Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #26- "BLOODRAYNE 2: DELIVERANCE."









PRICE £1.00

I love direct-to-video sequels to films that had theatrical releases, especially when I had no idea they existed in the first place, as was the case with "Home Alone 4," which I reviewed over Christmas. Did you know, for example, that there's a "Cruel Intentions 3?" I didn't. I knew there was a second one, but I didn't have a clue a third one existed until I found it in a charity shop recently (sadly too expensive to pick up. Seriously, £2.50 for "Cruel Intention 3?" I know it's for Cancer and all, but come on...). Even better, remember that movie from the early ninties, "The Cutting Edge?" The one that starred DB Sweeney as a hockey player that gets injured and becomes a figure skater? Well, that has two fucking sequels. No, I'm not lying, go to IMDb if you don't believe me. they were released in 2006 and 2008 respectively, well over a decade since the original came out. What could possibly have been the thought process behind that? What could have made somebody think, after all that time, the world needed another installment in that particular saga? So yeah, I hope to one day review all those, as I have "Home Alone 4," and as I am this. This one is a little bit different to most DTV follow-ups, though. With most diminishing returns, they lose absolutely everything people associated with the first one, from budget to cast to director. Here, whilst almost the entire original cast (including Sir Ben Kingsley, who is currently in his cycle of starrng in good movies in an attempt to make us forget he was in "Thunderbirds" and "The Love Guru") have seen sense and run for the hills, the original movie's director has stuck around.

And scarily, that man is Uwe Boll.

You don't need me to tell you who Uwe Boll is, if you like movies enough to give what I do a second look, you already know. You also don't need me to tell you that he's not a popular filmmaker, and has a, shall we say, combative relationship with his critics. There's also the long-standing theory that he makes the kind of films he does as an elaborate money-making scam. I don't really understand it myself, so I won't try explaining it here, and it should be easily-findable if you've never been exposed to it, written by people much smarter than me. However, if what these people say is true, then believe it or not, I'm not going to be that fast going after him with the pichforks and torches, because perhaps moreso than anyone else on The Internet, this writer respects your hustle, sir.

However, admiring a decent scam and enjoying the fruits of said scam are two very different things. Put delicately, his movies aren't very good. But again, I feel the need to say this... I actually think he's improving as a filmmaker. Now, before you start yelling at me, sit down and think about what I'm saying, and what he's improved from. Let's look at his most famous (though not his first, as some people seem to believe) film, "House of the Dead." I fucking hate that movie, and I'm not alone. It's on a very short list of films I've seen that don't have a single redeeming feature, and no, it's not even "so bad it's good." People throw that term around so much these days I don't think they know what it means anymore. Then we move onto "Alone in the Dark," which is pretty terrible too, although unlike the last one there are a few things to praise. For a start, whereas "House..." looked like a bad student film in all areas of production, this at least looked like a real movie. Sure, the stunts were wonky and the CGI looked nasty, but at least I got the sense that somebody cared. "So bad it's good" lovers were treated every time Tara Reed tried to act rather than stand around looking pretty (remember when she could do that? Poor Tara). And the ending was surprisingly good, like it'd been cut off another, better film and edited it onto this one. Skipping the first "Bloodrayne," which I've not seen, up next is the snappily-titled "In the Name of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale." I wouldn't even call this one bad, if I'm honest. It's breathtakingly unoriginal, and the cinematography makes it look like somebody smeared shit all over the camera lense, but it's not a bad film, just a boring one, save for a couple of actually-quite-exciting fight scenes. And finally, "Postal," which isn't the last film he's made (he churns them out, I'll give him that), but is so far the last one I've had any exposure to. I've not seen the whole thing, but I've seen clips, and those... were funny. On purpose. I can't say for sure until I've sat down and watched it from beginning-to-end, but there's a good chance that this kind of film, the zany, gonzo, politically incorrect comedy, may be the type he's actually good at, the kind of stories he understands how to tell. Either that or he's just getting better as a director, possibly against his own will. I mean, if you do something consistantly for long enough, you're going to get better at it without even realising, aren't you? So I'm interested to see what I make of this one, as it came out the same year as "Postal" did and could make-or-break my whole theory.

The credits are nothing special, just Old West-style font over pictures of Frontiersmen doing Frontier things. Following a lush establishing shot of a forest and some snowy mountains, we meet Pyles (snigger...) played by Chris Coppola. No, not that Chris Coppola, the man responsible for "Creature." Don't feel too bad if you made that mistake, I did too, although I couldn't reconcile the pictures I've seen of Christopher Coppola with the man on my television. Let's just say they don't look alike and move one, I'm not opening that particular can of worms, especially due to the fact that I'm one of those worms. He's a reporter from the big city sent to the town of Deliverance to bring back stories of gunfights and crime, but sadly for him he seems to have been sent to the most boring new development in The West, with The Mayor (Michael Robinson) telling him how unexciting things are there, the only noteworthy thing being the new railway that will soon run through there, opening them up to outsiders. You can just see the disappointment on Pyle's face. You normally only see this kind of longing for bloodshed on the faces of newscasters. Then, we're whisked to a shack to meet a man, his wife and their two children, the father is unhappy, he and his wife have a conversation about how times are hard, and then suddenly A NOISE OUTSIDE! Alright, here we go, some excitement. The guy's all, "The fuckin' bear's back," he grabs his shotgun, goes outside and... we stay in the cabin with the wife and kids. Um, okay. Maybe we'll cut outside in a bit. then this strange hissing sound can be heard, and the man's wife decides to go outside to check on her husband. At this point I was torn between wanting to scream, "DON'T GO OUTSIDE YOU STUPID WOMAN! THE WIND IS HISSING AT YOU!" and egging her on because we might follow her. Only we don't, we stay with the kids, who get so scared they hide under the bed. No, don't go under the bed! Go outside! I want to know what's going on outside! Eventually what was outside comes inside, that being Billy the Kid (Zack Ward), who this movie has recast as an evil, centuries-old Vampire with an East European accent. He walks around the place a bit, then sits down at the table the family had just been eating at, his back to the boys. He starts talking to them, asking them if they miss they're parents already, and they they'll be with them soon. Then two seemingly-disinterested henchmen just casually stroll in, drag (or more accurately, gently help up) the boys out from under the bed, as they put up almost no struggle,and take them outside, as Billy sits at the table hissing, blood round his chops. I have to applaude the filmmakers for the previous scene, I really do. They took what is an inherently awesome concept (VAMPIRE COWBOYS!) and introduced it in boring, unexciting way. That takes a special level of anti-talent, to take something like that and totally suck the cool out of it. Well done. To be fair, they make a better impression the second time we see them, which is the next day when they take over the entire town of Deliverance, kidnap more children, then Billy goes toe-to-toe with the The Sheriff (John Novak), taking four bullets in the chest and biting him on the neck. See? That was bad-arse, that's what I want with a film featuring Vampire Cowboys. He then makes the Mayor his bitch just by looking at him, gets invited to stay at his house, and brings Pyles with him so he can "bare witness to the greatest story ever told." "The Lord of the Rings?" (CONFESSION: I had "The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women" here right up until just before I published this thing, then chickened out at the last moment)

It's after this, 15 minutes into this movie, that we finally meet the films hero and star, Rayne, played by Natassia Malthe, replacing Kristanna Loken. I recognised this woman the second I saw her on the box (which considering the amount of airbrushing going on was really impressive), but I couldn't place her. So off to IMDb I went to peruse he previous roles, and I've got tell you, the movies she's been in. When I think the best one on the list is "40 Days & 40 Nights," you're in trouble. There's was also a disturbing theme of her settling for Uwe Boll's leftovers, as she's also been in "Alone in the Dark 2" (which Boll didn't direct, but rather was replaced by two people, which amuses me because as it stands right now that film has a 4.4 quality rating, whereas the first one is at 2.2, meaning the doubling of directors also doubled the quality). Then I found the movie I'd seen her in before, and I felt like laughing and crying at the same time- she was one of Jennifer Love Hewitt's friends in "The Social Climber." This movie. The gift that keeps on giving. I suppose she's not too bad here, but she's not really asked to do much beyond scowl and deliver the occasional quick comeback. She also looks great in a cowboy hat.

Her destination is the shack the got attacked earlier, and as you'd expect, finding her friends dead and their children missing doesn't really sit well with her. As she grieves over the bodies, a man sneaks up behind her, and at knife-point tells her this was the work of Billy the Kid, that he's a "creature of the night." This man is played by Michael Pare, and as far as I can tell he's the lone cast member from the original movie returning for this one. He's not playing the same character as he did their though. His character isn't named in this scene, and as far as I can tell it's not mentioned until right at the very end, where it's casually thrown out that he's Pat Garret. Yes, that Pat Garret, recast as a demon hunter. This movie could have been so fucking cool.

He tells her that the children have probably been taken to Deliverance, which is where Rayne heads off to next. She arrives at nightfall, and instead of the quite little town we saw before, it's now buzzing with life, especially the bar, which has a new air of menace about it, mostly down to one man, Flintlock Hogan (Mike Dopud), one of Billy's Vampire goons, as he harasses waitresses, tells stories of killing men, even shooting a pint glass out of Pyles' hand (which he loves, as he seems to all of this). He's got a dirty mouth on him too, even going so far as to call Rayne the "C" word. It's his use of the word "cocksucker," or variations thereof, that made my ears prick up (no pun intended). He uses it three times, and by the last one I couldn't help think to myself, "Okay, I get it, you've seen "Deadwood." Well done." The funny thing is, as anybody who's seen Charlie Brooker's excellent show "Screenwipe" could tell you, the foul language in that show was a stylistic choice made by the creative team, done to replace the milder period curses that would more likely be used with modern one in order to help the audience connect with the earthiness and anarky of those times. So, not only have the writers ripped off a product of higher quality than they could ever hope to create, but in doing so they've managed to make their movie even less authentic without even realising it, probably.

Flintlock and Rayne have a confrontation after he flirts with her in his own distinctive style (sexual assault), and we discover they have a history, which begs the question of why he didn't recognise her the second she walked in. Rather than kill him though, she briefly give him a stay of execution and even plays Poker with him and boys (one of whom is an Irishman so stereotypical that he may as well be three feet tall and wearing green). Of course the game turns nasty when she whups them all, and soon things are taken outside to be settled with bullets, the cocky Flintlock saying he's not afraid of Rayne, as since they last met he's fought, amongst other things, "Chinamen and Ninjas." VAMPIRE COWBOYS VERSUS NINJAS! THIS MOVIE I WANT TO SEE! Sadly I'm currently stuck with this one. Despite his tough talk, she dispatches with him and his friends rather quickly, using bullets treated with garlic and Holy Water. This angers The Sheriff, who since we last saw him has been Vampirized, and he has Rayne arrested and announces she'll be hung before the night is out. She decides this is bullshit and tries to escape, taking out two of his deputies, the music swells heroically... and then the Sheriff hits her on the head with his gun, knocking her out. Well, that was embarrassing.

