Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Quick Look: CHUPACABRA VS THE ALAMO (2013 - color)

    The laughably titled CHUPACABRA VS THE ALAMO was one of those movies made for The Sci-Fi Channel, or SYFY as it's come to be. It was almost entirely on the casting of Erik Estrada (who of course rides a motorcycle) that I even gave this one a shot, though I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. Both spectacularly goofy and spectacularly decent, the film tells of a huge swarm of tiny-but-powerful, blood-thirsty, rabid wild dogs* invading San Antonio, where a DEA agent, his wayward son, and a gang of drug dealers must take up arms and are ultimately sieged inside the historic monument to American independence. At times very silly, but at other times quite solid, counter to my natural expectations. Ultimately, a rather enjoyable little B picture. Estrada in particular comes off great, and the script is largely quite good -though the mass-attack scenes and the whole climax are downright farcical. In the end, though, it comes off like a 70's B picture that doesn't take itself too seriously, so you might find it worth a look. 

(*Back in the 90's, the mythical Chupacabra was described as a short, clawed, quasi-humanoid bat-like creature with bulging eyes. It has since been changed to accompany reports of mange-ridden coyotes and wild dogs. The creatures in this film, rendered in typically awful CGI, look like mutant chihuahuas.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Quick Look: SPACE JAM (1996 - color)

  SPACE JAM is a movie which I admit underwhelmed me when I first saw it (likely because I've never been a sports guy). A fresh screening proved the film better than I remembered, and I found myself laughing quite a bit in this weird tale of NBA superstar Michael Jordan recruited by the Looney Tunes to help them win a basketball game against invaders from space who want to enslave the cartoon stars and force them to work at an intergalactic amusement park. There are complications due to Jordan's recent retirement from basketball to pursue a career playing baseball, and the invaders have stolen the talents of several NBA giants! This was seemingly Jordan's bid to become an actor, and he does rather well here. Though playing himself, he comes off smooth and demonstrates the rare ability to interact with animated characters in a naturalistic fashion. The technical abilities of the effects crew are also quite impressive, and cartoon animation and live action blend without having too jarring an effect on the eye. The number of NBA personalities involved would likely mean a lot more to someone who followed the game in the 90's, but most of them indeed prove themselves solid entertainers. With so many notable WB characters being male, the studio introduces a new female character in the shape of Lola Bunny. Though she has a bit of a cult following in her own right, she follows the lead of Bugs Bunny's other romantic interests and largely dropped from sight after her first appearance. For whatever reason, the universe of the Looney Tunes cartoons is apparently at the center of the Earth (making one wonder if other studios are supposed to have similar colonies embedded under the ground). Those who felt the animated characters served mainly as set dressing for a Michael Jordan movie would get a better showing from them in LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION some years later. Though I loved that one, it fizzled out at the box office. Back to SPACE JAM, though, I must admit I found it highly entertaining this time. A fan of the characters could do worse for an evening's entertainment.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Quick Look: THE TIME TRAVELERS (1964 - color)

   THE TIME TRAVELERS is one of my favorites. A team of technicians working on a screen capable of viewing other points in time discover the screen is in fact a doorway and find themselves stranded in a distant future where human life is almost extinct. I love everything about this picture: the cast, the performances, the color, the sets, the costumes, the music, the dialog, just wonderful. Granted the film takes several breaks to demonstrate various stage illusions as scientific inventions, but even these are rather charming. Look for Famous Monsters creator Forry Ackerman in one of his film cameos. Remade/reworked a couple years later as JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF TIME (with Scott Brady and Anthony Eisley, and a bit part from a young Lyle Waggner). The two productions shared some of the same crew, including the script girl! Large swaths of dialog were repeated, though it manages to be it's own movie.

