Weird Western Tale: Lee Van Cleef in SABATA (United Artists 1970)


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Let’s face it, Lee Van Cleef was one cool hombre, and he’s at his coolest in SABATA, the first film of a trilogy written and directed by Gianfranco Parolini (aka Frank Kramer). The beady-eyed Van Cleef is obviously enjoying himself as Sabata, a trickster with a sinister chuckle and an array of tricked-out weapons who always manages to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.

The movie begins traditionally enough, as $100,000 in Army payroll is deposited for safe keeping in the town of Daughtrey’s bank. A daring robbery finds the guards murdered and the safe heisted. It’s all a plot by banker Ferguson, Judge O’Hara, and ex-Confederate Colonel Stengel to buy up land needed for the railroad to come through. What they didn’t count on is the presence of the mysterious Sabata, who stops the bandits with his extra-long range Winchester, carting their carcasses back to town with…

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Cleaning Out The DVR: The Day This Fish Came Out (dir by Michael Cocoyannis)


I recorded the 1967 film, The Day The Fish Came Out, off of FXM on May 11th, 2017!  It took me a while to get around to watching this one.

Ugh, what a mess.

The Day The Fish Came Out is kind of a comedy and kinda of a drama and it really doesn’t succeed as either.  It takes place on a Greek island that is populated by four goat herders and one village full of disgruntled people.  The biggest news of their lives comes when it’s announced that Greeks will now be allowed to immigrate to Greenland.  All of the people of the village stand up and run through the streets but — and this is typical of the film — we never actually see anyone go to Greenland.  A potentially funny joke is set up and then promptly abandoned.

Because the island is so remote, it seems like the perfect place for a damaged NATO plane to dump its nuclear payload.  Two nuclear missiles end up in the ocean.  Meanwhile, a radioactive crate known as Container Q ends up landing near a goatherd (Nicolas Alexios), who promptly takes it home and starts trying to pry it open.  Meanwhile, the plane’s pilot (Colin Wakely) and its navigator (Tom Courtenay) end up wandering around the island in their underwear, trying to retrieve the crate without letting anyone know that they’re there.  And while it may not sound like a bad thing that, for once, it’s the guys who spend the entire movie in their underwear, let’s just say that Wakely and Courtenay spend a lot of time rolling around in the dirt and it doesn’t take long for those tighty whities to get disgustingly grimy.  Bleh!

Meanwhile, a group of American secret agents have been sent to the island to look for the crate and the missiles and hopefully retrieve them without causing an international crisis.  The problem is that the Americans are pretending to be real estate developers and they think the pilot and the navigator are dead.  And the pilot and the navigator don’t know that the brash Americans are actually secret agents so they keep hiding from them.  In other news, everyone in this movie is really stupid.

The townspeople — or at least the ones who didn’t go to Greenland — assume that their island is now a hot tourist location because of all the interest from the “developers.”  Through an annoyingly complicated series of events, this leads to the discovery of an ancient statue.  Electra Brown (Candice Bergen) comes to the island to investigate the statue and pose in the latest 60s fashions.  She then gets on a boat and leaves the movie.

Meanwhile, the ocean starts to glow and fish start to show up dead on the beach, proof that the radiation is spreading.  However, the townspeople and the tourists who have recently arrived assume that it’s just a part of the island’s newfound charm…

The poster for The Day The Fish Came Out announces, “Dr. Strangelove, move over!” and that pretty much defines the approach this movie takes to its material.  It wants to be even more outrageous and satirical than Stanley Kubrick’s anti-bomb classic.  However, The Day The Fish Came Out lacks both Dr. Strangelove‘s focus and it’s chillingly detached world view.  (One reason why Dr. Strangelove works is because Kubrick isn’t scared to suggest that maybe the world would be better off if humanity did just blow itself up.)  The Day The Fish Came Out also lacks the right type of cast for this material.  There’s no equivalent to be found to the performances that Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Slim Pickens, Sterling Hayden, and even Peter Bull gave in Kubrick’s film.  Among the members of The Day The Fish Came Out‘s ensemble, Sam Wanamaker, as the delusionally positive leader of the American agents, comes the closest to capturing the satirical feel that the film was obviously going for but the rest of the cast flails about in apparent confusion.

When the townspeople and the tourists blithely dance in the radioactive water and ignore the NATO man frantically yelling, “Attention!,” the film briefly achieves the satirical grandeur that it was going for.  But otherwise, The Day The Fish Came Out is almost as messy as the doctrine of mutually assured destruction.

 

A Movie A Day #111: I’m Dangerous Tonight (1990, directed by Tobe Hooper)


Sweet and repressed Amy (Madchen Amick) is a college student who has too much on her plate.  She has to take care of her greedy grandmother (Natalie Schaefer, of Gilligan’s Island fame).  She has to read a book for her study partner (Corey Parker).  She has to sew a dress for her older sister, Gloria (Daisy Hall).  She has to find props for the school play.  It is her search for props that leads to her buying an old chest at an estate sale.  Inside the chest is a red cloak.  Amy turns the red cloak into a dress but what she does not know is that the red cloak was previously won by Aztec priests while they conducted human sacrifices.  As Professor Buchanan (Anthony Perkins) later explains, anyone who wears the dress will be driven to do evil.

Like Hitler’s Daughter and Deadly Game, I’m Dangerous Tonight was a USA original film.  Like those two films, and despite the combined talents of the star of Psycho and the director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I’m Dangerous Tonight is not very good. Perkins is mostly just used for exposition while Hooper’s direction suggests that his main concern was picking up his paycheck.  I’m Dangerous Tonight will be best appreciated by fans of Madchen Amick.  Amick is not only beautiful here but she also plays a character far different from Twin Peaks’s Shelly Johnson.

Also, be sure to keep an eye out for R. Lee Ermey, playing a tough, cigar-chomping police detective as only he can.

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #30: The Adventures of Hercules (dir by Luigi Cozzi)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Tuesday, December 6th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

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On November 10th, I recorded 1985’s The Adventures of Hercules off of the Encore Family channel.

Let’s see if I can explain exactly what this film is about.  Bear with me because this is going to be a strange one.  For that matter, you might also want to bare with me because The Adventures of Hercules is all about displaying the physique of body builder Lou Ferrigno.  Ferrigno plays the legendary Greek demigod Hercules.  Or I should say that he provides Hercules’s body and occasionally a facial expression or two.  Since The Legend of Hercules was an Italian film, the entire cast is obviously and frequently awkwardly dubbed.  That includes Ferrigno.  Though Hercules doesn’t say much, when he does speak, he does so in a voice that really doesn’t go with his body, his personality, or anything that seems to be happening on screen.

Anyway, I guess I should try to explain the plot.  I should mention that The Legend of Hercules is a sequel to another Hercules film.  I haven’t seen the first Hercules film.  Maybe the Legend of Hercules would have made more sense if I had, though I somehow doubt it.

Basically, bad things are happening on Earth.  Why?  Well, it appears that four of the Gods have gotten together and stolen Zeus’s 7 Mighty Thunderbolts.  They’ve hidden the Thunderbolts across the planet, entrusting them with various monsters.  As a result of Zeus no longer having his thunderbolts, the Moon is now on the verge of colliding with Earth and human sacrifices are also being committed to a monster that looks a lot like the ID Monster from Forbidden Planet.  

What does a Mighty Thunderbolt look like?  Here you go.

What does a Mighty Thunderbolt look like? Here you go.

Two sisters, Urania (Milly Carlucci) and Glaucia (Sonia Vivani), appeal to Zeus for help but, of course, Zeus is powerless without his thunderbolts.  However, he can still sends his son Hercules (Lou Ferrigno) to Earth.  Working with the sisters, Hercules goes on a quest for the thunderbolts.  This basically amounts to a series of scenes in which Hercules battles various people in rubber suits.  Whenever Hercules throws a punch, he’s filmed so that appears that he’s punching the camera.  Whenever Hercules’s fist makes contact, there’s a flash of red.  Whenever anyone is knocked off their feet by Hercules, they flip around in slow motion.  This happens every ten minutes or so.

Now, I don’t want to spoil the movie but I simply have to tell you about this.  There is a scene, towards the end of the film, in which Hercules literally grabs hold of the Moon and prevents it from crashing into the Earth.

Anyway, the plot makes no sense and that’s a huge part of this film’s enthusiastic, if frequently inept, charm.  As directed by the famed Italian director, Luigi Cozzi, The Adventures of Hercules has this cobbled together feeling to it that is undeniably likable.  Much as with Cozzi’s best-known film, Starcrash, The Adventures of Hercules is a film that wins you over by pure determination.  Cozzi set out to make a mythological epic and he wasn’t going to let something like a complete lack of budget stop him.

How strange an experience is The Adventures of Hercules?  Check out some of these randomly assembled screen shots:

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The other fun thing about The Adventures of Hercules is that, since this was a Luigi Cozzi film, the cast is full of Italian exploitation vets, the majority of whom were best known for appearing in far less family-friendly fare.

Here’s just a few of the performers you’ll find in The Adventures of Hercules:

Sonia Vivani, who plays Glaucia, also played the doomed sculptor in Umberto Lenzi’s infamous Nightmare City.

William Berger, who plays the villainous King Minos, appeared in several classic Spaghetti westerns, including Sabata.  Sadly, his promising career was cut short when he was framed for drug possession and spent several years in an Italian prison.  When he was finally freed, he ended up doing movies like The Adventures of Hercules.

Zeus was played by Claudio Cassinelli, an acclaimed actor who appeared in several giallo films.  He also co-starred in 1978’s infamous Mountain of the Cannibal God.

The evil High Priest was played by Venantino Venantini whose credits include everything from The Agony and the Ecstasy to Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead to Umberto Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox.

Aphrodite is played by Margit Newton, who somewhat infamously starred in what is generally considered to be the worst zombie film of all time, Hell of the Living Dead.

Serena Grandi played Euryale (a.k.a. Medusa).  Grandi is probably most remembered for his grotesque death scene in  Antropophagus.  She was also the star of one of my personal guilty pleasures, Lamberto Bava’s Delirium.

And finally, the mad scientist Dedalos was played by Eva Robbins, who achieved immortality by playing the Girl on the Beach in Dario Argento’s Tenebrae.

The Adventures of Hercules might not be “technically” a good film but it’s definitely (and rather compulsively) watchable.