Monday, 19 June 2017

Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954)




















So when this movie starts we get the standard introduction for a watery monster flick, a live action shot of the ocean rolling and crashing against the rocks. Over said standard introduction we of course get the opening credits which lists our main players. The interesting thing was, once the credits had finished we get some narration. This narration informs us of where and how this movie was shot. I've never come across that before, it was odd to say the least, kinda took you out of the movie...for a moment.

The plot to this deep sea tale is a very basic affair, let me explain in the simplest of terms. Julie, a beautiful young woman (Anne Kimbell) goes on vacation in Mexico. Whilst there she meets young handsome marine biologist Dr. Baldwin (Dick Pinner) and they slowly fall in love. The end...nah only joking.

After Julie hears a mysterious story about the death of a diver she becomes curious and decides to do some digging. Naturally Dr. Baldwin is skeptical but because he loves her so much he goes along with the investigation. After much deliberating, various tests and chats with the locals, the duo eventually discover that there is indeed a large monster on the rampage in this sleepy Mexican coastal region.

So what is the monster you ask? Well its obviously not gonna be a shark, crab or giant eel or whatever because that's too boring. At first I thought it might be a giant octopus, which we are presented with at one point. Luckily its not that either. During the brave duos investigation they actually discover (by accident) a strange piece of gloop. Now because Dr. Baldwin is of course a scientist he knows exactly what to do, stick it under his trusty microscope. After much important scientific type spiel which I'm sure nobody would really listen too intently, they come to the conclusion its a piece of mutated amoeba. Its right at that moment that you the viewer realises that the large roaming monster is in fact a large mutated amoeba. A result of atomic testing? Actually this time I don't think so.

Yes the big beastie is actually a large, umm...octopus looking amoeba with one huge comical eye that glows. It looks more like a space alien really. The creature in question looks to be a puppet on strings against an underwater set of varying quality. The creatures large glowing eye is actually pretty cool I thought, definitely brought it to life and gave it some character. Alas it also made it look like a Scooby-Doo monster from the cartoons.

Next to that you of course have a lot of stock footage of various sea creatures and a reasonable amount of underwater sequences shot with real divers. There does in fact appear to be a real sequence where a diver fights off a real shark with a knife, and the production does seem to have and utilise a real minisub. Its also worthy to note that this movie does appear to have a score that closely resembles a certain Steven Spielberg movie. Believe it or not but that famous/infamous musical tune does actually appear in this movie. Not the exact same score of course but its damn close. Hmmm I wonder Mr. Spielberg.

Other than that its all business as usual really. The Mexican locals are all your bog standard, obligatory stereotypes. Horrendous accents, the men have huge moustaches and the women are all old and covered in veils (although the director, Wyott Ordung, is actually the main stereotypical Mexican local). Dr. Baldwin and all the other scientist blokes generally act like male chauvinists, patronising Julie all the time. Julie often speaks sense, is hard working and is willing to go the extra mile to get to the bottom of the mystery. On the other hand Dr. Baldwin merely thinks this is adorable and treats her like a puppy.

Heck there's even a sequence where Dr. Baldwin serenades Julie on the rocks by the ocean in a highly cringeworthy scene that feels somewhat out of place. Not that it matters because the movie was lost way before this. The reason being its just too boring, nothing really happens...like ever! We only see some monster action right at the very end and even then its woefully brisk. We don't see any other creatures or people getting eaten, no carcasses, no tension, no thrills, just lots of talk, some romance and underwater jiggery-pokery. Yeah the giant amoeba is kinda fun to look at but there needed to be way way more of it.

3/10

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)

























There have been many tales of the infamous 1789 incident at sea. The 1984 movie with Mel Gibson was by far the most realistic, but I have not seen the 1935 Clarke Gable movie. And then we have this 1962 movie with the one and only Marlon brando. Another American vision of the events but this time a highly fictionalised vision.