Friday, March 16, 2018

A Quick Look: THE 27TH DAY (1957)

   THE 27TH DAY was one I saw only recently (within the last few years, I mean) as it didn't seem to get any TV play when I was a kid. The story tells of how a being from another world abducts a handful of earthlings (an American reporter, a red soldier, a poor Oriental farm girl, etc) and gives them each a set of capsules capable of destroying all life on Earth. If they can use them correctly or not at all within 27 days, humanity will be spared. The group plans to just keep the capsules a secret until the 27 days are up, but the Martian goes on television and makes sure the rest of the world knows what's going on and who has the capsules! Intriguing drama somewhat undercut by it's rather fanciful and silly ending. Still, the performances are strong and concept powerful. Joins a handful of political 50's science fiction movies like the under-rated RED PLANET MARS, though this has nothing over the Peter Graves epic. Gene Barry stars here, not long before he became television's Bat Masterson. Happily, the film now resides on a nice DVD release alongside other classic gems via Mill Creek.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Quick Look: KIDNAPPED COED (1976 - color)

    I wanted to post the wildly misleading poster art for KIDNAPPED COED, but was unable to find a good image of it. This was one I avoided for a while because of the brutal rape scene highlighted in the film's trailer, but I finally found myself screening it and finding the movie... intriguing. Originally produced as THE KIDNAP LOVER, the film saw wide release under the more exploitative title KIDNAPPED COED. This new title was inserted into the original credits and as result credits the actual kidnapper as the titular victim! Nor does the victim being a coed really matter. The story follows a desperate would-be kidnapper and the girl he snatches, and he ends up being better to her than the people they meet while waiting for her father to deliver a $3,000,000 ransom! Along their misadventures, the girl comes to love the kidnapper, though there are growing hints that she may be a little off in the head anyway. What really struck me was how much this film played like a newer film in it's script, acting, and editing. If one didn't know better, it would be easy to pass the film off as a period piece. Filmed in North Carolina, the film even sports some occasionally beautiful cinematography. Though things drag at times, the character development is rich and the performances rather solid, some character moments being downright humorous. If the film falters in a major way, it's the abrupt (though admittedly amusing) ending, which feels like the film comes short by a reel. This serves to undercut much of what the film had developed prior to that point (though if one wishes to see it as a sort of joke payoff, it's fairly clever in that regard). Not one to repeat often, but surprisingly better than I expected when going in. No masterpiece, but not a total waste of time, either. Still, one wishes the more action-oriented adventure promised by the poster had been made into a movie itself.

Sunday, March 11, 2018


   Like most Irwin Allen series, this one was extremely ambitious and boasted the most expensive pilot of it's day -a record subsequently broke by the very next Allen pilot/series! The Time Tunnel concerned a secret military operation to probe time via the titular object. Robert Colbert played Doug Phillips, the serious scientist who invented the Tunnel, and James Darren the impetuous younger scientist, Tony Newman. Both men found themselves trapped in the Tunnel when Tony set out to test the device and Doug followed him in to rescue him. Our heroes now find themselves swirling about the limitless space of time, occasionally finding a stable entrance into a specific moment and becoming a part of past or future history until the time vortex flares up again. Among those who watched near-helplessly from the command station were Lee Meriwether's beauteous lady scientist Ann MacGregor, John Zaremba's Dr. Swain, and project head Gen. Heywood Kirk (brought to life by the always welcome Whit Bissell). What made the series work beyond the flashy aesthetic was the strength of it's cast and the morality of it's characters. Tony and Doug often found themselves in a moment of history for which only they possessed important knowledge which was ignored by those actually a part of it all. The men became a part of the moment, and in a few cases were even the cause of certain events occurring. The show was cancelled when Allen determined the budget couldn't be reduced in answer to the station's wishes. Three episodes were later edited into a feature film for television and video, titled ALIENS FROM ANOTHER PLANET. Great show. Would love to see the whole thing. "Two American scientists are lost in the swirling maze of past and future ages, during the first experiments on America's greatest and most secret project, the Time Tunnel. Tony Newman and Doug Phillips now tumble helplessly toward a new fantastic adventure, somewhere along the infinite corridors of time...."