews band instead of a Blues band to back them.  Then, along comes Reggie Wanker, a Mick Jagger type of English strutter played by Malcolm McDowell (of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, 1971 and CAT PEOPLE, 1981).  He has a midlife meltdown onstage and during a truly existential moment (and a truly extended drum solo), he has a long conversation with his penis in which he decides how to live the rest of his life!  It’s a funny moment, but McDowell wrings it of every bit of pathos he can.  Remember when he was a great actor and not just someone who took every part that came his way?  His girlfriend, the Countess Chantamina wants more out of life, and she decides to find a new love.

Malcolm McDowell plays Reggie Wanker.

Malcolm McDowell plays Reggie Wanker.

When the concert starts, all hell breaks loose with multiple story-lines overlapping while awesome music plays constantly in the background.  One great joke involves every single band playing a cover of King Blues’ “Hoochie Coochie Man,” including a fantastic, adrenaline-fuelled punk version by Piggy.   “Who says a white boy can’t sing the blues?” the old bluesman says.  Every band gets to play an original number and a version of the hilariously familiar “Hoochie Coochie Man.”  Oddly enough, the music is all pretty terrific, and it raises the silly comedy to a whole new level of insanity.  I suggest you crank it to eleven and make the walls shake!

Piggy (Lee Ving) and the Nada band perform "Hoochy Coochy Man."

Piggy (Lee Ving) and the Nada band perform “Hoochie Coochie Man.”

The crowd goes insane, LSD ends up in the water supply, romance blossoms, a giant living joint is chased all over the theater, the bathroom is infested with sharks, the fire inspector ends up naked and hallucinating, a bomb is hidden in the theater, and every actor gets a bit where they can do something funny.  Somewhere in that great, gigantic cast you can also find Clint Howard, Robert Picardo, and Linnea Quigley.

With so many plots and musical performances flying around like an air traffic controller’s nightmare, it would have been easy for Arkush to drop the ball, but he maintains the juggling act right through the explosive finale.  Everything works so well, I can’t find anything to criticize.  The comedy bits drop so fast and furiously, if one joke falls flat, the next one works beautifully.  And the editing is special, too, especially when the bomb is being planted while Reggie Wanker sings his heart out onstage.

Plus, “Hoochie Coochie Man” is a really great song!

It’s too bad the movie didn’t do well; GET CRAZY epitomizes a fun time at the theater.  This would be a perfect comedy to watch on New Year’s Eve with your buddies and plenty of cocktails.  You need to see it!

I give GET CRAZY three and a half giant joints out of four!

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl

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CKF QUICK CUTS: FAVORITE POE ADAPTATIONS!

Posted in 1930s Horror, 1960s Horror, 2012, Classic Films, Edgar Allen Poe, Quick Cuts, Roger Corman, Vincent Price with tags , , , , , , , on April 27, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  QUICK CUTS
Favorite POE Adaptations

With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Peter Dudar, and Paul McMahon

 

The great Edgar Allan Poe’s work has a long history of movie adaptations.

 

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome to another edition of QUICK CUTS.

THE RAVEN opens this Friday, April 27, starring John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe, in a tale that pits the author against a murderous psychopath who patterns his crimes after Poe’s stories.

So, with Poe hitting the big screen yet again, it leads us to the subject of today’s QUICK CUTS column:  what’s your favorite movie based upon a story by Poe?

It could be that one which you feel best captured his work, or simply that one that you just happen to like the most.

Pete, since this is your first time here, we’ll start with you.

PETE DUDAR: Thanks, Michael.  And you’re right.  I’m new here to QUICK CUTS.  I’ve been looking forward to my chance to throw in my two cents.

(L.L. SOARES throws a bunch of coins at PETE.)

L.L. SOARES:  Keep the change!

PETE DUDAR (laughing):  Wow.  Real coins!

L.L. SOARES:  What?  Don’t they have real money up there in Maine?

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Alright, guys.  Let’s get to some real answers.

PETE DUDAR:  My favorite Poe film has to be Roger Corman’s adaptation of THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER.

L.L. SOARES:  The movie version was called THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960) in the U.S.

PETE DUDAR:  Yeah, that one.  In England it was called THE FALL OF...Vincent Price is one of the most beloved Poe character portrayers, and his performance as Roderick Usher is just flat-out creepy.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Yeah, Price is pretty creepy as Roderick.

