Sunday, October 1, 2023

September Quick Picks and Pans


Zurdo Poster

Zurdo (2003) In this Mexican postapocalyptic fairy tale from director/co-writer Carlos Salces, Zurdo (aka: “Lefty”) (Álex Perea) is a young boy with a prodigious talent for playing marbles. As the undisputed marble champion in his town, he’s about to be challenged by the reigning wizard from the big city. Meanwhile, he and his mother are facing eviction from a wealthy landowner who has a stranglehold on the town, and a corrupt police officer who’s betting on his opponent. While the film is geared at families, its much darker in tone, compared to anything from the States. While the story and plot aren’t groundbreaking (guess who wins the final showdown), it’s a refreshing spin on the material and a journey worth taking. 

Rating: ***½. Available on DVD 

Gemini Poster

Gemini (1999) In early 20th century Japan, a young doctor (Masahiro Motoki) married to a woman with amnesia (Ryô) discovers that he has a malevolent doppelganger (also played by Motoki). He soon finds himself at the bottom of a well, while his counterpart has assumed his life This unsettling thriller writer/director Shin'ya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Hiruko the Goblin) based on an Edogawa Rampo (known as the Japanese Edgar Allan Poe) doesn’t rely on jump scares or gore, only a pervasive sense of unease. 

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


The Apple Poster

The Apple (1980) Nothing can prepare you for this bonkers musical directed/co-written by Menahem Golan of Cannon Films fame. Set In the near future of 1994(!), small-town Canadian singing duo Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart) and Alphie (George Gilmour) try to find fame in a totalitarian America run by shadowy Mephistophelian figure Mr. Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal). Bibi and Alphie challenge the status quo with their out-of-step peace and love message, catching the attention of Boogalow. The plot thickens when Bibi is seduced by fame, becoming an overnight pop star. Filled to the brim with ridiculous outfits, goofy songs, and a questionable plot (culminating in an ultimate showdown between good and evil), The Apple bombards the senses like few musicals can. Although you might wonder what someone added to the filmmakers’ drinking water, it's a surprisingly entertaining mess that defies easy description. Enjoy at your own risk. 

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

The Flying Serpent Poster

The Flying Serpent (1946) In this cheapie from producer Sigmund Neufeld, archaeologist Andrew Forbes (George Zucco) stumbles upon a vast horde of treasure while studying Aztec ruins in New Mexico. He decides to keep it for himself, and as added insurance, secures the services of the ancient feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl as guardian. Anyone who gets too close incurs the wrath of Quetzalcoatl (which resembles a rejected Muppet design made out of carpet remnants), which attacks anyone foolish enough to have one of its feathers in their possession (with Forbes’ help, mwah, hah, hah!). The mysterious deaths continue until a snooping radio show host finds a way to sniff out the killer. The Flying Serpent has a similar plot to 1940’s The Devil Bat (except it’s missing Bela Lugosi’s tongue-in-cheek delivery and a credible motive), but it’s not quite as ghoulishly charming. Still, at only 58 minutes, you won’t lose that much time from your life. 

Rating: **½. Available  



  1. Perhaps an even more eclectic collection of pics and pans than usual, Barry!

    I've experienced the apple and your description is spot on, especially since it's difficult to describe it! I was entertained and bewildered by the entire thing!

    A malevolent doppelganger immediately intrigues me with gemini! Probably because soap operas run deep in my veins. LOL

    1. Thanks, John! With the exception, perhaps, of The Flying Serpent, I think it's a worthy batch of films. And Gemini is well worth seeking out.

  2. As always Barry, your picks are fresh and surprising! 3 1/2 stars for a film about playing marbles in a post-apocalyptic world? You heard it here first at Cinematic Catharsis! I laughed out loud at your description of The Flying Serpent as a carpet-remnant muppet. 😂

    1. Yeah, Zurdo was this past month's big surprise! I tend to think the Flying Serpent and Devil Bat are cousins, but that's just my theory. ;) Thanks for stopping by!