Monday, December 19, 2005

More Quickies

King Kong (2005)

Peter Jackson has made a film about the movies with a love and respect for not only the movies but one in particular, the one he's remaking, which is rare in Hollywood these last few decades. It's an understatement to say I loved this film, the best I've seen in years. Peter Jackson's Kong is as near to perfect as it gets.

Red Nightmare (1962)

A Communist scare short from "Batman" TV show alumni George Waggoner and Jack Webb that was probably shown in high schools of the time. Look for a young Robert Conrad in a small role. Also known as The Commies Are Coming, the Commies Are Coming, it's a great twenty-odd minutes of 'duck and cover' nostalgia.

Harry Potter and the Goblin of Fire (2005)

This is a Stephen King film. Not in that King made it, but in that, like most King movies, if you've read the book you enjoy the film. If you didn't, you are hopelessly lost. This installment of the HP saga is a visual extension of the book, but no means a film version. There was too much cut out. Director Mike Newell would have been better served doing two movies of this book rather than one, as was the original plan.

Soup to Nuts (1930)

A great peek at the Three Stooges before they were on their own. In this film, before getting contracts of their own with Columbia Pictures, they were the underling sidekicks of supposed funnyman Ted Healy. The stooges are the only shining moment in this unfortunately Rube Goldberg-penned dreck. No wonder today most folks will say "Ted who?"

Vulgar (2002)

Despite Kevin Smith's sideline involvement in this, this appropriately titled crap is unwatchable. It tries very hard to be artsy in an insultingly Richard Linklater-type vibe but fails miserably. Clown rape is not funny, no matter how it's portrayed.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Man Who Laughs


A Film Review of The Man Who Laughs (1928)

Copyright 2005 Glenn Walker

The Man Who Laughs from 1928 should be remembered alongside other silent classics like The Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame but somehow it slipped between the cracks over the years. Making this oversight more upsetting is the fact that this film was pretty much the blueprint for what would become the Universal horrors of the 1930s.

The film, a Carl Laemmle production, was directed by German émigré Paul Leni, who died much too young, but also brought other chillers like The Cat and the Canary (1927), the original haunted house movie, and Waxworks (1924) to the screen before his time was up. The Man Who Laughs was his second to last film. From his fatherland, Leni brought the expressionist themes of shadow over light - perfect for the genre.

Based on a French novel (by Victor Hugo) much like its predecessors Hunchback and Phantom, the film was a spectacle with a literal cast of thousands. Hugo's story, adapted by J. Grubb Alexander also of Svengali and a master scenarist of the silent days, tells the tale of Gwynplaine, a man scarred by Gypsies to wear a permanent grin because of his father's treachery.

Originally meant for Lon Chaney because of the monsterous make-up required for the part, the actor unfortunately could not get out of his contract or his hectic schedule to do it. Director Leni turned instead to his homeland, and actor Conrad Veidt. While probably best known as Major Strasser in Casablanca, the role that won him Gwynplaine was that of the frightening somnambulistic slave Caesare in the surreal German horror flick The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Easily Veidt slides into the role of Gwynplaine as a proper replacement for Chaney.

The make-up for Gwynplaine required hooks to turn the corners of Veidt's mouth upward into the horrific grin. This apparatus forced the film to be silent rather than sound, which was just coming into its own at the time, for Veidt could not speak while wired up. This was designed by artist Jack Pierce who would later produce the familiar visage of the Frankenstein monster for Universal a few years later. The German-influenced expressionist sets of The Man Who Laughs also prove a precursor as they were devised by Charles D. Hall, later to work on both Frankenstein and Dracula.

It should be noted that the ghastly grimace of Gwynplaine was Jerry Robinson and Bob Kane's inspiration for the Batman's arch-nemesis, the Joker, years later in 1940. The Joker's pasty-face reminicient of the make-up of the silents, and his horrid grin was also permanent, although caused by an acid chemical bath, like many of the caped crusader's rogues gallery. Many are the scene where you can see the Joker in Gwynplaine's image.

Gwynplaine himself is not anything like the Joker, or even evil. Like the Phantom or the Hunchback, he is a sympathetic creature, misinterpreted by his deformity as a monster. And like those characters, and the master Lon Chaney who portrayed them, Conrad Veidt does most of his acting through his eyes, an amazing feat.

