Horrorfest 2017 Presents: The Manster (1959, George P. Breakston, Kenneth G. Crane)

The Manster is a weird late 1950s movie that seems to be a later, more modernized take on the kind of mad scientist monster movies that Universal Studios popularized in the 1930s and 1940s, and which Hammer Studios built off of around the 1950s. This one isn’t as good as any of those although certain aspects of the movie are entertaining. I mean the finale literally involves a man fighting himself, or a monster version of himself, and the experiments scenes are quite freaky for a 1950s movie. The Japan setting is also really neat and used to good effect, as the scientist responsible for transforming a journalist into an ugly beast is also Japanese. The movie only has a limited number of killings due to being an older movie, plus due to the limited budget, of course.

Larry (Peter Dyneley) is an American journalist who ends up interviewing Dr. Robert Suzuki (Tetsu Nakamura), who’s laboratory is located on top of a volcano, which is very Bond villain to say the least. The doctor and his assistant, Tara (Terri Zimmern) use this opportunity to experiment upon poor Larry and turn him into a creature with two heads! Things get out of hand quickly in this goofy and pretty dumb movie that at least has a decent conclusion. This is another horror movie that if they remade it no one would mind, and one would be best to skip this and watch a Hammer Studios movie instead. I also don’t remember if I watched this on a streaming service or not.

Horrorfest 2019 Presents: One Cut of the Dead (2017, Shinichirou Ueda)

Every once in a while there comes along a movie that is equal parts clever and unique. Sometimes that is rarer in the horror genre, but when you encounter that type of movie you feel the need to celebrate it, particularly when the movie is both fun and delightful as well. The current gem I discovered while going through Shudder recommendations was the 2017 cult film One Cut of the Dead, a marvelous zombie movie that everyone should watch and enjoy. I thought it was funny, at times rather creepy, and a tribute to the efforts of low budget cinema.

Without giving away too much I will say that I also liked the entire cast, particularly Takayuki Hamatsu as the way over energetic director and Harumi Shuhama as the film’s main actress, who takes things a bit too far. The special effects reflect such B-movie classics as George A. Romero’s Dead films and the work of Lucio Fulci as well, and I was left pleasantly surprised by what happens later on in the movie. One Cut of the Dead is an example of a great foreign horror movie, and also reminds me that every time I think I have seen it all with horror films, something new comes along and inspires me to continue with the genre.

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: Q The Winged Serpent (1982, Larry Cohen)

Out of all the monster films I’ve watched over the years Q: The Winged Serpent is rather bizarre. After all this is a movie about a cult that brings to life a freaky God creature that flies around and devours people. Plenty of awesome and entertaining moments there, not to mention Cohen once again directing a film set in New York where people are being killed by a strange force and the police are investigating.

What makes this film also interesting is the performances of Michael Moriarty and David Carradine. Moriarty plays a criminal piano player that stumbles onto the creature’s nest and being a crook naturally demands money for leading the police to the monster. Carradine’s police officer is a man too smart for his own good, who runs up against the fact that the police don’t like conspiracies. Much easier to simply tackle a beast flying around Manhattan as it kills people.

Despite being rather cheesy and not being quite as developed or as well made as some of his films this one is still rather solid. Also the creature effects are claymation, which is a nice touch. The 1980s didn’t have enough big monster movies save for the ones from Japan and a few others, which is kind of a shame as I love me a good big angry monster movie.

Lost Again…in Translation

Look I’ve never been to Japan, and I was in love once but she never returned it back. In reflection going to a foreign country sounds better than getting your heart sliced in half. However I still can relate to Lost in Translation partly due to the two main characters: Bob and Charlotte, two wandering souls in Tokyo for different reasons; each have spouses which keeps them from having anything other than a purely emotional relationship. From my limited experience those are rather satisfying, although I’m guessing that sex despite including complications is fun, too. Regardless Charlotte has that “What the hell am I doing?” post-college problem that most people her age experience (myself included), and Bob suffers from a rather obvious mid life crisis. I’ve never had a mid life crisis although there are three crisis situations people go through in life: the first being falling in love with someone from the opposite sex and going through the emotions involved, the second one consisting of attempting to find purpose in life, and the last one actually being a mid-life crisis.

I’ve experienced the first two, and I’m not looking forward to the last one even though if I’m lucky I’ll be Bill Murray stuck in Japan with Scarlett Johannsson in a foreign city where I drink at the bar every night. Worst things could happen to people, and its at the bar, dressed in a ridiculous tux he was forced to wear for a commercial shoot, sits Bob Harris, drowning his problems in alcohol (something I know all too well-the booze, I mean). A young woman he noticed in the elevator during his first day in Tokyo sends him over a drink, and he toasts her. Thus begins a wonderful yet fragile relationship between one person beginning her life and the other one seeing his winding down. Really the movie does consist of two people wandering around Tokyo (and in Charlotte’s case, Kyoto) which after the 30 minute mark I was fine with. The film itself slowly grows on you, particularly after the pair strike up their platonic friendship and wander out into the sky lit Tokyo nightlife.

Several of the movie’s set pieces are rather important, and I’ve already mentioned the first one. Far more crucial is the party scenes, where Bob and Charlotte hang out, drink, get high and even singing karaoke. Clearly you have not witnessed film magic until you watch Bill Murray crooning in monotone, yet it leads to a moment between the pair that showcases properly Murray’s ability to show emotion through his facial movements despite being known primarily for his physical comedy and ability to spit out witty one liners. A cigarette is shared, and his shoulder is used as a pillow, a reminder that neither of them have gotten any sleep during their stay, perhaps due to being restless about their station in life.

Naturally Bob’s drinking has consequences, and he almost throws away a beautiful friendship with Charlotte due to his inability to reign in his more destructive impulses. This after a casual second night spent together consisting of drinking and eating Japanese food while watching some random movie on TV in Bob’s hotel room, ending with Charlotte picking Bob’s mind on marriage and kids, topics she knows very little about. I was reminded largely of In The Mood For Love, another film about two people involved in relationships brought together by interesting circumstances, and how they were tempted to achieve more than simply the pleasure of each others company: talking, sharing food, being merely friends instead of more.

Much has been made about what Bob says to Charlotte near the end, yet I really am indifferent in regards to the mystery, focusing instead on the pure tenderness and raw bittersweet emotions coming from two people who for a short time grew close to one another. Even though I feel the movie took a bit too long to achieve liftoff (a few early scenes could have been cut) this is still an excellent movie, a compelling take on love and people. One thing most of us have learned is that people are the most important thing in life, and the only aspect we truly remember. Well that and the shot of Charlotte’s rear end at the beginning. I won’t forget that.

Corruption Appears In Many Forms

Takeshi Kitano’s “Violent Cop” from 1989 is at times rather brutal and takes a hard look at cops in Japan during this time period. Azuma is Dirty Harry without any restraints whatsoever, breaking procedure endless times, a cop without honor and any sort of boundaries. These actions result in consequences, ones that the film examines, reactions to events that result in a rather shocking moment that I did not expect. Although I find Sonatine (1993) to be slightly better, Violent Cop is rather unflinching and surprisingly bleak for a movie that was as successful in Japan as this one was. Heartily recommended to anyone who likes cop films and foreign cinema.

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