Whilst in the jailhouse, she meets Muller (Brendan Fletcher), who had also come to town looking to take out Billy, and also like her is a Brimstone, as disinguished by his necklace. It's never explained what being a Brimstone is or entails, which frustrated the hell out of me. I know I just got done savaging "Camp Blood 2" for having too many flashback and exposition scenes, but there's got to be a happy medium between always filling us in on past history all the time, and totally ignoring it. There has to be. They talk for a while, and figure out Billy's plan, that when the railroad is finished he'll have a constant stream of people coming in to turn and thus build up his army, keeping the town as normal as possible between then and now by having his people only feed on the children he's kidnapped. It's an interesting plan, but there are holes in it, the main one being the idea of feeding on the children. There are loads of Vampires walking around at this point, and as far as I can tell they only have something like seven or eight kids stashed away (minus one for the little girl Billy later eats, in a scene that actually managed to shock me, because I didn't think they'd have the guts to show him killing a child), so they would surely run out long before the railroad would be finished, and then what?

Then Muller dies by being hung. Again, this shocked me, because I didnt think they'd go to all the trouble of introducing a new character who had important information and ambiguous ties to our heroine's backstory, and then kill him off roughly ten minutes later, but that's exactly what happens, and I can't decide if this is good or bad. It's something, that's for sure. So the time comes for Rayne to hang, but as everybody's busy faffing around, she slips out of her cuffs, does some damage, before diving into the water, which Vampires can't cross (even though they're not supposed to be able to enter people's homes uninvited, and they regularly break that rule throughout this thing), taking bullets as she does so, and having to be pulled out of the water by Garret. The next day, after we're treated to a shot of two Native Americans in a canoe for no apparent reason, was see Rayne lying on the ground by the river being tended to by Garret. We then finally get some backstory on her, that she's half-Vampire, a Dhampir, and that the only thing that can heal her wounds quickly is blood. Taking one for the team, Garret then cuts his arm and les the blood drip into her mouth, which gets her all excited to the point that he has to beat her away and tell her off like a bad puppy. And what does she say to him after he pretty much saves her life. "You could've used a cup." There's gratitude for you.

With Rayne on the mend, they decide the best way to save the town is to assemble a crew of people themselves. and by "crew," I mean two other people. The first is known simply as The Preacher (Michael Eklund), a sleazy, vaguely camp man they find in a church giving a fire-and-brimstone sermon, warning of the dangers of things like "the moist, warm lips between a virgin's thighs," before encouraging his flock to give all their money to him so that he may save them, which they all do, with the exception of Rayne and Garret, who just put his folded-up wanted poster in there. They then say they won't turn him in if he agrees to help them fight Vampires and... he agrees. Just like that. Even the characters are surprised. The next person they recruit is Slime Bag Franson (Michael Teigen)(how many Michaels are there in this thing?)(I just went and counted- four. Five if you count Mike Dopud), who they find in a whorehouse. Rayne works her magic on him this time around, pretending to be a hooker and dancing around, with him liking what he sees so much he exclams, "I don't know where to start, the top or the bottom!" I often have the same dilemma. This is the only scene where Malthe gets to exhibit a positive facial expression, and man does she make the most of it. It's like she's so sick of frowning all the time that she's genuinely happy to do something else. She's adorable, frankly. It doesn't last long though, as she mounts him and shoves her gun in his mouth (sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, folks) and gets him to agree to help them pretty much through fear of death. He then asks if they're still going to fuck. I like this guy.

With the gang all together, the prepare themselves by all becoming honourary Brimstone members (although Garret may have been one all along, as this is the first scene we see him wearing the Brimstone necklace, and he doesn't need to be given it by Rayne like the other two do. Again, this is never explained). And by having Preacher bless the water to turn it into Holy Water so they can coat their bullets with it. I couldn't make up my mind whether or not Preacher actually was a man of God. At first it seemed like he was only running a scheme, as he curses and kills, and he even nails a hocker at the whorehouse. But here he is doing this for them. So I guess he really is a Preacher just a bad one. And you have to wnder how much weight the words of a man who's Holy in name only actually carries. So anyway, the head back to town, where everybody else is still too scared to do anything (with good reason, if you ask me), and all Hell breaks loose. Well, sort of. This is easily the most action-packed section of the film, but even here things just feel a bit flat and unexciting, which isn't helped by the constant use of slooooooow moooooootion. Boll has a tendancy to fall in love with certain tricks and special effects, and he was really into slowing down time when he made this one. At least there's no Bullet Time. Preacher and Slime Bag die within minutes, it's worth pointing out, so they were worth bringing in. I like how useless all the heroes are in this thing- The Sheriff gets bit, Rayne gets knocked out and shot, her new friend from the prison cell gets hung, and now these two. Even the cowardly Mayor gets shot the second he grows a pair. These are really people worth rooting for. There's one good bit, where Rayne bursts into the room where the kids are being held, only to find them all hanging from nooses rigged to a trap that sprang to life the second she opened the door, forcing here to stay where she is holding the rope in order to stop them all dying. It's quite ingenius really, and one of the kids actually does die because of it, and is then fed on by Billy, as he attempts to goad Rayne into letting go of the rope and joining him. It's spoilt however by how long it goes (over five bloody minutes!), and in the end all she does is jump and cut all the ropes with her blade. Couldn't she have done that right at the start, before the boy died and Billy had a chance to feel up on her?

The fight between the two is now on, and it's quite an intense showdown, but like everything else, it goes on too long and is plagued with slooooooow moooooootion. The end is at least cool, with Garret cutting Billy down with A GATLING GUN and Rayne sticking a stake in him. The surviving kids return to their families, and the next day, Rayne leaves to travel to Tombstone to help Wyatt Earp deal with The Clinton Gang (who are also Vampires in this awesome, awesome universe), leaving the town in the hands of Garret and Pyles, who is inexplicably the new Sheriff. The movies last line? "Newton, life is like a penis- when it's hard you get screwed, when it's soft you can't beat it." Actually that's not the last line, the last line is Pyles saying, "I gotta right that down!" So have I?

So, does this movie aide me in my theory that Boll improves with every movie he makes? Well... yes and no. It's better than "House of the Dead" and "Alone in the Dark," I don't think saying that would get me into too much trouble. But it still falls foul of the sins that blighted "In the Name of The King," that being terminal dullness, and here you don't have the big name actors to distract you or the occasional fun fight to break things up. The acting is either hammy or vacant, the script outright drops the ball several times with regards to logic (how come tere were any humans left in the town? Why didn't Billy have them all changed?), and don't even get me started on the presentation. Actually, do- the film has some of the most distracting, shakey camera work I've ever seen. You know when you can tell this is happening intentionally, that the director wanted it that way stylistically, so as to give the film a kinetic energy? Well, that wasn't what they were going for here, I'm sure of it, it's just a case of the guy holding the damn thing couldn't stop twitching. Maybe he was bervous, and if that's the case I hope he never works on a big picture, otherwise he may cause an Earthquake.



No, I haven't emptied my bin since the last time. It was only three days ago. STop shaking your head at me, you're not my Mother.

Until next week (thankfully), I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and where the hell are you from? Krypton?

(PS- First Killer Film review up here. Y'know, just incase you want to read it. Again, for some of you.)

Friday, 27 March 2009

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #25- "CAMP BLOOD 2."









I've seen alot of bad movies in my life. It's just the law oF averages, when you see as many as I do a year, you come to terms with the fact that not all of them are going to be masterpieces. Sometimes I'll even go to see a bad movie intentionally, such as last January when me and my regular cinema buddy (hello Dean)(why did I just say hello to you? You've told me point-blank that you never read these) went to see "AVP2: Requium." We were under no illusions, we knew we were about to see a bad movie, but as he put it, "Sometimes you have to see something bad to remind yourself what good is." As it turned out, that movie was even worse than either of us anticipated and inspired me to write up a quick review and send it to some of my friends in an attempt to keep them from even considering watching it.

The worst movie I've ever seen goes by the name "Feardotcom." Oh where to start when talking about this one? Well, firstly the plot is about as obvious a rip-off of the "Ringu" movies as you're ever going to see, with the killer video replaced by a kiler website. Then there's everything else. Literally. Everything else. There is nothing good to say about this film. The script is moronic, the acting is atrocious (and in the case of Stephen Rea, provided by somebody who should have known better)(YOU WERE IN "THE CRYING GAME!"). Set design and cinematography combined to give the whole thing a look I affectionately refer to as "Se7en: The Animated Series." And to top it all off, there's one massive medical inaccuracy in there that anybody who knows me knew was always going to get my goat. I don't feel like going into it here, just thinking about it is bringing my blood to a boil. I just wanted to put all that down so you could see what I judge all the bad movie against. If we're going to measure things on a percentage scale, I've probably seen more bad ones since I started this project than I have at any other time in my life. But in terms of actual quality, yeah, films like "Cheerleader Massacre" and "The Social Climber" were bad, but they're not in the same league "Feardotcom." They don't even play the same sport.

To date there has been only one movie that came in any way close to challenging that giant. It failed, but it at least found a home in my top five worst movies of all time, which even "The Social Climber" couldn't do. That movie was "Camp Blood," and the only reason it didn't take the number one spot is because it was clearly made with no money by people who didn't have a clue what they were doing, and I felt like showing a little mercy. Infact, I recently reread that review, and "merciful" is a good way to describe it, because even though I gave it a bad write-up, I could have gone on for hours savagely ripping it a new one. I think it's because I was still really new to this at that time and, I dunno, I felt bad about shitting on somebody else's work. I'm over that now, don't worry, and I'd actually like to go back and give it the going over it deserves. But it's too late, I've thrown it away, and I'm not buying it again. So I suppose it's sequel will have to pay for its sins.

Even before I'd put the bloody thing in my machine, my heart sank whilst reading the back of the box, seeing the running time listed at 90 minutes. "Oh sweet Jesus," I thought, "it's longer than the last one. Nearly twenty fucking minutes longer." Thankfully, when I finally fired it up, I noticed two things- 1) the main menu was far easier to navigate than it was on the first one (I COULD SEE WHAT I WAS SELECTING!), and 2) once the film started I was informed that it actually only lasted 73 minutes, which was a pleasent surprise if nothing else.

This installment begins almost identically to the last one, with two people, a male and a female, completely unrelated to the plot, walking through a forest. Sadly unlike the last time they're not birdwatchers, but rather just a boyfriend and girlfriend out on a stroll. The dude complains that he's hungry, so they sit down at the side of the trail. He has a drink ("Lemon and Lime! That's my favourite!") and before long he's telling her that where they are right now has a gory history, that it's known an Camp Blood, due to the fact that woman went crazy here last year and killed nine people and NO NO NO NO NO!!!! THAT IS NOT WHY IT'S CALLED CAMP BLOOD!!!! IT WAS CALLED CAMP BLOOD BEFORE THOSE MURDERS HAPPENED, BECAUSE OF A KILLING THAT TOOK PLACE YEARS PREVIOUSLY!!!! HOW CAN SOMEBODY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SCRIPTS TO BOTH MOVIES SCREW UP THE HISTORY OF HIS OWN FILMS SO BADLY?!?! Oh God, I'm less than a minute-and-a-half into this and already it's got me yelling at the screen.

