Film Review: Swan Song (dir by Todd Stephens)

Once upon a time, Pat Pitsenbarger (Udo Kier) was one of the most important citizens of Sandusky, Ohio.  He was the town’s leading hairdresser.  He was the man who the wealthy trusted with their appearance.  When he wasn’t cutting hair, he performed drag as Ms. Pat and when he wasn’t cutting or performing, he built a nice home with his partner.  He often remembers the two of them working in the garden.

All of that is in the past, though.  Pat’s partner died years ago and Pat was reminded of his place in the community when some of his wealthiest clients didn’t even bother to come to the funeral.  Pat lost his business.  He lost his home.  He’s spent the past decade or so living in a nursing home.  Pat may be the best-groomed and best-spoken resident of the nursing home but he’s still definitely a man who is waiting for death.

One day, a lawyer shows up at the home and informs Pat that one of his most faithful clients, Rita Parker Sloan (played by Linda Evans), has died.  Rita had one last request.  She wanted Pat to do her hair and makeup for the funeral.  At first, Pat is hesitant.  His memories of Rita are not particularly pleasant.  But finally, he decides to do it.  He escapes from the nursing home and starts to walk to the funeral home.  To do Rita’s makeup, he’s going to need supplies, some of which haven’t even been existed since the 80s.  Unfortunately, he has no money and, as he soon discovers, his old home no longer exists either.  The world has changed.

As quickly becomes clear, there’s more to Pat’s journey than just wanting a final chance to do Rita’s hair.  As he walks through the town, he tries to reconnect with his past, just to discover that much of his past has been torn down.  His old beauty shop is under different management.  His old house has been torn down.  Few people seem to remember or recognize him.  One of the few people who does remember Pat is his former protégé, Dee Dee (Jennifer Coolidge), who now basically hates his guts.  Meanwhile, Rita waits in the funeral home, her hair and makeup a mess.

Released last year, Swan Song is an imperfect but ultimately touching movie.  The shadow of death hangs over almost every scene.  It’s not just that Pat is doing one last favor for the deceased Rita.  Nor is it just that Pat is haunted by memories of his dead partner.  (The scene where Pat visits his grave is one of the most effective in the movie, thanks to Kier’s heartfelt performance.)  It’s the fact that Pat himself knows that he’s getting older and he only has a certain amount of time left.  His walk across Sandusky is not just about traveling to the funeral home.  It’s also his final chance to see the world, remember the past, and experience how things have changed (or not changed as the case may be).  The journey is about Pat coming to terms with his anger, his sadness, and his past.  It’s also about Pat’s desire to go out the same way that he’s always lived, on his own terms.

As I said, it’s not a perfect film.  There are a few scenes that threaten to get a bit mawkish.  But even the most overwritten scenes are saved by the brilliant lead performance of Udo Kier, who gives a wonderfully complex performance as Pat.  Since the 70s, Kier has been a mainstay in European exploitation cinema.  He stared in Flesh For Frankenstein and Blood For Dracula.  He had key supporting roles in two Dario Argento films.  He appeared in art films, horror films, dramas, comedies, and thrillers.  He’s appeared in blockbusters and small indie films.  At times, it can seem like Kier is one of those actors who basically accepts anything that’s offered to him, regardless of whether the material is worthy of his talents or not.  Kier has appeared in good films and bad and, perhaps because he’s been such a ubiquitous cinematic presence, he’s often been unfairly taken for granted as an actor.  In Swan Song, Udo Kier gives one of his best performances as the sometimes brutally snarky but ultimately kind-hearted Pat Pitsenbarger.  If for no other reason, watch this movie to appreciate the often underrated talent of Udo Kier.  A lesser actor would have turned Pat into a cliché.  Udo Kier transforms Pat into a complex and rather heart-breaking character.

Swan Song is currently streaming on Hulu.

Lisa Marie’s Grindhouse Trailers: 6 Trailers For The 3rd Thursday in October

Well, here we are! It’s the third Thursday in October and that means that it’s time for another edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film Trailers!