PETE DUDAR:  I’m still on the fence about the new movie THE RAVEN. I feel as if Jeffrey Combs was slighted for the more popular (and better looking) John Cusack. Sometimes, integrity really is more important than box-office draw.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Well, we’ll find out this weekend.

L.L. SOARES:  As a huge fan of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, I really love their Poe-themed movies THE BLACK CAT (1934) and THE RAVEN (1935).

THE BLACK CAT, arguably the best of the Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi team-ups of the 1930s.

 

MICHAEL ARRUDA (groans):  Those are my two favorites too!

L.L. SOARES:  Well, I get to talk about them first.  So, shut up and let me talk about them!

These movies were made when both stars were at the height of their fame, and are very atmospheric (especially The Black Cat). Unfortunately, neither movie was very faithful to Poe’s work, and the only things they had in common with the stories were their titles.

Roger Corman’s series of Poe-inspired movies during the 1960s and 70s weren’t always faithful either, but at least they tried a little harder to be. The best of the bunch would be a tie for me: THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960)—.

PETE DUDAR:  Nice choice!  I’m glad I thought of it for you!

L.L. SOARES:  You didn’t even get the name of the movie right!

THE HOUSE OF USHER, Corman’s first Poe film, features a terrific performance by Vincent Price as Roderick Usher, in a tale of madness and incest in a creepy old house.

But for me, it’s a tie with MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964) which also features Price, this time as the decadent Prince Prospero, throwing a lavish masquerade party in his castle while a plague decimates the outside world. MASQUE even manages to include Poe’s story “Hop Frog” into the mix (although here the character is called Hop Toad for some bizarre reason).

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Maybe Corman didn’t like frogs.  Paul, how about you?

PAUL MCMAHON:  I don’t have any problem with frogs.

MICHAEL ARRUDA (laughing):  No.  What’s your favorite Poe adaptation?

PAUL MCMAHON:  My favorite Poe adaptation would have to be Roger Corman’s THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961) with Vincent Price. Richard Matheson’s screenplay added a ton of build up—the story was only two pages long, after all—but the movie kept the flavor of Poe throughout. It kept my attention completely, and had a kick-ass ending.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Really?  I always thought the ending was a bit of a letdown.  I wanted that pendulum to do some damage!

PAUL MCMAHON:  I also really enjoyed THE RAVEN (1963). Yeah, it was goofy as hell, but watching Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Jack Nicholson tearing it up makes for a fun night. I still plug it in occasionally.

L.L. SOARES: Ugh.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Yeah, that’s a funny one, but it’s not one of my favorites.

PAUL MCMAHON:  What are some of your favorites?

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Like L.L., probably my all-time favorite movie based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe would be the Universal flick THE BLACK CAT (1934) starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, although about the only thing this movie has in common with Poe is the title.  It’s really not based on Poe’s story at all.  It’s still a really cool movie though, probably my favorite pairing of Karloff and Lugosi.

L.L. SOARES: Hey! I already said all that. You just copied me!

MICHAEL ARRUDA: I also like THE RAVEN (1935) again starring Lugosi and Karloff.  Once more, this one had little to do with Poe other than Lugosi’s character’s obsession with Poe, especially his instruments of torture, and the film includes a scene with a giant swinging pendulum from THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM.

You also can’t go wrong with the Vincent Price movies based on Poe.  My favorite Price/Poe vehicle is probably THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968) based on Poe’s THE CONQUERER WORM, which is the film’s U.S. title.  It’s probably the best made of the Price/Poe movies, and it contains one of Price’s scariest performances.

PETE DUDAR:  No, that would be THE HOUSE OF USHER….

L.L. SOARES:  Hey, he got the title right!

PETE DUDAR:  Shut up, you!

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Ironically, THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL is not one of the Poe movies directed by Roger Corman.

L.L. SOARES: Yeah, it’s directed by the great Michael Reeves. I love that one, too!

MICHAEL ARRUDA: I also like THE OBLONG BOX (1969), with Price and Christopher Lee, THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964) and THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964), in which Vincent Price dons dark sunglasses and looks like Johnny Depp’s uncle.

So, there you have it, folks, our picks for our favorite Edgar Allan Poe adaptations.

Will the new movie THE RAVEN join the ranks of favorite Poe movies?  We’ll find out this weekend.