Deep breath.

Okay, maybe I flew off the handle needlessly there, maybe the script only had him mention this at all so he could set the practical joke he was about to attempt (more on this in a minute) into some kind of context, but I'm less willing to cut this film any slack because the first one regularly made a complete hash of it's own continuity, and this just seems like more of the same. Anyway, after telling her about the horrors that occurred there, he excuses himself to take a leak. At least thats what he tells her, the truth being he has a clown mask in his bag and intends to put it on and scare the shit out of her. As jokes go, I can appreciate this one. Sadly, he doen't get the chance to extract any fun out of it, as when he gets back to where she's sitting somebody has already got to her and slashed her throat. He looks at her in horror, slowly removing his mask.He then touches her, as if to say, "Are you okay?" only to have her body slump to the side, which made me laugh. He's then killed when the unseen attacker runs him through from behind with his knife. This is worth talking about because they had this exact same effect in the last movie, and when I was talking about the very few things there that I thought deserved some praise, I singled that effect out as looking decent for what they could afford. Here though it looks silly, as they linger on the wound and him grabbing at the knife too long, so we get a good long look at just how fake the torso is in the close-up scenes. So yes, the filmmakers actually managed to screw up something they got right the first time around. The mask the guy was wearing gets trampled on by an unidentified pair of feet, the the camera pans slowly to the left and we see the original mask the killer wore lying on the ground. The Clown From Slipknot has returned!

Following the credits (which happen over footage filmed with the mask pulled over the lense in a lame attempt to make this look and feel all first-person), we're reunited from the sole returning, um, star from the first movie, that being Tricia (Jennifer Ritchkoff). She too is walking through the forest, as dry ice swirls around her. She looks confused and upset (get used to this, it's her default facial expression) and appears to be looking for something, eventually finding the Clown mask just lying in her path. She approaches it, reaches over to pick it up, only for A HAND TO COME OUT OF THE GROUND AND GRAB HER WRIST! She pulls away screaming (which she's really good at, it should be mentioned), and then... something comes out of the ground. I think it's supposed to be a zombie, but it doesn't look like one. It looks more the the Djinn from the "Wishmaster" movies. God what I wouldn't give to be watching one of those right now. Anyway, whatever this is, it picks up the mask, puts it on, and then runs after Tricia, knife in hand. She eventually comes to a dead end, that being a cliff, and turns around to see The Clown From Slipknot s nowhere to be found. Okay, killer popping up behind her in three, two, one... THERE HE IS! She gets grabbed, screames and...

... back in the room! Or rather the nut house. I didn't really go into much detail about the first film's ending, mostly because I was bloody sick of the thing by that point, but the gist of it is, Tricia was accused of performing the killing herself and locked up in the funny farm, which would seem to be where she still is. Her doctor hears the screaming and comes to check on her, before telling her she has a visitor. She thinks it's "another shrink," but as it turns out, it's a movie director. He goes by the name Worth Milligan (Garrett Clancy), and he's come to Tricia and the whole hospital with a very outlandish request- he wants her to come to Hollywood and help him make his movie in a Technical Advisor role, which he's basing on the tragedy the year before. Yes, this movie is going META OUTTA NOWHERE by having the main plot based around a group of people essentially remaking the first film. Which is exactly how it's presented, as the script we hear people reading from is word-for-word perfect with actual scenes from part one. It's never explained how Worth would know all of this in such fine detail without having been there himself, but to be honest I was just pleased the film didn't use this as an excuse to go down the sub-"Scream" road and be all knowing and wink-wink nudge-nudge.

Tricia is reluctant to go along with this plan, asking what's in it for her, his answer being that she could finally get her story out there and have people believe it. When she questions why anybody should believe what she says just because it's now a movie, Worth wheels out, "Two words- BLAIR. WITCH." (wow, this movie just time-stamped itself...). She still doesn't seem convinced, and he becomes more-and-more crazed in his attempts to convince her, at one point telling her she's bigger than Manson (I assume he meant Charlie and not Marilyn), and then telling her he can get her out of there under his supervision, prompting the doctor to step in and tell him he can't, and even if he tries he'll oppose him. THEN WHY DID YOU JUST SIT THERE AND LET HIM SAY ALL THAT THEN?! Surely there's something unethical and a bit dangerous in letting somebody get your patient's hopes up like that, especially when they're believed to have committed brutal crimes. Any doctor worth his salt would have heard the first few words of this pitch and told the guy to fuck off.

Tricia is then lead back to her room, where she has a flashback to the events of the last movie. This goes on forever as we're shown what feels like almost whole scenes from beginning to end, but interestingly there seems to be a theme to them, that they all end with somebody telling Tricia she's nuts for believing The Clown From Slipknot exists. It would seem from this that they were trying to plant the seed that maybe Tricia is crazy and that she did really kill all those people last year, which I would be fine with and might even have found an interesting twist... were it not for the fact that we've already seen The Clown From Slipknot kill two people whilst Tricia is still locked up, thus making it impossible for her to be the killer. This movie. Anyway, she has a change of heart and asks to speak to Worth again, and before you know it, we're in LA (as identified by a far-off shot of the HOLLYWOOD sign and some footage of LA traffic)!

Worth is going ahead with his movie, holding auditions with actresses in order to fill out his cast, an act he and his cameraman Shemp (the superbly-named Ken X) are carrying out when we catch up with them. The scene is an exact duplicate of one from the first movie, and it's acted terribly, but here's what baked my brain- the scene they're recreating was bad the first time around as well, but there it was supposed to be good, whereas here it's terrible on purpous, so does this mean that this scene is technically speaking an improvement on the first one, just because it's being carried out the way it was intended to be? Is anybody following me here?

Wow, Melenie Griffith just appeared on my television selling some kind of Pilates equipment. That was a nice little distraction. Anyway, back to the movie.

Finally, Tricia shows up with her doctor. I was pleased to see him there, because I was afraid she'd just show up on her own even though it's believed she's some kind of violent murderess. At least this way she has some supervision, I thought. Then Worth asks the doctor if he'd like something to drink, and he replies, "I won't be staying, I'm just dropping Tricia off." HE JUST DROPPING HER OFF! HE SAID ALL THAT STUFF ABOUT TRYING TO KEEP HER LOCKED UP, AND NOW HE'S JUST RELEASING HER BACK INTO THE WILD WITHOUT ANY SUPERVISION! Dear God, they're not even trying. So she's there, and already she gets freaked out by Shemp fooling around in the Clown mask. This dude, it should be mentioned, is a total charicature, an alcoholic who makes everybody feel uncomfortable from the first time they meet him until he... well, we'll get to that later. The film obviously wants us to think he's the killer, which is why I discounted him instantly. I had my money on Worth at this point, for what it's, um, worth. After the doc is gone (and not seen again), the first thing Worth has Tricia do is go through pictures of actors and choose who she thinks would be perfect for Steve. Of course, being asked to pick an actor that looks just like her dead boyfriend doesn't have a completely positive effect on Tricia's mental wellbeing, and as she's doing this she has another flashback, begins to freak out and says she needs some fresh air, practically running out of the room.

It outside on the balcony that she meets Adrienne (Missy Hansen), an actress who says she's come to audition for a role in the movie. They exchange some banal pleasentaries, and by the time this scene had finished I'd decided she's the killer. It all just felt so random and pointless that the only reason for it to exist was for it to later be revealed to have had more importance than anybody realised. So, she turns up to audition, only to be too late, as the last role has been handed out to a really old, haggard-looking woman in a zebra-print top. Don't worry sweetie, happens to us all. So of course the next thing that must happen in the Zebra Lady has to die, and sure enough the next scene starts in her kitchen, with her talking on the phone and chopping up a banana with a very big knife. I don't know wy she's doing this. Maybe she's going to make herself a banana sandwich. I could go for a banana sandwich right about now. We then cut to her bathroom, where she's getting ready to step into the shower, allowing the director to show us he's improved in how he shoots nude scenes by coaxing her out of the bottom half of her clothing, too (also, helloooooo obvious breast implant scars). In between these scenes, the camera work goes all first-person again, showing somebody sneaking into her house, getting as far as her kitchen, before seemingly being scared off by her phone ringing. She gets out of the shower, answers the phone to find nobody's on the other end of the line, drops her towel (of course), bends over to pick it up, and OH MY GOD THE CLOWN FROM SLIPKNOT IS STANDING RIGHT BEHIND HER! Even though she walked into the room in such a way that she'd be looking directly into the kitchen, and there didn't appear to be anywhere for him to hide. So he kills her, choking her a little bit, then stabbing her with the knife she was using to chop up that banana. I wish it wasn't so late, I really fancy that sandwich now.

It now the next day, and Tricia shows up at Worth's office to meet the rest of the cast- there's Lance (Mark Overholt), a cocky wannabe ladies man who's playing Steve, Vanessa (Jane Johnson), the initially prim-and-proper object of Lance's affections who's playing Tricia, and Todd (Timothy Patrick), the only person who seems a little bit put out at the thought of being around Tricia, playing Jay. They're one cast member missing due to the fact that she's dead, and Tricia uses this chance to try and get Adrienne in the picture. Worth says sure, and hands her a pile of actresses photos, saying if she can find her amongst those, call the attached number and get her down there that second. Tricia runds off to another room and starts going through the pictures, finding hers and calling her. All seems to be going well, until The Clown From Slipknot shows up and starts chasing Tricia around the building, drawing the attention of the others. This turns out to be a red herring, as it's really that weirdo Shemp behind the mask, who falls to the floor giggling when he's discovered. Somehow this gets smoothed out, and the next time we see Tricia she's in a car with Worth and Shemp, driving to the camp, where Worth mentions that they're really going to be staying at for the entire shoot. This is the straw that breaks the camel's back for her, and she puts her foot down, saying she's not staying there. Like the bastard that he is, Worth says that's and that he'll have Shemp drive Tricia back to the insitution if that's more to her liking, which is enough to bring her back onside. From here the movie grinds to a hault for a bit as the next few scenes consist of then filming a scene that ends with Shemp drunkenly assulting Vanessa during the filming (which I think is supposed to get a laugh, because y'know, alcohol-induced man-on-woman violence is a riot),and then a scene around a campfire where we get another fucking flashback scene, this one narrated by Tricia as she explains the events of the last film to everybody. How much more screen-time are we going to get dedicated to this? Did the people behind this really think there was a chance that they might have a few viewers out there that hadn't seen the first one?

