Thursday, March 23, 2023

March Quick Picks and Pans

Blue Monkey Poster

Blue Monkey (aka: Insect) (1987) In this entertaining mess, an old hospital becomes ground zero for a new species of giant insect with an accelerated reproductive rate. Police detective Jim Bishop (Steve Railsback) teams up with Dr. Rachel Carson (Gwynyth Walsh) to stop the deadly infestation. John Vernon plays a hospital administrator more concerned with bad publicity than a potential health epidemic. Things get a bit muddled with too many threads about the hospital’s various patients, including parents-to-be George and Sandra Baker (played by SCTV alums Joe Flaherty and Robin Duke) and a group of  precocious little tykes (featuring a very young Sarah Polley). Quibbles aside, it’s a solid B-monster movie, albeit with updated practical effects. 

Rating: ***½. Available on Blu-ray and Tubi

Cowards Bend the Knee Poster

Cowards Bend the Knee (2003) Looking for a change of pace? How about some more insanity from Winnipeg-based filmmaker Guy Maddin? This dreamlike, black-and-white silent film, told in 10 chapters, follows the exploits of Maroons star hockey player Guy Maddin (played by Darcy Fehr), as he falls into a love triangle between femme fatale Meta (Melissa Dionisio) and the ghost of his deceased girlfriend Veronica (Amy Stewart). In a nod to The Hands of Orlac (1924), he embarks on a murderous rampage, convinced that he’s possessed by newly transplanted hands from Meta’s father. What does it all mean? Who knows? Just roll with it. 

Rating: ***½. Available on DVD and Kanopy

The White Buffalo Poster

The White Buffalo (1977) Director J. Lee Thompson’s western fable (based on a novel by Richard Sale) had an undeserved reputation for being a box office and critical flop when it was released, but it deserves a reappraisal. What if Wild Bill Hickock (Charles Bronson) teamed up with Crazy Horse (Will Sampson) to hunt a mythical albino buffalo? While the western action (including the obligatory bar fight) is fairly standard, it features engaging performances by Bronson and Sampson as former enemies who form a bond. Kim Novak, Jack Warden, Slim Pickens and John Carradine round out the stellar cast. The eponymous buffalo (brought to life with guidance by effects maestro Carlo Rambaldi) is a force of nature, analogous to Ahab’s white whale. 

Rating: ***. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Tubi

Class of 1984

Class of 1984 (1982) Andrew Norris (Perry King) is a new, idealistic music teacher at one of the worst high schools in the country. This teensploitation flick ticks every box of youth-gone-bad stereotypes, but succeeds thanks to a surprisingly good performance by Timothy Van Patten as Peter Stegman, the sociopathic ringleader of a gang with a stranglehold on the rest of the students. Lisa Langlois is also compelling as his equally unscrupulous companion, Patsy. The real standout, however, is Roddy McDowell as an alcoholic science teacher who’s been pushed too far. Watch for a young Michael J. Fox (before he added the initial “J” to his name) as a band student who pays the price for cooperating with Mr. Norris. 

Rating: ***. Available on Blu-ray, DVD, Prime Video and Tubi


  1. Great reviews, Barry!
    I'm intrigued by all of them! Even the white buffalo, though westerns are rarely my cup of tea.

    1. It was a good batch of movies, this time around. I'm not a huge western fan, either, but I was intrigued by the mystical element of The White Buffalo. Enjoy!

  2. I saw Class of 1984 back in the mid-80s, although I missed the beginning. I've never forgotten it, put it that way lol. I do remember the ringleader character, as well as McDowell and Fox.

    Thanks for the review of The White Buffalo. I've seen it advertised a few times, but never realised it was a western. I might check it out

    1. I've been meaning to see Class of 1984 for many years - Glad I finally got around to it. The White Buffalo was another one that I always wondered about. Not bad at all. Thanks for stopping by!