Thursday, June 14, 2018
Though it came along in the later half of the 60's, HOT RODS TO HELL could easily have been a 50's suspenser. Dana Andrews is a happy-go-lucky suburban husband and father until a car crash one Christmas changes him into a sour, gun-shy man near the end of his nerve. Oh, he's no coward or anything, but he's overly-cautious to the point of being considered so by his family. When he gets a new job in the desert, the family packs up. When they get there, though, they find it JD central, with the family harassed by a hot rod gang that picks on them for no reason... at the start. Eventually, they find a reason, in the lead thug making designs on the family's teenage daughter! As so often happens with Dana Andrews, he's pushed to the breaking point, where he fights back! Super-charged combination of domestic drama, psychological suspense, and JD thriller, HOT RODS TO HELL remains mysteriously obscure. The film has some fans, and was even used as the frame for a Freakazoid! cartoon entitled "Hot Rods From Heck" but it's not got near the reputation it should. Reference materials often write the film off as an ineffective B picture, but it's got a lot going for it. Though the family is the main focus, the script tries to offer plenty of insight into the roughnecks as well, making it a more balanced affair than one might expect. Dana Andrews played a number of troubled men who must overcome extraordinary circumstances, so he's a natural here. Jeanne Crain plays his wife, and Mimsy Farmer is one of the delinquent girls. Reportedly, the film was to be made as early as 1955, but didn't get produced until 1966 as a planned TV movie (which, if true, explains a lot of the film's aesthetic aspects). Instead, the film was released theatrically in 1967. Recommended.
Monday, June 11, 2018
Friday, June 8, 2018
EMPIRE OF THE ANTS was Bert Gordon's return to the giant insect genre, exploring the events which plague a resort island and surrounding farming community after a colony of ants is exposed to a leaky barrel of toxic waste (which was a trope as familiar to 70's/80's genre pictures as atomic radiation was to the previous two decades). As you can see, the ants sprout to monstrous size as result of their exposure. They also become super-intelligent and learned in the ways of mind control, enslaving an entire town into serving them. Fortunately, Robert Lansing is around to fight back. Noted for the presence of Joan Collins, the film is interesting if imperfect. The effects are, for the most part, not bad, but the mixing of photo-enlarged real ants against and location background plates often looks more whimsical than terrifying. The full-sized monster ant props look okay, but they're used almost entirely in quick cuts. You get a much better look at them in production photos like this one. Very loosely based on an H.G. Wells story, the film might've been more effective had it been made back in the 50's. Certainly, the film's effects would've looked a bit better in black and white. The pacing is also uneven, and it lags here and there. All in all, though, not a horrible way to spend an hour and a half if you're looking for some 70's drive-in fare. It's certainly no KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS, but it's not a total dud either.
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Saturday, June 2, 2018
Not only is the Crissy Carrots graphic novel, LOVE IN BLOOM, moving towards publication, but the book will be in full COLOR! Here's an in-progress color sheet by Jim Ludwig (the art is mine) showing Crissy's pal Daisy Poise. An animated movie is also in the works! More on that later... Praise the Lord!
Thursday, May 31, 2018
With Roger Moore's departure, EON set about casting the new James Bond. Pierce Brosnan was very nearly cast when his television series Remington Steele was renewed to take advantage of the news, thus preventing Brosnan from playing 007. (The revived series subsequently was very short-lived, but Pierce would have another shot in the next decade.) THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS eventually starred Timothy Dalton, who saw Sean Connery as his role model for the part. This new version of Bond was much grittier, and his adventures based more firmly in present day events. Here, our hero gets entangled in a plot involving a false defector in union with an arms dealer hoping to escalate the Afghanistan war. The defector even dupes his trusting sweetheart, with whom Bond joins up to track his quarry down. Maryam D'Abo is the beautiful Russian girl, a more petite sort of Bond girl than we're used to seeing, but an absolute knockout all the same. Joe Don Baker (no relation) puts in a fine performance as an arms dealer who fancies himself a soldier -despite his never really being in an actual military service. I saw this movie again after some years had passed and I'd largely forgotten it. I really enjoyed it! A fine adventure film, and Dalton's more layered characterization as Bond is quite riveting. Interestingly, one of the names suggested before Dalton's casting was Sam Neil. Neil would've been a very good choice, I think, but Dalton is certainly fitting for the late 80's Bond. John Barry provides his final 007 soundtrack, and the results are impressive as ever. THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS did extremely well, and the next film, LICENSE TO KILL, was short in coming.