There is one mild piece of liveliness in between all this when we're introduced to Patrick (Patrick Thomas, here working under the name Courtney Burr), who's supposed to be an assistant or something. He's a fat, annoying piece of shit, who I couldn't decide was supposed to be a stoner or just suffering from some kind of mental instability, as he yo-yo'd from being stupid-but-friendly one minute to threatening to punch out the entire cast and crew the next. His stay in this film is a short one though, as he's sent off to get food for everybody (where they want him to do this in the middle of a forest, I've no idea), and he decides to slack off and smoke a joint, where he's discovered by The Clown From Slipknot. Thinking this is Shemp, he offers him a toke and ends up GETTING HIS FUCKING HAND CUT OFF, WITH BLOOD SPRAYING EVERYWHERE AS IT NOW LAYS ONTHE FLOOR STILL CLUTCHING THE DOOBIE! Okay, that... that was great, there's no other word for it.

More deaths follow, and in traditional slasher fashion, the occur after a boinking, when Lance finds himself in a tent alone with Vanessa and she reveals herself to be something of a sex fiend when she starts peeling his shirt off. He's also not what he appears to be, as he ends up cumming within seconds of her climbing on top of him and being branded "all talk." So she kicks him out of her tent, where he's hacked to death, and she soon meets a sticky end when she has a knith thrusted into her muth and out the back of her head. Believe it or not, I'm going to offer the movie a little bit more praise here- when I covered the first one, I made note of the fact that, for a slasher, there wasn't much slashing going on, and we ended up with the hilariously lopsided situation where the movie had less the twenty minutes to kill off most of the main cast. Here, there have at least been killings, and they've not all happened at the same time, they've been scattered around a little bit. So, yeah, pacing. Seemingly the only thing Brad Sykes learnt in between his first movie and this one.

The remaining five wake up the next morning to find Lance and Vanessa gone without a trace, which I don't buy, because I refuse to believe there was no blood or anything to be found. There's some more freaking out, with Todd (not unreasonably) suggesting that Tricia might be behind this. She flies into a rage, and following this the project is abandonned, with Worth the only person remaining at the camp site, where he too meets his end at the hands of The Clown From Slipknot when he gets the top of his head carved open. Tricia returns, feeling bad about leaving him, only to find that he... gone without a trace. Okay, this is getting stupid now. Where's the fucking blood? I saw a large puddle of it collect around Worth's head. You're telling me that was dealt with in this amount of time? Bullshit. From here the kills come thick and fast, with Todd getting his throat slit in a stream, and Shemp, after drunkenly trying to rape Tricia, getting his eyes plucked out byhis own broken booze bottle. Tricia herself is the attacked, but rather than geting killed, she's just knocked out, waking up surrounded by the dead bodies of the people she was working with. Well, almost all of them.

Yep, as I expected, Adrienne turns out to be the killer, her reason being that she's the sister of Harris, the killer from the first movie, and refuses to believe Tricia's story. Show reveals her plan (which isn't worth going into here), and how she only originally planned to kill Tricia, but when she killed Zebra Girl, the thrill of the first kill proved addictive and she...

... wait... that was her first kill? The woman from the audition, she was the first person she killed? That's what she's saying? THEN WHO KILLED THE TWO FUCKING PEOPLE AT THE BEGINNING OF THE MOVIE?! WHO?! WHO?! WHO?! WHO?! WHO?! WHOOOOOOOOOOOO?!?!?!




I'm done with it. Tricia kills her by setting fire to her then hacking her with her own knife. Adrienne then gives her the clown mask in the most casual manner possible under the circumstances, then the movie ends.

As much as I freaked out at the end there, to be fair, this is an improvement on the first "Camp Blood." But that's like saying, when the bomb isaboutto drop, blowing your own brains out would be an improvement on having to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. This is an appalling movie and the people behind it's making should be ashamed of themselves, frankly.


Thankfully there is no "Camp Blood 3." However, I recently (like, 30 seconds ago) discovered that Brad Sykes is still making movies, is most recent being "Plaguers" in 2008.

I think this could be the beginning of an absolutely horrendous friendship.

Until Wednesday, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and I'm every nightmare you ever had, I'm your worst dream come true, I'm everything you were ever afraid of.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #24- "HERCULES IN NEW YORK."









PRICE: £1.00

Okay, that took longer than I thought it would. As did this. The upshot being that this review is going up six days late. A new record. Don't worry, I'm aware this is bullshit and intend to use this week to set it right by getting two reviews up, including the landmark (HA!) 25th edition.

What I'm about to say here is 100% legit my opinion. It's not intended to be humourous or sarcastic, and here's no irony in it whatsoever... I believe Arnold Schwarzenegger (or Arnie, or Ahnold, or The Governator, whatever you want to call him) is an inspiration. Some of you may not like his movies, some of you may not like his politics, but the fact remains that he's a living, breathing embodiment of The American Dream, the ultimate immigrant story of a man coming to the US from a far away land and making all his dreams come true. Infact, he probably ran out of dreams some time ago and just started making up new ones for shits and giggles. "Hmmm, today ah think ah shall become governah ov califooorniah." (Christ, even typed out my Austrian accent is offensive. I apologise). And for those of you who believe he's just a talentless chancer who got lucky, well, I don't care if he is, because if I'm honest I think that makes it a little bit better.

And I don't think he is talentless. I mean, look at the people that most would consider his peers- Lundgren? Nowhere. Seagal? A cautionary tale that is currently being covered by my friend Redunbeck on his blog. Van Dam? Straight-to-video Hell, with even his big comeback movie "JCVD" bypassing cinemas over here. Stallone? Making up for lost time by shamelessly plundering his past. And this was a man who wrote and starred in a movie that won Best Picture at The Oscars. The only person I'd even put anywhere near Arnold's level is Bruce Willis, but he was always more than just an action star anyway. I get the feeling that happened to him almost by accident. So with all that carnage behind him, there has to be a reason why he was the last one standing, why even his stinkers like "End of Days," "The 6th Day" and "Eraser" (has anybody actually seen this movie? I've never spoken to a person who has, or at least will admit to it) got the red carpet treatment and were presented as big deals when released. There had to have been something about him that set him apart and made special, that made him... Arnie. And as with most things in life, the best way of understanding something is to go back and see how it began. Which brings me to this, his first movie filmed nearly fourty years ago (and that fact alone nearly sent my head spinning).

But first, BOX REVIEW! It's a Boulevard Entertainment release, so I have to, really. Well, at first glance, nothing really jumps out at you. It looks really cheap, but that's par for the course with these guys. The layout's fairly standard, there's no silliness in the credits box. They even managed to spell "Schwarzenegger" right, which makes me want to give them a medal. However, when I looked closer, I spotted something... odd. Not a mistake really, just... odd. On the front cover is a little red oval box thing with text inside it that reads, "FEATURING ARNOLD'S REAL VOICE FOR THE FIRST TIME." This is in reference to the fact that, when it was first released, Arnold's voice was dubbed throughout the movie, and now that has been removed. Alright, fine. Nothing odd about that. What is odd, though, is the fact that the text in the box ends in a full stop.

That's not usually how these things are done. Usually, when you're trying to alert people to things this way, you either just let the words hang there without punctuation, or use punctuation to imply this is something to get excited about. "FEATURING ARNOLD'S REAL VOICE FOR THE FIRST TIME!" See how an exclamation point changes that whole sentence? Isn't that an improvement? If I didn't know better, I'd say it almost looks like the person in charge of putting together the box art for this thing was subtly making fun of the movie. "Watch this. It's got Arnold's real voice in it. Yay."

The actual box itself is worth mentioning too, as it's one of those super-thin ones.
Now, I both like and dislike these. I like them simply because they're easy to store. I did a little comparison once and found that, were all my DVD boxes this thin, I could have got roughly three times as many of them on one shelf. Which is great. But they're not, which is why I hate them, because when I see them sitting alongside all my regular-sized boxes, looking all skinny and different, it makes my OCD want to cry. I just don't like it. I'm the kind of man who has his books on a shelf in height order, there's nothing I can do about this.

The film opens with stock footage of some snowy mountains, and a voice tells us the following- "Far in the dim past, when myth and history merged into mystery (I don't know what this means), and the Gods of fable, and the primitive beliefs of man dwelt on ancient Mount Olympus in antique Greece, a legendary hero walked God-like upon the Earth... sometimes." We're then taken to Olympus, which looks like some hippy commune (there's even a girl skipping around waving what looks like a white scarf), and as the box trumpeted, we here Arnold's voice. And by Christ, it's nearly incomprehensible. If you think he accent is thick now, you'd think you were listening to an alien if you watched this. Throughout this entire movie, there were lines I didn't understand, rewound back several times to have another go at, still didn't get, so eventually just said fuck it and moved on. His delivery is also so stilted, and his expression so blank, that most of the time it looks like he doesn't really understand what he's saying. Maybe he didn't, I'm not sure how great his grasp of the English language was at this point. I completely understand why they felt the need to dub him, I'll just say that. I also can't remember seeing him this big on film before, not even in the "Pumping Iron" documentary. He's huge, like uncomfortably huge (that's what she said), which I guess works for the role, but it was probably for the best that he later dropped alot of that mass.

I'll also address this before I go any further- yes, I'm aware that the movie totally fucks up the mythology it presents, confusing characters from Greek and Roman religions. For instance, when he appears later, Pluto is obviously supposed to be Hades, ruler of the Greek version of Hell, and Hercules himself should be called Heracles. They even briefly throw in Sampson from The Bible at one point. I know I should probably get all hot and bothered about this, but I can't be arsed, simply because I'm watching a movie called "Hercules in New York." It's not meant to be taken that seriously, so I'm not going to. The only place I wish they'd been a bit stricter is with the naming of Zeus' wife, calling her Hera instead of Juno, because the only thing I can associate that name with now is heavily-pregnant jailbait.

He's talking to his father, Zeus (Ernest Graves, who seems to be attempting to make up for the supposed stars lack of presence by being panto-levels of broad with every line he utters), trying to talk him into letting him go to Earth, as he's bored with Olympus and "tired of the same old faces, the same old things." This angers Zeus, and he decides to punish his wayward Demi-God son by... sending him to Earth. Okay then. The way he does this is to strike him with lightening (brilliantly represented by a small metal spear that's been shaped to look all wavy) and teleport him to to Earth in a puff of rubbish fireworks. When I say "to Earth," I mean the basic vicinity around the planet, because the first person who sees him is an old lady on an plane as he falls past her window, waving and smiling (and Arnold's smile is so goofy as he goes past that I couldn't help burst out laughing). She starts to freak out, yelling about what she's just seen, in the manner of somebody trying to impersonate a stereotypical gay man, all high-pitched screeching and exaggerated hand gestures. She's eventually subdued by an oxygen mask, and we move on.

