Saturday, November 22, 2014

Random Movie Report: The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

Beast from 20,000 Fathoms Poster
Poster via IMPAwards.com



The sci-fi movies of the 50s were full of monsters; aliens, insects, and dinosaurs, the latter two usually having something to do with the atomic bomb. The origin point of this unique explosion was 1953’s The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, a low budget thriller which made millions off the image of a giant prehistoric reptile rampaging through the modern world. Though King Kong and The Lost World both featured giant monsters attacking major metropolitan areas, those sequences were climaxes following various jungle adventures; here, for apparently the first time, was a film devoted entirely to the subject of a giant monster on the loose. The film was freely adapted from a Ray Bradbury short story, which is fitting as it marks the solo debut of Bradbury’s childhood chum, stop-motion animation auteur Ray Harryhausen; while the live action of the movie sometimes flags, as an effects showcase it more than holds up.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Monsterthon, For Your Ears Only Edition: The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds at the Internet Archive


Since the Monsterthon has unintentionally taken on a very alien character, it’s appropriate to use the holiday to commemorate the Halloween edition of the first alien invasion story of all time. The Mercury Theatre On The Air’s broadcast of The War of the Worlds is a thing of legend, a radio play that allegedly spooked an entire nation with its documentary realism. The furor over it helped catapult Orson Welles into the national spotlight and resulted in a lot of rules preventing radio and TV from ever being too convincing in the future. But setting all that aside, it’s just a damn good audio play, one of the great works of the medium.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Monsterthon: Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell

Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell poster

Science fiction in the sixties couldn’t help but focus on the social turmoil erupting across the world, and Japanese sci-fi filmmakers did their part. While Matango tackled social conformity, Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell is about disintegration. Born of the chaos of wars, assassinations, and political corruption, it’s a surreal parable that makes up for in intensity what it lacks in coherence.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Monsterthon: Robot Monster

Robot Monster poster

Often ranked among the great bad movies, Robot Monster certainly merits the kind of bizarre attention and appreciation that’s been extended to Ed Wood’s filmography. Again we have a movie whose ambitions vastly outstrip both the filmmakers’ resources and technical skill, but which marches on regardless. It is not what one would traditionally call good, but its originality and charm- as well as the fact that it runs barely over an hour- makes it damned entertaining.

Friday, October 17, 2014

At Ringside: Wrestlemania (1985)

Tito Santana vs. The Executioner

With the 1993 WWF in a rut, I’ve decided to look at a few other events on offer on the WWE Network for the price of... uh... it’ll come to me. And really, there are few places to start better than the very first Wrestlemania, broadcast March 31, 1985 on closed circuit TV across the world. Wrestlemania wasn’t the first such special- Jim Crockett’s Starrcade had played closed-circuit PPV since 1983- but that event was strictly regional its first few years, whereas Vince McMahon and the WWF were aiming to take their show national. But apart from its historical significance as the event that made the company what it is today, the first ‘Mania holds up well as a well-paced collection of matches, with a nervous energy that later, more assured PPVs would lack.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

At Ringside: King of the Ring 1993

King of the Ring logo

Tournaments in wrestling are a tricky thing. Drag them out too long and an audience loses interest; do everything in one night and you have wrestlers working multiple matches in a row, with a greater risk of injury and of the audience being bored by the redundancy. “King of the Ring” was a WWF/WWE tradition for many years, but in the very first KotR pay-per-view from 1993, the titular tournament isn’t even the most memorable part. Hulk Hogan, around whom the WWF’s success had been built since before Wrestlemania, was on his way out, and so this otherwise average wrestling event marks the passing of an era.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Frasierquest 5.18: Bad Dog

Bulldog strikes a heroic pose


Daphne: My life suddenly seems long, measured in muffins.

After a couple of undercooked episodes, Season 5 returns to form with "Bad Dog", which as its title suggests revolves around the exploits of Bob "Bulldog" Briscoe. Of all the show's major character, Bulldog is probably the biggest contrast to Frasier himself. Martin is a slob and a curmudgeon, but he shares his son's strong ethical sense; Roz is more worldly, but she's his closest friend. Bulldog, at least much of the time, is just a jerk; he has his moments of decency (especially later on), but for the most part he pops up because he makes a good adversary, without the scruples that restrict the rest of the group.  "Bad Dog" shows him at his most shameless, presenting a formidable challenge to Frasier's ideas about human decency, and wraps this around the SeaBees, the writers' annual opportunity to mock the awards shows which have been so very good to them.