Since today is Boris Karloff’s birthday, I thought I would devote this edition to everyone’s favorite reanimated corpse, Frankenstein’s Monster! Over the years, there’s been a lot of movies about the Monster. Here are the trailers for six of them!

  1. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Believe it or not, there was a time when it was felt that the story of Frankenstein and his Monster has been played out. With the Universal films bringing in less and less money, many felt that the Monster’s days were behind it. Then, Hammer, Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee came along and said, “No! This is what Frankenstein is all about!”

At least, I assume that’s what they said. I hope they did.

2. Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (1965)

You can’t keep a good Frankenstein down as Jesse James discovered in this 1965 western.

3. Lady Frankenstein (1971)

In this Italian film, the Baron’s daughter continues her father’s scientific experiments! I guess Jesse James wasn’t the only one to meet Frankenstein’s Daughter!

4. Flesh for Frankenstein (a.k.a. Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein) (1973)

Udo Kier is the Baron and Andy Warhol may have been the producer of this film. Or he may have just lended his name out for the money. It depends on who you ask.

5. Blackenstein (1973)

Of course, following the success of Blacula, there was a blaxploitation take on Frankenstein.

6. Frankenhooker (1990)

And, of course, who can forget Frankenhooker?

I hope that your Halloween is full of the type of creativity and scientific curiosity that made the Frankenstein family legendary!

Horror Scenes That I Love: Udo Kier’s Final Speech In Flesh For Frankenstein

Today is Udo Kier’s birthday!

Kier is 77 years old. This German actor has over 260 film credits to his name, having worked with everyone from Dario Argento to Paul Morrissey to Gus Van Sant to Alexander Payne to Rob Zombie to Lars von Trier. Though he’s appeared in every genre of film, he’s best remembered for his horror appearances. In fact, his career got a major boost when he was cast in two horror films that were produced by Andy Warhol. (As with all things Warhol, there’s more than a little debate as to how much Andy was actually involved.) In 1973, Kier played Baron Von Frankenstein in Flesh For Frankenstein. In 1974, he played Dracula in Blood for Dracula. Both films were deliberately over-the-top in both their gore and their performances and they helped launch Udo Kier on the path to cult stardom. Take, for example, the scene below. This is from Flesh for Frankentein. Kier’s Baron meets his end but not before giving a lengthy monologue. One thing to keep in mind is that this film was originally released in 3D so, while Kier was giving his speech, the Baron’s organs were hanging out over the audiences.

(If you have a hard time with gore, I would not suggest watching this scene.)

Happy birthday, Udo Kier! Thank you for putting your heart into ever role!

Lisa Marie’s Oscar Predictions for August

It’s time for me to do my monthly Oscar predictions.  Again, as I’ve said in the past, the majority of these predictions are based on a combination of instinct and wishful thinking.  However, the picture may become a bit clearer as early as the end of this week.  With the Venice and Telluride film festivals right around the corner and Toronto also swift approaching, critics are finally going to get a chance to see some of the contenders and, as the early reviews come in, it should be easier to pick the probable nominees from the also-rans.

Personally, I will curious to see how people react to Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog.  Among the other possibilities that we’ll be hearing about: Spencer, King Richard, Dune, The Lost Daughter, The Last Duel, and Belfast.

If you’re curious to see how my thinking has developed, check out my predictions for March and April and May and June and July!

Best Picture


Blue Bayou


House of Gucci

A Journal For Jordan


The Power of the Dog

Soggy Bottom

The Tragedy of MacBeth

West Side Story


Best Director

Pedro Almodovar for Parallel Mothers

Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog

Joel Coen for The Tragedy of MacBeth

Ridley Scott for House of Gucci

Denzel Washington for A Journal For Jordan


Best Actor

Clifton Collins, Jr. in Jockey

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog

Udo Kier in Swan Song

Will Smith in King Richard

Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of Macbeth


Best Actress

Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Penelope Cruz in Parallel Mothers

Jennifer Hudson in Respect

Lady Gaga in House of Gucci

Kristen Stewart in Spencer


Best Supporting Actor

David Alvarez in West Side Story

Bradley Cooper in Soggy Bottom

Andrew Garfield in The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Jason Isaacs in Mass