While the advertised terror is that of Gwynplaine, the horror of the Comprachicos, the Gypsies who scarred him, is worth a movie all unto itself. It surprises me that one hasn't been done, other than the possibly ethnical offenses involved. I suppose no one in modern times wants to play with the stereotypes of Gypsies. These particular Gypsies however have a horrific practice of kidnapping children and carving them up. If that's not a horror movie in the making, I don't know what is.

The boy Gwynplaine is stranded in a cold, dead wasteland strewn with hanged corpses, where he finds a blind child, Dea, played by Mary Philbin, best known as Christine in Phantom, whom he cares for. Together they survive until found by Father Ursus the philosopher, who takes care of the two children as they grow up. Dea, being blind and unaware of his unending grin, adores her 'brother' Gwynplaine. He becomes known as a wandering entertainer, 'the laughing man,' and quite successfully so.

Knowing the love between Gwynplaine and Dea, Ursus seeks to marry them, but the laughing man is always fearful the beautiful girl will know his ugliness. The plot turns on the fact that our laughing man is actually heir to rich lands. Bad guys - Doctor Hardquononne the Gypsy surgeon who damaged our hero, Barkilphedro the conniving underling who had his father killed and Josianna the Duchess who now resides on those lands - plot to destroy or deceive Gwynplaine. The Duchess is played by the dangerously seductive Olga Baclanova, infamous villainess of Tod Browning's Freaks.

As the deceitful Barkilphedro, who goes from jester to royal advisor is Brandon Hurst. He's much better known for later roles as Silver the creepy butler in White Zombie and Merlin in 1931's A Connecticut Yankee starring Will Rogers. However here, his own smile ironically sums up his own subtle sinister qualities. Great performance.

In an unfortunate glitch, look for the telephone wires in 17th century England. But on the good side, don't miss the pretty and innocent Mary Philbin, America's next sweetheart at the time, and the always evil (even when she's good) Olga Baclanova as the Duchess, in the highlights of their careers in my opinion, and of course the powerful performance of Conrad Veidt in the title role. The film, a true lost classic, should not be missed.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Off the Top of My Head...

The Poseidon Adventure

Irwin Allen's classic first major disaster movie, Gene Hackman as hero and Shelley Winters creating a legend in her Mrs. Rosen. Gotta love where folks dance to music that doesn't match. Must see train wreck flick!

And just for the record, that Dukes of Hazard movie should be shown to prisoners on Death Row to make their stay that much more painful.

Jon of the Comments

Look, dude, if you're spamming me - it must stop. If you're looking for a family movie, try Google.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005



A Television Review of the film "Man-Thing" broadcast on the SciFi Channel.

Copyright © 2005, Glenn Walker

The film version of Man-Thing supposedly was made and meant for theatrical release, as I've just viewed it on the SciFi Channel, I would guess those plans fell through. Granted, the Man-Thing is no Spider-Man, Hulk or X-Men, but that doesn't meant the concept couldn't hold its own on the big screen, or does it?

My sister, a big SciFi Channel fan, and I have discussed the schedule for that network on weekends quite a bit. Weekends seem to be a dumping ground for the absolute worst Z-grade scifi and horror films currently being made. Most notorious for flicks about giant snakes, alien abductions and guest starring Kari Wuhrer and Billy Baldwin, this death slot of bad television is where they aired Man-Thing - Saturday night at nine PM, prime time.

In the comics, Man-Thing is something of a footnote for various reasons. The concept is one of the true coincidences in the comics world, where two major publishers have had roughly the same idea at the exact same time. There was the Vision and the Red Tornado, Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars, and Man-Thing and Swamp Thing.
Both Man-Thing and Swamp Thing were men that were by horrible consequences transformed into bog creatures, and they both debuted on the stands simultaneously. Marvel's Man-Thing, created by Steve Gerber (also of Howard the Duck, another fantastic character crucified and disemboweled by Hollywood), had decidedly less success than DC's Swamp Thing however.