So as we all know by now, the story of the HMS Bounty briefly goes like this. The mission of the Bounty and her crew was to reach Tahiti, pick up a cargo of breadfruit and take it to the Caribbean (amongst other things). Upon reaching Tahiti and whilst carrying out their mission, the crew slowly become infatuated with the tropical lifestyle. The prospect of many more months at sea and going back to the cold island of the United Kingdom seemed bleak (can't blame them). Once the crew do set sail once again months later, tensions are running high and eventually boil over with half the crew backing 1st Lt. Fletcher Christian. They cast Captain Bligh and his loyal men adrift and head back to Tahiti. Arriving back at Tahiti they aren't welcomed as much as they were before by the natives. Christian and his crew realise that the British Navy will come for them and Tahiti will be their first port of call. So once again the mutineers set sail and eventually end up on Pitcairn Island, their new home for the rest of their lives.

So that's pretty much how things went officially (I believe), but that's not how this movie went, oh no. Lets cut straight to the chase here, apparently Marlon Brando took the reigns on this film without telling anyone, including the original director Carol Reed. He just assumed control and caused a bit of a shitstorm. I won't go into the complete ups and downs of the situation behind the camera but I believe this heavily fictionalised version of the story was down in part to Brando. Mainly Brando changing his mind on what he wanted to see, his lines, the script as a whole etc...Just the entire shoot in general.



The fact that Brando wasn't even a good match for the young Christian kinda makes it even worse really. Fletcher Christian was a young, fresh faced man with thick dark curly/wavy hair and pale skin, a typical Brit essentially. Brando had blonde straight hair, was very tanned and was shorter than Christian. Brando clearly had problems with the accent which is cringeworthy to listen to these days and he portrayed Christian as a bit of a dandy. Sure he was dashing and admittedly an actor doesn't have to be a clone copy of a historical figure for sure, but come on guys.

What's really terrible is the fact that you can spot the sequences in the film which are fiction (if you know the story that is). For starters, there is absolutely nothing in this film that shows us the relationship between Fletcher Christian (Brando) and the native girl he fell for. One of the main reasons Christian is thought to have mutinied was for the love of a native girl on Tahiti, along with the lifestyle. But this is absent here, Christian seems to just mutiny because he doesn't like Captain Bligh (Trevor Howard) and how he runs the ship, which was part of the issue but not all of it.

This leads into Captain Bligh's relationship with Christian as a whole. There is no relationship here, its ignored and Bligh is shown to be a vicious cruel man. Once again this is far from the truth. Bligh and Christian were known to be friends before this mission and carried on being friends throughout. Bligh was not an evil dictator who had men beaten for little reason. He may have been strict and ran a tight ship but this was very common. But in this movie Bligh is portrayed as a merciless madman, its not that long into the voyage that Bligh has one of the men lashed. Don't get me wrong, Trevor Howard is wonderful as Bligh, his harsh, cocky, elitist persona is practically infuriating as he struts around having men keelhauled and lashed left right and centre. Its just unfortunate that this portrayal is completely wrong and almost on a superhero level of wickedness.



Keelhauled by the way was a punishment at sea where a man was restrained in rope and via a manpower pulley system, dragged along the underneath of a ships hull. Mainly port to starboard or vice versa. Once again I don't believe this actually happened on the Bounty. Much like Bligh's other punishments of restricting water and food rations, may have happened but I haven't read about it.

Some of the other evil scenes from Bligh are comical they really are. He deliberately packs the ship with twice the amount of breadfruit to look good to his superiors. But in order to accommodate this he reduces the water storage on-board. To punish the men for drinking too much water he has the drinking ladle hung from main sail rigging, so if anyone wanted a drink they'd have to climb the rigging to get the ladle. There is also a scene where Bligh is stabbed! And punched by Christian (giving Brando a conveniently butch heroic moment to revel in).