Hercules lands in the ocean and is seemingly about to drown. We don't see any of this, it'd be far too expensive to film, but rather we're told this by Zeus and those around him who are watching the action in a big crystal ball thing. They beg Zeus to save Hercules, and he reluctantly does so by having a ship find him and bring him on-board. We don't get to see this, either, the next time we see Herc he's already on the ship towelling off in a manner that allows him to flex his muscles. There's a brief scene of them questioning where he comes from and how he got to be in the middle of the ocean, before we get our first evidence that Herc is, well, a bit of a dick- the Captain insists that he refer to him as "Sir" when he speaks to him, which prompts Herc to tell him that "No men are superior to Hercules." Then in the next scene we join a fight in progress as Herc is beating up the entire crew. What have they done to anger him so, you're wondering? They asked him to do some work. At first it's assumed that because he's a foreigner maybe he didn't understand what was being asked of him, but he himself soon clears things up by saying, "I understood him. He is most disagreeable, and he has irritated me." At least I think that's what he says, this s one of those lines I had to rewind. Either way, what a jerk. The fight scene is laughable as well, like all of them in this movie are, consisting of Arnie chucking men around and throwing lame punches.

After that you'd think they'd want him off their ship as soon as possible, but once they dock and Herc tries to leave, they try to put a stop to this, leading to another fight scene where Herc fends off several men with a large piece of wood. It's here the first inconsistancy emerges, as it's established moments later that Herc has superhuman strength when he stops a forklift moving with his bare hands, yet here he has genuine trouble wrestling five men pushing against the wood he brandishes. He's a Demi-God, he should be able to throw them into the sun if he wanted to. It's somewhat redeemed though by the bit where Arnold seems to be having so much fun that he breaks character and starts smiling. He flees the scene with Pretzie (Arnold Stang), so called because he sells pretzels, who gets him into a cab and immediately becomes his best friend. There's so much I want to say about both the man and the character that if I allow myself free reign I may still be sitting here next week, so I'm going to to try and keep this brief. First, his appearance. God bless him, I'm sure he is (or was, I'm not altogether sure about his... living status) a nice guy, but the fact remains, he looks like a cartoon turtle, appropriate for a man who provided the voice for several animated characters (including TOP CAT!). And what a voice. I've been trying to come up with a way to describe his voice that won't offend anybody, and this is the best I could come up with- it is like every neurotic thought and emotion that has every been had or ever will be had has been squeezed into one tiny body. He's like a living panic attack, even when he's happy.

In the cab, introductions are made, they make small talk, Pretzie mentions another Greek guy he knew named Apollo, who Herc assumes must have been the Apollo, before they get out and Pretzie asks Herc to pay for the cab. Of course, Herc has no money, has very little knowledge of the concept, and anyway, the man driving the "chariot" should be satisfied with the fact that he's ferrying Hercules around, shouldn't he? As anyone who's ever been to New York will tell you, this was never gonna fly, so Pretzie resigns himself to the cabbie calling the cops, which he says he will, once he's pounded on them some himself. I swear, at this point it's starting to look like Herc's face is magnetic and everybody's fists are are made of metal. The fight doesn't last long, Herc just throws the guy into a bush and then turns his taxi over. I love how the hero of this movie is remorselessly raining down pain and destruction upon the city.

As they run away from yet another person Hercles has managed to piss off, he and Pretzie stumble across a bunch of college kids training at baseball and other various athletic events, being watched by Professor Camden (James Karen) and his daughter Helen (Deborah Loomis). Of course Herc once again acts like a total douche to the coach, saying he could do better then all of them, as he competed in the first Olympics in Greece, and instead of just calling him a loony and telling him to fuck off, as would happen in real life, because this is a movie he's invited to compete against his best students in discus throwing, javelling and long jump, trouncing them all and getting the attention of the Professor and Helen. At this point I thought I had the plot figured out- they're going to get Herc into the college so that he can compete in all these sports for them, and along the way he'll fall in love with Helen. Suffice to say, that isn't what happens. All that really comes out of this is Herc and Helen become friends, and that really is all they become. There's a hint of romance at the beginning, but it never goes anywhere, there's no kissing, just a bit of arms around the shoulders action.

Their friendship gets off to a rocky start though, due to the fact that Hercules makes a fool of himself (what a surprise!) when invited round the Professor's house. It doesn't start off well, when in the previous scene the Professor invites them round for tea, and Pretzie instantly assumes they want to do drugs (it was the seventies), and continues to degenerate the second they arrive. First Herc tells Helen she reminds him of a God, which is quite a nice thing to tell someone, but only after you've known them for a while. And even then, it's not just something you'd just blurt out. But Herc does and this of course makes Helen uncomfortable. Then Rod shows up. Herc asks if they're "lovers," insisting that it's "unnatural" for a man and a woman to be friends and not be lovers. Didn't Billy Crystal say something similar to that in "When Harry Met Sally?" Anyway, another fight breaks out, ending with Hercules picking up Rod in bodyslam position and just holding him there as he squirms, as Pretzie and Helen practically beg him to put him down. We then cut back to Zeus in Olympus still watching all of this, who uses alot of words to basically say, "Kids, who'd fucking have 'em?" Timejump to the next day, where the Professor and Helen are sitting at their dining table discussing yesterday's "amusing situation," with the doctor finding Herc "original" and "refreshing," wanting to study him further. Helen initially doesn't seem to find it amusing at all, saying how this "crazy," "primitive" man injured her friend... boyfriend... whatever, and then thought nothing of inviting her out on a date. "Well of course you told him..." the Professor says, Helen completing the sentence with "... I would." Yes, he assaulted an... associate of hers, and she found this manly and irrisistable. Dames, eh? She then sits there with a moronic grin on her face as the Professor drinks his tea.

And then the movie peaks. It achieves a level of greatness it had no hope of getting anywhere near again. And it does this by having Arnold wrestle a man in a bear costume. It goes like this- whilst Herc and Helen are out on their date, which seems to mostly consist of them riding around on a horse and cart, we cut away to see a zoo keeper discover that one of his cages open, then hear on the radio that a bear is on the loose. This is followed by a shot of the "bear" runnning. Even though it was running away from the camera and thus we could only see it from behind, it was obviously a guy in a suit, and I thought to myself, "There's no way they'll go with that alone. Not even a production like this. They'll save it for close-ups of the two of them fighting, then use stock footage of a real bear roaring and stuff like that."

Oh how wrong I was.

They have no shame about how shitty this looked. The first time we see the costume from the front and it's revealed just how Mickey Mouse it looks (I once wore a bear costume to school for charity, and I think the costume I wore looked infinitely better than the one they have here), the dude gets up on a rock and appears to start doing The Robot. He then runs in front of the carriage, inciting the wrath of Hercules, who leaps to the ground and proceeds to wrestle it, even managing to work in a Judo chop to the skull, as Helen sheriks and at one point exclaims, "BEAT 'EM UP!" I never thought the day would come when I would bare witness to the Governor of California grappling with a man in a bad fancy dress costume. What a strange and wonderful world we live in. Herc eventually wins the day, the next morning's paper proclaiming him a hero, bringing him to the attention of a local wrestling promoter who wants him to fight for him. It's revealed that Herc and Pretzie have been staying in a hotel, and need make some money in order to pay the bill they've been running up, so they're really in no position to say no. Like before, I assumed I had what would happen next figured out from this point- Herc would become a wrestler, and the rest of the movie would follow his adventures in that profession. As it turns out, I was wrong again. We don't even see him do any wrestling, we see one shot of him with a guy on his shoulders, and that's it. It's like anything vaguely interesting has to happen off-screen (bear fight excluded). This brings Hercules to the attention of some gangsters, who... they're just making this up as they go along now, aren't they? Almost none of the scenes in this movie up to this point really connect with each other in any way you could call a story, they're just random happenings that either feature or are about Hercules in some way. Anyway, the Gangsters (one of whom I was convinced was a young Vincent Pastore, but I can find no evidence of this anywhere), strong-arm Pretzie into signing a contract meaning they pretty much own Herc and make money off his wrestling career. And once again I thought I knew where this was going, that Herc would discover this and go on a rampage (well, as big a rampage as the budget would allow), finding the Gangsters and tearing up the contract. But nope, nothing really comes of this until the very end, and I can assume Herc either doesn't know he's now generating revenue for organised crime, or he just doesn't care. Pretzie becomes depressed due to this, hits the bottle, and... OH MY GOD IT'S A PLOT!

Well, a bit of one. Zeus, growing increasingly displeased by Hercules making a fool of himself down below, at first dispatches Nemesis to go after him and punish him by sending him to The Underworld for 100 years, but stays his hand when Mercury pleads with him not to be so harsh with his half-brother, calling him "simple and a bit childish" (that's right, the movie just outright stated it's hero is slow), and that he should go instead and attempt to talk him into returning. After everyone except Juno agrees this would be the better thing to do, Zeus agrees, and Mercury travels to New York, via Helecopter, wearing a pretty damn nice suit. They meet up in Herc's hotel room after he arrves home from another day out with Helen (where the filmmakers find another excuse for him to take his shirt off and start flexing), and Mercury does his best make him come round to their father's way of thinking, only to be totally brushed-off. As far as acting goes, this may be Arnold's worst scene in the entire movie. It's definitely the most dialogue that's been asked of him so far, and he's totally out of his element. I was going to wait until the end of the review to talk about this, but this scene seems like the perfect place to address it... I think I've figured out why Arnold had more of a career that the rest of the action movie old-guard- he was willing to put in the work. Whereas the rest of them found ther level and pretty much stayed there, Arnold actually wanted to improve. He made better contacts, which lead to him making better movies, and even got better as an actor. The whole time I was watching this, I had so much trouble reconciling this hulking, scared-looking lump of wood in front of me with the what he would later become. He was never going to win any awards, but at least he figured out how to bring a little personality to the roles he played.

Getting back on track, Mercury reluctantly leaves, flying out the window after telling Herc to be careful. This entire exchange happened in front of a very drunk Pretzie, who had been reading up on Greek myths the last time we saw him, and had pretty much had the fact that his friend is the real Hercules confirmed right in front of him. Of course the fact that he was drunk means means nobody he tells the next day believes him (the scene going on before this is awesome, by the way- it consists of the Professor, Helen and Rod sitting around talking about how there's obviously something psychologically wrong with Herc, but that in spite of that they all like him, even Rod, who claims to do so "even if he did crack two of my ribs." HE LIKES HIM EVEN THOUGH HE CRACKED TWO OF HIS RIBS). Back in Olympus, it's on now, as Zeus has had enough and sends Nemesis on her mission. However, before she can go, she secretly meets with Juno, who gives her a new mission- drug Hercules with a powder that temporarily takes away his divinity, rendering him a normal man, and thus able to die. She does this, slipping the powder into Herc's drinks at a bar, then travels to The Underworld (which is represented by some smoke, a red light and a black metal gate) to speak with Pluto (Michael Lipton), telling him about Juno's plan, and asking him to find a creative way of killing Hercules so that his soul can be condemned. And the plan he comes up with is pretty ingenius, I'll give him that- he travels to Earth from The Underworld (and his arrival is pretty creatively done- he emerges from the the New York subway system and causes a mass blackout), and meets up with the Gangsters who own Hercules, putting an obscene amount of money on him losing an upcoming televised weightlifting contest, knowing that these men would suspect Herc of purpously losing if he did so.