L.L. SOARES:  So be sure to join us this weekend for our CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT column on THE RAVEN.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Yes, definitely join us for that!  And thanks Peter and Paul for joining us.

L.L. SOARES:  Yeah, and next time bring Mary!

PETE DUDAR:  It’s been a blast.

PAUL MCMAHON:  Fun as always.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  On behalf of L.L. Soares, Pete Dudar, Paul McMahon, and myself, Michael Arruda, thank you all for joining us.  Good night everybody!

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Peter Dudar and Paul McMahon

Monstrous Question: BEST HORROR MOVIE MAKE-UP (Part 4 of 4)

Posted in 2012, Frankenstein Movies, Horror Movie Makeup, LL Soares Reviews, Monsters, Monstrous Question, Planet of the Apes, Roger Corman with tags , , , , , , on April 20, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  MONSTROUS QUESTION
Question by Michael Arruda
Featuring Michael Arruda,Dan Keohane, Mark Onspaugh and L.L. Soares
Part 4 of 4

Today’s MONSTROUS QUESTION:  What are your picks for the most memorable make-up jobs in a horror/monster movie?

##

L.L. SOARES responds:

It’s funny what kind of things leave their imprint on you when you’re growing up. It’s not that you can’t tell the difference between quality work and dreck when you’re young, but you are much more accepting of the bad stuff, because you can at least see the imagination that went behind it.

Growing up, Jack Pierce was one of my heroes. As an avid fan of old horror movies, especially the Universal classics, it was hard not to appreciate the fine work of the master. This was the man who single-handedly stamped the image of the FRANKENSTEIN Monster on our brains (in Mary Shelley’s book, he is quite different, but the 1931 film is where we get our visual for him). Pierce also did the make-up for DRACULA (1931), turning Bela Lugosi into the ultimate creature of the night,  THE MUMMY  – both Boris Karloff’s Imhotep (1932) and Kharis, played by Tom Tyler in THE MUMMY’S HAND (1940) and the great Lon Chaney, Jr. in the rest of the Kharis film series from 1942 – 1944.

Jack Pierce's FRANKENSTEIN Monster is the gold standard for horror movie makeup.

Pierce was also a pioneer in the makeup of classic werewolves, having given us Henry Hull’s memorable beast in the WEREWOLF OF LONDON (1935), as well as the iconic Larry Talbot’s alter ego in THE WOLF MAN (1941). He worked right up until his final years in the1960s.

The Westmore name was even more synonymous with make-up in Hollywood’s golden days, especially brothers  Bud and Wally Westmore. Usually, if there was some golden-age horror make-up that wasn’t by Pierce, chances are it was by one of the Westmores. But they didn’t just do horror movies. In fact, the Westmore name can be found in the credits of literally hundreds of movies of the 30s, 40s and 50s. Bud did the monster makeup for ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948), while Wally Westmore cut his teeth doing the makeup for movies like the Frederic March version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1931) and the  breath-taking classic,  ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932).

The strange creatures from THE MOLE PEOPLE, created by Bud Westmore.

There are lots of iconic images throughout the history of horror that are not as well known, but which are just as fresh in my mind after so many years of movie watching. Fascinating make-up creations like THE MOLE PEOPLE (1956) with makeup by Bud Westmore; the Morlocks in George Pal’s THE TIME MACHINE  from 1960 (makeup by William Tuttle ), the creatures from the Hammer films, especially THE REPTILE (1966), whose image (created by the great Roy Ashton) still stands out for me. In the science fiction cult classic THIS ISLAND EARTH, we were introduced to the Metaluna Mutant (created again by Bud Westmore), a throwaway character who was a sight to behold – I was always disappointed that he was never used again in other movies.

The creepy Morlocks from the original version of THE TIME MACHINE (1960).

Hammer great Roy Ashton's still scary makeup for THE REPTILE.

You might have seen the Metaluna Mutant on MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 when they laughed at the movie THIS ISLAND EARTH. But he's still cool as hell.

In the 60s and 70s, I (along with Michael Arruda and Mark Onspaugh) was captivated by the PLANET OF THE APES movies and their (at the time) cutting edge make-up effects, the work of the great John Chambers.

Their heirs have names like Dick Smith, Rick Baker and Tom Savini. All masters of their craft, who have impressed us with their creations over the years.