I have to mention the films finale because its literally a complete joke. According to this movie adaptation Christian and his mutineer crew do indeed reach Pitcairn Island to set up shop so to speak. But then Christian decides he and his mates should return to old blighty to face the consequences and testify against Bligh and his evil actions. The other mutineers are naturally shocked by this and decide to take matters into their own hands, they go about setting the Bounty on fire. Christian and a few others try to save the vessel but fail. Christian is mortally wounded in the process which conveniently gave Brando a juicy death sequence to revel in. This ending literally shocked me, my mouth was wide open in horror at the utter disrespect and sheer amount of pure bullshit.



Visually the movie is incredible looking, partially shot on location in the South Pacific. The scenery, the bold colours...the lush greens and blue skies, the landscapes etc...You can't deny these old movies could look utterly sumptuous despite being nonsensical. The Bounty was also recreated for the movie and it too looks fantastic set against the rolling blue Pacific ocean. Some shots, like the 84 movie, are so beautiful, they could be framed and on your wall. It was also very cool to see a sequence/shot that replicates the famous 1790 painting (by Robert Dodd) of Bligh and co set adrift whilst the mutineers toss breadfruit overboard.

Whilst I have to admit I did enjoy this movie, mainly down to the visuals and classic story, it is horrendously flawed as I've explained. All the acting is reaching an epic level as you would expect for an old silver screen classic such as this, despite all the fictional claptrap. The extra scenes set against bluescreens is unfortunately very obvious though, as are the wigs the actors are wearing because they had all had their haircut since wrapping (kinda amusing actually). In short, the scale of this production is epic, it looks epic, the cast are epic and the acting is just about reaching epic levels. Alas they butchered the story turning it from a potentially historically accurate epic, into a corny Hollywood epic. But if you love these golden oldies (as I do) then this will satisfy you I guarantee. My score reflects the loss of historical accuracy which I can't overlook.

6.5/10

Saturday, 10 June 2017

The Giant Claw (1957)

 Well 1950's cinema gave us all manner of monsters, aliens, giant bugs, mythical creatures, doll sized people, invisible people etc...In the realms of over sized animals and bugs (arachnids) there was a large array including giant man eating grasshoppers, scorpions, tarantulas, praying mantis, ants etc...So it was naturally just a matter of time before a movie came along that had a giant man eating bird, because why not? If it can be even remotely scary there's a chance there's a 50's movie about it.

In this wondrous movie life is generally fine and dandy for all the characters concerned, that is until a giant bird comes out of nowhere and starts to attack planes and such. Naturally most of the main characters in this movie are military types because of course they are. Two of the protagonists aren't military types but are in fact civil aeronautical engineers that appear to be working with military types, so its all military type stuff as usual.

Yep so this giant bird is attacking planes and causing lots of panic and alarm. The problem is no one can prove its a giant bird at first, many think its a hoax or a UFO. Thing is, this giant bird is really quite giant, its described as being as big as a battleship, sooo...how has this not been proven yet?? Cameras are apparently not in use in this movie and everybody seems to be somewhat shortsighted because I really fail to see how a battleship sized bird could go undetected. Then you gotta ask yourself where this thing came from? How did it get so big? What does it eat other than people and planes? Where does it live? Are there more of them? Oh wait it actually comes from an anti-matter galaxy, because of course it does. But how did it...ah who cares, don't question it.

So the giant bird in question turns out to be an alien basically, from another galaxy. That doesn't stop it from looking like a bird from Earth though (kinda like a cross between a Vulture and a Condor). Anyway I say that lightly because this giant bird is most probably the most ridiculous looking special effect ever. The main clear problem is the birds head, oh boy! This thing literally looks like a Warner Bros cartoon I kid you not. The shape of the head is all wrong, it has this comical tuft of hair sprouting from the top of its head, the beak is permanently open with no movement and the eyes are...umm...beyond farcical. The rest of the bird isn't too bad truth be told, the body looks fine, the wing span, feathers, claws etc...all look perfectly reasonable for this type of B-movie. Its that head, that hideous, static, wide eyed, dopey looking Looney Tunes head.