So the day of the contest comes, and Herc, due to the fact that he's lost his God powers, loses. I did like the fact that they realised that even though he's no longer superhuman, he's still a big strong guy, and he managed to make two successful lifts before failing. But he still fails, and as Pluto had hoped, the Gangsters suspect a double-cross, and a chase is now on, with them following Helen and the Professor in their car, and Herc and Pretzie in hot persuit of the both of them on a chariot they stole from a man dressed in a tiger-print singlet buying a hot dog (it's New York, I've seen stranger things than that there, believe me). The final stand takes place in an abandoned warehouse, where the Gangster's overwhelm Herc and start putting the boots into him. Everything seems to be going to shit, until up in Olympus Zeus sees what is happening and asks why this has been done to Hercules when it was clearly not what he asked (because y'know, sending your son to Hell for 100 years is a much nicer punishment than making him a mortal). It comes out that this was all Juno's doing, and the Gods then save Herc and his friends, first by sending down two of their own to act as back-up, then with Zeus himself granting Herc back his divinity, just in time for him to be able to push some big but not terribly heavy looking cardboard tubes onto the Gangsters. And that's that.

Following this, Herc returns to Olympus without any good reason after defying is father's wishes for the entire film. He doesn't even say goodbye to Pretzie, he just disappears, although he later communicates with his friend through his radio, saying he'll always be there for him. The voice coming out of the radio clearly doesn't belong to Arnold, it's probably the voice of the guy they originally got to do the dub. Pretzie sits for a second, whistfully thinking about all the strange things he and Herc got up to, before suddenly declaring, "I think I'll eat an apple." He then gets up and walks out of shot, presumably to go get an apple. The film ends with Hercules telling his father all about his time on Earth, and his father deciding it might be fun to visit the place himself, which he does dressed in a suit and a bowler hat, scaring a plane full of people as he floats down.

I have to be totally honest with you here- I have no idea what to do with this movie. On the one hand, it's clearly not very good. It's amateurishly shot even when you take into account the time it was made and the fact they clearly weren't working with alot of money, the script makes no sense, literally all the fights are terrile, and most of the acting is awful, especially Arnold's contribution. But on the other hand it's got a certain goofy charm, there are a couple of fun turn amongst the dross (most notably Graves, Stang and Michael Lipton, wo makes the most of his brief screen-time), and I got to see The Terminator wrestle a guy dressed as a bear. Plus, the fact that it's Arnold's first movie is a big mark in its favour straight away, as it's worth owning for historic reason if nothing else.

I don't know what to do. I'm at a total loss.


... Fuck it, I'm tossing a coin. I am going to let this movie's fate rest on the toss of a coin. I have a 20p piece sitting next to my laptop right now, and as soon as I'm done typing this, I'm going to flip it. Heads I keep the movie, tails I bin it. Okay, here I go.

IT FELL DOWN THE BACK OF MY FUCKING BED! Not ever The Fates themselves know what to do with this movie. Right, I'm going to go get another coin out of my jeans, be right back.

Okay, got it. One more time. Heads, kept. Tails, binned.




Lastly, some notes. As most of you will probably be reading this on the Wednesday (I'm still considering this Tuesday due to my rule that the day isn't over until I've gone to sleep), my first proper review should be up on Killer Film. It's a reprint of the second review I ever did, with some slight rewriting and re-editing. I know some of you have already read it, but I knw there's a god chance quite a few of you haven't, so please feel free to go over there and take a look at it. I have to say, rereading it whilst editing it was a strange experience.

Finally, I don't usually give clues to what the next movie I'm going to review will be, but I have to say, the review that's going up over there tomorrow is very... fitting, considering what I'll be covering on Friday or Saturday.

Until Friday or Saturday, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and there is no "us," you psychopathic bitch!

Monday, 9 March 2009

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #23- "NORTH BY NORTHWEST."









PRICE: £1:00

At this point, there are certain words in the English language that mean absolutely nothing. "genius," for a start, used to be a word that summed up people who were at the very forefront of their chosen field and continuously coming up with things that changed both it and in some cases the very world around us. Now it's used to describe a man in a guerilla suit playing the drums (I'm not hating on the guerilla here, I just want to make sure everybody knows that). "Nazi?" Pfft. The second kids started calling their school dinner ladies this it may as well have been the name of a Care Bear. I have had friends who have been going out with women less than a month before they start introducing them to people as their "fiancee." That one really rubs me the wrong way for some reason. I think it's because is seems like something a child pretending to be an adult would say, which would be fine if we weren't all in at least our early twenties at this point. You planning on marrying her? Got even a rough date in mind? Does she have a ring? No? Then she's not you Fiancee, she's your girlfriend. Shut up.

Those are a few of the famous ones that get mentioned whenever this subject is brought up, but I'd like to throw "ashamed," and variations there of, into the ring. Because think about it, how many times in your life have you ever said you were "ashamed" of something when in reality you weren't? You felt bad about something, don't get me wrong, or you felt that something was really letting the side down, but you were never really ashamed. I don't think alot of people really know what being ashamed actually feels like. I didn't, not until the day I was at a family gathering and heard a relative, who has had a long battle with Cancer that has resulted in several surgeries, talk about how she redecorated two rooms in her house from scratch completely on her own, as I sat there thinking about how there are days I can't even be bothered to make the bed.

So I'm not going to say I'm ashamed of myself for not having seen more Alfred Hitchcock movies, but I will I'm... surprised at myself. I can't even be vague about the number, I know exactly how many I've seen- I've seen "Psycho," I've seen "The Birds," I've seen some of "Rear Window," and that's it. Worst of all, I can't really give a decent reason why. There's a chance it could be my contrary nature. Everytime somebody tells me I have to see something, or that I'll love this or that, I suddenly lose all desire to see it. It's probably a layover from me teenaged years when I had to be the first person to discover something, otherwise it was meaningless (yes, we've been over this before, I'm well aware I was a wanker). But I think it might also be because I feel like I've already seen so many of them. I've read about them and heard them talked about and seen clips of them and parodies of them on various TV shows that it's like I've seen them almost throught osmosis. It's not a Hitchcock movie, but take "Citizen Kane." I've not seen that movie... but I have, I really have. But for a pound (and I'm still amazed I was able to find this for that price, but the sticker doesn't lie), there was absolutely no way I was passing this up.

When people are asked to describe the kind of movies Hitchcock made, the word that comes up time and again is "crowd-pleasers." I love how this meant something completely different back in Hitchcock's time. Today, if you say this about a director's work, you're accusing them of pandering to the lowest common denominator and producing work of little artistic merit. Back in the fifties and sixties though, when he produced much of his classic work, crowds had grown so bored with the the same old shit that was being presented to them and craved something a bit different. And he gave them that- fascinating and occasionally unhinged characters, complex, thrilling and risque plots, shot in ways that pretty much changed the language of cinema forever. He understood that audiences no longer wanted to be held by the hand and taken on a gentle stroll, they wanted to be shot in the face. They were ready for something a bit more exciting.

Before I get onto the film, I'm going to indulge myself with a quick BOX REVIEW! This was released back in 2001, back when DVD was just starting to overshadow VHS, and it's got the same design as most of the boxes from that time, being made entirely from cardboard with the exception of where the disc sits and a little hinge-like lock that you had unclasp to open it. For some reason I've always liked these boxes. I think it's the clasp, and the chunky "CLICK" it make whenever you open or close it. The closing "CLICK" is more satisfying though. MMMMMMM. The one downside is these boxes get damaged alot easier than the plastic ones. It can't double-up as a coaster for instance, at least not without a ring ending up over Cary Grant's face (I literally just spent five minutes trying to come up with a decent gay joke and couldn't think of one. Obviously I'm not that creative tonight).

When the movie first started, I thought it was broken, because the MGM logo looked defective. For a start, the background was neon green, and the logo and lion themselves looked a bit like the negative of a photo. Fortunately this was by design, as the logo faded away, leaving just the background, giving way to one hell of a stylish credits sequence. It's really simple, just a bunch of black lines that look like the side of a building that the credits slide up that eventually fades away to reveal an actual building, but it looks so fucking cool. It sounds cool as well, thanks in part to the brilliant score by Bernard Hermann. I really don't talk enough about music in these things. I've said that before and made promises to change that, but the truth is I probably won't, which is weird because I love music and even collect movie soundtracks. The score here though is good enough for me to want to draw special attention to it, just as the disc itself does by ofering a music-only audio track. It's superb throughout, and this opening piece sums it up perfectly by managing to be creepy, exciting and almost whimsical all at once. Following this, we meet the film's main character, Roger Thornhill, played by Cary Grant. Grant's the kind of guy you get the feeling is always playing himself in everything, but like any good movie star, he gets away with it on a mixture of good looks (he's still quite a handsome man here despite his advancing years), charisma and a way with words, even those not his own. And he has a real vitality about him in this movie, you really believe he wouldn't just stand back and let the things that happened to him happen, that he would see them through to the very end. We discover very quickly (and one of the things I like about this script is that it's quite good with exposition and tells us just what we need to know when we need to know it) that he works in advertising, as he leaves a building with his assistant, rattling off a bunch of things for her to do (which includes sending a woman he's seeing a box of chocolates wrapped in gold paper and a not that reads, "Something for your sweet tooth baby, and all your other sweet parts." I may steal this) as they get into a cab that he scams off someone by claiming she's gravely ill. As he gets out to attend a meeting in what looks to be a hotel bar, he tells her to call his mother, only for him to then remember that she's out playing bridge tonight just as the cab pulls away. Feeling bad about his mistake, he calls over the waiter to ask if it's possible for him to seen a telegram to her, with the waiter saying he personally can't, but Thornhill can, pointing him in the direction of where to go.

And this proves to be the decision that turns Thorhill's life upside down, because he summoned the waiter at the exact time he's asking if a Mr. George Caplin is in the bar, making it look like he's responding to the waiter calling his name. This leads to two obvious goons, one wearing a hat straight ot of a "Dick Tracy" comic strip, the other with a fantastically square head, assuming he is Caplin. I want to mention how subtly this is all done. The first time I watched this,I didn't notice the waiter asking if Caplin was present, and found the two goons thinking Thornhill was him to be a little bit wacky. But now I'm just in awe of how masterfully done it was. It makes sense that you wouldn't notice it, because Thornhill himself doesn't. This moment is never mentioned again. I do feel a little bit sorry for the people who first watched this 50 years ago. In this day and age, if you missed an important plot point like that, such as I did, you can easily go back an rewatch it to see what passed you by. Back then, if you weren't on the ball, you were fucked, basically.

