Crime Does Not Pay: Stanley Kubrick’s THE KILLING (United Artists 1956)


cracked rear viewer

Before Stanley Kubrick became Stanley Kubrick, he made a pair of low-budget crime dramas in the mid-50’s that are standouts in the film noir canon. The second of these, THE KILLING, is a perfect movie in every way imaginable, showing flashes of the director’s genius behind the camera, featuring just about the toughest cast you’re likely to find in a film noir, and the toughest dialog as well, courtesy of hard-boiled author Jim Thompson.

THE KILLING is done semi-documentary style (with narration by Art Gilmore), and follows the planning, execution, and aftermath of a two million dollar racetrack heist. Sterling Hayden plays the mastermind behind the bold robbery, a career criminal looking for one last score. He’s aided and abetted by a moneyman (Jay C. Flippen ), a track bartender (Joe Sawyer ), a teller (Elisha Cook Jr. ), and a crooked cop (Ted de Corsia ). He…

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Film Review: This Island Earth (dir by Joseph M. Newman and Jack Arnold)


Oh, those poor aliens!

Ever since the 1950s, intergalactic diplomats, soldiers, and explorers have come to Earth looking for help.  Some of them have come from planets that orbit dying stars.  Some represent civilizations that have been destroyed by war or pollution.  Some of them have come here looking to inspire us to be more peaceful and less destructive.  Others were just looking for something to eat.

What they all have in common is that they all came to Earth and things really didn’t work out that well.  Occasionally, they ran into humans who, due to cynicism and skepticism, simply weren’t willing to help.  Often, the aliens arrived just to discover that the humans had no interest in being conquered.  Remember what Eros yelled at the Plan 9 From Outer Space?  “Your stupid, stupid minds!”  Oh yeah?  Well, our menfolk kicked your ass and blew up your flying saucer.  So there.

Consider the sad case of Exeter (Jeff Morrow), the alien at the center of 1955’s This Island Earth.  Exeter has come to Earth with his associates and disguised himself as a human.  Despite the fact that they all have remarkably high foreheads and a total inability to relate to actual humans, no one seems to suspect that Exeter and his friends are from outer space.  Even when he starts recruiting leading scientists to come hang out at his isolated headquarters, it doesn’t seem to occur to anyone that they should be too concerned.  Exeter’s just a little bit weird.  Why worry?

Well, Dr. Carl Meacham (Rex Reason) is worried!  He’s a pilot and a scientist and he’s got a square jaw and one of those deep, 1950s American male voices.  Everything that Dr. Meacham says sounds authoritative.  When you hear that confident, take-no-prisoners voice, you have no doubt that Eisenhower’s in the White House and everything’s going to be alright.  Carl doesn’t trust Exeter and he suspicions are proven correct when he and Dr. Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue) are taken to Exeter’s war-ravaged planet.  Not only is the planet on the verge of blowing up but the whole place is crawling with mutants!

Unfortunately, it takes a while for Carl, Ruth, and Exeter to reach the planet.  This Island Earth is an oddly structured film.  The first third of the film deals with Carl and his squirmy associate, Joe (Robert Nichols), building something called an interocitor.  Once Carl has shown that he can follow the alien instruction booklet, Carl is allowed to meet Exeter.  (For some reason Joe is left behind.)  Once Carl arrives at Exeter HQ, it’s another lengthy wait before he, Ruth, and Exeter are launched into space.

Still, on the plus side, one of the scientists gets to drive this really cool car:

(Unfortunately, the car doesn’t make it to the end of the movie.)

The movie gets a lot better once the action moves to Exeter’s home planet.  The planet was a gloriously realized world, a pop art masterpiece:

And then there were the mutants!  Look at this thing:

Anyway, despite the slow start, This Island Earth is a classic of 1950s science fiction, one that manages to maintain a perfect balance between the sublime and the ludicrous.  Rex Reason and Faith Domergue are inoffensively bland as Carl and Ruth but Jeff Morrow brings a weary and even tragic dignity to the role of Exeter.  If nothing else, it lives up to its title by suggesting that Earth actually is just one insignificant island in the vast ocean of the universe and that both humans and aliens are mere slaves to fate.  For all of his deep-voiced authority, Carl really doesn’t accomplish much over the course of the film.  By that same token, for all of his efforts and his integrity, there’s little that Exeter can do to alter the destiny of his planet.  At times, This Island Earth is almost existential in its portrayal of both human and extraterrestrial inability to alter the whims of fate.  Of course, it’s also a frequently silly film that will be a lot of fun for anyone who appreciates a good B-movie.

On Saturday night, I watched This Island Earth with my friends in the Late Night Movie Gang.  After last week’s experience with Disco Beaver From Outer Space, I decided to play it safe this week.  We had a lot of fun with This Island Earth.  In case you want to learn how to make an interocitor of your very own, the film is available on YouTube.

Music Video of the Day: Otvechai Za Slova (Keep Your Word) by Kedr Livanskiy (2016, dir by Konstantin Bushmanov and Yana Kedrina)


As Kedr Livanskiy videos tend to do for me, this one brings back a lot of memories.  The only thing better than being young  and feeling like you can do anything is surviving to talk about it later.

My best friend Evelyn and I absolutely love Kedr Livanskiy, though we always seem to disagree about what the videos are about.  She thinks this video is just about having a good time in Russia.  I think it’s about vampires.  Of course, I assume that almost every video that I see is about vampires.  Still, there are moments where this video has an undeniable Jean Rollin feel to it.

Anyway, regardless of whether you think it’s about vampires or not, enjoy!

“Armenian Haunting”: A Necessary History Lesson, An Unnecessary Film


Trash Film Guru

In recent years, micro-budget VOD steaming horror releases have become something of my stock-in-trade around these parts —  and yet, in recent months, as I’ve devoted most of my blogging time to getting a good backlog of material up on my Four Color Apocalypse comics review site, I’ve had disturbingly little time to not only write about, but to even watch them. Still, despite very little “wiggle room” in my schedule of late, once in awhile you just gotta scratch the “homemade horror” itch, and to that effect, last night I was browsing through the new additions on Amazon Prime, and settled on a very recent (as in, 2018) release from writer/director Art Arutyunyan entitled Armenian Haunting, purportedly focused on a family curse that dates back to the days of the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Turks in the early 20th century.

This is a crucial, and…

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It’s About Time : Fiona Smyth’s “Somnambulance”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

When you’re talking about a book that runs to 366 pages and covers over 30 years, it’s difficult to know where to begin. Fortunately for me— and anyone else who reviews it — Canadian cartoonist Fiona Smyth arrived on the scene in the mid-1980s more or less “fully formed,” as the old expression goes, with a clear idea of both what she wanted to say and, crucially, how she wanted to say it, and has spent the succeeding decades refining and honing her style and messaging, but never veering too terribly far from the inherently feminist concerns that have been her stock in trade from the outset. And here’s the thing — her work isn’t merely “as relevant” as ever, it’s probably even moreso.

I first encountered Smyth, if memory serves me correctly, in the pages of her Vortex (remember them?) series Nocturnal Emissions (remember that?), and was immediately equal…

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