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A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Paris Police 1900 - 2021 - 7/10

Perhaps better for French history majors, but one should be able to keep up with references.
In this case, the ongoing, divisive Dreyfus Affair, which the military is unable to cover-up, and agitators are exploiting.
The root is anti-Semitism, which, like any hatred, is a toxic stew of hatred of the other, self-hatred and fear.
Dreyfus is background to the sexual intrigues, assassinations, beatings, animal cruelty.
And yes, the treatment of animals in this is fairly shocking.
E07 ends on a momentous cliffhanger. The resolution of that is particularly lame.
Excellent series, and I plan to view the followup, Paris Police 1905.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Ultimate Degenerate - 1969 - 4/10

Maria, bored with her lesbian exhibitionism, answers a classifieds for sex-work.
Soon she is involved in nude go-go dancing, whipped cream, striptease, cigar stuffing.

The “boss” is a wheelchair confined nutjob, into sadism and accidental murder.
Lots of photographs are taken, inventive usage of corncobs, bondage, I lost track.
Full nude throughout, although not necessarily arousing.

The music consists of classical chamber, bachelor pad lounge, bump ‘n grind.
Smutty peep show concludes with an orgy of sadism.
Note: My opening titles read “The Degenerate”. No “Ultimate”.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Miracle Club - 2023 - 6/10

1967, and the faithful, hopeful, still pray that a miracle may happen at Lourdes.
Four women, one with a son, the other three with a bitter history.
One has just traveled from Boston for her estranged mother’s funeral.
They take the bus, then the ferry, only to find hotel rooms must be shared.
A drama of grievances, a sad history that will never stay buried, possible forgiveness.
Some of the side-stories (menfolk) are cliché, but this is a warm Irish film, with plenty of salt.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Anonymous Heroes - 1971 - 6/10
AKA - Wu Ming Ying Xiong // 無名英雄

Light-hearted adventure set between the Chinese revolutionary period and WWII.
Japanese are referenced, but they are only supplying weapons at this stage.
Two devil-may-care brothers agree to help the revolutionaries, and are joined by a feisty female.
While this boasts numerous action sequences, the narrative moves along.
The planning, the theft, a wild chase involving a train and galloping horsemen.
I don’t really know the history of that era, so I’m sure I missed out on references.
Nevertheless, what a wild ride, with a trio of charmers.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Forest Of The Missing - 2022 - 6/10
AKA - La Forêt des Disparus

A series of graves are discovered in the borderland between France and Germany.
All men, all murdered. From recently to decades earlier.
Jurisdiction is murky, so both nations share in the investigation.
As does a judge currently on hiatus, suffering amnesia, though disturbed by flashbacks.
In and of itself, the plot is thin broth, although there are compelling side stories and detours.
The core is feminist empowerment, which I could never decide if it was preachy or mirrored today’s cultural zeitgeist.

What are you reading?

Esquinca, Bernardo - The Secret Life Of Insects

The land of the dead. Where old gods sense their time of return is nigh. Where Aztec dancers pound the turista square by day, yield the nights to forces more ancient.

Dragan’s wife purchased the baby chair at a deep discounter. The chair made odd noises. Curious, Dragan read the print on the back. Ligotti Industries. “The Wizard’s Hour” follows Dragan in his search for the maker of the chairs, and the shaper of dreams.

Other dreams intrude on the writer. He could seek therapy, drugs, yet either may stifle his creativity. In “The Paradoxical Man” he decides to seek a solution at the Order of the Crow. And his nightmares worsen.

Laurinda longed for Raúl, enough to cast a spell on him. Fate, though, does play those cruel jests. “Come To Me” finds Laurinda continue with the magic, even as results grow ever direr.

In the world of urban sprawl, frantic bustle, the grinding jaws of technology, one might assume there is no place for older gods, particularly Pan. On the contrary, in “Pan’s Noontide” it soon become apparent others are not convinced of the ordained dominance of technology, and they toil determinedly to revive a forgotten cult.

