Saturday, December 1, 2018

November Quick Picks and Pans

Razorback (1984) Music video director Russell Mulcahy made his audacious feature film debut with this stylish tale of man against nature. An American TV journalist (Judy Morris) travels to a remote Australian town for her animal abuse investigation, where she’s met with hostility and indifference from the locals. After she vanishes without a trace, her fiancé flies out to find the answers, and finds himself face to face with a virtually unstoppable beast. Razorback might be described as Jaws on the outback, but that’s selling it short. The film has a flavor all its own, thanks to a script by Ozploitation auteur Everett De Roche (based on a novel by Peter Brennan), which raises the exploits of an oversized killer boar to mythical proportions. Dean Semler’s (The Road Warrior) stunning cinematography transforms the barren landscape into something from another planet, using red filters and exploiting the odd shapes of the desert terrain to great effect. A gore-streaked pet food plant, incorporating various critters scavenged from the wasteland, becomes a character itself. This film would be a great double feature with Wake in Fright, and likely crush any aspirations of visiting the outback.

Rating: ***½. Available on Blu-ray (Region B) and DVD

Something Weird (1967) This aptly named wonder (which inspired the eponymous video distributor) from low budget filmmaker Herschell Gordon Lewis contains the requisite stilted dialogue and cheap sets that Lewis is known for, but never fails to entertain. After an unfortunate run-in with a downed powerline, Mitch (Tony McCabe) ends up with a disfigured face, but is endowed with psychic abilities. He encounters a hideous witch (Mudite Arums) who can restore his appearance for a steep price – he’s bound to be her lover forever. She disguises her own appearance as his attractive young secretary (Elizabeth Lee), while he helps authorities search for a killer. One of the film’s highlights is a trippy orange-tinged LSD scene, simulating Mitch’s dalliance with LSD. If you’re tired of the same old stuff, give this a watch.

Rating: ***. Available on DVD

Terror Street (aka: 36 Hours) (1953) Dan Duryea stars as Major Bill Rogers, an American pilot on furlough in England. He returns to the flat that he shares with his wife (Elsie Albiin), only to discover that she’s left him. He tracks her down to another flat, where he finds her dead, and he’s the prime suspect. Now he has 36 hours to evade the authorities and solve the mystery before he’s arrested by British police or declared AWOL by the Air Force. He crosses path with dangerous con man Orville Hart (John Chandos), who’s masquerading as a government official.

This example of Hammer noir (a co-production from Anthony Hinds and Robert L. Lippert) is well paced, with an excellent performance by Chandos as the heavy and a satisfying conclusion in a shady import shop. Unfortunately, the film suffers from an unsympathetic protagonist who bullies everyone in sight, including a good-hearted social worker (Gudrun Ure). Rogers seems more interested in clearing his name than experiencing any semblance of grief over the death of his estranged wife. It’s worth a peek.

Rating: ***. Available on DVD

The Hunger (1983) Catherine Deneuve stars as Miriam Blaylock, a centuries-old vampire. She resides in New York with her husband John (David Bowie), who begins to undergo rapid aging. As John fades away, she takes interest in Dr. Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon), a young gerontologist. Deneuve is good as the seductive, enigmatic Miriam, who grooms Sarah to become her new life partner. It’s too bad the rest of the film succumbs to an excess of style instead of substance. The Hunger toys with the intriguing concept of vampirism as a cure for aging, but it’s far too interested in focusing on its self-absorbed characters and slick visuals. If nothing else, it’s a pretty looking exercise, and Deneuve is radiant in a role she seemed born to play.

 Rating: **½. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Amazon Video

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