Jesse Plemons in The Power of the Dog


Best Supporting Actress

Ann Dowd in Mass

Kirsten Dunst in Power of the Dog

Marlee Matlin in CODA

Ruth Negga in Passing

Alicia Vikander in Blue Bayou

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Blood for Dracula (dir by Paul Morrissey)

Count Dracula (played by Udo Kier) has a problem.  In order to stay strong and healthy, he needs a constant supply of virgin blood.  (Or, as Kier puts in, “weergen blood.”)  Unfortunately, he lives in 1920s Romania and apparently, there just aren’t many virgins left in Eastern Europe.

However, Dracula’s assistant, Anton (Arno Juerging) has a solution.  Dracula just needs to move to Italy!  After all, Italy is the home of the Vatican and it’s just been taken over by Mussolini and the fascists.  Surely, no one in Italy is having sex!  Dracula should be able to find all the virgins that he needs in Italy!

So, Dracula climbs into his coffin and Anton drives him to Italy.  Once they arrive, they meet an Italian land owner,  Il Marchese di Fiore (played by Italian neorealist director Vittorio De Sica).  The Marchese is convinced that Dracula is a wealthy nobleman and he says that Dracula can marry any of his four daughters.  He assures Dracula that they’re all virgins but Dracula soon discovers that two of them are not.  It turns out that, thanks to the estate’s Marxist handyman, Mario (Joe Dallesandro), it’s getting as difficult to find a virgin in Italy as it was in Romania!

After completing work on Flesh For Frankenstein, director Paul Morrissey and actors Udo Kier, Joe Dallesandro, and Arno Juerging immediately started work on Blood for Dracula.  Though Blood for Dracula never quite matches the excesses of Flesh for Frankenstein, it still taps into the same satiric vein that provided the lifeblood that gave life to Flesh for Frankenstein.  Once again, the sets and costumes are ornate.  Once again, the frequently ludicrous dialogue is delivered with the straightest of faces.  Once again, Udo Kier goes over-the-top as a famous monster.  And, once again, Joe Dallesandro plays his role with a thick and anachronistic New York accent and he looks damn good doing it.

Ironically, one of the differences between Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula is that there’s quite a bit less blood in the Dracula film.  Then again, that’s also kind of the point.  Dracula literally can’t find any blood to drink and, as a result, he’s become weak and anemic.  Udo Kier is perhaps the sickliest-looking Dracula in the history of Dracula movies.  By the time that he meets the Marchese’s four daughters, he’s so sick that he literally seems like he might fade away at any second.  As ludicrous as the film sometimes is, you can’t help but sympathize with Dracula.  All he wants is some virgin blood and the communists aren’t even willing to let him have that.  Blood for Dracula is, in its own twisted way, a much more melancholy film than Flesh For Frankenstein.  Or, at least it is until the finale, at which point one character gets violently dismembered but still continues to rant and rave even after losing the majority of their limbs.

When Blood for Dracula was released in 1974, it was originally called Andy Warhol’s Dracula, though Warhol had little to do with the movie beyond allowing his name to be used.  As with Flesh for Frankenstein, Antonio Margheriti was credited in some prints as a co-director, largely so the film could receive financial support from the Italian government.

Sadly, there would be no Andy Warhol’s The Mummy or Andy Warhol’s Wolfman.  One can only imagine what wonders Kier, Dallesandro, and Morrissey could have worked with those.



The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Flesh For Frankenstein (dir by Paul Morrissey)

Here are just a few things to be experienced in 1973’s Flesh For Frankenstein:

A fanatical Baron von Frankenstein (Udo Kier) needs a brain for his latest creation so his assistant, Otto (Arno Jurging) goes out with a giant pair of hedge clippers, snips off a divinity student’s head, and then runs off with it.

An incredibly sexy farmhand named Nicholas (Joe Dallesandro) speaks with a thick and very modern New York accent, despite living in Germany in the 19th century.  Meanwhile, everyone around him speaks with an extra-thick German accent.