Thornhill gets up to send the telegram and immediately finds himself escorted into the back of a car at gun-point. This is less than six minutes into a two hour movie. Absolutely no fucking around, let's just get into this thing. He's driven to a large house owned by a man called Lester Townsend, and introduced to someone who claims to be this person, although we later find out he's really called Philip Vandamm and is just using this place whilst the real owner is away. Vandamm is played by James Mason, an actor I find it almost impossible to take seriously whenever I watch him. And I'll tell you why, it's because of that one bloody Eddie Izzard gag where he impersonated him. Eddie totally obliterated him, to the point that now whenever he's on-screen, even here, I keep waiting for him to say, "It is my duty as a cockney man," in that strange voice of his. Another example of an actor destroyed by comedy. I will say that he's good here though, suitably oily and unpleasent, and that voice actually works in this role. He should have been a Bond villain, really. Vandamm and Thornhill have a stalemate of a conversation, with Vandamm insisting that Thornhill is Caplin and that he tell him what he wants to know if he's to live, and Thornhill being absolutely adamant that he is infact not this man and doesn't know what he's talking about. This doesn't go down very well, and ends with Vandamm attempting to follow through with his theat to end Thornhill's life. He doesn't do it himself though, he has his goons, lead by Leonard (played by an almost unrecognisably young Martin Landau) do the dirty work, which they go about doing in a very creative way- rather than just blow his brains out, they force Thornhill to drink an entire bottle or Bourbon, then attempt to drive a car into the ocean with him in it to make it look like an accident. It's a decent plan, but it would seem they didn't count on him regaining conciousness at the last minute, as he does, kicking the goon doing the driving out of his car and attemting to drive away. "Attempting" being the word, as he's drunk as a Lord and nearly does their work for them by almost driving off the road himself. He survives though, and a chase ensues, and I think it's safe to say it's not exactly comparable to the one from "Bullitt." A decent job is done of showing that Thornhill is as much a danger to himself as the people chasing him are though, and Hitchcock also comes up with a very creative way of showing the confusion that must occur when driving drunk (and I can only assume, since I don't have a licence and can't even legally drive sober), by super-imposing two roads over each other.

It ends with a crash, as these things often do, only Thornhill is unlucky enough to crash into a police car and get dragged to the local court house to spend the night in a cell. Grant is hilarious as a drunk in this scene, being harmlessly belligerant, making wild claims about men trying to kill him with "a gun, some Bourbon and a sports car", and demanding to call his mother, who seems to offer him little sympathy. We actually meet her in the next scene, that being the court hearing the next day when Thornhill makes his admittedly wild claim to the Judge, and she's brilliant, this acerbic, sarcastic woman who's very quick to write her own son off as a lunatic. She briefly teams up with him following this, and their scenes together are enough to make me wish she was in the whole movie. In order to prove he's telling the truth, Frank takes the Judge, his Mother and some other people from the court to the Townsend place, and as you'd expect, he's completely stiched-up. All the physical evidence of his story is gone- there's no Bourbon stains on the couch where it was spilt, there's not even any booze in the little bar, only books. Then things get worse when a woman shows up claiming to be Townsend's wife, who says there'd been a party there last night and that Thornhill had made quite a spectacle of himself. The final nail in the coffin is hammered in when she says Thornhill is a key note speaker of the United Nations that day, leading everybody to now completely write-off Thornhil's story, which none of them were really buying to begin with.

But thornhill's not taking this lying down, oh no. The day before in "his" office, Vandamm had read off a list of places Caplin had stayed recently in an attempt to show that they'd had him monitored and knew he was lying when he claimed not to be him. Using this to his advantage, he and his mother get a key to the room (after Thornhill bribes his own mother to sweet-talk the clerk, which is something I find both hilarious and disturbing) and go investigate. Their, they bump into a couple of hotel employees who just assume Thornhill is Caplin because, as they reveal when pressed, none of them have actually seen Caplin in the flesh, even though he has them do things like clean his suit regularly. This is getting curiouser and curiouser, but sadly they don't get alot of time to mull things over, as Thornhil is both silly enough to answer the phone and unlucky enough to have the man on the other end of the line be Vandamm, who's now more convinced that Thornhill is Caplin than ever (he continues to claim otherwise, but Vandamm's all like, "You're in his hotel room, dickhead") and has dispatched two of his goons to take him out (see? Revealing his plan ahead of his time. Total Bond villain). Realising they have to get out of their, Thornhill and his mother hurry, but aren't fast enough to avoid the goons, who get in the same crowded elevator car. He motion towards them for his mother in a "They're the guys!" manner, and due to the fact that she's still not really buying any of this, she brilliantly comes straight out and asks them, "You're not really trying to kill my son, are you?" They start laughing. We'll, what else is there to do? Then she starts laughing, and soon everybody in the elevator is laughing except Thornhill, who dashes out and into the back of a cab the second the door opens, his mother yelling, "WILL YOU BE HOME FOR DINNER!?" after him. This is sadly the last we see of her, although I don't think she could have had a more perfect last line.

Deciding to confront the bull head-on, Thornhill goes to the United Nations intent on speaking to the man he believed is Townsend, now armed with a photo of what he thinks is him that he found in Caplin's hotel room. He even goes by the name of Caplin, so he'd have no doubt who it is. In a twist that leaves him completely bamboozled however, the Townsend that responds to the page isn't the man he met the previous evening. He tries to make sense of all that's happening, asking if he's aware if anybody's staying at his house at this time, with him saying only his gardener and his gardener's wife (which we assume is Vandamm, since we see him doing some gardening when Thornhill and the court showed up at the house), and he's about to be shown the picture Thronhill has on him when, BAM! Knife outta nowhere to the back, thrown by one of the goons Thornhill thought he'd lost. This assassination scene is done incredible well. It would have been very easy to have had the two men in shot close enough that all we'd see is Townsend react to the knife and then keel over, but Hitchcock set it up in such a way that you actually see the knife fly in from the right side of the screen and seemingly land in the actor's back. It's a fairly shocking moment that actually go a reaction out of me. Not a massive one, just a little "wow," but a reactions all the same. There would be bigger reactions to come though. So the real Townsend is now dead, and this all happened so fast that all people now see is Thornhill standing over the guy's body with the knife in his hands (why he took the knife out of the poor man, I don't know. I think this was known to be absolutely the wrong thing to do even 50 years ago). You'd think with this being one of the most important buildings in the world security would be all over him, but no, all he does is wave the knife about a bit, scream "GET BACK!" and then leg it out the front door into a cab. This is one of those moments where logic has been thrown out of the window in order to advance the plot, and bless him, but not even Hitchcock was immune to it.

We then finally get our first hint to what might be going on when we're taken to the the meeting room where a group of people, who we later find out are part of the FBI, are discussing the Thornhill/Caplin situation, as it and a picture of him has made the front page of every paper in America. It's here we find out the reason nobody has seen Caplin is because there is no Caplin- he's a decoy agent they made up and went to the trouble of establishing patterns of behaviour for in order to draw the heat off the real agent they have within Vandamm's organisation. Rather than come up with a way to help this poor man out, they decide to do nothing, because as The Professor (Leo G. Carroll) puts it, "... we could congratulate ourselves on a mavelous piece of good fortune, our non-existant decoy George Caplin, created to divert attention from our actual agent, has fortuitously become a live decoy." It may seem callus, as one of the women in the room puts it, but I can see where they're coming from here, as they're trying to fight for what they believe is the greater good, and this man is entirely expendable. Not that this helps Thornhill himself though, as when we return to him he's about to attempt boarding a train to Chicago to continue his hunt for Caplin, whom he believes to have travelled there that morning, following one last call to his mother. I thought it might be revealed that she still severely doubted him and was tipping off the police about his whereabouts (which I think would have been hilarious), but the film doesn't go down this road. Instead, the next scene is another example of how Hitchcock loves to try and build tension, turning the walk the now sunglasses-clad Thornhill (that'll fool 'em) has to make across the train station to the ticket booth into something comparible to crossing a minefield- everywhere you look people are reading and holding papers, there are police swarming around, and the place is just packed. It seems impossible that Thornhll should be able to get on this train undetected. And he doesn't, getting placed by the clerk who immediately puts in a call to the police. Having the sense to realise he's been rumbled, Thornhill runs off whilst the clerk is on the phone. Unfortunately in doing this he draws even more attention to himself by attempting to get on the train without a ticket. So now he has not only two police officers after him but an angry ticket collector, too. Things look bleak.

Enter Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint). She helps Thornhill evade the cops (simply by stashing him in her room and telling the guys after him, "He went that-a-way!" making them look like sub-Keystone Cops buffoons), and then spend the entire journey trying to fuck him. No, really, that's what she does. During some downtime in Thornhill's hide-a-seek with the ticket collectors on-board, he ends up sitting at the same table as her in the dining car, and they spend almost the entire conversation talking about boning. Choice excerpts- Thornhill: "The moment I meet an attractive woman I have to start pretending I have no desire to make love to her." Eve: "I never discuss love on an empty stomach" (note: she originally said "sex," not "love," but the censors made Hitchcock dub over that line). Eve: "It's going to be a long night... and I don't particularly like the book I've started... y'know what I mean?" I love putting myself in the shoes of the people from the time the movie I'm watching was originally released. I can only imagine how shocking all this must have been, and also laugh at the fact that today all it warrants is a PG rating. Eva Marie Saint is so fucking sexy as well. The first time I watched this I thought she was a bit blank and unexciting, but upon second viewing I realised what she brought to the table. She has these amazing eyes and a purring voice that makes you feel like you're being gently stroked by very fine sandpaper (this feels very nice, trush me). They manage to squeeze in a few other topics as well, such as how she knows who he really is and what he's been accused of, but assures him she won't tell anybody because he has, "a nice face." She even hides him again, this time from the cops who board the tran looking for him, and they finally get down to it in her room. This is left to our imaginations.

So, as you've probably figured out right now, Eve is, or at the very least appears to be in league with Vandamm, who is also on the train, and whom she slips a note asking what she should do with Thornhill tomorrow. Now, later the film wants us to feel bad for Thornhill and this betrayal, but the truth is he comes across as a bit of a horny moron for falling for it in the first place. I mean, I don't care how beautiful the woman is, at some point you'd think somebody would stop and say to themselves, "Hang on a second here- weird shit is happening in my life, and this is just another example of it. Could it be that these things are related?" But Thornhill doesn't, and as such pretty much walks into a trap crotch-first. The next day, once they've snuck him off the train dressed as a baggage handler, Eve gives him a piece of paper with the time and the place where he can supposedly meet Caplin. This turns out to be a bus stop in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by crop fields, and...