Man-Thing also had a great tagline - "Whatever knows fear burns at the touch of the Man-Thing!" If only the stories and the characters matched that line or even halfway lived up to the hype. While Man-Thing lasted, riding the wave of early 1970s Marvel horror, it did make a mark and remains a fixture and fan favorite in today's comics. Appearances with such other obtuse characters like the Hulk, Howard the Duck and the Micronauts were memorable.

The Man-Thing's most notorious claim to fame however might be the dangerous double entendre it gained in the mid-1970s with a companion title. At the time, Marvel was publishing larger books with bigger stories and added reprints of most of its books, called Giant-Sized books. You guessed it, thus was born Giant-Size Man-Thing, still legendary to this day. Despite what some folks may think, the book was still about a swamp creature and had nothing to do with what you're thinking. Shame on you!

From Lions Gate and Marvel Productions, we now have the movie. Despite being made for theatrical release and having a slamming soundtrack, the film does have the stink of a Saturday night SciFi Channel offering. Badly written, no name actors and a sad, pitiful premise where a reasonable, simpler one would have worked better.
The cinematic Man-Thing is an eco-champion, preying on evil industrialists who pollute and corrupt nature. He's (it's?) also a monster in the most fundamental manner. Shambling about, growling and staying in the dark for most of the time to hide any shabby special effects, he takes out The Man and helps out the bayou natives and Earth-friendly folk. Here Man-Thing is definitely more Bigfoot than Swamp Thing when you come right down to it.

When we do actually do see Man-Thing, the face is pretty close to the comics with the three roots hanging down and the piercing red eyes. However, the rest of the body is a whole other thing, or, pun intended, Man-Thing. Too skinny and too many wild, apparently sentient, and very Dr. Octopus-like roots to do its bidding are the highlights of this Man-Thing.

The story was slow and contrived, and especially cliched. Prophecy from 1979 did it much better. Nice touch though having a character named Ploog, named after artist Mike Ploog who depicted the swamp creature back in the 1970s, it proves the folks in charge at least had clue about the source material.

This could have been good. Director Brett Leonard has had quite a few misses, but when he hits (the highly underrated cyberpunk thriller Virtuosity and the absolutely brilliant Shock to the System) he hits hard. Shame he didn't put that kind of effort into Man-Thing. In related comics news however, the writer of this one, Hans Rodionoff is also rumored to be working on a script for another 1970s Marvel horror, Werewolf by Night.

An R-rated version of Man-Thing debuts in DVD on June 14th. Now maybe if they make a sequel, and Sci-Fi is notorious for making sequels to movies that by every right under the sun shouldn't be made, maybe they'll call it Giant-Size Man-Thing.

Monday, April 18, 2005

More Quickies



Casino Royale (1954)

Other than Bond being American, much better than any of the 1980s and 90s Bonds.

Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter

Blasphemous and hilarious.


Pretty but pointless.

Finding Neverland

Another great performance from both Johnny Depp and Kate Winslett, see it.

Battle Royale

Fun and brutal, but nowhere near lives up to the hype.

The Caveman's Valentine

The best film I've seen this year. Samuel L. Jackson is brilliant and Kasi Lemmons is one of the best and most underrated directors working today.


There's a place in Hell reserved for everyone involved in making this film, but rent the DVD for "The Many Lives of Catwoman," one of the best comic documentaries I've seen in a while.

*previously posted at Comics Uncovered

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Who Is This Jerk And Where Has He Been?

Damn, I have a blog. I forgot all about it.

Movie reviews, huh? How about some random thoughts and snippets instead? Here goes...

National Treasure

Never film a movie in a major city if in the chase scenes you're going to have characters go from one place to another that is nearly a mile away in seconds. Dumb dumb dumb, and I'm not even talking about the plot.


You know that feeling of having to throw up while you're driving, and you know you really can't throw up, so you you swallow what's already in your mouth? Yep, that's this film.

Lady Death

What if the animated Pax program "Greatest Heroes of the Bible" were done by horny thirteen year old boys obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons? That's this film.

The Great Muppet Caper

Lots of great tributes to the old 1930s and 40s Hollywood musicals, some grin-worthy Muppet moments, not enough pig jokes, too much Charles Grodin and a special effects overload on Muppets riding bikes.

Maybe I'll do more later...