The Baron announces to Otto, “To know life, you must fuck death in the gall bladder!”

Nicholas has an affair the Baroness von Frankenstein (Monique van Voreen), who in one scene loudly sucks on Nicolas’s armpit.

The Baron gets rather obviously turned on while removing organs from a body.

The Baron’s children decapitate their dolls and take a perverse pleasure in being cruel.  Some of this could possibly be because the Baron and the Baroness are also brother and sister.

The Baron rants and raves about how, by bringing the dead back to life, he will be able to create the perfect Serbian race, one that will only take orders from him and which will …. well, do something.  The Baron has a lot of plans but he’s not always clear on just what exactly the point of it all is.

Speaking of points, one character eventually gets a spear driven through his back an out of his chest.  Despite the fact that his heart is literally hanging off the tip of the spear, he still manages to get out a very long and very emotional monologue before dying.

Now, of course, you have to remember about that scene with the heart is that Flesh for Frankenstein was originally shot in 3D, which means that audiences in 1973 would have literally had that heart dangling over their heads while waiting for that endless monologue to stop.  How the audience would react to that would have a lot to do with whether or not they were in on the joke.

And make no mistake, Flesh For Frankenstein is not a film that’s meant to be taken too seriously.  It’s a satire of …. well, just about everything.  Baron Frankenstein, with his sexual hang-ups and his obsession with creating a perfect male and a perfect female so that they can have perfect Serbian children, is the ultimate parody of the mad scientists who usually populate these films and Udo Keir gives a truly mad performance in the role.  One need only compare Keir’s Frankenstein to the coldly cruel version that Peter Cushing played in Hammer’s “serious” Frankenstein films to see just how much Keir embraced the concept of pure batshit insanity.  Whereas Keir joyfully overacts every moment that he’s on-screen, Joe Dallesandro pokes fun at the traditional image of the strong, silent hero by barely reacting to anything at all.  The film’s nonstop flow of blood parodies the excesses of the horror genre while Nicholas’s affair with the Baroness satirizes not only Marxism but also an infinite number of European art films.  Flesh for Frankenstein is a film that is so deliberately excessive that it often feels as if it’s daring you to stop watching.  Of course, you don’t stop watching because you know the movie will probably start making fun of you as soon as you turn your back on it.

Flesh For Frankenstein is also known as Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein.  Warhol actually had little do with the movie, beyond lending his name.  The film was directed by Paul Morrissey, who served as Warhol’s “house director” during the Factory years.  The best Factory films were defined by the combination of Warhol’s detachment with Morrissey’s political and religious conservatism.  With Flesh For Frankenstein, Morrissey not only satirizes what he viewed as being the excesses of European and horor cinema but he also satirizes the fact that there’s an audience for his satire.  Flesh For Frankenstein is definitely not a film for everyone but, in this case, that can be considered a compliment.  It’s an audacious and wonderfully over-the-top movie, one that would be followed by Blood for Dracula.

One final note: Because the film was made in Italy, Antonio Margheriti was credited as being a co-director on the film with Morrissey.  While Margheriti did do some second unit work, it is generally agreed that he was not, in any way, a co-director.  Apparently, Margheriti was credited as being a co-director so that the film could receive financial aid from the Italian government.  This scheme later led to both Margheriti and producer Carlo Ponti being charged with criminal fraud.

The Films of Dario Argento: Suspiria

I’m using this October’s horrorthon as an excuse to take rewatch and review all of Dario Argento’s films!  Today, we take a look at one of Argento’s best known and most popular films, 1977’s Suspiria!


I’m going to start things out by admitting that this is an intimidating review to write.  I once had a discussion with fellow TSL contributor Leonard Wilson about why it’s always so much easier to write about films that we hate than it is to write about films that we love.  That’s certainly something that I’m thinking about right now, as I try to think of where to begin with Suspiria.

It’s not just that I like Suspiria.  Anyone who has ever visited this site before knows how much I appreciate Italian horror in general and Argento in specific.