There are several illustrations enhancing the stories (not just random images).
An imaginative collection, especially for those who may have wandered Mexico’s streets by night, who have witnessed the dance, who have sensed the violence and sacrificed still simmering under the mask.

As of this review (2023 11 07) there remain signed copies for the HC, at NO additional charge. Please, support presses such as Valencourt, who go the extra length for readers, and buy direct.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Wake In Fright - 1971 - 7/10

Beware, beware, beware.
School is out for the six week Christmas break.
Teacher John Grant is bound for the Sydney beach and his girlfriend.
First, a stopover in Bundanyabba, where he gets caught up in local pastimes of drinking, carousing, gambling.
Gambling to the extent that he loses all his money and has to stay.
Australian outback presages Mad Max and Wolf Creek and is scarier than either.
Be warned, the midnight kangaroo hunt is just that – an actual hunt with dozens of killings.
Otherwise, this will stay with you for months, perhaps haunt you enough to stay home this year.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Fist Of Legend - 1994 - 7/10
AKA - Jing wu Ying Xiong // 精武英雄

Martial arts master Chen Zhen returns to a troubled Shanghai.
Time is 1937, and the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War.
Chen’s teacher had been killed in a duel with a karate master, and Zhen suspects foul play.
True or not, honor is now at stake, for the Chinese, for the Japanese.
Perhaps Jet Li’s finest film, with outstanding fights.
By this time, however, his onscreen personal of dour & sour stone face is entrenched.
Final duel with General Fujita is classic Hong Kong cinema.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Mouths Of Sand - 2020 - 7/10
AKA - Hondar Ahoak

Recently reactivated Inspector Garcia is called in about the disappearance of Captain Josu.
Everyone in the small Basque port assumes Josu is dead, and refers to him in the past tense.
As with most mysteries, there is thicket of suspects with motives.
Josu had been convicted of smuggling and drug-running a decade earlier.
Inspector Garcia pursues the drug angle, rather than the disappearance proper.
Upsetting the entire local equilibrium and economy.
Unusual mix of legends and mysticism adds color to this short series.
Spanish production, although Basque is the primary language.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Ice Station Zebra - 1968 - 6/10

Big cast, slow-moving twaddle
After a satellite crashes in the Arctic, a US submarine is dispatched to rescue a British contingent there.
Soviet MiG fighters are also enroute. Rescue? Please. The satellite is an early spy satellite.
The effects are impressive, lots of model work.
The story drags, characters are too muddled, there is little tension for a thriller.
At two and a half hours, a cut of thirty minutes would have helped.
Based on an Alistair MacLean novel, although not as popular as other film adaptations.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Last Voyage - 1960 - 6/10

Ocean liner disaster flick slots somewhere between A Night To Remember (1958) and Titanic (1997).
Robert Stack leads a sizable cast, although Woody Strode steals the movie as the engine stoker.
An aging vessel, on its final Pacific crossing, suffers and explosion and begins to leak.
Stack’s wife is trapped between steel, and the waters rise closer.
The narrative shifts between crew and passengers in rapid paced Hollywood adventure.
George Sanders quite good as the captain who refuses to accept events.
Predictable, although not as hammy as the highfalutin nonsense in 1997.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Wild Reeds - 1994 - 7/10
AKA - Les Roseaux Sauvages

Coming of age * film of three (perhaps four) students
Cramming for their baccalauréat, exploring (questioning) their sexuality, worrying about their futures.
A constant background presence is France’s ongoing war with Algeria, and the upcoming, mandatory service.
Held my interest throughout, and I generally dislike films with children or young adults.
These are intelligent, and either intellectual or self-aware.

  • Coming of age? I know adults in their 60’s who are still adolescents. Many never grow up.
A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Stop Nyqvist - 2022 - 6/10
AKA - Pysäyttäkää Nyqvist

Heads at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs want a patsy to blame for their own blunders.
Foolish intern Nyqvist is pushed to the head a newly founded secret service.
Thing is, Nyqvist is motivated and earnest. A go-getter.
Hoping to impress his Finnish bosses, he sinks a sub!
International crisis #1. Then he realizes he has a highly proficient assassin on his team.
Later, two assassins!
A Swedish hitman arrives to whack our hero.
Eight part series spoofs espionage thrillers, though I confess some Finland references eluded me.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Shanghai Fortress - 2019 - 5/10
AKA - 上海堡垒

I suppose this fulfills lesser ambitions.
A Chinese spaceship brings back a self-replicating energy source, Xianteng.
Coal, gas, oil, all replaced and humanity experiences an new Renaissance.
Until Alien invaders arrive, seeking Xianteng, and laying waste the planet.
Of major cities, only Shanghai holds out, but for how long?
Wild SciFi actioner will be high octane java juice for fans of Transformers, Independence Day, Matrix Revolutions.
Plenty of major CGI conflicts, interspersed with unrequited romance storylines.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Princess Comes Across - 1936 - 6/10

On the trans-Atlantic liner, Mammoth, a blackmailer shakes down a bandleader and a Swedish princess.
Then he is found dead. By the princess, who is a fraud. While the bandleader has a prison record.
What else? An escaped murderer is a stowaway, on a vessel with five police inspectors.
Most of the comedy is from Lombard who does not overplay her silly schtick. Instead, she channels Garbo.
MacMurray shows a tougher edge, which suits him, and feeds the mystery angle.
Excellent old-fashioned whodunit, superbly shot, especially complicated shadow scenes.

What are you reading?

Various (Editor: Keenan, Vince) - Noir City Annual 15

Fifteen years already. Wow. And the contents continue to mine a rich vein.

Straight off, what I want, new discoveries. Argentinian Noir. Films from Viñoly Barreto and Fernando Ayala. Each one tempting enough to start me hunting.
“Merry X-Mas” does a nice overview of Cover-Up (1949), which I have seen. A light-hearted, breezy Noir, and well suited to Christmas.

Three articles veer into music for or tinged with Noir. One profiles Paul Roberts, composer, musician, artist. Another interviews Melissa Errico on her recent release (for me, her voice needs another decade of cigarettes and alcohol). The third is of a self-promoting wannabee.

Profiles include William Holden, Stanley Baker and Veronica Lake. I have Lake’s autobiography, and can attest that the article is concise and accurate.

Harry Popkin – never heard of him. Yet, he built an empire of boxing, burlesque and B-films, including D.O.A.

Stateside, his films can be tough to track down, but the essay on Claude Chabrol lists some of the highlights to place on your want list.

Note: I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. These Noir City Annuals do not stay in print long. The limited number print run only benefits aging aficionados and collectors. Publisher Eddie Muller really ought to offer p.o.d. reprints for future generations.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Defending Your Life - 1991 - 7/10

That’s the way it goes sometimes. One moment you’re rolling easy down Life’s Highway, the next moment you’re dead and in Judgment City.
Say where? Daniel is in the waiting zone, where he will be deemed eligible to ascent to Heaven, or back to Earth.
Hit and miss Albert Brooks comedy is one of his best, with plenty of jokes and compelling concepts.
Meryl Streep, especially luminous and likeable here, is an enlightened soul, all but predestined.
Brooks, on the other hand, is one of us. A schlub.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Scarecrow Of Romney Marsh - 1963 - 6/10

The right Reverend Syn, minister by day, rebel leader by night.
Pre-Colonial Revolution, the English needs recruits. If none volunteer, they are impressed.
Meaning, forcibly enlisted.
Opposing them are the masked Scarecrow and his renegade team.
What ensues is high adventure, plenty of action (no bloodshed), and a series of cat n mouse chases.
Patrick McGoohan dominates throughout and is unforgettable, both as the enlightened minister to his village, and as the rather frightening Scarecrow.
Warning: The official DVD / BluRay is ridiculously overpriced!