Unfortunately like many of these really bad B-movies the film is padded out with lots and lots of stock footage, generally military footage. Next to that you have a load of narration to fill in all the gaps where they couldn't afford to actually film. Much of the run time revolves around boring dialog scenes with the characters as they discuss how to stop the creature, where it came from, what it wants etc...Then numerous other scenes of people in planes (exceedingly bad plane sets) looking out of cockpits in shock and horror as a large shadow passes overhead. When we do actually see the giant creature you can even see the wires holding it up.

The weird thing is at times the effects aren't too bad. When the giant bird attacks Manhattan the model skyline with overflying giant bird and military aircraft actually looks quite nice. Obviously the black and white helps cover any noticeable flaws but overall some scenes do look acceptable. In fact when the bird attacks the Empire State Building I can confidently say it actually looked pretty solid, the crumbling skyscraper did look pretty competent. Alas things take a nosedive when the bird eats the obvious model planes and the live action pilots who are shot against a poor rear projection sequence. Then of course there's all that stock footage of crowds spliced with real footage of a very small group of people reacting and running in terror.

Would you be surprised if I told you this bird turns out to be impervious to all Earthly weapons? Didn't think so, aren't these monsters always somewhat invincible? No amount of gunfire, shells, missiles, rockets or even nukes can ever bring these fuckers down. Turns out this thing can create its own anti-matter force field that also gives it stealth from radar, handy huh.

Again its a shame really because the movies poster is so incredibly awesome, really striking. Other than that there really isn't anything I can recommend here unless you like to see amazingly bad special effects. On that front the movie is top notch, a full riot to be sure, but I can't give it a good score for that because the movie is terrible. I do believe this movie is only well known (or infamous) simply because of its terrible giant beastie model. Everything else is pretty much as you would expect and no different from all the other 50's monster movies. Shout out for the epic Morris Ankrum who clearly made a mistake agreeing to be in this. He still manages to be epic though, its the hair and tash that does it.

1.5/10

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The Neptune Factor (1973)





















OK let me just start by saying, this films opening credits sequence looks so cool. The way they have rendered the movies title, text and colour wise, is super sweet. I realise this is a minor thing but I notice these little things and this just looked nice to me, kudos.

Anyway so what the heck is this all about? The title could be mistaken for a hardcore fantasy flick or a hardcore space set sci-fi flick. It is in fact a sci-fi movie all about deep sea exploration and research, dare I say a kind of very early version of 'The Abyss'...kinda. But don't get too excited because this movie isn't that awesome. The plot is set deep deep beneath the ocean waves (Off Nova Scotia, north Atlantic) where a small team of scientists research undersea earthquakes. Ironically the undersea lab they are all living in gets hits by an earthquake which sends the lab tumbling down a deep ocean trench. Luckily just before this happened a few team members were leaving the lab for their leave, so now they must go back down to try and save the remaining stranded team members. Time is of the essence.

So this is an early 70's movie and boy can you tell. All the blokes look like amateur porn stars and their hair is...lets just say dated. Its really quite amusing to see all these blokes clearly with receding hairlines but trying their best to pretend otherwise. But the women don't get off that easy either, its quite hilarious to watch Yvette Mimieux's hair change from scene to scene. She clearly has curly/wavy hair and has it straightened here, so in one scene you can see its been straightened (with the usual static electricity side effects). Then in the same scene but seconds later it might be all over the place as if someone just ruffed it all up.



The technology is also fun to observe, indeed its incredible to think we could do such things back then with such outrageously dated equipment (same with the moon landing). The small submarine the team use looks quite agreeable, in other words it looks like what you'd expect a small deep sea sub to look like these days, but chunkier. Its all the internal controls which makes you smile, the array of big coloured buttons, huge metal gear-like controls and levers, massively dated VHS looking recording equipment and monitors etc...Its all so corny looking but also so heartwarming.  Of course much of it may be pure fantasy and artistic license, I don't know what the cockpit of a deep sea sub would look like so....