No, it’s that I absolutely love this film.  I was sixteen the first time that I saw it and I’ve loved it ever since.  To me, Suspiria is not just one of the best horror films ever made.  It is truly one of the best films period.  And I know that I’m not alone in feeling like that.  Suspiria is a classic in every sense of the word.

Compared to almost every other film that Argento has made, the plot of Suspiria is remarkably straight forward.  Suzy Banyon, an American ballet student, enrolls at the prestigious Tanz Dance Academy in Frieburg, Germany.  From the minute she arrives, she gets the feeling that there is something strange happening behind the garish walls of the school and she’s right.  While the film may be best known for Argento’s directorial flourishes and Goblin’s classic score, the story itself unfolds with the simplicity of a fairy tale.

The film even opens with a narrator who informs us, “Suzy Banyon decided to perfect her ballet studies in the most famous school of dance in Europe. She chose the celebrated academy of Freiburg. One day, at nine in the morning, she left Kennedy airport, New York, and arrived in Germany at 10:40 p.m. local time.”  It’s the film’s equivalent of starting things off with, “Once upon a time…”  Having let us know that we’re about to watch a fairy tale and therefore having served his purpose, the narrator isn’t heard for the rest of the film.

Instead, we watch as Suzy first arrives in Germany:

As played by Jessica Harper, Suzy Banyon is yet another neurotic but brave Argento protagonist who has found herself in a strange land.  One of the things that I love about Suspiria is that Suzy is such an ordinary and relatable character.  She’s not “the chosen one.”  She’s not a witch or an aspiring witch or the daughter of a witch or the reincarnation of a witch.  She’s not desperately looking for a husband or dealing with a family tragedy or any of that other BS that we have to deal with in today’s cinema..  She doesn’t have any dark secrets or untapped magical powers.  She’s not seeking vengeance.  She has no trendy agenda.  She’s not the protagonist of the latest YA novel.  Instead, she’s a dancer.  She is someone who is attempting to pursue something that she is good at and that she loves.  In short, she is the viewer.  Suzy Banyon is us and we are Suzy Banyon.  Like us, she’s sometimes scared.  Like us, she’s sometimes brave.  And, like us, it’s just not in her nature to leave a mystery unsolved.


It’s obvious, from the moment that Suzy arrives, that there’s something strange happening at the school.  We, of course, already know that it involves witchcraft.  This is largely because we’ve been listening to the film’s score and we’ve heard Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti chanting “WITCH!  WITCH!” as Suzy’s taxi drives through the woods and arrives at the school.  (The journey through the woods adds to Suspiria‘s fairy tale atmosphere.)

However, for Suzy, her initial concern is that everyone at the school appears to be trying to cheat her out of her money.  Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett) has arranged for Suzy to stay in an apartment on which she’ll have to pay rent.  When Miss Tanner (Alida Valli, a force of pure nature in this film) finds out that Suzy’s bags have yet to arrive and Suzy doesn’t have any ballet shoes, she tells her to borrow a pair from another student.  The student immediately offers to sell them to Suzy and is visibly deflated when Suzy says that she’s just needs to borrow them for a day.

And, of course, there’s Olga (Barbara Magnolfi), a student who thinks that names that start with S are the names of snakes.

(I have to admit that, as a former dance student, that scene brought back a lot of memories.)

But it’s not just money that Suzy has to worry about.  There are also maggots that fall from the ceiling, the result of a shipment of spoiled meat.  There’s the strange and labored breathing that Suzy occasionally hears behind the walls.  There’s the fact that her new roommate, Sarah (Stefania Casini), is convinced that the teachers are hiding a secret.  Sarah’s therapist, Dr. Frank Mandel (Udo Kier, playing an oddly respectable role) thinks that Sarah is suffering from delusions but is she?

And, of course, there’s all the mysterious deaths.

For instance, Daniel, a blind piano player, has his throat ripped by his seeing eye dog.  Interestingly enough, Daniel is played by Flavio Bucci who, in The Night Train Murders, played a murderer.  One of his Night Train victims was played by Irene Miracle, who would later have an important role in Suspiria‘s semi-sequel, Inferno.