As for bad makeup, there is no shortage of that in the movies. Standouts include the wonderfully awful movie ZAAT from 1971 (also known as THE BLOOD WATERS OF DR. Z) – creature by Lee James O’Donnell; ZONTAR THE THING FROM VENUS by the legendarily horrible director Larry Buchanan; and just about anything Roger Corman did in 1950s, especially the laughably terrible monster from CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA (1961), designed by Beach Dickerson.

Run for your life! It's the monster known as ZAAT!

If this doesn't terrify you, nothing will. The monster from CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA!

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares
“Monstrous Question” created by Michael Arruda

—END Part 4—

In the Spooklight: THE TOMB OF LIGEIA

Posted in 2007, Edgar Allen Poe, In the Spooklight, Roger Corman, Vincent Price with tags , , , , , on October 8, 2010 by knifefighter

This column, on the Roger Corman/Vincent Price classic THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964), is from October 2007 and is another Halloween edition of IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, part of our month-long celebration of Halloween here at CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.—Michael Arruda, October 8, 2010

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: THE TOMB OF LIGEIA
by Michael Arruda

I prefer horror to be an emotional experience, which is why, sometimes Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations don’t work for me.

THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964), starring Vincent Price, Corman’s eighth and final Poe adaptation, is a perfect example.

Technically, the film is flawless. It’s arguably Corman’s best job at the helm. The film looks phenomenal, there’s great use of locations, and the camera work is extremely stylish. For these reasons alone watching THE TOMB OF LIGEIA can be as rewarding and mouthwatering as reading a good novel. Your intelligence won’t be let down.

It also has a decent screenplay by Robert Towne, which lives up to its source material. (Towne went on to write classics like 1974’s CHINATOWN).

However, THE TOMB OF LIGEIA has never been one of my favorites because as it plays out, it’s as cold as a corpse with about as much life (unless of course you’re talking vampire and zombies, which get around rather well, but there ain’t no vampires or zombies here!). Perhaps this is on purpose, and perhaps it’s just another sign of Corman’s genius. Could be. But for me, the fact remains that as I watch THE TOMB OF LIGEIA, and as I recognize while watching that “Hmm, this movie is extremely well made,” I also realize I’m not emotionally invested in the characters or the situations.

THE TOMB OF LIGEIA tells the story of Verden Fell (Vincent Price) who’s—what else? —brooding over the death of his wife, Ligeia. When a new woman, the Lady Rowena (Elizabeth Shepherd, in a dual role, as she also appears as Ligeia) expresses interest in Verden, the ghost of Ligeia takes offense, setting off the usual, standard ghostly shenanigans. We learn that Verden isn’t mourning his deceased wife—he’s afraid of her— afraid that she’s not really dead. It turns out Ligeia was a bold, energetic woman who had asserted she would never die, and she definitely got inside Verden’s head.

It’s this part of the film that works best for me. Is Ligeia really a ghost?  Or is it Verden, so brainwashed by his deceased wife that he himself is causing the mayhem? On this level, the film works well.

And the performances by the two leads are terrific. Price stands out as Verden. His look, with the dark brown hair and dark glasses, to shield his ultra sensitive eyes from the light, is unique to this movie. Price moves through this role effortlessly, as if he could do it in his sleep. Elizabeth Shepherd is just as good as The Lady Rowena. Her portrayal of Rowena as a strong woman who is not intimidated by evil spirits is refreshing.

But THE TOMB OF LIGEIA fails to connect on an emotional level. Price’s Verden isn’t that likeable, and while Shepherd’s Lady Rowena is, she’s not a central enough character to carry the movie on her own. I don’t really care about these characters, and as a result, I don’t care all that much about what happens to them, which makes for a lackluster movie viewing experience.

THE TOMB OF LIGEIA is a mixed bag, which for Halloween, is OK. In a trick or treat bag, chances are you’ll get candy you’re not crazy about along with your favorites, but still, it’s candy, and you’re not going to throw it away. Likewise, THE TOMB OF LIGEIA is a stylish, almost beautiful, horror movie that is pleasing to the eye and the intellect, but not so attractive to the heart. For those of us who tell tales, the heart can be the difference maker. Still, it’s Corman, it’s Price, it’s Poe, it’s candy.

It’s Halloween. Eat up.

—END—

© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda