Archive for 1982

Cat People

Posted in Drama, Fantasy, Horror with tags on December 6, 2011 by Mark Hobin

PhotobucketTo call Paul Schrader’s Cat People a remake of the 1942 film of the same name is to really do it a disservice. If anything, it is more a re-imagining inspired by the Val Lewton 1942 B movie classic. Both pictures rely on the same basic template to tell the story of Irena, a young woman who is descended from a race of people who turn into cats when sexually aroused. Yes, the original was a model of restraint and class and this version, well isn’t. However that is not to say Cat People isn’t without its own charms.

This is a fully realized stylish dream that has moments of real majesty. German actress Nastassja Kinski, daughter of Klaus Kinski, is perfectly cast as the stunningly beautiful Irena. She readily suggests a cat thorough her deliberate movements and cagey personality. She goes to live with her brother in New Orleans whom she hasn’t seen since their animal trainer parents died when they were children. Paul, played by Malcolm McDowell, is one strange dude and not all that he seems. Hint: the movie is called Cat People. Irena soon finds herself at the zoo and striking up a relationship with Oliver played by John Heard. He’s one of the zoologists there who has seized an escaped panther that recently attacked a woman at night. Oddly, Irena is drawn to the captured creature.

One should not overlook the simply fantastic score by Giorgio Moroder. All slow pulsing disco synths, it relies on a space aged futurism that beautifully builds an eerie atmosphere. In many ways the music has held up even better than the flick itself. It also features the second best use of the superior title song “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” by David Bowie. The first being Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.

There’s a fine line between sensual and tawdry and this erotic thriller does cross that edge a couple times. That may be two times too many for some viewers. Yet there’s an unadulterated visual flair to the production that is genuinely entertaining. The mood is pretty sumptuous. Let’s face it, this feature is entirely mood. It certainly isn’t about the story which is kind of ridiculous when you seriously ponder it. That’s part of what made the original so much fun. Much of that allure can be found here too. The drama creates a haunting ambience with its odd mix of romance and horror. If you can warm up to its languid rhythms, Cat People will entertain you. At the very least Giorgio Moroder’s hypnotic score will makes sure of that.

Basket Case

Posted in Comedy, Horror with tags on October 20, 2011 by Mark Hobin

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Ultra low budget gore fest concerning socially awkward Duane Bradley who checks into a New York Hotel carrying a large mysterious basket. He has to take care of some unfinished business. The run-down seedy hotel is rather depressing and the mood is spare and desolate. There’s a feeling of hopelessness in the décor from the shoddy furniture, to the front desk manager to the guests staying within. What’s in the basket and why Duane is there are questions best answered by watching the picture. The story is of the utmost simplicity, but what it lacks in narrative complexity, it more than makes up for in B movie entertainment.

The technical qualities are at once delightfully crude and hilariously imaginative. The script is wise about not playing its cards too quickly. For the first half hour the audience is completely in the dark regarding the basket‘s contents. I won’t spoil the reveal with a detailed description, but the entity is a combination of puppetry when close up and stop motion animation when it is moving across the floor. Let’s just say the effects are less than stellar. I mean I’ve seen better stop motion in a Rankin/Bass Christmas special. Even for 1982 these illusions are pretty inferior. Yet there is distinct charm in the meager production values.

And let’s not forget the sound effects which are equally primitive as the visual style. At one point, Duane dangles hot dogs over the basket, dropping them in one after the other to ostensibly feed his companion. We still haven’t seen the fellow at this point, but boy do we hear him! Gurgling and growling with lip smacking satisfaction. The creature gobbling them up with ravenous hunger. Notable sounds are significant later on in a surgery scene as well. As doctors cut through the skin dividing two separate masses, the nauseating sounds of the surgeons pulling the bone and tissue is amplified like giant stalks of celery being pulled apart. It’s outrageous in the extreme. Additionally the background synthesizer music is suitably creepy and the spareness of the notes benefits the menacing atmosphere. It sounds like the low rent version of music from a Doctor Who episode.

A decent plot with light comedy elements separates this from other cheapo horror of this ilk. There’s a surprisingly amount of back-story as the narrative unfolds. Inexperienced Duane manages to captivate an attractive receptionist at the doctor’s office to go out on a date. It’s strictly amateur night in terms of acting, but there is some character development as the two hit it off arousing the ire of Duane’s counterpart, who is apparently jealous. The production is the antithesis of sophistication. It can be kind of sleazy. A trashy tour de force where bright red blood is plentiful and thick like corn syrup. At times it’s so abundant, it splashes over the actors in an unrestrained splatterfest. However there’s a hilarity in those tacky effects. Although not particularly frightening, it manages to be disturbingly weird. In the end, Basket Case is a horror film with enough creativity and bits of campy humor to make it fascinating.

Gandhi

Posted in Biography, Drama, History with tags on May 19, 2009 by Mark Hobin

PhotobucketPhotobucketReverent drama of the lawyer who became the leader of the nonviolent resistance movement against British colonial rule in India. Ben Kingsley gives a flawless performance in the role of a lifetime. Technically stunning, exhaustively detailed biography about one of the 20th century’s most important figures is indeed impressive. However, one cannot get over the fact that this sprawling, lengthy epic feels more like a history lesson than entertainment. An unknown Daniel Day-Lewis appears briefly as a South African street tough who harasses Gandhi.

The King of Comedy

Posted in Comedy, Crime, Drama with tags on July 3, 2008 by Mark Hobin

Dark satire of our celebrity obsessed culture, the desperate need for fame and the lengths at which people are driven to achieve that fame. One of Scorsese’s most overlooked films. A classic.

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