Another former student, Pat Hingle (Eva Axen) is brutally stabbed to death and, after her body falls through a skylight, the shattered glass kills her best friend as well.  Of course, the killer wears gloves.  It wouldn’t be an Argento film otherwise.  (Pat’s murder is one of Suspiria‘s best known set pieces, one that is so brutal and violent that it retains its power to shock even after you’ve seen it a few times.  For the most part, if someone is going to stop watching or walk out on Suspiria, it’s going to happen during Pat’s murder.)


And through it all, you have Goblin playing on the soundtrack.  The film’s score is so important and so relentless that, in its way, it becomes just as important a character as Suzy, Sarah, Madame Blanc, Miss Tanner, or even Udo Kier!  The score is relentless and, depending on how loudly you play the film, almost deafening.  I saw an interview with Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti where he said that he wanted the score to be “almost annoying” in its relentlessness.  The score overpowers you, in much the same way that the witches of Suspiria overpower their victims.

Suspiria was co-written by Daria Nicolodi, Dario Argento’s girlfriend and the mother of Asia Argento.  Nicolodi has long claimed that Suspiria is based on something that happened to her grandmother.  Argento, meanwhile, has said that nothing in the film was based on fact.  Reportedly, Nicolodi wanted to play the role of Suzy and was so offended with Argento instead offered her the role of Sarah that she went off and made Mario Bava’s Shock instead.

(Suspiria is often cited as the start of the long and acrimonious process that would eventually end with Argento and Nicolodi ending their relationship 8 years later.)


Personally, I think that Nicolodi would have been wasted in the role of Sarah but, at the same time, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Jessica Harper as Suzy Banyon.  For that matter, it’s also impossible to imagine anyone other than Dario Argento directing Suspiria.  Suspiria is Argento’s masterpiece, taking all of his frequent and familiar motifs (bloody murders, artistic protagonists, the constantly roaming camera, the use of primary colors) and pushing them to their natural extreme.  It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Argento telling Suspiria’s story.

Dario Argento on the set of Suspiria

Dario Argento on the set of Suspiria

And yet, that is exactly what is about to happen.  For years, of course, I’ve heard rumors of a remake and, perhaps naively, I’ve dismissed them.  I took some comfort in the fact that even Dario Argento himself came out and forcefully denounced the idea of anyone remaking his masterpiece.  Remake Suspiria? I would think to myself, Surely no one is that stupid.

Well, it’s happening and if that doesn’t outrage you, perhaps you should leave right now.  Reportedly, the remake is set to be released in 2017.  It’ll be directed by Luca Guadagnino and it’ll star Dakota Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Tilda Swinton.  Guadagnino says that his remake will be all about the “power of motherhood.”

Whatever, Luca.  Suspiria doesn’t need you and it doesn’t need to be remade.

Suspiria is perfect just the way it is.


What Lisa and Evelyn Watched Last Night #65: Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 (dir by Brian Trenchard-Smith)

Last night, after we finished watching the first episode of the new season of American Idol, my bff Evelyn and I watched Megiddo: The Omega Code 2, an evangelical apocalypse film from 2001.

Why Were We Watching It?

Considering that I’m an occasionally agnostic Irish Catholic and Evelyn describes herself as being a “Jewish atheist,” and that Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 is a film about Armageddon told from an evangelical point of view, I think the real question is how could we not watch it?  I mean, seriously.

Along with that, of course, Evelyn and I both wanted to watch something that nobody would ever expect either one of us to ever watch.

What Was It About?

Stone Alexander (Michael York) is President of the European Union and is promoting a plan that he claims will solve all of the world’s problems.  His younger brother, David Alexander (Michael Biehn) is vice president of the United States and wants to keep America from turning into Europe.  David is also in love with Stone’s wife (Diane Venora).  And, of course, Stone is actually the Antichrist while David is Michael Biehn.

Anyway, Stone uses his magic devil powers to cause President Benson (R. Lee Ermey) to die of a heart attack and David becomes President.  David, however, refuses to join Stone’s “new world order” so Stone frames David for the murder of their father.  David goes into hiding with a few loyal American soldiers while Stone makes plans to launch a military strike against Jerusalem.

It all, of course, leads to a huge battle between the forces of Hell and the combined armies of Spain and China (no, really).  David finally gets his chance to confront his brother, many prayers are said, and, eventually, a CGI demon pops up and creates a lot of CGI mayhem.

What Worked?

Evelyn claims that nothing worked in this film but I disagree just slightly.  First off, and most importantly, Franco Nero is in this film!  He plays Stone’s father-in-law and, while he may no longer be the dashing Lancelot from Camelot, Franco Nero is still aging pretty damn well.

Udo Kier is in the film too.  Seriously, Udo Kier pops up in the strangest places.

Michael York is a lot of fun as the wonderfully evil Stone Alexander. York’s performance here makes his delivery of the line, “YOU CAN LIVE!  LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE!” at the end of Logan’s Run look restrained.  Also, if you’re going to have a made-for-evil name like Stone Alexander, you might as well be the Antichrist.

On a personal note, I had a lot of fun annoying Evelyn by pointing out that just about every policy proposed by Stone Alexander has also been proposed by Barack Obama.  I imagine that Megiddo must be a very popular film among certain conspiracy-minded segments of the population.

What Did Not Work?

To be honest, the entire film didn’t work.  It’s not a very good film.  The special effects were cheap, the script made the Atlas Shrugged films look subtle, and I imagine that the film probably created more atheists than believers.

That said, Megiddo is still better than Avatar.

“Oh my God!  Just like Evelyn and Lisa!” Moments


Lessons Learned

Franco Nero ages like a fine wine.

Getting the point of Megiddo

Quickie Review: Masters of Horror – Cigarette Burns (dir. by John Carpenter)

Cigarette Burns was John Carpenter’s episodic contribution to the Showtime series, Masters of Horror. This 13-episode horror anthology thought up by Mick Garris (a fellow horror director best known for adapting Stephen King stories) which includes eleven other directors known for their work in the horror genre.

John Carpenter works off of a screenplay that posits an interesting premise about an infamous film that caused the audience it was shown to the first time to go homicidal. The story itself involves a man known in the film community as someone who can find and hunt down any copy of film no matter how rare. Norman Reedus (he of Blade II, The Boondock Saints) plays the cinephile who takes on the job to hunt down a copy of this infamous film titled Le Fin Absolue Du Monde. His client was played with relish by resident weirdo Udo Kier. Really, Kier could be given any role and he’ll add his brand of idiosyncracy and weirdness to the part. In Cigarette Burns he plays an obsessive fan of the rare film to the hilt. His contribution to the the climactic ending will bring a smile to gorehounds everywhere. Alas, it’s Kier’s performance that’s the highlight of the acting in Cigarette Burns. Reedus’ performance as Kirby Sweetman the cinephile leaves much to be desired. The screenplay itself was already average, but with genuine ideas that could be explored if the acting could raise it beyond its C-grade pedigree, but Reedus wasn’t up to it.

Carpenter’s directing really can’t be faulted for the major flaws in the screenplay and in his lead’s performance. It’s not early Carpenter, but his work in Cigarette Burns was much better than what he’s done in his last couple films. In fact, this tv show entry in Carpenter’s body of work resembles one of his more underrated films. I am talking about his ode to Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft with In the Mouth of Madness. Instead of a book influencing the sanity of the reader, its a film that does it instead. A film that may or may not have divine origins that doesn’t just turn its viewers homicidal but bend their sense of reality.

I think with a better cast and a screenplay that’s worked on a bit more by its writers, Cigarette Burns could’ve been a great episode in the Masters of Horror anthology or, better yet, become a full-fledged feature film. Instead, it’s just a very good work from Carpenter with great gore sequences (courtesy of KNB EFX), but brought low due to a very rough screenplay and a lead actor in Norman Reedus who seemed stoned, drunk or both throughout his entire performance. It’s not something great, but a good showing from Carpenter that said he’s not as washed-up as many seem to be calling him.