But here's the thing, from the start of this movie you kinda assume its gonna be a realistic take on deep sea research. Apparently producer Sanford Howard did a lot of research himself to try and show a highly realistic vision of oceanographic research, aquanauts and the danger they encounter. For the most part this all goes well...right up to the point when they go down the deep sea trench and discover gigantic monster sized fish, anemones, crustaceans etc...All of a sudden we go from a pretty technical looking flick with real threats and real science, to an all out fantasy flick with giant crabs. Worth mentioning the fish are actually tropical yet the ocean is the Atlantic, hmmm. The crew do mention the bottom of the trench being warmed by undersea volcanoes though, but still, hmmm.

Truth be told this was a lifeline for the movie because up until that point everything had been going pretty slowly. But do the various giant sea entities help matters? Well again not really because nothing actually happens. They go down the trench, they encounter giant creatures, watch them through their viewport and that's it. The giant fish merely swim past or have a nose, the crabs and lobster merely walk around, sea anemones react as they do and that's it. One crab does try to push the sub around a bit, as does a fish, and apart from losing power for a short time that's about the height of the excitement you get folks. Don't get me wrong its still kinda fun in a cheesy, Doug McClure kinda way, but its also underwhelming. Really wanted someone to venture outside and get eaten.



Effects wise its a mixed bag. All the internal sub sets and gear looks really good, very authentic. The equipment the crew use, their outfits, terminology, the oceanlab, ships on the surface etc...its all spot for the time. They do in fact use real minisubs, ships, cranes, undersea labs etc...its all real footage and at the start they clearly shot underwater for a time (using stunt doubles). As the movie proceeds underwater for the exploration things continue to look good within the minisub, I have no complaints here. Apart from the obviously dated equipment it all looks really neat and nicely claustrophobic. The problems start when the crew discover the giant sea creatures, which are actually real creatures not made up monsters (alas). All they have done here is shoot real footage of real creatures and fish, then blown up that footage and used rear projection against the actors to give the impression the fish are huge. At the same time they also used small models of the minisub against real sized fish which looked so flippin' cute. Remember when you'd put little toys into your goldfish tank...there you go.

Another major issue I had with the movie is how the oceanlab got to its final resting place in the deep sea trench. There was an earthquake and we see the lab topple down the side of the trench, OK. So the lab will presumably just go straight down and crash at the bottom, supposedly implode too it was mentioned but that never happens for some reason. When the minisub ventures down into the trench the crew discover an undersea world, they're travelling for quite some distance along this trench floor apparently. When they eventually find the lab it feels like they've being searching for miles and miles, so how did the lab somehow go all this way? Also when they find the lab the survivors are outside fighting giant eels...but but the pressure??



The movies poster is epic, it drew me in, I knew I had to see this. Alas the movie doesn't quite live up to said poster, something I have grown accustomed to with these old movies. But nevertheless the movie is still a fun time it must be said. Part of this is down to the hilarious performances from the cast. Ben Gazzara's over acting as he tries his very best to be this tough, macho, ├╝ber cool, smooth talkin' deep voiced sub Commander. I haven't seen anyone try to look so cool in front of the camera for some time, loved it. Then of course we've got the legendary Ernest Borgnine as one of the oceanlab crew, a chief diver. What can I say? The man is epic, he looks his usual gruff self and what's left of his hair literally goes everywhere when its wet, brilliant stuff. I just adore how bad hair was back in the 70's. Naturally you can't have an adventure movie without a bit of young totty to show off, hence Yvette Mimieux and her flowing locks.

If you like classics like 'Fantastic Voyage' then this movie will be right up your particular alley of enjoyment. Yes it might be hokey as hell, kinda lethargic and the threats aren't really that threatening. Yes you aren't gonna feel that much tension or excitement with this movie, but its still a good old fashioned romp.

6.5/10