... oh shit, I know what happens next. I know exactly what happens next, because I've seen it parodied on "Family Guy." See? See what I mean about having seen movies I haven't seen? SEE?! Anyway, one of the things I loved about this particular scene is how slow it is. Most directors would have been itching to get into the excitement, but Hitchcock understood that it was all in the build and the delay. So we see Thornhill standing by the side of this road waiting, a car passes, still waiting, another car passes, still waiting, another car passes, and yep, still waiting, as a plane flies around in the background dusting the crops. Finally a car pulls over and a man gets out, standing at the bus stop on the other side of the road. Of course, we know there's no chance this is Caplin, because we know Caplin doesn't exist, but Thornhill doesn't know this, so he ventures over to him to have a conversation, only to be disappointed to discover this isn't his man. Before the gentleman gets on the bus, he looks over at the plane, and remarks how strange it it is that it appears to be dusting where there are no crops. He departs, and then the plane suddenly changes course and heads straigh for Thornhill, buzzing him, the pilot even shooting at him. And we know just how completely Thornhill is screwed, because at the beginning Hitchcock had seen fit to give us a wide shot establishing just how open and remote this place is. There's really nowhere to run to (baby), nowhere to hide. Well, almost nowhere, as Thornhill thinks on his feet and hides amongst some dead corn crops, making it difficult for the pilot to spot him. This only works momentarily, as the plane smokes him out by dropping the chemicals it was previously using to dust crops onto him. Desperate, he tries to flag down a passing gas truck, only for it to nearly hit him. It stops so the driver can see if he's alright, then the plane comes hurtling towards them, hits the truck and (this was my genuine reaction to what happened next) HOLY SHIT THE PLANE JUST EXPLODED! I really wasn't expecting that, and due to that fact, for a few seconds I thought this was the greatest special effect I'd ever seen. Some cars pull over to see what's happened, and in the chaos, Thornhill steals one of them and makes off to safety. That was a scene worthy of parody. Awesome.

Thornhill reaches the hotel that Caplin is supposed to be staying in, only to be told that he's moved on again, this time to South Dakota, and before he can resume the chase, he see Eve walking through the lobby and gets that squinty, "The Plot Thickens" look on his face. Getting her room number from the clerk (and really, why are the clerks in this film so free and easy with their guest's information? Was it just a different time back then?), he goes up to see her, and after she hugs him in a manner that implies she's relieved he's alive, what follows on the surface is a continuation of their meeting on the trai, only now the delivery of the dialogue and the underlining subtext makes it appear more sinister- he insists on her not leaving his sight, outwardly because he doesn't want to be away with her but inwardly because he no longer trusts her, and she very bluntly tells him to leave, trying to seem like what happened between them meant nothing to her, but in reality probably trying to save his life. In the end she appears to relent, getting him to have his suit cleaned (subtext- so he won't be able to follow her wherever she's going) and taking a note on the phone as he appears tp be in the shower, before leaving. He then does the old "scribbling a pencil over a piece of paper that was under a sheet that's just been written on" trick that all good school children know, and when his suit's clean, he goes to find her and whoever she's with at their place of meeting.

Ths turns out to be an auction for fine art, where he finds her sitting with Vandamm. Outraged, he confronts the pair of them, saying such things about Eve as, "Isn't everybody?" when Leonard asks her if he spent the night in her room, reducing her to tears and causing her to attempt to slap him. "Who are you kidding," he says to her, "you have no feeling to hurt." Ouch. Growing tired of this, Vandamm leaves with Eve, leaving Leonard and the goons covering all the exits, ready to pounce on Thornhill the second he attempts to leave. Showing some shrewdness however, he realises the only way he's going to get out of this room alive is in police custody, so he sets about making a mockery of te proceeding, bidding backwards, bidding against himself, claiming the art is fake and finally getting into a fist fight. The police drag him away, and he gleefully informs them that they've hit the jackpot, having nabbed the United Nations killer. They call this in, but instead of being told to take him to the station, they're told instead to take him to the nearest airport, which displeases Thornhill, since he believes the safest place for him right now is in a cell.

Of course he's soon told otherwise when at the airport he's met with The Professor, who was in the crowd at the auction, and who fills him in finally on what's been happening in his life, why it's been all but destroyed, and what exactly Vandamm does- turns out he's a Russian spy selling government secrets. He then asks him to come with him to Mount Rushmore and be Caplin one more time to ensure the safety of their agent, who they now believe Vandamm suspects. Thornhill of course at first tells them to get bent, but his attitude soon changes when he's told that (DUN DUN DUUUUUUUN!)(do I do that too much?) Eve is the double agent, and in having her nearly slap him, he showed to Vandamm that she had feelings for him, which now makes him doubt her. So, off they go to Mount Rushmore, where a very elaborate plan is set in motion- Thornhill meets with Vandamm and tells him he knows he's flying out of the country that night, and that he'll see to it nothing stops the plane as long as he leave Eve with him, so he an pin everything on her and make her pay for betraying him. There's some confusion, and the plan seems to go horrible wrong when Eve pulls a gun on Thornhill and shoots him (yeah, I think that classifies as "horribly wrong"). She flees, and he's taken away in an ambulance...

... only for them to later meet up in the woods. As it turns out, this was their big plan, their way of stopping Vandamm suspecting her whilst also conveniently killing off Caplin at the same time. The Professor arranges for them to meet up so that they can explain themselves to each other, with Thornhill immediately forgiving her. "All in the line of duty," he says, which I suppose is true, even if she did pretty much sell him down the river to save herself. They kiss, he talks about them being together when this is all over, and then it comes out that she's going away with Vandamm to continue keeping tabs on him. Thornhill goes into a rage, saying how it's not fair they ask her to "bed down" with men like Vandamm in order to win The Cold War, and when he tries to stop her driving away, gets knocked the fuck out by The Professor's driver. We next see him pacing up and down his hotel room in just a towel (steady, ladies...), listening to the radio report on "Caplin's" shooting, before he has some new clothes brought to him by The Professor. He play acts (and even in-character it's obvious that's what he's doing) that he's calmed down and no longer has any interest in saving Eve, but the second he's alone he escapes, climbng out the window, shimmying across the ledge, and climbing through another window to a room that doesn't have a locked door, but does have a woman in it that seems to... instantly fall in love with him. "STOP!" she yells, then puts her glasses on, gets a good look at him and, as he's about to leave, huskily says, "stop." O... kay then.

He goes up to Vandamm's place, which appears to be situated on top of Mount Rushmore, and spies on he and Leonard having a conversation about Eve, and how Leonard still doesn't trust her, calling it "women's intuition" (um...). He then pulls out a gun and seems to shoot Vandamm, only for him to reveal that he found it in Eve's bag, and it's full of blanks, meaning she couldn't have shot Thornhill/Caplin. Vandamm responds to his friend making him believe he was about to murder him by PUNCHING HIM IN THE FACE! Most realistic part of the movie, folks. Followed swiftly by perhaps the least realistic moment, when Eve enters the room and asks if anybody heard that noice. Oh come on, a gun just went off in the next room. You're telling me you could only just hear that? Anyway, they decide to take care of her on the flight over, leaving Thornhill with not much time to warn her. He gets into her room by scaling the wall (is he now just a secret agent? Can he do all this stuff because they simply think he can?), but just misses her. He then writes her a warning on the box of matches he owns with his initials stencilled on them that she'd noticed during their first meeting on the train, and throws it at her from upstairs. He misses her though, and there's a tense moment when Leonard sees the box (that really did have me on the edge of my seat), before just casually tossing it onto the table. She sees it, reads the message, and they have a brief meeting upstairs, where he tells her they're going to kill her on the flight, saying he'll help her escape. She leaves with Vandamm and Leonard, and Thornhill makes to be in hot persuit, until the housekeeper spots him in the reflection of thetelevisin and pulls a gun on him.

So Eve keeps looking back at the house for him, waiting for him to appear, they're at the plane, he's not arrived, she's about to get on... when two shots ring out and Thornhill runs out of the house, steals a car and whisks Eve away, saying he realised that the gun the housekeeper had on him was the gun with the blanks in it. They drive until they have to abandon the car, and... fuck me, I know this bit too! This is the chase down Mount Rushmore! This was parodied on "Family Guy" as well! Infact, I think it may have been the same episode, the one where Mel Gibson was trying to get back the only existing copy of "Passion of the Christ 2: Crucify This" (which incidently makes my top five list of fake movie I wish were real) from Peter. Sigh. Anyway, for what it's worth, and surprisingly for a Hitchcock movie, there isn't much suspense here. I think it might have something to do with the fact that it's almost too realistic, in that it's slow and features people carefully trying not to lose their footing. The set also looks quite fake, which doesn't help. Anyway, it ends with Eve hanging onto Thornhill's hand for dear life, as he hangs onto the rock face (I suppose there's no other kind of rock at Mount Rushmore, is there?)(geddit?)(because they're faces... carved into rocks). Leonard starts to tread on his hand, it looks like they're both about to fall, until a shot rings out, being fired by the police and The Professor, who have showed up to save the day. Then Thornhill pulls Eve up, then their in a room on a train in their pajamas, he calls her "Mrs. Thornhill," then the movies ends. I'm serious, that abruptly. I know I've reviewed film before where the ending seem to come out of nowhere, but the one doesn't so much end as just... stop. In a way it was hilarious, because it came so suddenly I just burst out laughing. I suppose it fits with the whole "no bullshit" thing I mentioned earlier though, so I guess it makes sense in that regard.

I tell you, after the last movie I covered, this one has totally refilled my soul and made me believe in cinema again. It's a great example of a blockbuster, really- it suspenseful, it looks and sounds amazing, it's funny (the best line is when Thornhill's hanging off Mount Rushmore and says to Eve that his previous two wives left him because he lived "too dull a life"), it's populated by a hero you care about, a "boo-hiss" baddie who you want to see taken down, and a beautiful love interest. Shit even blows up! I'm telling you now, this year I will go to see a supposed action movie in cinemas and be able to say that it can't hold a candle to this. At least one. Not "Transformers" though, that's going to be amazing.


KEPT!Alfred Hitchcock, ladies and gentlemen. Genius.

Before I leave, a couple of things. Firstly, a heads up straight away- there's a very good chance next week's review will be late. I'm going ot try for it not to be, believe me, but the fact is, writing-wise I have alot on my plate at the moment, ncluding something that's very near-and-dear to my heart (anybody reading this who knows me probably knows what I'm talking about), and if anything takes priority, that does at least for a week. It won't be massively late if indeed it is at all, just a couple of days, but since I've been a bit of a prick with my time-keeping over the last few weeks, I thought it only fair that I give a warning if I even know the engine might break down.

Secondly, and on a much happier note, a couple of reviews ago, I made mention of some kind of announcment that I had to make. Well, I put off saying anything until it was really official, but as of today I can start talking- I have joined the writing team over at killerfilm.com. Don't worry, I'm not abondoning Blogger or anything like that, but in two weeks time they'll start republishing my old reviews every fortnight, and hopefully expose me to a whole new audience. Until that starts, I have a brand new introduction to myself and what I do up here, so if you want you can go over there and take a look at it. And whilst you're there, please take a look at some of the other content. The people there seem really nice, and I'd like to see them continue to grow and also be a part of that growth. It's all rather exciting, really.

Until next week, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and when one is in Egypt, one should delve deeply into its treasures.