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Wet Pit Below - 2047 - 4/10

Clara and Fred, along with Sue and Butch, are driving cross country.
They plan to make it BIG in Hollywood. Major film, indie film, TV or porn.
While Clara and Fred milk the snake enroute, Sue and Butch trail in the second car.
Less groping and stroking from this couple, who serve to narrate proceedings.
In Arkansas, a repo man seizes one vehicle, so they detour off the main route to avoid another seizure.

Where their vehicle breaks down in the abandoned hamlet called America’s Dream.
Clara and Fred (cousins or siblings?) find a cobwebbed house with clean sheets.
Meanwhile, Sue and Butch explore the basement, finding a damp stone pit with ladder rungs.
Descending – for five padded minutes! – only to find a second well, and where their incessant talking rouses the dreaming deity below.

Dread Cthulhu!
Who does not like its naptime disturbed. Worse, is infuriated that it is in Arkansas.
Grade-D sleazy mess from the Pepper Brothers has dismal production values, repetitive Casio score, and what can only be called “experimental” camera work.
Acting talent? Please! Although Clara (Misty Moss?) is easy on the eyes and noisily enthusiastic.
For Cthulhu completists who think they’ve seen it all, a shoddy Cthulhu porno.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Da Killa - 2002 - 6/10

Early on, a Juju priest concocts a devil’s blend and infuses a hefty bag of reefer.
Why? Who knows? Perhaps his fetish doll knows. For the doll sees all.
The narrative shifts to Leroy, over-stressed at home, hurrying to work.
Where, street-side, he costumes up and advertises for the local vacuum store.

Life, for Leroy as for many of us, quickly sours.
He is fired, turns to crime, drinks, gambles, cheats with women.
Then gets ahold of that tainted weed, which turns him into a fiend.
What follows is a murderous rampage.

Despite being an ultra-low budget production, this is a lot of fun.
Many of the sequences are laugh out loud hilarious.
Almost everything occurs in the Como neighborhood of Fort Worth.
The cast seem to have been recruited on-site.
Music, a blend of hip-hop and synth, is great, although dialogue is often indecipherable.
Somewhere, Rudy Ray Moore is laughing his ass off.

Note: JD is still selling copies at Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jd.jimmersoniv/)

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Talk To Me - 2022 - 7/10

Horror outing, a variation on the Ouija board, is more than a little depressing.
Mia and friends play “talk to the hand” game.
In this case, the hand (ceramic or stone) is a portal to the afterlife.
And all the sadness, resentment or hatred that may lurk there.
Nevertheless, youth is fearless.
Mia, however, is profoundly damaged. Emotionally bereft, grieving without release.
She is also a jinx, a pariah, infecting others in her circle.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

ThirTEEN Terrors - 2014 - 6/10
AKA - Phuean Hian… Rongrian Lon

When she drops a book, the student looks into her desk and sees the head.
Seeing the head means she is cursed to die!
Thirteen stories set in the high school realm.
Pranks gone bad, casual curses that turn deadly, bullying.
Actors are youthful, most are OK with primal emotions.
Jump scares predominate, sometimes the director belabors a point.

A favorite episode is set in Dance class, where the girls are anxious about the mannequin.
The doll does seem to get around a bit.
And why, oh why, oh why, do students break into school at night?
Viewers with long memories will recognize the sly nod to classic Twilight Zone.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

From Dusk Til Dawn - 1996 - 6/10

Following a botched robbery, the Gecko brothers race towards Mexico.
With them, hostages.
So where do they hide? Titty Twister truckstop, a lair of vampires.
Horror actioner is off the charts mayhem.
Bullets, buckets of blood, a frightening beautiful Salma Hayek.
Add Clooney for the females, Tarantino for his fanclub.
Runs outta steam late, dissipating the energy and frenzy.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Frankenstein - 1910 - 6/10

The good doctor discovers the secret of Life, which grows similar to a mushroom farm.
Too much time is spent of the creation, and Herr Frankenstein’s jubilant reactions.
Earliest version of Shelley’s novel is still worth a watch.
The creature, dressed in rags, is more agile than later tellings (and closer to the original).
Camera work very static, but the story moves along.
Library Of Congress offered a recent restoration, still battered, but better than others…